For the last 13 years, our books were printed on a reliable schedule. Five weeks after we sent a book to press, a semi would show up at my house (in a torrential rainstorm) with pallets of books for us to unload.
During the last 18 months, however, the printing industry has turned upside down. There are crazy paper shortages. Getting the cotton cloth we use for our hardcover books has become impossible. (Holliston stopped making it because it can’t get the raw materials.)
The pandemic is to blame in part. But U.S. printing plants were shutting down and consolidating before the first COVID cough.
What does this mean for Lost Art Press and y’all? Well, we are better off than most small publishers. We have long-term relationships with our printing plants, so we can still get time on press. But the big publishers are bullies, and they are first in line thanks to their fat checkbooks.
So the biggest change ahead is that our books will take longer to come out. In the olden days, “The Stick Chair Book” would be sitting in our warehouse right now. Today, we are negotiating to get it printed in October.
Other changes ahead: We’re going to have to change the cover cloth colors of almost all of our titles in the coming year. So some of our books will look different. We’re switching to more expensive cover cloth, but we hope to hold retail prices where they are. Also, some books will have to use a different paper (I can’t get 70# opaque at a decent price to save my soul). But again, we are opting to use better paper and eat the extra expense for as long as we can.
There are some quick solutions available to our problems. We could print overseas, switch to web-press printing for all our books, use perfect binding and softcover (which are easier and cheaper to do). We could also stop using cotton cover cloth altogether and switch to another cover material (rayon? vinyl?).
None of those solutions appeal to us. So instead, we’re going to keep on the same course. This might result in some books going out of stock for a month or two. And for that I apologize. We are going to do everything we can to stay fully stocked until the industry regains its balance, but I’m sure we’ll make some mistakes.
Sorry that this reads like an automotive recall letter.
— Christopher Schwarz