Monday, February 18, 2013

a day in the life of a small press supervillainess...

(a few people have asked me IRL about my daily do-ings with the press and how it is I do what I do, so I thought I might share some snippets of how dgp titles come into being, what I spend my hours doing on a daily basis, how the magic happens, whathaveyou.)

   I'm a night owl who works at my day night job til 10 every night, so I usually don't get home and to sleep til around 2 or 3, so I'm a late riser, but on good days, I can get out the door by 10am or so and downtown to the studio by 11-ish. I usually start by processing orders, which involves scribbling out a list of things intended to go out with recipient and titles and then using Paypal's multi-shipping feature to create labels. Depending on book thickness and how many books are going into the envelope, I'll use my postage scale to determine weight (for single books of ordinary thickness, it's usually 3-4 ounces with the envelope.) I will process anywhere from 5 to 30 outgoing books on a really good day.

 I usually have a small stock of the newest titles already made up, which will usually last me through the author copies, review/promo copies, and the initial burst of orders, but anything older I usually have to print and assemble copies from scratch. I also have random assortment of titles at any given time (I try to keep at least one copy of each book in the studio for sale during our events.) If I don't have any ready to go out, I will start my printing all the covers I need, then the insides. Then folding, bone folding, stapling. Assembly time varies, mostly in terms of trimming time (some are done on one side, others demand all three)  Since I don't have a cool table top book press (though I covet one) I use a heavy circular base and some boards to smoosh the books. I'll leave them there overnight and then pop them into their envelopes the next morning usually. I'll also pack up any non-book things that have been ordered (paper goods, artwork, accessories). I try not to have to go to the PO unless it's absolutely necessary, so unless I have larger international packages, most things just go into the mail bin in the lobby.

I will then spend the remainder of my studio time laying out new books, cover designs, making correction to final proofs, or printing out a test run. I use this time also to answer e-mails, correspond with upcoming authors over corrections, cover ideas, tiny details. There are usally three books at a time in some stage of the process, so the releases tend to happen in clusters as things get squared away and we're ready to print. After I have the final version, I save everything as print-ready pdfs (I actually lay things out in word since I have access to that at every computer I might be on during a give day between the studio, home, and the library.) Before I'm ready to print, I will work on getting the webpages updated and the sales page up. We use ecrater, a great (and best of all) free e-commerce platform which allows me to just pop all the info into a template instead of designing a page from scratch. I also have to update the dgp mainpage with the new title and any additional details, at which point the book is officially released and available to order.

I admit what saves me is a pretty detailed system of alphabet coded e-mail folders with books and all correspondence, attachments, etc designated with coded prefixes that help me keep track of where we are with any given project. Over the years, I've grown pretty swift at doing layouts, choosing fonts, formatting documents, so that helps. I try to spend some time with each book again before we start the design process, thinking about what it might look like in terms of type, trim size, special needs of that particular book, etc. Different projects demand various levels of involvement on cover design, so I might be creating something from scratch (either making a piece of art or using found/stock images), getting artwork from an artist & adding text, or just popping in a ready made design we have worked out with an outside designer.  I also try to set aside some time each day before I leave out to do promotional work, which means dealing with the snarl of social media things (facebook, twitter, pinterest, good reads.) Sending out requested review copies, promo copies, amd thinking from more of a marketing standpoint. Also, ordering supplies, printer, ink, paper, envelopes, et. This is usually the last hour or so of studio time, during which I pull things together and also plan for my next day and what I might need to work on later on at work when its slow and quiet or at home or on the bus. I do alot of proofing offsite, reading galleys and tweaking, which is why it's good to have access to word everywhere on all computers.

Lately I've been trying to steal a little more time earlier in the morning or late at night for my own stuff, collages to make, poems to write, manuscripts to go over, stuff to ready for submission. As much as I like bringing other peoples books into the world, I get cranky when I haven't been getting to my own projects. I find it works if I block off some time at the beginning of the day to work on on collages, writing pieces, my own little books and zines.

 Then it's off to the day night job, where I spend the next 8 hours of my day where I am usually mired in textbook reserves, lost item invoices, malfunctioning office equiptment, and random library trivia much of the day, but if things aren't too crazy later in the evening when I'm on desk, I might do some proofing or manuscript reading or poem scribbling if its really quiet. After my library shift ends I usually go home, eat dinner, plan my next day, do minor household things, then waste time on the internet (youtube videos design blog reading, pinterst) until I'm tired and crawl into bed, and then 8 or 7 or 6 hours later depending on the season, start all over again. Weekends of course, are different and involve perhaps some craftiness, cooking, horror movie marathons, random social outings, hanging out, and possible drunkeness, but mostly, this is the routine. During crunch times or fulfilling large orders, I sometimes have to head down and get to work a little earlier. Or pull some Saturday time, which happens more and more lately. All in all, I'm probably devoting about 20-30 or so hours entirely per week to press work. And sometimes, it does feel like a part-time job in addition to my full-time job (and I hope one day soon, it might BE a full-time job all by itself).


Unknown said...

Makes me tired just to read this! But I and many other readers and writers are grateful that you do all this work.

nicci said...


Thanks for posting this. As someone who's been circling around the idea of starting a press (for a few years), I enjoyed the insight into your day as a small press maven.

I also found my most productive (zine) period was when I worked at a library. Must be something about all those books infusing into your brain. :)


Jane said...

So much respect. I'm in awe of your productivity.