Drum Roll, Please… Announcing My Secret Project

This Espresso Book Machine is located at the downtown Portland Powell’s Books.

When I wrote about the Espresso Book Machine a month ago, I hinted that I was working on a project. Today I’ll tell you about it.

I’ve been thinking about doing something more permanent with the Seven Questions interviews I run on this blog, since the authors and I put a lot of time into creating that original content.

About two months ago, I read about the Espresso Book Machine arriving at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland and decided to check it out. Self-publishing a book that can be purchased locally–and then printed right there in the store, while the buyer watches, and without shipping costs (environmental and financial)–totally appeals to me.

These machines are installed in 80 bookstores, libraries and other intellectual centers around the country.

Once the Powell’s machine has its sales channel running, a book published there, in downtown Portland, can be purchased, and printed, at any of those 80 locations. As I understand, distribution is key to selling self-published books. (I’m talking about print books here, not ebooks, because after all, my content is already available online.) Putting together an author interview book seems like a wonderful way to try this technology and its built-in distribution channel.

Once I had the idea, I started thinking about my interviews. There are a lot of them–too many to include. But I had no idea how to organize them. So I thought. And I thought. And one day, it was obvious.

I’m a big believer in local products and building community. (Have you noticed?) As I asked the amazing Espresso staff more questions, my idea grew more focused. What about a local book? I quickly counted. Fifteen Oregon author interviews (13 done, and two in the works). That would work!

The next piece of the puzzle was figuring out how to add fresh content, so I’m not just reprinting the interviews. In a post-critique group conversation with Gigi Little and Kathleen Lane, I blurted out something about asking local authors to put together mini craft essays about writing. Flash essays, really. I came up with a focused set of prompts and began requesting work. And the wonderful community of writers began responding. With essays! For my book!

I’m pleased to announce that the first Seven Questions collection will feature 40 Oregon authors and their thoughts on the creative process.

Forty. Can you believe that? I am so giddy and totally humbled by the outpouring of support for this project.

As with the Seven Questions series, the book will feature a mix of traditionally published writers, small-press authors, self-publishers and those hard-working unpublished writers. Although I’m focusing on Oregon, the interviews and essays are relevant to all writers, as they focus on what it means to create, how we sneak our work into our everyday lives, and where we find inspiration. I’m hoping it’ll serve as a useful reference to writers, no matter where they live, while celebrating some of the people who make the Oregon literary scene so incredible.

I’m creating a small press right now to release the book, using the Espresso Book Machine as the printer. I have full control of every step of the process–and there are a lot of steps! (I had no idea.) My goal is to work like crazy to have this book launch at Wordstock, Portland’s literary festival, in mid-October. So if I’m unusually quiet, that’s why.

Have you self-published? Or have you created your own press? Am I crazy trying to get this multifaceted project out by mid-October? I would love your advice.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1bhaB-MU

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, Community, Seven Questions, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Drum Roll, Please… Announcing My Secret Project

  1. Wow! Congratulations, Laura! It’s a great idea. I wish you great success!

    • Thanks, Naomi! I’m calling this Volume I – Oregon to leave the door open for Volume II – Oregon, or a national book, or a small-press authors one, or ?? It’s so exciting to do something concrete with these wonderful interviews.

  2. 4amWriter says:

    Very exciting, indeed. Good luck with your project. Can’t wait to hear about how it all turns out.

  3. Laura, that sounds wonderful – to use the latest technology to print an actual book to help writers write … best wishes for an outstanding result for you all 🙂

  4. emmaburcart says:

    I’m so excited for this project to happen! What a great way to bring the writing community together. And I’m doubly excited because I just checked and there is an Expresso Book Machine in Raleigh. So, if I’m here in October I’ll be able to get one! I can’t wait to hold it in my hands and read how it turns out.

    • I’m so thrilled about the writing community in Oregon; this is a great chance to showcase a good portion of that community. I’m so glad there’s a machine in Raleigh! If you need an adventure, go check it out and see how it works. They’re so interesting. I watched the Powell’s one print a book on Thursday, right before Yuvi’s reading. It drew quite a crowd!

  5. Its a great idea Laura and I wish you much success with it.

  6. Emma says:

    Sounds great, Laura. Congrats on this and best of luck with putting it altogether.

    • Thanks, Emma! I have several editors lined up to help me proof and copy edit, and right now I’m waiting for people’s updated interviews, and more essays, to be turned in. The next four or six weeks are going to be totally focused on this project. Fun! But a little daunting.

  7. laurenwaters says:

    What a fantastic idea! I have self-published, ebook and print form. I’ve only sold a few print books outside my family and friends since I haven’t done much locally. After I get my third book released I’ll attend a few book signings at the local book shop, but for now my ebooks are selling nicely. Email me if you have any questions. I’d love to help!

    • You’ve done it all, Lauren! That’s amazing. I have heard that print books don’t sell, but I’m hopeful that having a very specific target market–and having forty local authors involved, not to mention having a distribution hub at Powell’s–might make a difference. I’m not sure if pushing fiction on the local front would work as well as this kind of book, which is really a community effort. On the other hand, the pieces in here are incredible, and I do hope it’ll sell some around the country despite being focused on Oregonian writers.

      I’ll email you some questions when I put a few together! Thanks so much, Lauren.

  8. I think this is a great idea. i’ve read that regionally-oriented books like this are doing quite well in hard copy these days (unlike most other categories). Plus it would be really fun to watch the book being made.

    The main question I’d have about the October date would be getting proof copies and fixing all the glitches (widows, orphans, hyphenation, etc.). When I was doing A Sane Woman, I went through about six versions before I got it the way I wanted it. But I was doing that with Lulu, so each version took at least a week to get made and shipped. I imagine with the machine right there you could get proof copies in real time, so that would go a lot quicker.

    Nice to see that there are still self-pubbers doing hard copy. Good luck!

    • Some of my friends and I have theorized about a local press presence, and this is a great step in that direction. I love what Matt Love, the nonfiction Oregon book publisher, has done with his Nestucca Spit Press. He’s one of my inspirations. And it’s so fun to watch the books get made. I’ve seen it once and am going down there this week to order a reference book to help with my novel.

      Widows and orphans–I am using Word, which is not a great way to lay out pages, but I did click widow/orphan control. We’ll see if that’s enough. I am an old-fashioned Quark Xpress user and used to train people on that software. I expect to do one hard-copy proof and to do the rest online, with the help of several volunteer editors. One will be looking at content exclusively; one or two will look at the book pages and double check formatting and such. We’ll see!

      I am excited to have found an affordable, intuitive way to create a hard copy of a book, and I’m already thinking about other projects.

      • I did A Sane Woman with OpenOffice, so that’s pretty much the same as Word (and Word has section breaks, so that’s even better). There are two things that the “widows and orphans” control won’t do, though:
        1) You’ll probably end up with some unbalanced pages (where the “widows and orphans” settings move a paragraph to a following page so, for example, a left hand page would have one more line of text than the facing page.).
        2) A single short word at the end of a paragraph falling on a line by itself (or, even worse, a hyphenated word). I’m sure you’ve encountered this before and you probably already have a general rule about how few letters are acceptable on a line by themselves. But that will have to be fixed on a case-by-case basis.
        Also, can you set a limit in Word for the maximum number of hyphenations in a single paragraph? That can be helpful. If not, you may have to tweak a little by hand.
        (I’ve probably already give you the link to my post about inconsistent definitions of “widows” and “orphans.” 🙂 )

  9. Debra Kristi says:

    This is fantastic, Laura! You’ve really put a lot of thought into this and it shows. The support coming out of the woodwork is in response to the wonderful support you are always showing. I’m so excited for you!

    • Oh thanks, Debra! It’s great to hear your voice, and the support is absolutely amazing.

      Sorry I haven’t visited your blog in a while; the baby has learned to roll, so between that and this interview book project, I’m not reading as much as I’d like!

      • Debra Kristi says:

        No worries about the visit. I have had a hard time getting around to other blogs this summer with the kids being out of school. I know how it is. I’ve actually been a pretty terrible blogger friend. Sorry. So excited that school starts on Wednesday!

        Isn’t it glorious when the baby learns to roll? 😀 Fun times. You have a lot on your plate. I get that. I’ve been telling everyone – put your projects (WIPs) first!

        • Ah yes–the kids out of school! My older one starts kindergarten in a few weeks, and I hope I have more time then. You are so smart telling people to put their projects first. When the amount of time gets smaller, it’s hard to prioritize, and it’s always sad when the WIP gets pushed into last place. (Poor Henri, my protagonist. This collection has overtaken his first-place status in my writing life.)

  10. Pingback: Fear & Failure Results — yuvi zalkow

  11. This is great, Laura! I love this project. I just added some information on my blog post today where you are mentioned (http://yuvizalkow.com/general/fear-failure-results/). But I will make sure to keep track of when this cool book is ready and spread the word…

    • That’s wonderful, Yuvi! Thank you. Stay tuned for your revised interview to come your way for updates and changes. I’m using my other posts with you, including the book launch interview, to update the original.

  12. Sara Flower says:

    So exciting! You should give yourself a pat on the back. 🙂 It is a fine aspiration.

    I have self-published and created my own small publishing company called Violet Sword. You are so inspiring! Looking forward to hearing more.

    • Violet Sword–great name, Sara! I’m excited to join the self-publishing adventure and see where it takes me. I’m also really excited to do something concrete with these interviews, which opens the door to more books like this in the future.

  13. Okay– ignorant and needing to learn– Can I self-publish WITHOUT creating my own small publishing company? Can I use someone else’s company? Between my existing Life Coaching business, and the nonprofit I’m working to start, I really can’t imagine trying for a THIRD right now… And Laura? You definitely are getting all this support because you’re interesting, and capable, intelligent and a good listener, and you have good ideas. Basically, because you’re YOU. =)

    • Yes, you can self-publish without a press, Staci! Or you can use someone else’s company. In fact, that’s one of my longterm ideas for this new press–to publish local authors. I love to edit, and do layout, and with the Espresso Book Machine as the printer, I could grow this small business and help other writers get their work out in the world. I can’t think of a more exciting calling than that.

      A press makes your book independent, or small-press published, which might be more interesting to local bookstores than something published through Amazon, for instance, but Amazon has the huge name recognition, of course. You can also self-publish with or without an ISBN, depending on your target market. Certain bookstores won’t carry your book without one. I decided to do everything–get an ISBN, create a press, build a business–since I want to do this for more than one project. I own a copy of great anthology, “The Frozen Moment,” edited by Colin Farstad. That was published without an ISBN and without a press, through Publication Studios here in Portland, and it’s lovely. He ran a number of events to promote the book.

      Thanks for the sweet, thoughts, too. I am so glad you’re going to be part of this collection of Oregon writers. I look forward to interviewing you about your book, by the way!

      • Thanks again, Laura. Once your Secret Project Book is published, and you’ve got your Small Press business going, let’s talk about the possibility of publishing my book through your small press! I can’t think of anything I’d like more. If it fits into your plans, of course. And since I’m already half-through my own final edit, it’ll be motivation to finish so that I’m ready to publish when you are. (If you decide to take on my book, that is!) It’s time. And my inner librarian is SO EXCITED by the idea of having my own ISBN.

        • I’d love to talk about that, Staci! Your book sounds amazing, so let’s talk. And after reading your great comment, I went out and bought my first block of ISBN numbers. Hurray!

  14. Laura … that is a stellar idea and of course … in the book capital of the nation … using local talent … that is a blast !! Great good things to you. I have not endeavored to “break” into the bizz this way … but when the time comes (want my own press darn it all) … I will pick your brains for sure.

    How about a local press for Brooklyn? Yeah … can you imagine the fun of a Brooklyn gal gathering at the park under the bridge? Fun things are happening these days … glad to see you have taken it to the ultimate 🙂

    • Oh thank you Florence! It’s very exciting. Once I figured out how to narrow my scope (local local local–to start, anyway), the book idea just came together. I’ve been so humbled by all the support here on my blog and in Oregon.

      I love the idea of a Brooklyn press. How fun! Yes, the opportunities are endless. (The challenges, too, I suppose…) How do we harness the available technology to create art and fulfill a creative life mission? I’m still figuring that out, but this is a step in that direction for me. A very exciting step!

  15. Nisha says:

    Now for some reason, WordPress had me UNfollow you 😦 . Don’t worry all rectified now 🙂

    That’s an amazing project you got going there Laura, I wish you all the best in its success!
    A book machine that produces the books right there in the store??? Oh my goodness, technology is moving far too quickly for me, LOL.

    • Then it’s not just me! Every once in a while WordPress drops some of the blogs I follow, too. Frustrating. I’m glad you figured it out and came back!

      Thanks for your well-wishes, Nisha. I’m having so much fun putting this together–a fun way to support other writers and create something useful for writers. The book machines are great; look up ondemandbooks.com to see if there’s one near you.

  16. A special thanks to Kristen Forbes, one of the Oregon authors in my collection, for posting this wonderful description of my project: http://krissymick.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-book-in-works.html

  17. Dalya Moon says:

    SWEET! We actually have an Espresso machine in Vancouver, at Oscar’s Art Book store. I’ve watched it work! I haven’t made a book there yet … but I’ve used Createspace to do a POD book, and it worked out really well. We’re so lucky to have such great tools these days.

    • Oh cool, Dalya! I watched it work last week, but I was asking questions, and there was a big crowd gathered around. I want to go back (maybe today) and get a book printed so I can see the whole thing. The tools are truly amazing. I am most interested in the intersection of printing technology and distribution avenues, and I love what the Espresso people have to offer. I don’t think Powell’s sales channel is up yet, but once it is, you’d be able to go to your Vancouver Espresso machine and request my book on writing, and get it printed right there. The potential is really incredible, and I love minimizing shipping costs (environmental and financial).

  18. Maggie says:

    Sounds like an awesome idea! Good luck!

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