Funny thing about spending an inordinate amount of time thinking, just thinking, about a business, and how it is faring. It is something I have been dealing with for going on seven years now, and it never goes away, the nagging, always-present thinking about how things are going, how things might go. I can always tell anyone how much is in our checking account without looking; I know exactly how many books we have shipped through Ingram that month without looking. Think your own personal finances and extrapolate. Except there are more dependents, as it were. This week, it’s all, for the most part, fantasy, the thinking, because it all pegged to the future: three and four months from now, when we will be reckoning with drastically reduced payments from Ingram, our distributor, for the drastically reduced sales in March and April (and May? June?).
So that’s this morning, what went through my head—”August will be impossible.” But, about that funny thing, for most of this week, I was feeling extremely optimistic. Orders to our online store doubled this month over February; we have brought in new self-publishing projects that will help pay the staff; the stimulus bill looks to offer us two different options for relief: the expanding unemployment benefits that include the self-employed, and the small business covered loan, which also includes LLCs like Belt Publishing. I google the latest articles with details on both plans three times a day, and I’ll be ready to pull one or the other trigger as soon as the programs are launched.
Other proactive, positive things we have done this past week:
—we made ebooks available on our store, something I’ve been meaning to do for, um, years, and that Dan, Martha, and Meredith accomplished with some truly impressive teamwork in a few days (go look!).
—feeling useless, pandemic-wise, I offered to send free classroom sets to high school or college students. This offer was taken up by an AP class in Michigan, who will now be studying and discussing Happy Anyway: The Flint Anthology, and a high school class in Cleveland who will do the same for Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, and soon we will ship out a classroom set to a group of nursing students in Missouri. That made me feel somewhat less useless.
—Martha, Dan, Meredith, David, Bill, and I (aka ‘the staff’) held a Zoom happy hour yesterday. We discussed hula hooping (Martha is currently taking virtual hula hoop courses), eggs (Bill is eating one egg a day as part of some strange challenge he set for himself for 2020), and what David was making for dinner, as we chatted, for his wife and two young daughters (learn about David’s life as a stay-at-home, full-time-freelancer dad in his just released comics series, The Everyday) :“I don’t know—gonna put some olive oil in this pan, add some potatoes and cheese, hope they like it.” (They did.)
I love what I do, and what we do together as a staff, and the amazing authors who take a chance on publishing with us, and the kinda breathtaking supporters who always show up in our New Orders queue (some of these names; man, I see your names, yet again, and am so thankful.) Also, I cannot express how much I appreciate the notes so many of you have been sending me in response to these ‘pandemic, what now?’ newsletters.
I’m going to use the rest of this newsletter to do some promotion, if you don’t mind:
Rust Belt Femme, published March 11, is for those who adore Maggie Nelson and hardscrabble stories mixed in with 90s punk. Steve Almond calls it “a brilliant mixed tape of a memoir”
Midwest Futures, publishing April 7 but available now, is for those who admire Marilynne Robinson, William Cronin, and Rebecca Solnit. “Christman’s writing is readable, engaging, and funny as hell, while also maintaining intellectual rigor,” says Tressie McMillan Cottom.
We have a book club: for $20/month, we will send you every book we publish this year, plus swag such as t-shirts and the like. If you sign up now, we’ll backdate and send you the above titles and others already published this year.
We sell gift cards!
Want to talk about our self-publishing services, through Parafine Press? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wow, I feel so much better now. Thanks for listening. Stay healthy, stay home.
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