RRM: Richard- could you please describe the level of your involvement with office supplies as a publisher of a relatively large and successful press such as Soft Skull? What supplies do you find yourself working with most frequently?
REN: Above all, I’m the guy who tried to figure out how to do more with less. My most significant involvement is paying the Staples and Office Max credit card bills and the Uline invoices.
RRM: What office supply do you find has the greatest affinity for sentimental attachment? Does this border on personal or even emotional? How would you react if this office supply should suddenly die or “go to a better place”?
REN: It’s the printer. Hands down. Without the printer, it’d be me going to the better place.
RRM: The red-hot controversy concerning the pros and cons of the staple and paper clip has been going on since stamps were a dime. What is your opinion on this important matter- do you consider yourself a staple or paper clip man? Fond of a specific make of stapler? What do you consider an appropriate use (if at all)for either paper binding means?
REN: That’s easy. Internally, paper clips. Externally, staples. Basically if we need to be making copies, or sending faxes, it has to be easy to disaggregate the paper. But when we’re sending stuff out, to reviewers, journalists, bookstores etc, you want to make sure they’re getting everything, not losing sheets etc. Of course in some circumstances, you have to think that what’s external for you, is internal for another. So sometimes we use paperclips when sending to our distributor cause they in turn may be making copies, or faxing. On other observation. For large photocopying job, having the copyshop do the staples can be more efficient.
RRM: What have you found to be the most cost-effective means for shipping mixed media and books via physical mail? Have you any particularly dramatic and terrifying shipping stories?
REN: A gazillion stories, at least two a week. The most recent was a case of books scheduled to arrive in San Diego Oct 30th, in time for an author event. Not only did they not make it in time, they had not arrived by the time the authors were due to leave for the next event. The authors waited an extra hour, while we told the LA bookstore they were running behind. Still not there, so we called Airborne and told them to hook up with the authors in Big Sur. The day they were to arrive in Big Sur, the guy in San Diego calls the author in Big Sur to say they’d just been delivered to his house. So the author calls us and we call Airborne, and tell Airborne they’re to be in San Francisco today. I still don’t know if they’re there.
Anything that can’t fit in a Flat Rate Priority Mail envelope goes Airborne Ground, unless we don’t care when (or if) it gets there, in which can we use Media Mail. Sometimes Bound Printed Matter is better than Media Mail, but Media Mail rate calculations are much better. Internation we use Global Priorty Mail flat rate, or else an international transshipper called ITS, though sometimes Fedex Ground Canada is good.
RRM: Is there a certain printer paper that strikes your fancy? What kind of weight and brightness are we talking? What terms would you use to describe the finish?
REN: Actually I’m a bit of a slob here. Whatever’s 3 cases for the price of 2 at OfficeMax.
RRM: As far as daily desktop printing costs are concerned have you any advice to the ink and toner conscious? Any particular consumer printer you endorse? If so, what sound does it make when it’s printing or what genre of music?
REN: Here’s the scoop on printing. You need to be a small business (it’s been years since I’ve worked with consumer printers) to use this, but it will change your life. Xerox has this deal where they GIVE you a color laser printer! Free! You just have to commit to buy the color ink from them (the black ink is free!) It is amazing, just amazing. Go to freecolorprinters.com and tell them that Soft Skull Press referred you. There are a few complicated rules, like you have to fill out an application in which you say how many pages you print now, and then monthly you have to fax them a report that the machine generates indicating that you’re really using that many pages. Cause they make their money off the supplies. But the ability to produce quality sales materials on demand, it’s just priceless. It really lets us punch above our weight in terms of sending out sales kits, reviewing proofs, doing up our own flyers, tarting up pres releases, etc…
RRM: Let’s talk pens. Ball-point or gel? Perhaps felt? Black ink, or fashionable blue. What about silly colors or those that contain sparkles? Let us know what kind of writing-sticks you prefer.
REN: The 2 core pens here are the nice gel Uni-ball vision. I like the fatter point, but my managing editor likes narrower points. Of course if I’m around when the orders going in, I complain and say that ballpoints are fine (blue Papermates). Then there’s the red copyediting pen, but I can’t find any right now so I can’t tell you what brand.
RRM: That being said, what is your opinion of the mechanical pencil? An obsolete instrument of a bygone era or a timeless and significant human achievement?
REN: “timeless and significant human achievement” objectively, but I lean too hard. My girlfriend (an intellectual property lawyer) swears by them. She just got a new paperback, the primary advantage of which is, I’m told, the fact that the pencils sit in there better and the led doesn’t break.
RRM: What kind of mailer do you prefer to receive manuscripts in? Do you like the quaintness of the hand-addressed envelope or the professionalism of the printed label?
REN: Give me a label any time. Bubblewrap, not fibre. But honestly: I like them e-mailed as single .doc or .rtf files I then convert them to .prc files uses Palm’s software and load them onto my Visor so I can read them in the subway.
RRM: What word-processing program do you use and why?
REN: Microsoft, sorry. The fuckers have the market cornered.
RRM: Which dictionary do you dig?
REN: We’re so broke-assed all we got is a massive old Websters. I hear that the New Oxford American Dictionary is great, though my managing editor is a MW person, not an American Heritage. And what she says there goes.
RRM: Spiral-bound or pre-perforated? What manufacturers put out a good notebook?
REN: I’m not a notebook guy, though folks around here either use the bound B&W; or yellow perforated legal.
RRM: Any other words of wisdom concerning cost efficiency in the office or walk-in closet?
REN: Network your Macs, don’t underestimate the value of an AirPort, get a Staples or OfficeMax account, but buy envelopes in bulk from Uline and get their cheap version of the Tyvek envelope, for regular envelopes find a cheap local offset printer to print the return address, don’t waste money on letterhead use your printer (esp. if you get the free Xerox printer!). I eagerly await systems that can more easily integrate scanners and printers into tiny jury-rigged office networks like ours so as to get rid of the shitty fax machine with its $40 rolls.
RRM: Do you see the physical mailing of manuscripts to be superseded by email in the future? Why or why not?
REN: Yup. Like I said, I prefer getting MSS as Word files. It’s also easier to forward them around to my colleagues so more than one person can read, since we’re not gonna photocopy 300pp of something that might suck. That said, don’t send big attachments first off. E-mail is good for small query letter or big solicited MS. But mail right now is best for sending the intermediate packet of intro and sample chapters. This is because some time does need to be taken to convert files
RRM: Once my mom gave me this soapstone egg with a carving of an elephant on the side- she said it was a paperweight. Now, wouldn’t you agree the only prerequisite for an object to function as a paperweight is to have at least one flat side?
REN: Make it a worrystone. Generally I need things to rub, more than I need things to weigh down.
RRM: Have you ever successfully impressed a strange (yet mysterious) woman with an office supply?
REN: No. The only time I’ve successfully impressed a strange (yet mysterious) woman was when I was introduced to her cat by his name Lazlo and I said, “As in Moholy-Nagy?”
RRM: How do you feel about the recent movement in the state of California to legalize the matrimony of office supplies?
REN: It’s just Schwarzenegger trying to curry favor with the ladies
RRM: Thank you for your time and information, Richard.
REN: This was the most fun interview I’ve ever had. Thank you!!!!!
About the author:
Ryan Robert Mullen is the author of Naughty, Sweet Boy (Word Riot Press) and a columnist at Get Underground. He maintains a website at ryanrobertmullen.net.