THE BLOG
05/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It Takes a Village (Bookstore)

In a previous piece I explained why I thought to publish The Therapist's New Clothes using the Espresso Book Machine, which prints and binds books on-site. Before signing on, I headed up the mountain road to talk to my would-be publisher, Chris Morrow at the Northshire Bookstore. He went over the details, then looked me in the eye and said, "I recommend that you be clear about your expectations," the implication being that I was unlikely to meet them. "I don't have any," I said. "I just want to give it a go, and be open." I was lying - but mainly to myself, which made this no different from anything new I embarked on. The second thing I did was to start a blog, mainly because if I made my plan public, I wouldn't dare chicken out.

For the cover I approached Amy Anselmo, a local artist, and we quickly established our fondness for the chaise longue, that universal emblem of talk therapy. She was also game to do the cover as a barter for editorial services. Amy did a trial design, a rich red cover with white type and an elegant red velvet chaise. I called her and said something was missing--clothes. "Come on over," she said. "We'll try out designs right here." So I stuffed a bunch of clothes in a bag, including some flowing jackets I wore during my training and which are mentioned in the book, and drove to her house. We got waylaid by a shared infatuation with a fabric image which we couldn't secure rights to. How confounding this was--the photo was out there, to be nabbed with a few keystrokes, but I couldn't "have" it. While I was pining away for the unattainable cover, I put on a red dress I had found in the depths of my closet. In the waning late-spring light, I ran down to the meadow and my husband, Tony Eprile, took photographs. He zoomed in to get the fabric and zoomed out to get me (my Huff Post photo is from this run) and then sent the best to Amy so that she could work her magic. Which she did.

I tell the story of the cover in detail because it captures the spirit of the venture: collaborative, local, and rich in serendipity. And in an interesting parallel, these attributes happened to dovetail with the reporting I was doing: articles on "new economic" topics like alternative currencies and why buying local helps the economy. As I was reporting a piece on Slow Investing it hit me: my Espresso Book Machine experiment served as a kind of template for "Slow Publishing", as in Slow Food and Slow Money. Right here in Southern Vermont, the book got written (by me), designed (by a local artist) and formatted, printed, and distributed (by folks at the Northshire). This keeps money in the community, and, since books are only printed and shipped as needed, it's light on the environment. The book-by-book sales can be frustrating--sure, I'd like to sell a zillion--but this does emphasize the relationship side of the transaction. I enjoy hearing from readers, and many feel an investment in the book's success in a way I've never before experienced. Plus, I like that the book can find its way in its own time. Traditionally-published books have a best-seller-by date; if it's not a big seller after a certain number of weeks, it's off the shelves to make way for the next crop. I'm under no such pressure.

In all, I've been happy: the community has been supportive; the Northshire has been great; the machine has only occasionally been temperamental; the cover looks fabulous. Amy, about that barter thing we did--I think I still owe you.