On a whim

In 2005, during a heavy bout of depression brought on by a particularly stressful summer, I decided to establish a little business called The Othello Press. I had no grand pretensions: it would be a cottage-industry publisher, selling fine fiction and hand-knitted slippers. I had recently started a job that had turned out to be the very opposite of everything I had hoped for and found myself carrying around a constantly aching heart. And so it was that on a whim The Othello Press was born. How I wish my friends had challenged my sanity then.

I had visions of publishing my own novels and went about creating a website featuring the covers of my soon-to-be-published books, thinking it would motivate me to complete them. Of course, I never managed that. It would be another year before I published the imprint’s first book, a slim drama brought forward to be available during the play’s public performance early in 2007.

As that year wore on it became increasingly clear that, although I wanted to give the author a fair deal where royalties were concerned, The Othello Press was not in the league of Random House or Penguin. I had no massive marketing budget, no sales team, no leverage into the market. In fact I had nothing except a love of book design. I already knew this of course, but others had somewhat higher aspirations. Alas, my whimsical publishing fantasy began to turn into a noose around my neck.

As long as my disastrous day job continued, however, so I would grasp on to the dream that my business on-the-side would slowly trundle on, generating at least small pleasures. I hoped, ever so faintly, that I would come across a book that I really wanted to publish. I had received a scattering of manuscripts from enthusiastic authors, not unlike myself, seeking to see their words in print. Yet their investment seemed confined to hammering their work out on the keyboard and almost straight away clicking Send: if they could not be bothered to read through their own work before sending it on to me, what made them think anyone else would? Other proposals held much more promise, but failed to materialise, probably abandoned by their authors along the way, surrendered to the pressures of work and family life.

Finally, a year ago, I published one of my own books, driven on by the flagging sales of The Othello Press’ only other publication in print. In truth, its publication was premature for it still was not really ready, and my enthusiasm for it was half-hearted as I had not written it with public consumption in mind. Books, if they are to be bought, need marketing, but I was a little too embarrassed of To Honour God to push it far and wide. It was never destined for success.

But the real problem was The Othello Press. I had established it on a whim as a means of dealing with depression and stress, but in itself it had turned into a fountain of anxiety. The statutory returns required of businesses cause my heart to pound inexplicably. There is no money in the coffers to pay for an accountant, whose fees would absorb my meagre earnings in an instant. I do not have a head for business, only for book design. I undertook a Masters degree in publishing a decade ago, not in managing a business, however small and insignificant it happens to be.

The time has come, therefore, to pull the plug on this little misadventure of mine. Of course that necessitates jumping more legal hurdles, but sanity tends to come at a certain price. Stick to what you know is one of the morals of this story. But the main lesson is not to act on a whim, without seriously thinking of the consequences, especially when you’re lacking presence of mind. As I realised as my melancholy faded away, it is only in the remembrance of God that hearts find rest.

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