Ryan Charles Trusell over at Labora Editions has written a fine post on a wave of indie Catholic publishers that has been gathering strength during the past couple of years. Among that group are Tuscany Press, Slant Books, Korrektiv Press, Wiseblood Books, and his own Labora Editions, comprising a surprisingly diverse set of approaches to publishing. Labora Editions, which Trusell himself calls not a press but a “publishing studio,” is perhaps the most unique of the bunch. Their first effort was Ora et Labora et Zombies, a epistolary novel composed of 72 letters “reproduced on specially watermarked stationery with a hand-printed serigraph cover sheet” that arrives, week by week, through the mail. Now, Trusell is moving on to publishing his first “book”:
To wit, the first Labora Editions book release, Surfing with Mel by Matthew Lickona, is set for the 1st of October and available now for pre-order. It is a tall, slim hardcover book; a stamped, numbered edition of 300 copies. I print the pages and the cover images myself. I sew the signatures together and bind the books by hand. By way of provenance, I owe a debt of gratitude to Korrektiv for this release. Surfing with Mel was their second title, but was available only as a 99 cent ebook. I read it on my iPad, and it stuck with me in the same powerful way that Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night has stuck with me over the years, and I decided to make it my first “book-book” — with Mr. Lickona’s kind indulgence. The ebook version is still available through Amazon, still just 99 cents. The cost of a Labora Editions copy is $27. The question will be asked, so I might as well ask it first: Why would someone buy the more expensive Surfing with Mel? My own answer, as a bibliophile, is simple: because it means something to me and I want it on my bookshelf.
Needless to say, now I want it on my bookshelf. I too read Surfing with Mel when it came out as an ebook, and can attest to the power of the writing and the story Lickona tells. As for Labora Editions, I am extremely intrigued to see what response this handmade, “small batch” approach to publishing will receive. You can feel Trusell’s love for his unusual craft just by reading what he says about it, something that must be all the more apparent when holding the actual fruits of his labor.
I have loved books all my life. I take a romantic view of them, as one inevitably does with the things one loves, and my approach to publishing is colored by that view . . . . My background is in studio art, (ceramics, specifically) and I bring my ideas of form, function, the mark of the hand, and the importance of craft to my process of making books.
The other publishers featured in this post are, so far as I can tell, producing books according to the current standard practices of book manufacture, and that is perfectly fine. I was happy to pay for all of the aforementioned purchases; I can’t wait to get my hands on them, to have a chance to sit still and read. But the standard practice is not what appeals to me as a craftsman. The book is a kind of vessel, and I am as interested in the thing itself as in what goes between the covers. The content, of course, must “dazzle gradually,” so to speak, but my parallel aspiration is to create an attractive, durable vessel.
I think of it as craft publishing. Recently, in an email to Matthew Lickona I described the idea thus: “Like a microbrewery, except with books.”
On that note, I humbly open Labora Editions to submissions.
Cheers to that, we say.