As you may know, it’s been tough going for many independent publishers, McSweeney’s included, since our distributor filed for bankruptcy last December 29. We lost about $130,000 — actual earnings that were simply erased. Due to the intricacies of the settlement, the real hurt didn’t hit right away, but it’s hitting now. Like most small publishers, our business is basically a break-even proposition in the best of times, so there’s really no way to absorb a loss that big.
We are committed to getting through and past this difficult time, and we’re hoping you, the readers who have from the start made McSweeney’s possible, will help us.
Over the next week or so, we’ll be holding an inventory sell-off and rare-item auction, which we hope will make a dent in the losses we sustained. A few years ago, the indispensible comics publisher Fantagraphics, in similarly dire straits, held a similar sale, and it helped them greatly. We’re hoping to do the same.
So if you’ve had your eye on anything we’ve produced, now would be a great time to take the plunge. For the next week or so, subscriptions are $5 off, new books are 30 percent off, and all backlist is 50 percent off. Please check out the store and enjoy the astounding savings, while knowing every purchase will help dig us out of a big hole.
Many of our contributors have stepped up and given us original artwork and limited editions to auction off. We’ve got original artwork from Chris Ware, Marcel Dzama, David Byrne, and Tony Millionaire; a limited-edition music mix from Nick Hornby; rare early issues of the quarterly, direct from Sean Wilsey’s closet; and more. We’re even auctioning off Dave Eggers’s painting of George Bush as a double-amputee, from the cover of Issue 14.
This is the bulk of our groundbreaking business-saving plan: to continue to sell the things we’ve made, albeit at a greatly accelerated pace for a brief period of time. We are not business masterminds, but we are optimistic that this will work. If you’ve liked what we’ve done up to now, this is the time to ensure we’ll be able to keep on doing more.
Plenty of excellent presses are in similar straits these days; two top-notch peers of ours, Soft Skull and Counterpoint, were just acquired by Winton, Shoemaker & Co. in the last few weeks. It’s an unsteady time for everybody, and we know we don’t have any special claim to your book-buying budget. We owe all of you a lot for everything you’ve allowed us to do over the last nine years, for all the time and freedom we’ve been given.
Once this calamity is averted, we’ll get back to our bread and butter — the now-legendary Believer music issue is already creeping into mailboxes everywhere; Issue 24 of our quarterly is in the midst of a really pretty silkscreening process; and in July the fourth issue of Wholphin, our DVD magazine, will slip over the border from Canada, bringing with it some very good footage of Maggie Gyllenhaal and a Moroccan drummer who messes up a wedding in an entertaining way. And then a couple of months after that, we’ll publish a debut novel from a writer named Millard Kaufman. This book is exactly the kind of thing McSweeney’s was created to do: The novel came through the mail, without an agent’s imprimatur, and it was written by a first-time novelist. This first-time novelist is ninety years old. It was pulled from the submissions pile and it knocked the socks off of everyone who read it. Millard may well be the best extant epic-comedic writer of his generation, and he stands at equal height with the best of several generations since.
Whatever you can do to help in the coming days, we thank you a thousand times. We’ll keep updating everybody on how this is going over the next few weeks; for now, pick up a few things for yourself, your friends, for Barack Obama. More news soon — thanks for reading.
The folks at McSweeney’s