Monday, September 15, 2008

Whither Rampant Loon Press?

For those who keep asking, "What's the deal with Rampant Loon? Why does the site look so moribund?" No, the venture isn't DOA. We're simply experiencing a few technical difficulties that are continuing to delay the launch.

This past year — and it's been more than a year now since we first conceived this and started laying the groundwork — has been very educational. We now know far more about corporate and contract law than we ever thought we'd have to, or want to. We know about ISBNs. We know about distribution channels. We know about business insurance. You'd have to be daft to try starting a business like this without it, because the world litigation ecology has grown so large and intertwined and there are so many aggrieved people out there just waiting for a chance to sue someone. International court-shopping is big business these days, especially in the EU. Do you want to get sued in England because a Kerplopistani illegal immigrant living in Germany was offended by something he read in a book you published that he shoplifted while staying with his sister for a week in Italy? Neither do we.

We've also learned a tremendous amount about the mechanics of turning a book into a tangible object. Much of it I knew already, but the whole business of binding is a lot more complicated than expected. We've actually managed to find some vendors who can deliver the kind of old-school, stitched, cloth-covered bindings we want at price points we can live with, but the whole question of what gets inside those bindings remains a battle, as it's become apparent that most people in the printing end of the business don't actually read books. Paper salesmen, in particular, are a pain, and always trying to up-sell you. "Yes, I know, that 100-pound coated bright-white glossy takes ink well, looks good, and binds beautifully, but we're not printing frickin' yearbooks. Have you ever tried to read more than a paragraph or two printed on that stuff under normal light?" No, apparently not.

That, and we keep running afoul of The Curse of Desktop Publishing. It seems everyone and his brother has a cute little 22-year-old sister in the back office who took a course at a community college and "knows all about" design and layout. When you find yourself having to explain screens, drop shadows, registration marks, and CMYK color separations to their desktop publishing "expert," be afraid; be very afraid.

However, the single biggest problem to date is not the binding, or the paper, or the interior design, or the cover art — and that's a whole 'nother topic — or getting the book into the distribution channel. It's the words that go on the pages. I guess I was myopic before, being a writer. Looking at it as an editor and publisher —

Man, writers are a pain in the neck. Very inventive; very creative. They always have the best excuses for why the frickin' book isn't finished yet. I already have one deal that I've had to cancel, because the author is seemingly incapable of finishing the book. It was for a non-fiction book that would have been great a year ago, and probably still viable six months ago, but has missed its launch window now. Some day I expect that writer will actually finish his book, and he'll go to his grave complaining that The Man and The System conspired to keep the world from appreciating his brilliance.

So what's your excuse?