Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kevin Carson on Corvus, and an update

Kevin Carson's latest post talks about my micropublishing project, Corvus Editions, as an example of "household and informal microenterprise." It includes some details about operating costs and such, taken from a mailing list exchange, which will be new to readers of this blog.

I'll be producing a report on the first three months of operations, in the first issue of M. Corbeau's Blackbird, sometime around October 1. I expect to have about 100 titles in the catalog at that point, including a third issue of LeftLiberty, a collection of mutualist, proto-mutualist, and near-mutualist texts from the Owenite "high tide" of 1825-7, the first issue of M. Coulicou’s Aviary of Wild, Rare and Frequently Odd Birds, a thick collection of radical social science from back in the day, and the first batch of a new line of facsimile reprints, including some IWW-related material. With a little luck, the first issue of Mme. Oscine's Songbird will also appear yet this month, but my focus really has to be on ironing out some operational concerns. One of the disadvantages of "household and informal microenterprise" is that it often takes place in spaces also used for other purposes. I'm still developing a physical organization and workflow which let's me do Corvus stuff efficiently, without Corvus stuff crowding out the rest of my life.

As a business, Corvus Editions is limping along somewhere at the fixed-cost level, and a number of developing partnerships have had the entirely predictable effect of putting extra stresses on operations. With a large, but rather obscure catalog, an unsuccessful bookfair or tabling event can drain a lot of resources. When a very unsuccessful event was followed by a flukey supply delay and some pokey bookstore payments, I ended up being pretty slow filling orders in August. Live and learn. I've dealt with some of the potential issues by whittling away at operating costs, and by starting to build more of a standing stock of key titles—to the extent that my limited business lets me identify those titles. All in all, things are about where I expected them to be at this stage of the game, with the difference that it is almost entirely four or five folks who have accounted for most of the retail sales and the feedback on the catalog, which makes it harder to evaluate and plan than it would be with a broader base. Ultimately, this is a business that will run, if it runs, on nickels, dimes, and informative thank-yous.

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