Klasse! CCLaP's first paper book is finally available for purchase! And to mark the occasion, I'm doing a four-part photo essay here at the website this week, showing in obsessive detail each and every step involved with the process of actually making and shipping one. We're almost done, in fact; and if you weren't aware of this already, by the way, it's important to know that this essay series isn't being published in the real amount of time it takes to do all these steps. In fact, that's kind of an interesting question, of just how long it takes to put together one of these books, because right now I'm doing them industrial-style from one step to the next; so I might sit down on a quiet Saturday and make ten book covers, for example, but do nothing else; or I may spend an hour on a Tuesday evening actually stitching another copy together, while watching The Simpsons before bed. In general I've been getting around six to ten books a week actually out into the world since starting up this program; but that's taking every spare moment of my days and nights, a pace I wouldn't be able to begin keeping on a regular basis. I think it's safe to say that if you're a hobbyist, it'd still be pretty easy to do at least one book per weekend in the way that you're seeing it detailed here this week.
But as always, first a quick recap of what we've covered already: how on Monday we printed, cut and folded the actual manuscript, plus cut out the raw materials that would eventually make up the covers; how on Tuesday we actually made those covers, a surprisingly time-consuming and fastidious process; and how on Wednesday we stitched the whole thing together, easily the most time-consuming step of the entire thing. That leaves us with almost a finished book, except for a few key last steps we'll be covering today.
One of these of course is to actually glue on the finished cover art; I thought long and hard about what to include on the front, in fact, since Coptic stitching doesn't give us an opportunity to decorate a spine, but thought in the end that a spare, minimalist version of the ebook covers would work best, in that rarely are people going to be purchasing these books without first knowing what it's all about. Like I said on Monday, I just bunch four of these together into a 4 x 6 inch JPEG, then take it down via USB stick to a Target down the street from my apartment and print it out on glossy photo paper, and then here at the end simply glue it on with a micro-fine layer of PVA glue (basically a fancy version of Elmer's white glue). Starting with the next Hypermodern Edition, in fact, Sally Weigel's Too Young to Fall Asleep coming in mid-June, I'm actually going to put a little dimple into those front covers that the image will snugly fit right into, for hopefully an even cooler and more professional look.
And then finally, the whole thing goes back to my homemade bookpress, which for a cash-strapped publisher like me consists of a literal ton of books from my personal library, stacked up vertically and with CCLaP's drying Hypermodern Edition way down there at the bottom of each pile. This is a small but crucial step that many small publishers gloss over to their detriment; that in the days we currently live in, where most of these pieces are still made from organic material like trees and plants, things like paper sheets and particle-board covers are essentially made up of natural fibers, and must be "trained" to permanently lay flat in a certain pattern of your choosing. This especially applies to all you zinesters out there and those making chapbooks; you'd be surprised by how much flatter and nicer your Kinko's-made publication will look if simply smushing a pile of them down like this for a good week or so before starting to sell them, and all basement publishers should be building the extra time into their schedules to do exactly this. (By the way, if some CCLaP superfan wants to make an ultra-ridiculous gesture and actually buy the center a professional bookpress, so that I don't have to go through this rigamarole and can put my books back on my shelves where they belong, the smallest versions at a place like Hollander's in Ann Arbor, Michigan go for around $200, an amount you could simply donate to the center so that I could purchase one via mail-order. Ah, ridiculous gestures by superfans; where would life be without them?
And now a week later, here finally is our finished book, ready to be shipped out, sent to a bookstore, piled up at the back of a bar during a reading, or whatever random actions happen to it once it leaves CCLaP headquarters and begins a life of its own. Fly, little baby bird! PAPA LOVES YOU!!! Don't leave this on your bathroom floor or take it out in the rain, people, I'm telling you now!
Ah, but there's actually one more step involved in all this, which is actually getting it to you, a much more important question than most artists ever think of at first. In fact, after decades now in the underground arts, it's my opinion that this is the single number-one thing that commercially sinks the largest amount of cool artistic projects, including most of my own when I was younger -- that without an ironclad plan in place, the mere packing and shipping of your product can quickly dwarf whatever small profits you were producing, or can come to dominate your time in a way so thoroughly that you're not even getting product out, essentially bringing sales to a halt. So in my case, after looking at my options, I've decided for now to go with the US Postal System's "Click N Ship" program, which allows me to do 95 percent of the work here at home by myself on my computer, exactly the kind of thing I need as a one-man operation doing all of this in the various spare moments of my day. The way I have things set up, then, every night before bed I can simply check my Paypal account for any new orders, then hop over to USPS.com and literally buy and print a postage-marked Priority Mail label, complete with individual tracking number that a customer can simply enter into Google at any time, to get the latest update on where the package itself actually is. The next morning I slap it on one of the padded envelopes the USPS also provides for free (and will even deliver to your house in bulk quantities), then make a short trip to my neighborhood post office down the street, to drop it in their package-only dropbox under the watchful eye of their cameras, just in case I'm a terrorist or something. By the way, this too is a benefit that only comes with being a Click N Ship customer and having your packages essentially pre-approved; otherwise I'd be standing in line for an hour just like all the other schmucks, which with my daily mailings is a situation that simply wouldn't work for me. It's not just innovations in the printing and design industries that are letting basement publishers thrive these days, but even innovations like these, which allows a one-person operation like mine to push out a substantial amount of product each day without needing a full-time mail clerk or administrative assistant.
And I should mention that it's not just the book I send with each order; I also stick in CCLaP's paper catalog sampler, the 32-page booklet that I hand out like candy here in Chicago whenever I'm out at other people's live events, or that I sometimes drop off in little stacks in the foyers of cafes and the like; and I also include a funny little personalized thank-you note with handwritten elements, that also doubles as a coupon for 25 percent off your next order, whether that's another paper book, an entire subscription, or one of the decorative blank notebooks that will be available at CCLaP's new Etsy store, coming in just another couple of weeks.
And that's it -- that's the entire one-zillion-step process of actually making one of these Hypermodern Editions, which I hope will give you a better appreciation for and enjoyment of your own. And speaking of which, if you haven't ordered a copy of the paper book yet, I highly encourage you to do so, and especially encourage you creative-classers with decent jobs to simply purchase the 2011 Subscription, which will get you cotton versions of all six of the Hypermodern titles CCLaP will be releasing by the end of this year. As many of you already know, I'm critical of the fundraising method that a lot of artistic organizations use to encourage patronage, which I call the "Totebag Syndrome" -- basically, the mindset that tries to guilt you into donating large amounts of money to cultural organizations simply for ideological reasons, offering up only a worthless token as a thank-you as if needing to somehow legally prove that you actually "got something" in return. I believe in offering things of actual value in return for your patronage, cool little objects unto themselves that are an extra benefit to the usual ideological reasons for supporting the center -- to subsidize the thousands of free electronic books we've now handed out, to help CCLaP pull off bigger and bigger projects in the future, to be directly responsible for getting actual hard cash into the hands of deserving artists -- so in this respect, you can see the purchase of a Hypermodern Edition as the same thing as donating $20 to your local NPR station, only in this case getting something a hell of a lot cooler in return than some stupid freaking plastic keychain. I hope you'll take this attitude as well, and eventually be able to pick up one or more of the paper titles coming from CCLaP throughout the rest of this year.