Eric Rowe on thu 2 sep 99
After about thirty years as a potter I've written a book (not yet
published) called tentatively 'Geology for Potter's' based on all those
years digging my own clay and making glazes from natural sources. I also
try to answer some of the clay/glaze problems that might occur with
'bought' products. Quite a few photos.
Reason for this query:
I've tried many of the the major publishers in England (I live in France)
and I generally get the answer 'too specialized'. Same for American agents.
Do you out there think it is? If not, do you think it might interest many
Gavin Stairs on fri 3 sep 99
At 12:01 PM 9/2/99 -0400, you wrote:
>After about thirty years as a potter I've written a book (not yet
>published) called tentatively 'Geology for Potter's' based on all those
>years digging my own clay and making glazes from natural sources. I also
>try to answer some of the clay/glaze problems that might occur with
>'bought' products. Quite a few photos.
>Reason for this query:
>I've tried many of the the major publishers in England (I live in France)
>and I generally get the answer 'too specialized'. Same for American agents.
> Do you out there think it is? If not, do you think it might interest many
Eric, I think it probably is too specialized for the front line of the
publishing world. I don't know your book, obviously, but the world market
for it in the standard publisher's time frame is probably no more than a
couple of hundred. It is very hard to make a profit on that volume.
However, do not despair. There is a new idea abroad in the land called
short run publishing, in which the print runs are no longer than the order
list. The printing is done by Xerography, on a big printer-binder, but
there are no plates, and the setup consists of loading a file on a
computer. Front line publishers have not been quick to adopt this
technology, but there are beginning to be firms which do this. Much of the
burden of organization and marketing will necessarily fall to you. The
firms, at this stage, generally expect fully edited and electronically
formatted books, in a standard size and binding, and will deliver any
number of books at a time. They charge an initial fee, and a carrying fee
which is much less than the cost of warehousing, cost per book and handling
fees per order.
If you are looking to throw the ms over the transom, I doubt this will work
for you. But if you can work up the ms to a finished state, and if you can
find a suitable marketing system, then this technique means that you can
keep a book in print for much longer, with short print runs and low
overhead, and recoup the costs in the long run. Backlists are a thing of
the past in the traditional market.
Marketing such a book is another matter. There are no doubt thousands of
sellers of such books, but their individual volumes are mostly quite low.
It is probably reasonable to try to identify the few booksellers who
consistently sell such books at a somewhat steady rate. For example, in
America, the Potter's Bookstore run by Steve Branfman. There are several
large potter's supply houses which sell books. And then there are the
major book chains, which may or may not be interested. Nowadays, you may
at least get your book electronically listed for special order. If you can
demonstrate that there is some sort of market, it may be possible to
interest one of the major book distributors, but this is a gamble, as they
sometimes go bankrupt, and leave your stock in limbo. It's very much like
consigning pots. All this is not a trivial amount of work.
All in all, it is probably not worth the effort in strictly commercial
terms, which is what your publishers are telling you. They only publish
what they think they can make money at. There are counter examples:
poetry, for example. In Canada, where I live, I don't think many
publishers have ever actually made an honest profit by publishing poetry.
They subsist on grants, and volunteers. In your case, there may be a
compelling reason to publish which has nothing to do with the business
aspects of the deal. If that is so, why not try to find a short run
printer/publisher, and see what they can offer you.
If there are other authors out there who are interested in this sort of
thing, it may be worth while to consolidate the editing, formatting and
marketing. I know of local firms which would so the final setup, storage
and printing-binding, and also some of the listing. It would be of some
interest to me to see if there could be a business in this, returning at
least the effort necessary to run it. I would be willing to read
manuscripts, under the firm understanding that I can give no promises, with
a view to starting up a small press for this work. There are already some
small specialists in this game, so I don't want people to misunderstand,
and think I am saying that there's no hope elsewhere. My interest is
mainly in the more technical books, for which the market is spotty at best.
I'm mainly interested in seeing that worthy books get a chance in the
marketplace. If anyone is interested, I would be interested to correspond
with them. I would expect to receive an electronically readable manuscript
at some stage, and I would definitely require that the ms be edited
competently. In the case of technical material, I may require additional
work, or experimental demonstration. It may be necessary to require a fee,
but this might be covered by advance sales. If the latter, I would be
willing to advance a very small honorarium to confirm the agreement to
publish. The copyright would remain vested in the author, with only
certain publishing rights assigned to the publisher, revokably under
certain conditions. This is the sort of publishing that I had hoped would
be possible under the aegis of a potter's organization, but I think it may
be some time before that comes about. In the mean time, ...
Stairs Small Systems (S3)
921 College St., # 1-A
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6H 1A1
Martin Howard on thu 16 sep 99
Clayarters can also E-Mail Eric Rowe be sending postings to me at
before 23rd September
as Eric will be calling here on Thursday 23rd September
to discuss his book and ways of printing it, before going onto friends
in Suffolk, the next county to me.
Webbs Cottage Pottery and Press
Woolpits Road, Great Saling
Essex CM7 5DZ England
01371 850 423