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tod goldberg

Fascinating stuff, Gina, even from the pov of someone intimately involved. I think what is most interesting (and what I still owe you an essay on...I promise, it's coming this week!) is trying to change the model for launching books, particularly ones that come from the loins of a successful journal like OV. I've thought about that party, too, and about how we might have sold more books, or had more people in attendance, or what to do for book 2 or 3 or 7 down the line and my sense is that, especially with students, you have to think about things in a student way. Sure, they spend 15 bucks on beer and pizza, but they need that to survive. But if every student were emailed a pdf of the book, for instance, and found it something they really liked, well, that 15 bucks would be money they'd want to spend. The cost is zero and if they love what they read, they'll buy the book, too. My point being that in order to change the model, you have to change the approach to the audience. Parties are excellent for the ego -- and I have a big one, god knows -- but for fundraising, I wonder if there's something better: a two day writers conference with OV authors that not only inspires this sense of community, but provides an opportunity to earn towards the viability of the press (I'd come for free...provided I get to stay at Lois' again...). Simon & Schuster doesn't have to worry about their coffers being full, but S&S also gets to publish crap -- OV isn't so lucky and in that way, apart from holding contests each year, I guess I simply wonder if there isn't a way to engender this sense of community while also educating and preparing for the future sustainability of the press itself.

Dan Wickett

I think Tod's idea of the pdf files is outstanding - and I know there are books I was loaned, loved, and HAD to buy once I gave them back.

As for writer's conferences - I know 826 MI in Ann Arbor does that whenever they get a chance - have a writer come in for an adult workshop for a fee and this money goes to the free workshops for kids ...

felicia sullivan

this is a wonderful list, and you definitely raise some great points here. whenever i hear someone whine about how they simply can't afford to subscribe to just one literary journal, i stop myself from saying - "but that didn't stop you from shelling out $30 on dinner or $40 on wine."

A lot of editor friends and I are finding that not only are we taking huge losses on printing/distribution of the magazines ourselves, but on the parties we throw to raise awareness. Our Legion of Lit Mag event last year was a rare case where we spent few dollars to render a return (with respect to awareness building and subscriptions). How do we keep the cost down but be innovative?

I've started the habit of gifting friends who are not writers (the "normal" people, my friends and i call them) literary magazines as holiday presents and i couldn't tell you how much they enjoy it. lit mags are gems for them and they marvel at them for they've never heard of them before.

A lot of editors and i have spoken about how to raise awareness for literary magazines beyond the already self-selecting world of book-lovers and publishing. Do we do grass roots education and at what cost? I guess for me, in New York, my goal has been about expanding the literary community to folks who wouldn't ordinarily go to literary events or readings, etc....

Anyway, I'm babbling incoherently here, only because you're wonderful post made me think and continually think outside the box.

Cheers, f.

Angela

Gina,

So many wonderful points and it has me thinking. Supporting independent booksellers is of such great importance to me. And as a reviewer and interviewer at Bookslut, I always like to propose interviews with authors that I hope to give publicity to or even review a book--especially when they are with a very tiny press, like Brandon Hobson's work at Triple Press or interviewing someone like Salvador Plascencia, while a part of McSweeney's, he's still coming from that indy place when you consider how many books are selling and getting the general word out about a work that deserves the publicity and then those that are attached to those crappier works that often are a part of larger house that can throw money at something, regardless of the quality, and it is this particular scenario that really fuels the fire to get the word out via review, interview, Q&A, blog discussion or the like about a truly great book/author.

Getting less-avid readers to come out for readings and events are key for me, especially since they do cost much less (if anything to attend) than going to a bar, club, dinner, (even parking in some cases here in LA) and I'm eager to share what I'm passionate about with others. Keeping the writing communities alive is vital to the growth and ultimate life of these events and publications. Gina, you have brought up some really thought-provoking things that I hope others will think about and give their feedback to you. The duty herein lies not just with the indy presses but with all of the readers out there, new and old.

Jenny D

I had a harrowing "reading" at Quimby's that was also the only one out of 14-15 I did all over the place where literally nobody showed up! It was very depressing....

Interesting suggestions here. I think (is it Tod who says this above?) that the workshop/teaching events are more likely to work out good fundraisers. I have no idea how the finances worked out, but the Small Press Center did a writing workshop last year--I think they charged something like $150 for 2 days, it wasn't at all extortionate--and then paid writers a modest fee (like a token $50, it was more of them asking a favor for help) to speak on a panel. The room was packed when I was there--and it seemed as though people felt they were getting their money's worth (there were extra charges for the meals-with-well-known writers kind of thing). Most of the audience, at least in my impression, were women in their 30s with novel or memoir manuscripts of some more or less literary kind and a need for sensible advice but also a passion for books. It was fun! In other words, rather than asking people to pay money for a party, ask them to pay money for a fifteen-minute consultation with a local author and then cash bar for the drinks....

Dani

Charge for the booze. This is a problem of typical mental economics, nothing more. Charge for what people are used to paying for and they'll ante up. Just make sure you do a good job calculating your margins, and put out a tip jar as well. Better to have high attendance and lots of people drinking than to suppress attendance with a (perceived) high admissions fee.

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