Recently I sat for a nice interview with Finn Koefoed-Nielsen, a U.K. furniture maker who started his career through home restorations.
One of the things we discussed was how John and I started Lost Art Press. So-called “origin stories” (I got me superpowers after being bit by a horney alpaca) are interesting to me. But I’ve never sat down and hammered out the one for Lost Art Press.
In 2006, John and I attended the Lie-Nielsen 25th anniversary open house. John got to chatting with Christian Becksvoort and asked Chris: “Why haven’t you written any more books?”
Chris gave John a history lesson on how corporate publishing works and how most authors make very little money in the end but the publisher gets rich. I didn’t need the lesson; I was working for F&W Publications and was living the life.
That night John and I sat up late drinking beer and eating melted chocolate. I had brought some Esther Price chocolates (a local delicacy) to give to Thomas Lie-Nielsen. But during the flight and drive they’d melted into one disgusting-looking mass. Like a molten meteor from the Planet PMS.
This is where Finn’s story picks up on his blog. Note his excellent logo. A squirrel. (I assume it’s a red one.)
So there John and I sat with too many beers; chocolate smeared on our faces and hands. Instead of talking about our feelings we talked about publishing. My first book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” was working its way into my laptop. And I had a lot of ideas for other books that were not very commercial.
And, like all magazine editors, I was certain I was going to be fired. (Note: In 28 years of publishing I’ve never been to a single retirement party for a magazine editor. Like the moon landing, they don’t happen.)
The next day we were hungover, crashed from the sugar rush and waiting on our plane back to real life. Slumped in our seats in the Portland terminal, we decided to investigate this idea a little more.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The interview with Finn covers a lot more ground, including details on some of our upcoming projects.
14 thoughts on “An Interview with Finn Koefoed-Nielsen”
“Like the moon landing, they don’t happen.”
and this is why you are my Hero.
2.5%-3% property tax, 10% county/state sales tax, 5% state income tax, highert gasoline tax in the country…. Chris be glad you left the chicago area after school, because this is the non-dirt cheap part of the midwest…
I lived in Evanston for four years so I know what you are saying. There was no way I would be able to afford Chicagoland on my salary.
Nice photo, but I confess I got more excited to see the classic Rockwell hardness tester than I should have.
I liked the information on how Lie-Nielsen make chisels – so amazingly different from the process used by the UK Sheffield “little mesters”.
Here’s a business related question: do you need to “lawyer up” when it comes to copyrights, distribution agreements and contracts? The publishing industry is full of legalities but I’ve never heard you mention your legal team.
We use only one contract because we want to treat every author identically. We wrote the important bits and used boilerplate for the non-important bits. They we paid a lawyer to review it once many years ago.
Copyrights are just filling out a form on a website. And as long as you don’t violate some else’s copyright, you don’t need a lawyer.
Our distribution agreements are handshake-only.
And here’s my opinion: Lawyers are critical to publishing when you run a hardball, competition-based, dog-eat-dog publishing house. There is still scads of money to be made in corporate publishing. And you can get rich if you push the limits by paying authors as little as possible, managing your distribution so you get rich and the author gets diddly (through the process called “remaindering”), and through aggressive expansion into new markets.
Lawyers are great for that world.
We’ll never get rich. But you will be hard-pressed to put us out of business.
First, I’ve been in business/self employed (manufacturing plant, http://www.metaltech-pm.com) over 30 years, and though I have a son-in-law that’s an attorney, I avoid them like the plague, and only use them as an absolute last resort. With attorneys, no one wins, except the attorney. A handshake and a person’s word are most important, and if challenged, try to work things out in a neutral way for both parties.
Now to Lost Art Press: I love books and have purchased many from LAP, some directly, some from your vendors. I have never been disappointed with quality of the book or the content. Having purchased many books through the years from similarly sized publishers, with different topics (history, for example), I remain amazed at your low price point (sometimes much lower than other similar type publishers).
Thanks Tony! Much appreciated.
It is a crime that US universities don’t require basic courses in business law for all majors. As an accounting major it was required for me. Those courses in contracts and commercial paper were far more valuable than anything else I took in college. Life is 90% vocabulary. Knowing the basic vocabulary of law keeps you from getting screwed.
Speaking of crimes, dig into universities use of adjunct professors to teach significant portions of their classes. I teach college chemistry one night a week because I love it. Given the maximum number of hours/course load I could teach as an adjunct, I could make a living doing it. For me it doesn’t matter as I have a day job and do the teaching for fun. However, there lots of adjunct college teachers out there trying to get a tenured position living on rice and beans because of it.
meant could not make a living wage at it
My best profs were adjuncts. 1) they seemed to enjoy teaching and 2) they tended to have real world experience. No offense to anyone who has made their entire career in academia, but it was hard for me as a business student to relate to career academics.
I agree totally. The more people in involved in a transaction, the more people that have to get paid.
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