I went to an exhibition of small press publishers a few weeks ago. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I enjoyed the tabletop displays of small press companies, creative writing magazines and literary journals. It was fun to talk to the people about their projects and my own experience in publishing.

 You might expect most creative writing to be online these days, with apps available to read a new short story while you’re waiting for the train. This show went in the other direction, with high-quality printing and photography presented in an attractive package.

 Flash fiction, by the way, is a short-short story that succeeds in communicating an idea or feeling, in a “flash” that will be remembered well after the reading.

 We don’t offer much in the way of fiction or poetry in CabinetMakerFDM and cabinetmakerfdm.com, but the exhibition made me wonder how our audience would want the information if they could get in any form they desired.

 Would you want an online-only story? A magazine article? An email newsletter with links to new stories and industry news? Access to online seminars on current subjects of interest? Or a small bound book with a summary of ways to make your business better? Or maybe they make a small do-it-yourself zine with from printed stories and downloads. Put that in your chapbook.

 I’m fairly sure that most readers do not want to receive moisture content advice in the form of a poem. How about a haiku about a new panel saw? Or a sonnet about an upcoming trade exhibition?

 But I have to wonder if people would like to have a choice of brief online stories that they could download in PDF form. Checklists on different subjects contained on a small card? Email reminders of past stories that may have present application?

 We always need to think about the best way to deliver the information our readers need. I don’t think we’re far off target. We have a good mix of different media that would make someone like 1960s critic Marshall McLuhan proud. But I wonder how our readers would want their information if they could get it any way.
And I think it’s useful for us to step back and look at what we’re doing. Just as a year ends and another begins is a good time for each of us to reflect on what we’re doing and what we’d like to do.
Where was the small press exhibition held? In a Border’s book store that had closed earlier this year. Half the shelves were there, along with signs hanging from the ceiling advertising “Self Improvement” or “History.” The Border’s store may be history but your business doesn’t have to be if you’re willing to look at things differently than you have been.

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