Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm Confused

So, as you might be aware, I run a small press out of San Diego. We currently have 5 titles, and we do okay for a brand-new endeavor. Our books are in print, available, and our authors seem to like what we're doing with the art they've created. Those who have provided art for covers also seem to really love what we've done with their images.

Cooper Dillon Books is not raking in the big bucks, but we're resolved in our intention to stand behind the poems we feel maintain the values which make poems timeless.

That being said, why is Copper Canyon Press, "the preeminent independent publisher of poetry" asking for donations? Why are they asking for a "gift" of $50 on their facebook page, and telling you that you'll get a copy of Jean Valentine's book in exchange, and also talking about how they "rel[y] on the good will of hundreds of donors to keep [their] books in print"?

Shouldn't the sale of books keep their books in print?

It reminds me of something Gandhi said in Gandhi: An Autobiography. The Story of My Experiments with Truth, on page 198 of the Beacon Press Edition, he writes:

"A public institution means an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist. Institutions maintained on permanent funds are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it...The institution that fails to win public support has no right to exist as such. The subscriptions that an institution annually receives are a test of its popularity and the honesty of its management; and I am of the opinion that every institution should submit to that test."

Translated from the original Gujarati by Mahadev Desai.

If a book publisher is asking for money for something other than a book, what should that mean to us? I've never walked into my barbershop and heard them asking me for money because they give other people good haircuts, without offering to cut my own head. Walking into a bar, the tender never asks me to put money down unless they're pouring a drink that's worth what everyone else is paying for that drink.

Pay for your books. If you like Cooper Dillon's publications, purchase them--but only pay the price that we ask anyone else to pay. We don't need your extra, earned, money to keep our lights on, or to keep food in the fridge. If you want to give us more money--if you share our perception of what great poems are--feel free to order more books. We'll happily pack them up, and put a few things you didn't even know we had into the package for you.

Copper Canyon has 3 of the 30 books on the Poetry Foundation: Best Sellers list:

The Shadow of Sirius (paperback) by W. S. Merwin
One With Others by C. D. Wright
Migration: New & Selected Poems (paperback) by W. S. Merwin

That means people are buying lots of books from that press. Do they really need donations?


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