You know how it’s okay to make fat jokes if—and only if—one is fat? Well, I’m fat. I also sport a relatively long white beard. Santa Claus references will happen. I get that. One gets you a pass. Two, I start to get a little testy. Three and I’m going to use the wart on your nose as a point of reference for Strega Nona jokes. That’s the rule.
Back in the old days, when bookstores were the only game in town for the serious reader and publishing was still completely secure in its monopoly on print, we used to be just the teensiest bit condescending to the self-published. If an independent was even willing to accept something from what we then rather cruelly called a “vanity press,” it was on consignment, which was another way of saying “sufferance.” Local author? Okay, I’ll take two or three, maybe five copies if you swear to send all your cousins in in the next three months. After that . . . you better find some more cousins, brother.
It’s a brave new world. You may not believe me; you may not altogether like it, but it is. And it’s a good thing, sometimes. Mine is a biased opinion. I’ve already used the Espresso Book Machine in the bookstore where I work to make a little book of my own. I’m in the midst of planning another: a book of doodles, in case you think that sounds a little grand. It’s not. It’s fun. I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so.
The EBM business is booming. I am but the least of it, believe me. As an active participant and an enthusiast, I’m allowed to make fun. I’m the fat guy, remember? Well, I’ve also joined the ranks of the self-published. (Though that’s something of a misnomer, considering how much help I’ve had—and count on—from the wonderful woman at the bookstore who actually takes all my grubby scribbles, feeds them into her magic machines and makes a book come out the other side. Miracle!)
That in mind, just as everything changes, nothing does. Yes, the bookstore has reprinted hundreds of wonderful out-of-print books on the EBM, and not all of them have been for me! And yes, we’ve also seen some solid success printing good new fiction and nonfiction from first-time authors, some of whom have or may soon go on to bigger and better things. Even a few established writers, academic and not, have used this new technology to print up all kinds of fascinating stuff. There has been and continues to be some genuinely exciting stuff happening in publishing and bookselling that is a direct result of this new way of doing things. There has also been some rather endearing reminders of the way things used to be and EBM titles that remind us that where there’s a will, by gum, there’s still a way, just a less expensive and frankly better way.
Herewith then, I poke a little gentle fun at some of the less heartening, but hopefully amusing, and even encouraging results.
Brad Craft buys used books at University Book Store (Seattle), blogs at usedbuyer2.0, where you’ll find more of his doodles, and is the author of A Is for Auden: an Alphabet Book of Poets.
One response to “Embracing Sufferance”
This is great! Thanks for the smile today. It IS funny what people can come up with, isn’t it?