Thursday, December 27, 2007
There has been some recent controversy in the genre about lifetime subscriptions to various small press publishers. One impending new outlet, Full Moon, has announced an astounding 20 books to be published in one year. I would never consider taking on a subscription like that, because of the amount of money it would cost. But that number would not entice me to do so even if I could afford it. That sounds like suicide, no matter how much advice one might receive from the seasoned pros. It's like being a virgin and being told about sex. Till you've gotten down and done the nasty, you don't really know what it's all about. And it usually takes a while before you get it right.
I don't wish Full Moon to fail, but I am tired of so many damned limited editions coming out. It has become a rich man's game, no matter what anyone says. Yes, the big dogs like CD and Subterranean still price their regular limiteds at $40.00 and I'm grateful for that. And yes, they haven't really gone up in almost 15 years. That's certainly wonderful. But consider this...
Try to buy a computer back in 1995 and see what that would have cost you. Or a digital movie player. Or a new release movie. Sure, they're electronics and everybody knows that we reap our entertainment through near slave labor from other countries. But there has to be some reason why the prices of those have remained stable.
Good business is a big part of it, I think. Good business and dealing with a quality product. The big companies got that way by doing it right. Also, when they reach a point where they can produce large publishing runs and can make sales to libraries and discount sellers, that helps a lot.
Think this, too: Back when the small horror press was relatively new, in the mid-90's, deluxe books were not all that plentiful. It was feasible, for most individuals, to buy most of the books that they really wanted to own. Now it seems like there are dozens of new publications announced each month. It has reached epidemic proportions and all but the extremely well off must refrain from indulging in the majority of them.
Of course, we are told that we don't prioritize our spending. That we possibly shouldn't have had children if we could not properly afford them. Well, in my case, I knew damned well I couldn't afford kids. But I fell in love with a woman that happened to have two young daughters. Should I have said, "No, I'm not marrying a woman with baggage"? That wouldn't be too cool, would it? And I didn't know that one would end up being a child with very special needs. Very expensive special needs. Should I bail out on them?
Gas prices are astronomical, mortgage foreclosures are at a record high. Heath Care and insurance in America is a farce. Yeah, I prioritize my money all right.
And yes, there is a market for the expensive books. Sadly. I don't mind in the case of something like the recent 25th Anniversary of Dark Forces (which, by the way, is THE most beautiful book I've ever seen). Old copies of Dark Forces are plentiful and cheaply obtained.
One argument is that the nice books are permanent and have lavish illustrations in them. Now, I love books as much as the next fan. I have a house full of them. But for me, it's the words inside that count. If I could save five or ten bucks off the cover price, I'd take a book with no illustrations and a blank cover. Give me the story. That's what I'm in it for. The rest is window dressing.
And for all the books we read, how many will we reread in our lives? The answer for me is very few. I'll never catch up with all the books I currently wish to read. Will you?
I miss the days when five or six bucks allowed you to check out a new writer. Oh, you still can. I recently got the paperback of Alexandra Sokoloff's The Harrowing at WalMart for $4.84. You're damned right I shop at WalMart. I have to save money wherever I can, or there would really be no book purchases for me.
How many times have you been burned by a new writer that everyone raves about and paid forty or more dollars for a hardback you hated? Or twenty bucks for a trade paperback that you thought sucked? Oh boy, I have. Too many times.
Yes, again, there is a market for the high end books and who can blame the publishers for providing the product for that market? I can't, but that doesn't mean I have to like the situation. I've been a fan of this stuff for longer than many of the readers, writers and even publishers have been alive. It stings to have to miss out on a lot of exciting stuff.
You know what? I miss Shocklines. Yeah, I know they're still there, but it's not the same. The death knell has rung for Matt Schwartz's business. I can't express how unhappy that makes me. I bought many books from Matt. Very many and when Shocklines was booming in its first year or two, I considered it to be the high water mark of the small press revolution.
The Horror Mall has risen to take the place of Shocklines. I'm sure that they will provide superlative service to their customers. But I haven't signed on as a customer yet. And I may never do so. It's foolish, but I almost feel like it would be a betrayal of Matt. Then again, I don't buy all that many small press books anymore and when I do it's either direct from the publisher, or through Amazon. In the former instances, I support the press at the source. In the latter, I save a substantial amount of money.
Can this continue? More and more and more expensive books coming out all the time. To be honest, the whole situation saddens me. The small press just doesn't seem fun any longer. And I miss Hellbound Books more than ever.