A lot of people have been calling and writing and wanting to know why they haven’t received their winter 2006 issue. We hold our writers to a fairly tight deadline (and by the way…the deadlines never change. It is always the first of the month prior to the pubdate. So winter (Dec. 21…usually) the deadline is November 1. Always. Spring (March 21)…deadline: February 1. Always. Summer (June 21)…deadline: May 1. Always. And fall (September 21)…the deadline is August 1. Always.
So…if we’re so hard ass about our writer’s deadlines, how come we’re so lax on our own publishing dates? Well, we’re not happy about it and we try very hard to get everything layed out and nice for you and do it as quickly as we can so you get it as close to the day you expect it as we can. In December that can be a particular problem, too, with all the holiday mail. But this winter issue is extraordinarily late.
Well here’s why:
We have used the same printer for the past ten years. He’s in Texas and because we’ve tried to keep our overhead to a minimum so we can keep the subscription rates reasonable, we’ve stuck with him even though he was unable to do full color, didn’t have digital capability, couldn’t do photography, etc.
There have been a lot of improvements in the magazine that we would have loved to do…but we just couldn’t. Or our Texas printer (let’s just call him TP) couldn’t. We stuck with him out of a sense of loyalty, too. He managed our fulfillment (mailing), too. And there are very few printers who would do both the printing and the fulfillment for the price we were getting it done. So despite numerous issues…like last summer’s debacle with the marvelous Don Kilhefner article "Gay Adults: Where Are You?" that were squarely and by any measure the printer’s mistake…we stuck with him. To his credit, he reprinted it (at his own expense) and sent it out to all the subscribers with the fall issue. But bookstore readers never saw the complete Kilhefner piece (except here online). Bummer.
So, with this winter issue we had some serious concerns about color reproduction. (I don’t want to give too much away here…we still want you to be delighted when you open your mail and see it)…so we called TP to make arrangements to ensure that the color reproduction was perfect. We called him months in advance.
I’ll just cut to the chase here: TP never answered a single phone call. He never responded to multiple phone messages and never replied to multiple email messages. No "I think you should find someone else." No "I don’t want to do this anymore." Nothing.
So at the worst possible moment, we had to find a new printer, and a new fulfillment house. And we had to find them fast. And we had to find a printer who would do a good job who would take a small magazine. Most printers won’t even look at you unless you’re doing 5000+ pieces. We’d like to be that big, but, alas, we’re not. We were under the gun and a lot of printers wouldn’t even look at us.
Well…the good news is we found one. Turns out to be the same printers who print such fine publications as McSweeney’s and The Paris Review, no less! And they have been friendly and helpful and so much more capable that we didn’t mind (here’s the bad news) that it nearly doubled our printing costs (and no…this isn’t leading up to "we’re raising our subscription rates"…not yet at least.)
Not nearly…it doubled our printing costs…and they don’t even do fulfillment. We had to find a new fulfillment house, too. And that’s an added expense, too. Fortunately the good news there is the wonderful fulfillment house we found — recommended by our wonderful printers — are helping us to get the [reduced] postal rates a nonprofit publication is supposed to get. So over time…the next three mailings, to be exact…our postal rates will show a significant savings. A savings that is more than eaten up by the new printers, to be sure, but that’s a trade-up and we think you will actually SEE that difference and probably agree with us that it was a good call.
So that’s why winter is late this year.
Dan and I go through virtually the same psychological process with every issue, usually ending up with us thinking “this is the best issue we’ve ever done.”
This is the best issue we’ve ever done.
We hope you think so, too, when you see it. That will be soon and then we’ll be back and humming along to the Spring issue, which is on Cinema. So start thinking about your favorite movies and the way that movies enrich your life and send us your stories!