Open to suggestion

With the 2009 publishing programme now well under way, I’ve started thinking about 2010 (you have to in this business). I’ve already got one definite and one possible, but that’s all so far. I’ve got a piece in the forthcoming issue of Sphinx which describes my business model, so I’m not going to repeat it here, but one feature is that I depend on Calder Wood Press authors to help me with the promotion and sales of their work. Shrinking violets are fine – some of my best friends are S Vs – but when it comes to launches, readings etc, authors who are prepared to be a bit more outgoing sell more. And while money isn’t by any stretch the reason I publish, my financial aim is to break even on all titles within a year of publication. It can’t be otherwise, because my main income is from my pension, and my other income as a freelancer is limited (and unpredictable).

So what I’m saying is that I might stretch my net a bit wider next year, in search of saleable poets with whom I can work, and whose talent I recognise. I’m still not going to accept unsolicited manuscripts – I don’t think I could cope with the deluge that some of my fellow publishers have to deal with – and I prefer to deal with poets I know personally, so from the summer on I’m going to be twisting a few arms – in the nicest possible way of course. I would say I’ll be putting out feelers, but you know how that kind of remark can so easily be misconstrued.

I’ve been reading Chris Hamilton-Emery’s wonderful and hilarious letters at Salt Office Life, purporting to be to and from Albert D Sump, Deputy Poetry Editor at Castell and Castell. Some of the letters uncannily resemble a few that I’ve had accompanying unsolicited manuscripts.

At the moment I’m finalising details for launches of Lillias Scott Forbes’ A Hesitant Opening of Parasols and Irene Brown’s Glass Slippers. Parasols with probably be in the St Andrews branch of Waterstone’s on 6th March, and Irene’s in a shoe shop in Edinburgh on 13th March, but I’m waiting for confirmation of both.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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3 Responses to Open to suggestion

  1. BarbaraS says:

    Those letters are hilarious on Salt Office Life.I look forward to seeing how far the reach of CWP goes 🙂I for one would be interested in knowing how many sales = break even, but I know this is no place to discuss that.

  2. Colin Will says:

    In terms of break-even every title’s different – different costs etc – but I do calculate break-even for each title in advance. So it’s important for me to be able to judge a poet’s sales potential. That’s one of the reasons I prefer to work with people I know. The only ones I’ve miscalculated so far were <>underestimates<> of sales, meaning I’ve had to reprint (which has a higher cost per copy because the run is usually smaller). I’m always up front with CWP authors on the financial side before we agree a project. I think that’s essential. And I don’t include my time in the costings – I figure if I make a modest profit (after taxes) on a title, that’s recompense enough for something that I enjoy, even if I’ve invested a lot of time in it. Sorry for the long answer.And somebody’s already sent me a cracking idea for a new project.

  3. BarbaraS says:

    Ooo! Well, I look forward to seeing what emerges – great stuff, Colin!

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