Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I need a new bookkeeping system

After spending several frustrating and confusing hours organizing a year's worth of invoices, I realized I need a new system. The paperwork had piled up because of the massive time suck called grad-school, but that's not the biggest reason I need a new system. Going through all the sales for the last tax year (July 2009 - June 2010), I see that I'm not getting the information I need from my records. I created my system to track one book, Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, and to know how much to pay Laura Fogg in royalty. But now I have three books to track, so the old system just doesn't work anymore.

What kinds of information do I need now?

I need to know how many copies each book has sold of course, and which sale is taxable (meaning I owe the State of California money). I need to know who bought the books and when. I need to keep track of royalties and how much to donate to Gilman Street. I need to know how much I've earned each quarter, subtracting unit cost and shipping.

The old system gives me that info, but is too cumbersome for three books. There must be a way to streamline the info so it's easy to input and easy to access, with clear numbers for each book. I know there are programs I can buy, but my press is too small to justify spending thousands on a publishing data-base. Instead, I'll create my own system again, and when I've figured it out I'll share it with you.

Anyone have an idea to get me started?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who let all this press business pile up?

Oh yeah, that would be me. Sigh...

Grad school has been bad for business.

There is a mountain of Medusa's Muse business that has been needing my attention for at least three months, and now that school is over and I'm supposedly on vacation (what's that?), I am spending all my free time doing really fun things like updating inventories. Plus, it's time to pay sales tax again (before the end of the month, people. Don't forget). But before I can do that I have to finalize all the data on sales from quarter one and two of 2010. I haven't been inputting the sales in the spreadsheets like I should, instead they're written down on bits of paper which have been tossed into the top drawer of my desk. I think. I hope they're all there. And I owe Laura money again, and speaking of money I really wish someone from Gilman or Indy Arts would call me so I can send them their cut of Punk Rock Saved My Ass book sales.

I know being a publisher looks glamorous (well, only when I wear my tiara), but most of the time being a publisher is a real pain in the ass. I did not start a small press so I could spend all my time doing books, I started a press to create books. Actual hands on book creation is only a fraction of what I get to spend my time on, even though it's the only reason I became a publisher. So of course I let the bookkeeping pile up when I get busy. If I have any free time I want to spend it doing something I love, like editing or working on my play.

Even though I researched what is required to start a small business like a publishing company, and even wrote a book about how to do it, I wasn't prepared for the tedium I feel inputting book sales, not to mention marketing the dang things. There are days I think about quitting. What a huge waste of my artistic energy. I should be creating something, not staring at spread sheets trying to remember how to do percentages correctly. But when I ponder never publishing another book, I feel miserable. Never publishing another book? How awful that would be! So I keep at it, but I really wish I was earning enough at Medusa's Muse to hire some help.

Okay, enough whining. Back to crunching those numbers.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Do I really dislike poetry?

Last night, Jane and I went to Nicholas Karavatos' poetry reading at Book and Beckett in San Francisco. He is one of the writers in Punk Rock Saved My Ass, touring the West Coast this summer to promote his new book, No Asylum. Even though I'm not a huge poetry person, we like to support our writers.

The reading turned out to be astonishing and I will never look at poetry the same way again.

Not to belittle poetry, but most of the time, it bores me. I've sat through too many long winded, "evocative" readings from old women who write ten pages about how wonderful birds are (I can just hear the hate mail now). Yes, birds are wonderful, but do you really need to go on for 15 minutes about the color of their wings? Where is the passion that drove you to write about a bird? Where is the play on words, the double meanings, the less than obvious metaphors?

The night was led by poet and activist Dee Allen, who recited his poems about love, death, and living on the streets while fighting for dignity with a fierceness that was startling. He was nervous, stumbling over his words now and then and apologizing for any mistakes,  but he kept the room transfixed with his presence and command of the words he had written. His poems were about the struggle for life, for hope.  He is one of those street poets we all tend to ignore as we dash by on our busy errands. The next time you walk by a street poet, stop and listen. There is real talent out there.

The way Haight Ashbury's other residents treat these youngsters
Would drive anyone late into hiding, but they won't hide.
Not while eyes of the main drag followed them
Into the bright green tapestry of Golden Gate,
With his notepad scribbled down indignities
And a pocketful of tickets for crimes of status.
Each ticket, a printed example of class hatred

(excerpt from "Streeteyes" by Dee Allen, printed in the Street Sheet 2010 poetry edition)

Then Nicholas read poems from his book, and I was again struck by the beauty and power of a well written, and well spoken, poem. Nicholas wrote about love, sex, and perceptions of the Middle East where he teaches, surprising us with startling imagery, masterful language, and humor that made us laugh as well as think. He smiled, winked, wiggled his eyebrows... playing with the audience as he read.

I have a reason to live 
because they want me to die.
A last goodbye
To laughing ass, says my soul.
Underworld wide web bidding up
Stock in life while the cost of 
living it is not known

(excerpt of "Procreate the Revolt", from the book No Asylum, by Nicholas Karavatos)

Afterwards I bought his book, which has a beautiful black cover with the title written in shining red letters, and creamy pages inside with the perfect font to balance the weight of his prose (as a publisher, I appreciate good design).

When Nicholas was finished, there was an open mic, something I usually sit politely through while trying not to fidget as yet another person reads a poem about the birds in her back yard. And once again, I was blown away by the talent and presence of these amateur poets. It wasn't so much the words as the passion. That is what is lacking in poetry too often, and is why I dread poetry readings. Don't just paint me a pretty picture, show me why you need to paint that picture. Give me some energy, power, desire... force me to feel the same way about the birds in your back yard as you do. All of the poets who read that night did just that.

Jane read the opening section of her interview with Chestnut Growler in Punk Rock Saved My Ass and I read part of a poem from Spanish poet Silvia Escario, also from Punk Rock Saved My Ass. The book store owner bought a couple of punk books (the book store is in Glen Park if you're looking for a copy of our book). Bird and Beckett is a fabulous bookstore with a large selection of books, both used and new, and a stage where writers and musicians perform regularly. I highly recommend it. Go out and support the store and help keep another indy bookstore alive.

My mind has been changed about poetry. I love the poets in our book (Tony Walsh, Annie McGann, Christine Bruness, Nicholas Karavatos, Mark Pietrzykowski, Matt Finney, Silvia Escario) because they truly write from the heart, and now I see there are many more poets who write poetry that is alive. That's the key I guess. I want to read words that are alive, not sleepy. Now I want to discover what other fire breathing poets there may be out in the wild world of poetry. Any suggestions?