Friday, 10 June 2011

The Publisher’s Dilemma

Father Raven and Other Tales by A.E. Coppard
A.E. Coppard is a strange and wonderful writer, and we were very pleased to be given permission to publish Father Raven and Other Tales back in 2006. We thoroughly enjoyed reading Coppard’s various volumes of short stories and assembling  the definitive collection of his supernatural tales, and were delighted with Mark Valentine's insightful new Introduction, which provided a critical and biographical overview.

We printed 300 copies of Father Raven. We usually hope that our publications will stay in print for approximately five years, because we like to have a comprehensive list of books available at any one time. On the other hand, we do want to sell them…  We are now down to the last few copies of Father Raven, and have been considering whether or not to reprint it.

Over the years we have reprinted Arthur Machen’s books many times. We also reprinted the Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions, the Collected Macabre Stories of L.P. Hartley, and have recently made The White Hands by Mark Samuels and Worming the Harpy by Rhys Hughes available as paperbacks, along with the Collected Connoisseur stories of Mark Valentine. As we use old-fashioned printing and binding technology (lithographic printing and sewn sections), hard-back reprints involve a considerable investment (unlike modern print-on-demand publishing), and we are aware that a reprint will not sell to customers who have already bought the first printing, which often goes up in value once it is out of print!
A selection of out-of-print Tartarus Press titles

In the case of Father Raven, we have decided, reluctantly, not to reprint. However, we’ll leave the option open for the future--every enquiry we receive for a book after it is out of print makes us wonder if we’ve made the right call…


  1. You could use this sort of system effectively, I'd think:

  2. "Father Raven" is now out of print with us, although copies should still be obtainable through the usual dealers.

    Thanks for the link, Edward. Some presses do operate that sort of system with books, but we've always considered it unsatisfactory to tempt customers with a book which may, or may not come out, depending on the demand.
    We tend to feel that a book deserves to be published on its merits, and whether it sells is of secondary importance :-)

  3. Would you consider POD technology to keep older titles available? Indeed, these reprints would not be as physically nice as your hardcovers (which would stay the desired item), but this could help eager readers (and still bring a bit of money)

  4. Hi Tom -- our hearts really wouldn't be in POD, and there are also copyright and contractural reasons why a lot of our twentieth-century authors couldn't be simply offered as POD publications.

    We will continue to reprint as quality hardbacks those books for which we see there is a tangible demand: Machen, Sarban, Hartley etc. The paperback editions of Valentine, Samuels and Hughes have gone very well, and we will probably continue to do the same with other contemporary authors.

    If it's just about making texts available, then there is always the ebook format...