AWP Report iii: the big bad wolf in the dog-eat-dog economy of words
What we didn't mention at the end of the last post is that when we went to meet V & S to go get sushi, a certain person was standing there with them. We haven't mentioned the name of this person in a while .. since she came to stay with us in Rome back in 2010 & we parted ways disagreeably. After the awkward small talk she apologized profusely for her behavior in the submissively coy way this person behaves .. prompting us to feel bad for kicking her out of our house. Then she mumbled something like «didn't you the read the story i wrote about it in Vice?» .. in the same tone someone might say, «didn't you get the memo?» .... as if that's how writers communicate these days. «Sorry, we don't read Vice» we said .. (in truth we do, if it's something Blake Butler writes .. who has partly to do with why we kicked her out of our house .. we don't appreciate it when people come into our home & criticize our friends & our way of life .. whilst imposing hers (hijacking friendly dinners with publisher types as an opportunity to promote her agenda). So then, now (in a hotel lobby in Boston), D invites herself & her new husband to dinner with us & it was awkward & we weren't sure what V & S thought or whether they had invited her so we didn't say anything. And then (perhaps her new husband was more in tune & said something to her .. as this D person is rather clueless otherwise .. whether it's an act or not) thankfully she disinvited herself.
.. & sure enough, the next morning, googling at our table at AWP, we found the story in Vice that she wrote about us. We are the mean 'big one' that chases her out of our home. And we're fine with that .. being the big bad wolf & this person the pathetic clueless victim .. especially if it furthers her career. You're 'welcome'. We're fine with her being the popular writer that people sympathize with & us the mean-spirited unknown one .. what's puzzling, though, is that she would invite herself to dinner with us now .. being as we have this history of being so mean .. is she a masochist? Or does she purposely put herself in such situations just to get writing material? (.. something we've suspected before in regards to the motive for her prior marriage). We're all for that that even, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations in the name of art .. but the thing is, is it a good story? Does it mean anything to anyone else? That's something you, the Internet reader, would have to tell us (not knowing the real people or situation). As the saying goes, there is another side to this story, but it doesn't seem interesting enough to tell. And as we've been telling visitors to our Calamari Press table here at AWP, we are not so much interested in story, as language ....
And that's where we are now, sitting at this table, mongering books. Today is the final day, the public day .. when they let Bostonian civilians in for free. They even have cops patrolling the floor .. as if gangs of roving book-stealers might come in (which would be a welcome sight, compared to all these stuffy academic types). We've talked about the word 'public' before, in its relation to publishing .. & how etymologically-wise 'publish' means 'to make public'. The context then was the Economy of Words 2010 post (we'll get to this year's annual report later on in this post .. ) & also the reading of a book by Eric Wilson, who just stopped by our table a few minutes ago (first we've met of him).
Besides the word 'public,' the affair above has caused us (words are our preferred mode of denial after all) to think more about the meaning of 'mean' (which we mused on recently & also in 2011) & also 'to submit' (which we touched on in the last post) & how seemingly submissive gestures can be quite (passively) aggressive. Maybe it's because we've been thinking through the lens of the book we are currently working on (so far about a mixed litter of mongrel beings who feast on the corpse of their dead mother (since obviously she isn't producing milk)), but we tend to reduce things down to their most 'primitive' level (another word we've dwelled on recently) .. to some high plain in Africa where we first gathered as a pack .. before we had language & posturing was posturing, naked as we were with nothing to hide behind. Before there were poetry readings & the main social event was gathering around the kill.
When we think of the forementioned person, a cheetah is not what first comes to mind (despite her gangly posture & lack of genetic variation). The animal that comes to mind is a cowering hyena, a beta one at that .. not unlike the one in Life of Pi (which we saw recently & the only thing 'nice' we can say about it is how the movie beautifully captured subtle animal behaviorisms). Which is funny because this person is a vegetarian .. though this is all a part of the act, the posturing.
We are also perhaps thinking along these lines as we are stuck in this institutionalized marketing arena, where we are supposed to be in competition with other book vendors for readers. Those with aggressive sales tactics sell books. Those that chum the waters are those that hook the most fish. And while we may appear mean, it is not in our nature to be aggressive or assertive. Nor chummy. All we can really do is lay the books out & let people discover them for themselves.
We didn't do so bad on the last day (probably because we started selling things at half price) .. we made enough to pay for the table, but not nearly enough to pay for the hotel & train, not to mention printing costs, etc. We brought 177 books & left with 63 .. so our trip back on the train was much easier. More importantly, those 114 books are now living (& being read) in other homes .. & not archived in stacks above the cabinets in our kitchen. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the table, especially those that lightened our load.
Ok, we lied. We did take photos, for our own records. Here is the before & after.
.. which is an appropriate enough segue into this years 'Economy of Words' post .. the ninth year in which, in the interest of transparency .. & for the interest of anyone stupid enough to want to start a small press, we give a full disclosure of earnings (this is a 'public' company after all .. or cooperative .. & while we don't sell stock in Calamari Press, every book in a sense is a stock certificate). While last year we dipped back into the red, this year the income came back above the expenses line.
All the usual disclaimers apply .. in that the expenses line only accounts for direct expenditures (i.e. printing costs) & doesn't account for all the indirect expenses (internet, domain hosting & the tools to design & edit books) .. let alone payment for the people behind the books or the expense of coming to bookfair-rackets like AWP. Most of the income came from our distributor (SPD) who have become much more consistent in payment in recent years.
This is the first year that the sales of dbooks is somewhat significant. After talking to a few people at AWP, it slipped out that people are reading second-hand Calamari dbooks .. PDFs that are being passed around. Should we be concerned? There's an article in today's NY Times about the REsale of digital media .. how Amazon & Apple are trying to capitalize on the second-hand selling of digital files, to give people that same sense of ownership that they have with analog objects .. but does this make any sense in the digital arena? It seems so convoluted & contrived .. having to develop restrictive technology wherein when you sell the 'used' copy, the rights transfer to the buyer & the seller loses their 'copy'. This seems to defeat the whole beauty of digital files, which lays in the ease of their replication.
The primary unit of currency at Calamari Press is words & more important than buying/selling is reading/writing .. so if more people are reading books because they were passed around freely then so be it. What's the point of all these paranoid tactics .. treating potential readers like potential criminals? So, unless any individual author in the catalog disagrees, Calamari Press will continue selling unencrypted PDFs & can only trust that appreciative readers will be 'supportive' in whatever way they deem fit.
This past year also marks the first year where income from selling original art was significant, as was income from Amazon referrals (wherein we get kickback from the Amazon links on the Calamari site & here on 5cense) .. & continues to grow so far this year (thank you whoever bought the iPad mini through a referral link here!).
Unfortunately we were strapped to our table the whole 3 days & hardly got a chance to walk around & look at other tables (except early in the morning before anyone was there). But we'll leave you with a sampling of some recent acquisitions stacked next to our computer, most of which we picked up at AWP.
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