Five Senses Reviews


The Economy of Words:

Calamari Press/Sleepingfish Earnings Report 2006 


It's tax time, or at least that time of year when you tally up the damage from the year before and drink yourself silly. As the proprietor, founder, or whatever you want to call it, of a small press and literary magazine, I consider any author that has a book through it or edits or contributes in whatever way, to be a shareholder in this seafaring enterprise, thusly the financials should be "public" knowledge. For that matter, anyone that buys Calamari books are shareholders and each book is your stock certificate.  


I started Calamari Press and Sleepingfish three years ago. I'm not sure about lit presses, but I've heard that 80% of restaurants fail in the first three years. Here's the totals of what I've spent and what I've gotten back in those years. Anybody that is interested in starting a literary small press or magazine might be interested in the harsh reality of these numbers.


2004 2005 2006
Net Income (+) $389.38 $2495.02 $3636.97
Direct Expenditures (-) -$2484.86 -$6100.49 -$8426.08
Profit (=) -$2095.48 -$3605.47 -$4789.11


Direct expenditures only include things directly related to the biz of making or moving the books, such as the printing costs and postage, and doesn't include stuff like office supplies, computer, internet access, phone, getting a business license, rent, and definitely not my time. None of the Calamari authors have been directly paid anything either. Here's what it looks like on a graph for the visually inclined. 


the economy of words


Hopefully one day the green line will start meandering towards the red one. Maybe I'm just going about it all wrong, I'll be the first to admit that. Obviously the numbers don't add up, but this is not something I ever got into for money, but for the love of words, images and books. I'm not about to quit my day job anytime soon (currently with BMG-Columbia House, so ironically under the umbrella of one of the largest and evilest publishing companies in the world). This all wouldn't be possible without the support of my partner in crime, who works at a charitable foundation, not one that gives money to the book arts, but indirectly they are whether they know it or not. And of course there's the Calamari authors and Sleepingfish co-editor, who all have day jobs to support their textual habits. 


It's not as grim as it seems though. I guess the positive spin you could put on it, is that the percentage between IN/OUT is going up (2004 - 16%, 2005 - 41%, 2006 - 43%). Profit margin or ROI is probably a more apt thing to calculate, but that seems too complex. And it has been a good start to 2007 thus far, and AWP is coming up, etc. I've been told there's ways of making it viable, filing 501.C.3PO or whatever it's called, or getting grants and whatnot, but there's no such thing as free lunch. Nothing is ever unconditional. I would rather concentrate efforts on creating book objects than the ugly business of hustling for money. Not that I'm above groveling, and of course if somebody wanted to give me money I wouldn't turn it down (though it wouldn't be tax-deductible or whatever). But I'm not about to go around asking people in the same situation as me for handouts (like other presses I see doing). And if you did have spare change and wanted to donate it, then I'd rather it went straight to the authors (contact me for info).


But really, the best thing you can do if you want to support the cause is be bullish and just buy books. And buy them straight from the source, or closest to it, if possible. Most of the Calamari Press books find their way into Amazon and other places, but when you buy through them, I see very little of that money (something like 35% of sale, minus all the fees and surcharges that my distributor SPD charges, and speaking of SPD, I'm sure they'll eventually pay, but as of now I've never seen a nickel from them and by my count they've sold 238 Calamari books since last summer). I deal directly with Powell's and they give me a much better cut (60%) and pay up front and always timely at that, but they are one of the few bookstores that do (hint, hint). There's many bookstores that have taken my books and never paid me or take years to pay. I'm tempted to post here a shitlist of those sleeping in the doghouse, but instead I'll give props to those that have been supportive. Sorry if I missed anyone, you know who you are. Many thanks. Here's to 2007. 


Calamari/Sleepingfish Bed Fellows (those that have *purchased or *donated over $100):

* Faruk Ulay

* Doug Martin

* Joshua Kornreich

* Rob Walsh 

* John Churneftsky

* Powell's

* St. Mark's

* Three Lives & Company

* Skylight Books

* City Lights Books

* Pen Faulkner Writers in Schools Program

* Rhode Island College Bookstore

* University of Alabama

* University of Richmond

Oh, and speaking of a prosperous 2007, here's some pics from last weekend's Chinese New Year in NYC, happy year of the pig


year of the pig

year of the pig


Chinese Lunar New Year, Mott street 2007

that's my partner in crime, usually the one taking the pictures, in the bottom right corner, also a pig


slush and confetti in gutter

after the math ...


muddied book

book choy


I can't speak for pigs, but what did the chicken say to the frog? 

Book, book. 

What did the frog say to the chicken? 

Read it. Read it.