On the last day of the year: a quick fly-by on Small Beer books. In 2016 we (on purpose) published the fewest number of books we’ve done for a while and an unusual ratio of hardcovers to paperbacks — it’s also hard to properly count them. We published two trade paperbacks (Jeffrey Ford’s A Natural History of Hell and John Crowley’s The Chemical Wedding) but did we put out three hardcovers (Joan Aiken’s The People in the Castle, Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter*) . . . or four or seven — including the Kickstarter there were three hardcover editions of The Chemical Wedding. . . .
All but The Chemical Wedding received starred reviews and ended up on Best of the Year lists and I toast each and every author. (Or, I will tonight!)
* A moment to celebrate: Words Are My Matter was our third title with Ursula K. Le Guin after her translation of Angélica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial and her two volume The Unreal and the Real.
And even though we only published five titles (plus that fun but total time sink Kickstarter) I manage to be behind with so many things. Even when I reduced the number of books we published, I’m still behind. But! There are so many things to fill me with despair! So many interesting people on twitter! So many leaves to pick up on the walk to school. So many books to reprint — sneaked that last one in. I don’t think I’ve ever gathered in one place which books we reprinted in one year so here goes:
Nathan Ballingrud’s first collecton, North American Lake Monsters. Third printing — this book has legs! (Horrible things happen to those legs in at least one of the stories, but, still, legs!) The good news: Nathan is working on his next collection.
Naomi Mitchison’s novel Travel Light. Second printing. I read the first part of this to our 7-year-old who is part dragon herself and she really enjoyed all the parts with Uggi and the other dragons. She has the proper disregard for heroes, at least sometimes.
Ursula K. Le Guin, Words Are My Matter. The first printing was in October and the second in December — could I have increased the first print run? Yes. But I am so good at overprinting, so ordering a print run that was 220+% of the initial orders seemed like a solid call. Ordering another 50% of that first run was fun.
— A reprint not of our own: The Unreal and the Real in one volume, not two, with one extra story by Joe Monti at Simon & Schuster/Saga as part of a raft of Le Guin titles that they will publish including at some point a Charles Vess illustrated Complete Earthsea book I am very much looking forward to.
Another reprint not our own: Ted Chiang’s collection Stories of Your Life and Others (aka Arrival) by Vintage. The movie of the title story has made $90 million in the USA alone and the paperback edition was on the New York Times bestseller lists for four weeks which translates into thousands and thousands more readers for Ted’s fabulous stories. Sometimes, no, wait, very infrequently, things go right.
Nicole Kornher-Stace’s YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2016 novel Archivist Wasp. Third printing, May 2016. A book that blew out the door and keeps on going. As with Nathan above, Nicole is working on her next book.
Greer Gilman, Cry Murder! in a Small Voice. Second printing, March 2016. The first of Greer Gilman’s Ben Jonson, Detective novellas. Dense, bloody, funny, fantastic. Wait, I see a pattern here: Greer is also working on her next book. Writers write!
I think that’s it: five new titles and five reprints plus the de rigueur two issues of LCRW — thank you writers, subscribers, and booksellers for getting behind the only zine named after a Brooklyn girl who moved to London, married a Lord who probably had the syph, and published her own fancy fancy literary journal.
Sometimes in the past I’ve posted year end Small Beer bestseller lists but I find them oddly hard to do: should I list books shipped from our lovely distributor, Consortium (now owned by Ingram)? But what about website and bookfair sales? Books shipped out from Consortium, can and will be returned, sometimes months later. Should I post Bookscan rankings? Bookscan only seems to capture about 30-50% of actual sales — which I always forget when I look at their reports, oops, but is very clear when I look at sales/return numbers from Consortium.
Either way, we sold a lot of books in 2016: thank you. In 2017 we have many books planned and — if all goes well — more reprints. No Kickstarter, at least, I don’t think so right at this moment in the middle of inventory and preparing for 1099s and so on. There is a Howard Waldrop project kicking around…. We’ll see. Two more issues of LCRW FTW. We will go to AWP in Washington, DC, in February and Kelly is teaching at Tin House in Portland in July. I just received an update (no real movement, but the possibility of movement) on a secret project we’ve been slowly trying to make work for at least five years — it may not work, c’est la vie in publishing: try and make something happen for years, sometimes it flames out, disappears, or ends up elsewhere but if it ever did come together, wow, what fun.
And at the very end of this year I signed a contract and sent of a check for a short story collection that has been a long time in the making — but more on that in the new year: more books, more cheer, and of course: more fighting for freedom, equality, and justice for all. Happy new year to you and yours.