The other morning when I was walking to work, I had a revelation—one of those revelations that is simply the voicing of something that you have known for a long time. I realized that the NewLights Press will never make enough money to be my primary source of income. This thought left me with two distinct feelings: disappointment and liberation.

Disappointment: I would love to be able to run the press full-time. In order to do that I would need my own studio space, equipment, and enough of an income to pay for all that, plus the next book, plus my basic living expenses. In order for the press to generate that much money there would have to be at least one major change in my approach—NewLights would either have to start putting out mass-produced (“real”) books, or I would have to start charging a great deal more money for the books than I currently do. (Right now my prices are based vaguely on materials cost, the rough cost for the next book, and what price I think the “market” will bear. The time spent on the books is a minute consideration.) Most people tell me that the books are underpriced. When I tell people that The Drownable Species costs $400, they say that it’s worth it, and then they don’t buy one. I don’t blame them—my current audience cannot pay that kind of price for books. Also, prices that high make me (morally) nervous. I couldn’t afford them either.

So does NewLights start making mass-produced books? Can I legitimately separate the book (and myself) from the means of production? Do I pour my energy into editing, design, and marketing, as opposed to all of those plus production? Do small presses even make that much money off of their mass-produced books anyway?

Could I potentially subsidize the smaller, cheaper works by selling large, unique books for inflated fine art prices? That seems to me to be the only viable way to make the press, in its current incarnation, to approach funding itself completely.

So I am back to accepting that I will always have to have another job in order to keep the books coming. The focus, always, is on the next book.



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