22 January 2009

Andrew's Printshop Review 2

Out in the printshop and bindery, we were mostly working on commercial jobs this week. One of our more interesting clients is the Blomidon Naturalists Society. We design and print their quarterly newsletter, which includes reports on all sorts of local birds, animals and plants as well as on the society’s various meetings and field trips. I’ve tried to to bring an early 20th century Curwen Press look to the publication, complete with original oak-leaf ornaments designed by Wolfville calligrapher Jack McMaster. This picture shows a signature from the newsletter moving through the Smyth sewing machine in preparation for perfect binding.

When Gary wasn’t busy casebinding more copies of Wesley Bates’ In Black & White, filling book orders or tinkering with grumpy sewing machines and folders, he found some time to carry out a few more paper-making experiments. We’re developing a method of making sheets which allows us to control the exact amount of pulp that goes into each sheet. Last night Gary completely turned our working theory on its head and, with some hastily-built test gear, pulled some very good sheets.

And me? With the spring selling season bearing down upon us, I’ve mostly been chained to my desk this week, typesetting and editing. Our spring catalogue is now out to film and headed to press. This year’s catalogue features a detail from an early wood engraving by Wesley Bates which we also used on this year’s edition of the Gaspereau T-shirt and plan to silk screen on some boxes for a special US marketing campaign we’re undertaking next month.

I did manage to escape the computer for a few mornings this week, and completed the printing of the coloured drop capitals on the letterpress edition of Thoreau’s Walking. Gary and I have decided to build pine boxes to house the 26 lettered copies of the deluxe edition of this book, in homage to the pine box which Thoreau is said to have built to house his notebooks and journals. You can find more information about this book on our website.

20 January 2009

Randolph St Cubbins, Book Traveller

After leaving our trade sales force in the fall of 2007, Gaspereau Press started flogging our books to retail accounts on our own, by mail, email and telephone. We’ve always distributed our own titles, so the leap to managing retail sales wasn’t actually that dramatic. We’re delighted, though a little surprised, to report that in our first full year without an outside sales force our sales actually increased, while cost of sales decreased. We haven’t even tried anything new or innovative yet.

It’s unwise to draw conclusions based on a mere two seasons worth of sales data (what two seasons are alike in this crazy industry?), but our experience begs the question: If a small press located in the middle of nowhere can sell more books on its own than it could with a ‘professional’ sales force visiting accounts twice a year and all that jazz, is the traditional sales reps model still an effective one for selling literary books in Canada? Maybe not.

Not that we’ve abandoned the idea of the book traveller. No sir! We've enlisted the aid of a cracker-jack salesman named Randolph St Cubbins to travel our books throughout the globe. Don’t let the fact that he’s a two-dimensional nineteenth-century illustration fool you. He’s tireless in his efforts, always on the road, and rarely in the office save to file the occasional expense report or iron his trousers. Half the time we’re not even sure where he is.

This week we received this photograph of Randolph taken at the Hong Kong Book Fair (we thought he was in Kitchener visiting a maiden aunt). Seems he had a marvellous time in Hong Kong – endless lunches and all that good stuff, what? – though to date, orders from the Orient have failed to materialize.

Curious about St Cubbins? Here's his bio from our web site:

Born in Southeast Northwestfordshire, Randolph emigrated with his family to Canada at the tender age of eight. He attended Upper Canada College, but was expelled after being made the patsy in an exam-selling scandal by a certain future newspaper baron. While this extinguished his taste for the criminal life, happy are we that it did nothing to dampen within him the bright spark of salesmanship that shines to this day. Following matriculation from the (only somewhat less hallowéd) Mississauga Montessori, Randolph furthered his education at King's College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a rather unusual double major in Illuminated Manuscripts and Discrete Ornithology. After many years at the Nova Scotia gentlemen's clothier, Cumberland Cummerbunds, Randolph longed for a return to his first love, literature. He brings to the position experience in sales, top-notch credentials in subtlety and style, a gentle wit and a matchmaker's gift for putting the right books into the right hands.

15 January 2009

Andrew's Printshop Review

Things are getting busy in the printshop again after a bit of a break over the Christmas holiday. As usual, there are many different projects at many different stages, but my main focus at the moment is on designing the guts of new poetry books by Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen and Carmine Starnino, and the jacket for Robert Bringhurst’s Selected Poems. Kate and I are also trying to get the spring catalogue to press – which is several weeks overdue on my account. I’ve been distracted with both commercial design jobs and the production of two letterpress books.

This week I started to print the green ‘spot’ colour on our forthcoming letterpress book, Walking, an essay by Henry David Thoreau. The printing of the text is complete, and after I print all the drop capitals and such I’ll be ready to print Wesley Bate’s three engravings from the blocks. The paper is a wonderful German sheet called Biblio. The green is PMS 443, a selection inspired by Rockwell Kent.

Speaking of letterpress books, the printing of Don McKay’s The Muskwa Assemblage is complete, but we’re still trying to find time to make the paper for the jacket. More accurately, as I told Don, we’re still trying to find time to make the equipment we need to make the paper for his jackets. I’ll include some pictures of our papermaking process in a forthcoming post. In the meantime, Don was good enough to send us some cotton fibre to help make the paper for his book jackets – an old pair of his own blue jeans.