Chance Press, in its current form, has hit a wall. The first problem is that, due to our mission of doing everything in-house and (where possible) by hand, we can’t offer artists the exposure that they need. Why would someone give us work for an edition of 50 copies, when they could Kickstart a book themselves and produce 2000, get them into bookstores, sell at cons, etc? It’s a wise business decision NOT to work with us. The second problem is that there is so much stuff we want to publish that we aren’t able to, since we just can’t produce at the level that would sustain multiple releases per year. We both work full-time at demanding jobs, and Chance Press is a money-losing labor of love that we do at night and on the weekends. My natural enthusiasm causes me to take on too many projects, which then stresses me out about how much work I have to do, which leads to procrastination, which leads to release dates getting pushed back. Our sporadic release schedule in turn lowers our profile, since people forget about us in the long stretches in between when we release books.
I’m incredibly proud of our fancy books, starting with Scribbles in a Sandstormthree years ago, continuing with Some are Young and Some are Free in 2011/12 (yes, we worked on this one for over a year), Furlqump, and soon,Neil Farber | Carol Es. However, if we continued to run Chance Press as we have in the past, I fear that it would run itself into the ground, which wouldn’t be any good for our collectors, the artists we’ve published, or our own well-being.
In thinking about how to change the format of our press, I also started thinking about what we can add to the world of small press publishing. The way I see it, there are a lot of publishers who are artist-centric. They produce editions with high print runs in order to drive exposure for their artists, and they are often times run by artists. What I don’t see as much is publishers who are collector-centric. People tend to be cynical about editions catered to collectors - they’re needlessly expensive, they’re manufacturing rarity, etc. I disagree, mainly because I am a collector before anything else (publisher, book-maker, leprechaun, etc.), and I truly appreciate when publishers pull out all the stops to make books that are uncommonly beautiful. Building Stories, check. The hardcover edition of Big Questions, check. Everything released by Fulgencio Pimentel, check. I view these collectors editions as celebrations of art, of book art, and of people who keep artists rolling in dough (since artists are all rolling in dough) by spending their money on this stuff.
I make books that I want to own, period.
That simple mission statement needs to drive what Chance Press does in the future. Rather than trying to figure out how to market better so we can become an artist-centric press and get into the game of providing exposure for new artists, or changing our business model so we can do runs of thousands of copies like Yam Books or Uncivilized, we’re going to think smaller, fancier, more expensive, etc. Anything else isn’t playing to our strengths as much as it is playing to my idea of what a successful publisher is. We’re going to come up short every time if we try to be Yam Books, because that isn’t what we’re good at.
So, the announcement: Neil Farber | Carol Es will be the last art book published under the old pattern of releasing a book whenever we happen to be done with it. Going forward, Chance Press will consist of an annual book art project, released in the fall to coincide with the Fall/Winter convention season. Each book will be extremely limited, very expensive, and designed for obsessive collectors like me.
The 2013 edition is already halfway done: Blast Furnace Funnies by Frank Santoro. If you’ve been following this blog for a little while, you’ve seen the scale we’re talking about - five large format copies, each one meticulously printed, assembled, and bound by hand in our El Cerrito apartment. Only three copies are left for sale at this point, so if you’re interested in getting in on the ground floor, I’d advise shooting us an email to express your interest.
Although each book will be totally unique, the annual release will include a book about the production of the book that will stay in the same format year-to-year in order to add continuity. I’m already kicking around proposals for the 2014 project, and I’m certainly interested in hearing your ideas. Also, if you’re interested in being on the list to have first crack at these annual releases, just email us: books at chancepress dot com.
(One note: this all applies to the side of Chance Press that publishes fancy art books. There's still the (somewhat dormant) side of the press that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays, and that side isn't going away. In fact, streamlining the art books via an annual release schedule will free us up to publish MORE little books. What it does mean, however, is that you will likely no longer see books like Furlqump, which were published in multiple editions of escalating complexity.)