Four Years of Publishing

When ILOANBooks first started up, I was binding a 200 page manuscript at the Cotati Copy Shop on Old Redwood Highway. They came out looking like college course readers and the cost of manufacture was a little over $20 each. The anticipation waiting for Kate (copy shop homegirl) to finish printing them was excruciating, (it took a while for the glue to dry). I'd sit at home, staring at the decomposing fooseball table and listening to my neighbors marching up and down the steps. I took so much pride in those books. They were eating up my student loan checks but it was worth it. It was 2005 and I was published. People were reading my stories. That was the bottom line.

A year after moving to New York I had written another manuscript and a friend told me about self-publishing online with It was about $10 per book. They were professionally bound, they could be ordered by 3rd parties online, and best of all: THEY LOOKED OFFICIAL. I continued to give these books away but at least I wasn't going broke at the same pace. In some rare instances I was actually making money. It was the right time for lulu because I felt like I had something to prove. Packing up for New York is a big deal and I wanted to show my friends and family that I wasn't just sitting on my ass all day. For one book I even bought a distribution package, earning me an ISBN number in the library of congress and a few scattered sales through That was cool for a while but not worth the $100+ I spent on it. It also meant I couldn't revise the text, which is something I often need to do. Another problem with the ISBN is that Google Books was suddenly offering browsers a full PDF of the book -- which makes it harder to sell. In other words, I was simultaneously publishing my own work AND losing the rights to it.

Over time other people came to me with their manuscripts. They had written things and they wanted to share them with the world. Some of them had experienced a million formal rejections from Da Publishing World while others had zero interest in making themselves vulnerable to that kind of rejection in the first place. That's where ILOANBooks comes from -- the desire to share language. It's a platform to stand on. We did Kevin Estrada's books, then Vahn Kuhl's and Mara Vasquez. There were cookbooks, young adult fiction, even a little masterpiece about how to take the perfect bath. Many of these books are illustrated, and all of them were formatted for lulu with an overheard of roughly $10 a copy.

The books, (although most of them are currently out of stock) were only available through and we had the prices marked up $5 -- basically enough to cover shipping. We were breaking even, IF that, but the system was up and running and the gears clamored into rhythm.

In recent months we've moved away from online publishing and towards doing everything ourselves. Printing books on folded 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper and stapling them down the middle with a long neck stapler. It's personal to the final fold. Each book has been assembled by the loving hands of a person who feels strongly about the material. No computer necessary. Another benefit of DIY printing is that the product qualifies as a "craft" which opens markets that were previously off limits. Etsy and flea markets are both prime places to sell. And the cost of producing a 40 page book, (if you shop around for the right copy shop) is $2 or $3. At that price you can leave books on the subway, on coffee counters, sandwiched between a couple Dan Brown Bestsellers at Barnes and Nobles... there are also radical / anarchy shops in NYC where you can sell a stack of your books to the store and they will sell them for you. St. Marks Bookstore and Blue Stockings both spring to mind. The production costs are 80% lower and the books don't smell like baseball cards ...they smell like xerox heat! Everything about the process is poetic.

The first hand made ILOANBook was The Square Root of Advice -- over a year ago. But in recent months we've got Snub Pollard's Autobiography, Zippy Stalkings and Even Oscillating Fans Have Elevators In Them -- all Gus' books. They will be available on the website soon but are currently only on Etsy. We are also finishing up a new book by Andrew Macy and Jake Page.

Theirs is a collection of illustrated poems entitled, "Our Dogs Are Restless" but more on that in the next post.

I hope this compressed review of 4 years as an independent publisher has been helpful to someone out there. If you, (whoever you are...) have questions about publishing please e-mail me at I love talking about it. Also, if you are an artist / writer and you have something you'd like people to read, let's get it out there.

T.R. & G.I.