There’s an old joke among publishers. Question: “How do you make a small fortune in publishing?” Answer: “Start with a large fortune.”
We didn’t have a large fortune when we launched Per Aspera back in 2003. We started with time and determination, but not much else. We funded our lives and our nascent press on credit cards and the belief that what we were doing was worthwhile. We wanted to publish books that were overlooked by traditional publishing for one reason or another, and prove that they could succeed both artistically and commercially.
We also maintained hope that one of our books would break out and float the whole operation.
By any objective analysis of our business back then, we failed. After releasing two books as print-on-demand trade paperbacks, we placed a huge bet by launching a line of cloth-bound editions, first with Singularity by Bill DeSmedt and later Steel Sky by Andrew C. Murphy. These were beautiful books with gorgeous interior design and great covers.
They sold well, but not well enough, and we had to close down. We laid off staff (some of whom were already working for free) and went into a state of torpor. That was in 2008.
Even though our books did not make enough to keep the business running, we did end up with some degree of creative and professional success. Singularity in particular was so well-received that I now believe all the effort and debt was worth publishing that one book. Several big-name hard SF writers gave it glowing blurbs. The novel garnered several awards, a number of ‘best-of’ mentions, and a whole slew of favorable reviews.
It’s still somewhat of a mystery why no larger publishers decided to buy Singularity. Thousands of mediocre books are published every year, and hundreds of good books are published that are not as good as Singularity and Steel Sky. They are published because enough of them sell. For the most part, publishing is a business and not an exercise in artistic integrity.
My intention when we shut down was always for the company to restart at some point when things were less busy and more financially stable. Karawynn and I were able to pay off the business debt a while ago, but the economy has been less than ideal and it’s emotionally hard to step back into a situation that has burned us in the past. No matter how much we loved doing it. Continue reading “Per Aspera Press Reboot”
In 2011, we made a conscious decision to have a frugal Christmas. This resulted in some unexpected benefits, and also unearthed some deep-seated emotions.
When I was growing up, Christmas was a big deal. It was an exciting and happy time for my siblings and myself. As a kid, I loved seeing the tree on Christmas morning with all the wrapped presents reflecting the tree lights. I liked making guesses about who they were for and what might be inside. I liked opening presents, and would be lying if I didn’t confess to being hyped about getting something awesome.
Our family exchanged gifts on a large scale — presents were both expensive and numerous. I’m not really sure why; our family wasn’t that well-off. My dad was a graduate student, then a post-doctoral researcher, then a rookie college professor. My mom had to work various service jobs to help support the family of five. We were lower-middle-class, I’d say.
My parents spent a lot of money, a lot of time, and a huge amount of effort on the celebration of Christmas. There was a fair amount of socializing (parties and dropping in on friends, or having them over), we went to midnight Mass, and had a big meal on Christmas day. But the main focus was on opening presents on Christmas morning. Continue reading “Ghosts of Christmas”