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The Deixis Press Weekly - Issue #1
This newsletter is the place where I talk about what I’m doing in my pursuit of creating a new small press. Followers of my previous, personal newsletter: Please don’t leave me. In fact, please tell your friends and family and book-loving enemies to follow me too, because while this newsletter won’t be marketing, it will still be publicity. If you see what I mean.
… I have come to understand the difference between marketing and publicity. I’m already learning!
This week’s edition is particularly long; I don’t know if it will always be quite this substantial. We’ll keep an eye on how this works out.
Monday, 8 March
Farewell, o my children, my darlings, my cherubs. Today is the day they go back to school. After much weeping and clinging and clutching at clothing, I finally relent and allow them to go into their school building. I return home, forlorn. After 6 weeks of constant blesséd contact with my dearest pets, I find myself ready to fill the hole inside my heart with another creature of my very own: another mewling, hungry, demanding, expensive, risky bet on my own competence.
Deixis. An unfriendly-looking word’s word, one that is unfamiliar to most people. But everyone knows about it, even if they don’t know the name: Deixis is the concept of relativity in language, which we use all the time when we use demonstrative pronouns. I have this. Put that there. Those are the ones I’m looking for. We use terms like these constantly, but to make sense they must be in context, so they are especially common in spoken language.
I became a little obsessed with deictic words when I did my MA, where my thesis was about how we use language online. I found that people in MUDs (remember those?) used deictic language all the time, which heightened the sense of immediacy, togetherness, and “spokenness” of the interactions they were having–even though those interactions were conducted entirely through text, and often from thousands of miles away. But that’s another newsletter for another day.
Deixis isn’t a well-known term, and it’s clunky to look at and to attempt to pronounce [day-icks-iss]. It’s a terrible word to try to use in graphic design. Therefore it’s a fantastic word to use when naming a new press, because nobody else has touched it with a bargepole, unlike all the other lovely words you can think of (and yes, I thought of all of the other ones first too. Yes, even that one. And that one, you perv).
I have all of the websites and the social medias I want to use (or I definitely wouldn’t be saying the name out loud yet), but nothing is present at any of them as of today (Monday). Having said that, if you want to follow the press on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, please do. One day, too, I will be operating out of deixis.press.
Monday’s actual work
I’ve been talking through my business plan with my husband and some friends in the industry, and I’ve recruited my freelancers, and I’ve chatted with some people about marketing, but what I’ve found the most useful in comprehending just what I’m getting into is a series of articles on Medium from a guy called Jamie McGarry who started Valley Press for profit, and who has outlined his thinking on business models, distribution, discounts, and so on.
What I’ve been doing today is going through his articles and adding them to my Zettelkasten (which I have created in Evernote) so that I can gain a full understanding of the issues a small press faced in 2016-2018. I think some of the advice/experiences may have changed a little in the last 3-5 years, and because this his press is his livelihood he requires a lot more profit than I do (I mean, I also like profit, but what I really want to do is sell very good books to as many people as possible–which is kind of a different thing). Nevertheless, I feel that his experience is a good place to start.
I’ve also been in touch with a printer/distributor so that I can get actual costs to put into my spreadsheet, not just finger-in-the-air fairy story stuff.
If you are unfamiliar with a zettelkasten, at its core it’s just a way of taking notes. Let me summarize it for you. Oh look, I’ll use the summary I created in my Zettelkasten:
Zettelkasten is a note-taking system where you organize information by topic. The aim is to put each main idea into a single note, then link other notes to it. Notes can branch off into other topics, which creates a loose kind of “hierarchy,” though bear in mind that new ideas that are only vaguely linked will make their own branches and are not subject to hierarchy in a typical sense. On paper, notes are linked with cross-references, while in Evernote etc you may make liberal use of tags instead.
… and from my Zettelkasten it is easy for me to tell you that I got a lot of my Zettelkasten implementation ideas from this post on Reddit, and was inspired by this post from (yet again) Oliver Burkeman.
BEWARE: if you get into this, you’ll find that a lot of people say things like, “Oh my god, you must create your Zettelkasten on physical notecards, they’re just so uniquely ~*sPeCiAl*~ for the Zettelkasten form,” which sounds to me like a similar nonsensical noise that goes, “Oh my god, you must journal in a beautiful notebook with a fountain pen or you aren’t really journalling,”–let me be clear, I will do nothing on paper. Except print some books.
Tuesday, 9 March
Today I’m doing a bunch of admin, both for normal life (emails that have to get replied to, other editorial work things that have to be peered at, school stuff that has to be figured out) and for Deixis Press.
I’m not that good at *handwaving* businessy stuff or whatever. I was a trainee accountant for a bit a long time ago; my husband does something *handwaving* businessy; my in-laws are all rather *handwaving* businessy people–but whenever someone tries to explain the mechanics of business and shares and limited companies and whatnot I still have to work really hard not to let it all turn to mush the moment it enters my ears. Just what you want to hear from someone who wants to start a business, right?
Yesterday I emailed a few people to get their thoughts on how much printing and distribution will cost–and their replies are the last pieces of the puzzle I need to demonstrate viability–but in addition to firming up my expected finances, I am vaguely aware that I need a business bank account, and I need to be a business, and that I would like to retain some element of privacy so I probably need a PO box.
It turns out that you have to do those things in exactly the opposite order to how they are listed there, which I have found out today. Knowing that would have saved me some time. So I’m telling you, in case you ever need to know:
PO box, if you want it, which takes about a week to set up before you can use it to
create a company at Companies House, which you need in order to
apply for a business bank account.
I also heard back from a marketing/publicity person last night. The amount she would want for one publicity campaign is about as much money as I imagine I will make in the first 10 years of the press (am I exaggerating?!). I have had a significantly lower quote (about a fifth of the cost!) from another person, so now I need to figure out why they are so different.
Wednesday, 10 March
Today I’ve been gnawing on the bare bones of finances, looking at the down-to-the-penny costs of making a book and getting it into people’s hands. I’m sure it’s no secret that the amount a book sells for versus the amount that goes into authors’ hands is truly shocking. Over £12 of your average £12.99 paperback goes to everyone apart from the author; worse, that fact turns out to be fair, when you examine it closely.
In pricing up various ways to create and distribute books, I have come to understand a little better why royalties work the way they do, and it’s too complicated to go into here, but ask me sometime if you’d like to know. (It’s quite *handwaving* businessy.)
Before today, I had only briefly considered crowdfunding to make physical books happen; I now absolutely see the appeal of doing something like that, especially when it comes to discounts on bulk printing that lead to better profits for both author and publisher, but I fear the administrative overheads. Nonetheless, it’s possible that I could explore that side of things in future.
Thursday, 11 March
Today I’m talking to my designer about my logo. I have been playing with a lot of ideas; I want something darkly Victorian in feel, which can range from lanterns to gravestones to snakes to memento mori. Perhaps next week I’ll have something to show you.
Last night I also got in touch with loads of book bloggers/podcasters, people I know who work in the publishing industry, and people who might themselves know people. I’ve come out of those interactions with a lot of help, enthusiasm, and support. One interesting piece of advice from someone very senior in the industry is that I should use NetGalley, which will take up most of what I have in the pot for marketing–but if she says it’s the thing to do, I really must do it. (It’s like when the queen “suggests” you should wear a hat. Except I probably won’t have to self-exile if I don’t use NetGalley.)
Also, my PO Box information came through today, which means I can register myself as a business! So I have made the application, but again that will take another couple of days.
Friday, 12 March
This morning I have to make myself get in touch with all the people whose names have come up when I’ve asked friends for help with this venture. It’s an odd thing that I find it hard to ask friends of friends to give me a hand, for two reasons:
If a friend of a friend asked me for help, I would always do what I could, and
Every time I’ve asked someone for help in the past, they have been enormously generous with their time and expertise.
And really, all anyone can say is no. But I still worry that I will somehow be wasting other people’s time, or asking for favors that are too big. Even though I know they wouldn’t be too big if someone were asking me.
… Ok, I’ve talked myself into it. It’ll be fine.
This afternoon, then, I must do some of the other work I have, the work that actually pays me money–the non-press work. Now that the kids are back at school, I’ve once again started picking up freelance projects. It strikes me that I should probably pay the money I earn from that work directly into the press. But I wonder how that would work–is it a “shareholder loan” to the individual that is my limited company? Would it somehow be income if I put it into the company, even though I earned it in a different capacity? I have honestly no idea.
So I guess if you’ve made it this far, you can see that I need:
… for free
(Well, it’s worth a shot.)
And then at the weekend I think I won’t work? Like maybe I’ll try to do the thing that normal people do where they have a rest? (But I don’t feel tired. And I feel like there’s a lot to do. We’ll see how it goes.)