Did They Say $20K?! A Note from Our Publisher, Trevor Ketner


Okay so maybe it's time we talk about why S+W is trying to raise $20k for our first year of operation.

We’ve hit the half-way point in the lifespan of our first fundraising campaign (and 10% of our goal thanks to those amazing folks who already donated). While we still need a great deal more financial support to make it happen, the enthusiasm shown by our community for our project and the encouragement I have personally received made it apparent to me that it would be best for the press and our authors to take a leap of faith and move up our first season by almost six months.

Which cuts a huge chunk of time out of our original fundraising timeline making our fundraising even more important than it was before.

But recently we heard from some supporters of the press that our goal seemed so high. Too high maybe. $20K?! Why so much? Lots of presses and orgs run on less certainly, so why would we ask for so much?

Well, there are a few reasons, the first of which is practical: it is expensive to produce and promote books.

While we have taken some of the initial sting of up-front investment out by eliminating large print-runs and going with a reputable Print-on-Demand model, the fact is that we still have to invest a lot of money in printing books to promote. As part of our contract with authors, we are so happy to be able to offer them 50 author copies on top of a 30% royalty on all print sales. We would likely need to then print at least 100 more copies to send, for free, to reviewers, review outlets, and event organizers to get the word out about the book. All-in-all that would be about $400 to our printer. That’s per title. So altogether across our four titles, with chapbooks costing a little less, that would be around $1,500.

Okay, so we have books in hand, now what? Now we have to send them out. If we were able to send out all of our promotional copies in addition to our author copies that brings shipping costs (envelopes, PR printing, postage averaging out to something like $5 a book) to $2,500, at least.

So that’s $4,000 right there, already double what we have been able to raise.

But even before we get to this point we have design costs (very very conservatively $1,500 a cover: $6,000 total). And if we wanted to attend even one publisher’s conference (where many indie presses make the majority of their sales for the year) that would cost $1,500 at least. That’s already almost $12,000. Come tax time we will need an accountant. And book launches with refreshments. We hope to submit our titles to as many prizes as we can that’s hundreds of dollars right there. And don’t forget all of the impossible-to-predict expenses that come with doing anything on this scale.

And poof that $20K is gone.

I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for us. We chose to do this and we are happy to. I’m just saying that when we look at it, $20K really is about as little as we can have on hand to operate a press of the caliber we think our authors deserve.

Now you might be saying “Well, surely you can get some volunteers to give their time to the press.” Which brings us to the second reason we are asking for so much.

While it might be true that people are willing to volunteer for the press, a major part of the mission of this press is to address the dependence of most indie publishers on unpaid labor. As someone who has volunteered a lot of time (years) to various lit orgs I can say I learned a lot. I can also say I never stopped thinking about how essential my work was to the operation of these organizations and how I should absolutely be paid for it.

Anyone working in indie publishing is already overworked and we could not possibly ask someone to work for us for free. It just isn’t how we do things. But we also don’t want to compromise on quality, so that means being willing and able to pay great people as close to their rates as possible. We are also committed to extending the press’s mission of supporting the work of Latinx and Indigenous people into as many aspects of the press’s workings as possible. We want to be able to hire Latinx and Indigenous designers and accountants and interns and development professionals. And seeing as members of these communities consistently make less than white workers in their respective industries, we would never ask them to volunteer their time. Ever.

So, yes, people in indie publishing are willing to volunteer. But if we are going to really stick to our commitments, it isn’t a model we can use, even in these early stages. Truly, at this point, the only volunteer I’m willing to have work for Skull + Wind is myself. Everyone else will be paid.

And you may have one last question, “Well what about grants?”

Oh, we will be applying for grants. I believe deeply in the work we are going to publish and think we will undoubtedly get grant money. Eventually.

But many grants require a proven history of performance in your discipline. And who can blame them? Because of that though, we are not qualified for most grants. But, by this time next year, we will be! We just have to get to next year first.

$20K will by no means be the goal for any fundraiser we run for many, many years. Our hope is that from time-to-time we can raise maybe $1000 here or there to help cover things like shipping costs. We never want to ask for this much money from our community again. If I’m being honest, we don’t really want to ask for it now. But we have to. I have no access to wealth or to institutional support. All I have/ all Skull + Wind has is our community.

And this is a launch, a true launch. We are aiming as high as this little rocket will go, but we need the fuel to get us off the ground.

In time, we know we will publish books people want to buy and that grant-giving organizations want to support. And that will sustain us we have no doubt. But we need the means to get it all started first.

Can you help us do that? We won’t let you down. You can give here if you feel led and able.

With sincere gratitude,

Trevor Ketner
Publisher + Founder
Skull + Wind Press

Trevor Ketner