Interview with publisher of Gottlund Verlag, Nicholas Gottlund
Nicholas Gottlund is a small publisher Gottlund Verlag based in Kutztown, PA. He has published numerous books including the award-winning Jam, Jelly, Honey, Wild Rice by by the ever-so-young Coley Brown, Andrew Laumann's New Messages, and his own epitome of the democratic book, Wild Prayer. Later this year, he will produce Peter Sutherland's book, Even in the End and the lavishly produced Spirit by Henry Roy. Here he discusses how he makes a living pursuing his passions.
MM: What make you want to self-publish? Have you had any experiences with publishers in the past?
NG: I haven't had too much experience dealing with other publishers up to this point. However I wear many hats, so to speak. I run my own small press/publishing house which is my full-time 'day' job. I started Gottlund Verlag in late 2007 and within the past year I have gained the necessary momentum to keep it sustainable. Making limited edition artist books in small editions is enjoyable for me because of the hands-on aspect and collaboration between all the involved parties. Also, the financial risk for the publisher is minimized which allows for taking on more experimental projects or those that have merit, but may not be a huge financial success.
MM: Who designed and printed the books? How many did you print?
NG: I usually lead design and art direction often as a collaborative effort with the artist. In the case of Andrew Laumann's book New Messages, Kimmy Elliot Fung did the design and art direction. We work with a variety of local U.S. printers.
Each edition is very different from the others in concept, design and objecthood. We maintain a small number of letter presses in house on which we do things like embossing covers and printing from photo engravings. For the upcoming Henry Roy book, Spirit we are printing with the Kutztown Publishing Co. here in our hometown. I am very excited about this as my father's family has been running K.P.C. since the late 1800's. Our editions typically range from 50 - 1,000 copies.
MM: What was the budget for the book and did you come close to this number when the project was finished? Where there any unforeseen complications with the project that you did not anticipate?
NG: The budget for all of our books is quite tight. However, the printing cost for Wild Prayer was very low due to the nature of the material (newsprint) and it being single color. We are looking at a very high printing cost for the Henry Roy book and the other associated costs, such as translation. Therefore, the production cost of our projects can differ quite a bit. I try to print with local printers who I can visit at the press, know personally and trust. I feel better in the given climate not having to ship books half way across the world. Printing domestically can be costly, so it then becomes a balancing act in pricing the book for retail.
MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Do limited edition prints help?
NG: I think it might be helpful to find individual investors who are interested in your work or in an aspect of the project. I think that releasing a small number of the total edition as 'limited edition' along with a print or something like that is a very good idea to help recoup the production costs more quickly and as something to offer to those individuals who have helped you make the project possible.
MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography?
NG: I don't think exclusively in terms of photography. While the majority of my practice is photo-based work, I have a background in printmaking. So I think often about printing techniques and typography. I'm influenced by those things as well as a lot of folk art, traditional home crafts and architectural practices.
MM: What blogs do you read? magazines?
NG: I don't read magazines regularly so much. As far as blogs and the internet, I follow American Suburb X, Bevel and Boss, Reference Library, Repurpose, Same Bodies.
MM: What is your favorite book, photo or otherwise?
NG: I don't think there is a singular one. There have been a few books that have come to me that I keep close.
MM: Do you have an odd or funny photography related story?
NG: On my second to last trip in New Mexico I spent a whole day from dawn to dusk in the Valles Caldera in the Jemez Mountains which is home to large herds of elk. I spent the whole time there following them around as quietly as I could with two cameras; shooting, running, crawling and waiting. It felt very natural in a way and also very strange to think back on. The "Wild Prayer" book has one image from that day in it.
MM: Any mistakes with your publications or anything you would have done differently with a project?
NG: There haven't been any mistakes yet. The artists I've worked with have been very meticulous in working through their ideas before the production phase, so by the time everything hits the presses they're happy with how it looks as ink on paper.
MM: What are some of your future projects?
NG: Henry Roy's book, Spirit will be released in late September. It is a combination of his photography as well as six short stories which are these visceral accounts of places and moments throughout his life.
Peter Sutherland's book, Even in the End will be released in October. It is a thin black and white book entirely printed from engraved copper plates and printed on an old letterpress.
Repurpose by Matt Papich and Joe Williams. Repurpose is a collection of snapshots by friends that is very much an artist book. We are taking out time with this project and allowing it to reincarnate a few times before finalizing it.
Also, I have a book coming out, Plain + Fancy, produced by the publishing arm (Golden Age Printed) of the Chicago bookshop, Golden Age. It is published on the occasion of a exhibition of my work on display there. It opened on August 29th, 2009.
MM: Many photographers are electing to use newsprint as the medium for they book projects. I have some theories about why certain photographers use this type of paper, but why did you select this for Wild Prayer? Will you give some details about how this printing differed from other books in the past?
NG: Because of the concept behind Wild Prayer newsprint made perfect sense as a material. With the lowered contrast of the images and the idea of the bleaching effects of light over time, the newsprint helped to accentuate all of it. Working with a printer on a newspaper format project was much simpler than any other format I've done. It's printed on a web press where all the paper is on a giant roll, cut down, folded and bundled. It was very easy to set up for them. I made a pdf document to the final size in the order I wanted it to read at 150 dpi and that was it! No worrying about spine width, gutters, bleeds or other problematic issues like a traditional book.
MM: What is your background relating to book arts and printmaking? What is some of the equipment you use?
NG: I went to undergrad for general fine arts, but found myself in the printmaking department most nights. I took many classes on letterpress printing and book binding at MICA. They had a great print studio and I was with a lot of tough, hard working printers there - a real wild bunch. It was a combination of printing in the studio along with a summer job of making archival book boxes for the library's collection of 400 rare/artist books that opened me up to that world.
In the shop now I have a Vandercook flatbed letterpress and a semi-functional Chandler + Price press. I have a nipping press, book press and assortment of misc. hand tools. In general it's a small but useful set-up. I use the studio set-up mainly for particular aspects of each edition like slipcases, embossing, letterpress printed covers, etc.