Saturday, 22 December 2007


I have just discovered a man in the next street who deals wine from his house. I went round: he bought books, I bought wine. A little pocket of civilisation. And there is a woman in this street who gardens for a neighbour and gets yoga in return. Could you run a whole national, international economy on this basis of local exchange? No. This machine I’m typing on is, I guess, the result of massive investment for even more massive profit; and I like it. But the background big-business macro structure doesn’t preclude the local micro deals, in fact should enable them to thrive.

The CB editions books cost £2,000 to produce. 250 copies of each book. Some expert help was provided by friends and colleagues in exchange for free books, a lunch, the odd bottle of vodka. 50 copies of each book go out free (the authors, newspapers, etc). Sell 100 of each title – 400 copies in all – for an average of a fiver apiece and we’ve covered costs. Sell more and there’s money in the kitty for new titles next year.

Naively, I thought that selling 100 copies of each book was not too hard a target. And that to achieve that, I wouldn’t have to have any dealings with the chain bookstores or Amazon (a rant about the latter will follow at some stage). The mailing list, the mini-website, word of mouth, a few independent bookstores (a paean of praise for these will also follow) – enough, surely: because the combination of these should be able to reach into the subculture of readers who are interested in good writing and slightly offbeat books, and in a country (a city, even) this wealthy and this populated that readership should be large enough to sustain my tiny venture.

I may be wrong. Early days. If I am wrong, and if I want to do more titles next year (which I do – not least because it’s fun), I’ll have to think about begging for grants. Not nice: the form-filling, the audited accounts, the becoming professional and proper rather than amateur and improper. I’d rather not have to do this (Bartleby?). I said so last week to a man who has run a small and superb poetry press for decades, and he nodded and replied: ‘Keep it hedonistic.’

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