In January, 6000 copies of Jennifer Sweeney’s book, How to Live on Bread and Music, were given out to the members of the Academy of American Poets. This undertaking was part of the prize for winning the James Laughlin Award, the only second-book award for poetry in the United States. Although Perugia Press publishes only one book each year, How to Live on Bread and Music is our third book in a row to win a national prize.
While the award is terrific news for Perugia—the publicity alone is unquantifiable—I felt obligated to look this gift horse in the mouth, since we are careful about every penny we spend.
The most salient, surprising result of the award was realizing what it meant that 6000 potential buyers received the book as a gift instead of paying the retail price. Certainly, I’m pleased that this fine book is so widely distributed, but when I put on my bookkeeper’s hat, I realized that had even 3 percent of those 6000 bought the book, Perugia Press would have made nearly $3000, which for us is HUGE. Since the Academy purchased the books at cost, we traded income for prestige.
What an ironic project this poetry publishing is. Thank goodness for donations! Please consider adding your name to our list of steadfast donors whose generosity enables us to weather the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and continue doing what we do best: publishing poetry by women early in their careers.
Susan Kan, Director
ps. A gift of any size is important to our ongoing success. However, with a gift of at least $100, we’ll send you the 2010 winner, Each Crumbling House, by Melody S. Gee, as soon as it’s available.