Issue 046
October, 22, 2020

Kissa — Second Edition and Book Goals

A second edition, and rules and goals for thinking about publishing

Toast aficionado, Craig, here.

Another special edition of Roden, plopped down in the sorta-middle of the month.

Kissa by Kissa, my new book of photos & essays about pizza toast and Japanese kissaten-style cafes and walking the Nakasendō old road is back in print and once again available. It ships by November 16th, and will arrive well in time for end-of-year gifting (95% of first editions arrived within three days of shipping). If you missed on the sold-out-in-48-hours first edition, you can grab the second edition here:

buy kissa by kissa kissa by kissa cover

Here’s how it works — until October 30 the book is $85 USD, $10 off the normal price of $95. If you’re a Yearly member to SPECIAL PROJECTS, my membership program, you’ll have gotten a $40 off coupon (if you didn’t get the coupon please ping me). If you join SP as a Yearly member you’ll immediately be emailed the coupon (plus access to all sorts of other members-only archived stuff — livestreams and interviews and lectures, PDFs of my other books, et cetera).

Note: I’m running a members-only livestream page-by-page book breakdown this Saturday (Oct 24, 9pm JST / 1pm London).

A reminder! If you’re a student, you get a free SP membership, which comes with the book discount. Just reply and say: Hey! I’m a student. And I’ll hook you up.

Regarding that student discount, it’s probably useful to pull up a footnote from my essay looking back at the first year of running the program:

This is such a weird distinction, I know, the “student” discount. Why students? Who is a student? What constitutes student? Aren’t we all students? Why not an “unemployed” discount? I don’t know! But what I do know is I like this idea: A period of time in life where you don’t (usually) have a lot of excess cash, and your mind is fertile and fresh and open to new ideas, and you have some time to think about who and what you want to be in the world. And, really, what kind of world you want to live in. You’ve yet to make any real “binding decisions” that otherwise burden folks in their late 20s and 30s and beyond. In an ideal scenario, this period tends to fall during college / university, early 20s, before you enter into or push back against the workforce. I think if you want to have an impact on the next generation and their sense of optionality, opportunities, and positive archetypes, then offering them an inside glimpse into creative processes and “non-standard” ways of investigating the world is critical, and in some ways maybe even a moral duty. When I was 20, I wish I had had better access to what I know now. It would have made me feel a hell of a lot less lonely and crazy. So, I suppose my free student tier is my ham-handed attempt to pay that forward.

Goals — Let’s Talk Publishing

What are my “goals” with this book?

There are the pragmatic goals of financial sustainability:

  • Does the book recoup costs? Including time invested in research and production? (This easily clocks in at upwards of 1000+ hours.)
  • Does it provide financial fuel for the next batch of research? The next walk? The next book? (Thankfully, I think: Yes!)

There are the literary goals:

  • Does it hit my benchmarks for a book “worth” existing? That is: not wholly derivative, repetitive, phoned in.
  • Does it push on genre / form, have fun?
  • Does it approach the world with a sharp eye and humor?

There are the editorial and copy craft goals:

  • Does the text show respect for the reader?
  • By: Exhibiting an editorial consistency in spelling, treatment of foreign words, phrases, grammar, et cetera.
  • Is it as short as it should be, or could it be shorter?

There are the photographic goals:

  • Do the images surprise? Delight? Does the sequencing “work?” (Where “work” = flow with purpose, earn their place on the page, commingle in aggregate towards a greater whole.)
  • Is this a set of images a reader will have seen before? (Note: Different than “shock.”)
  • If so, why are publishing them? If not, what’s unique? (Clarity is important in answering all these questions.)

There is the interplay between the literary and photographic:

  • Do the words and images intertwine (or purposely clash) in a deliberate but unforced way?
  • Placed next to one another, are they additive or reductive?
  • Would the book work better as just words or just images?

There are the design goals:

  • Is the shape and form of the object “true” to the content?
  • That is: Are you sure the object isn’t imposing style over form?
  • Related: Do the chosen materials (cover cloth, binding, paper) and typefaces, elevate the content to a first-class citizen or do they get in the way?
  • You’ll know a book is treating the content like a first class citizen when you get lost in it, when you don’t think about the bad margins or too-small type or too-thick or too-glossy paper or the poor quality of the reproduced images.
  • Are the material choices aligned with the desired “use case” of the book? Is this is a book to be placed in a bag and carried around? Enjoyed at home, in cafes, out in the woods, in a shack, a hideout, on the lam, next to a sack of cash appropriated from a small southern bank? Or is it a book to be kept under glass? Propped up on a pedestal?

There are the solipsistic goals:

  • In making this book, how does it change my relationship with the world? The content?
  • Does producing this book add a sense of “fullness” to life? (I.e.,: Does the final object “justify” the effort?)
  • Fullness being defined as: Increased connectivity (to people, places, ideas, cultures), curiosity, and empathy, often instigated by rising to a set of challenges (literary, photographic, business) that require research and investigation.
  • A good test for this “fullness” is that once the book is complete and printed, do you look back on Before-Book Times and see them as existing beyond a vast and unfathomably large chasm in know-how and experience? If so, then that alone probably means it was a book worth producing.
  • Is it fun (playful, investigative, collaborative) to make the thing? Are the other people involved also enjoying the process?

There are the bigger, more general philosophical reasons:

  • As alluded to in my student footnote above, does the book serve as an archetype? That is: Does it set a stake in the ground for folks to get inspired by, as something positive to emulate or aim for?
  • This archetypical quality flows almost implicitly from the very act of commitment itself to a project.

My hope is (obviously!) that Kissa by Kissa fulfills most of the above. That it’s financially sustainable, a positive archetype on both literary and photographic axes, an object that elevates the content and understands its use case, and a project that has demonstrably made me a better, so-called fuller human. My hope also is that it’s, ya know, a good book! Fun, enjoyable, and one you’ll return to again and again.

It’s also meant to be a first of many. A template for more books going forward — this format, these papers, these printing techniques. It’s why I built out and gave away Craigstarter, and it’s why I worked hard with my printer to help them set up a small fulfillment operation from their warehouse. Lots of upfront investment for, one hopes, a rich and productive number of years going forward. Where the focus can be entirely on that “fullness” factor, of crossing the archetype line, rather than spending excess time and energy on logistics and formats. And if my upfront work on this can be leveraged by someone else to do great work, more quickly, then all the better.

kissa by kissa spread

Kissa by Kissa’s first edition sold out in two days by dint of bizarre ensorcellment of COVID lockdown and global toast obsession. Those first editions began arriving worldwide about ten days ago.

The letters from readers have been really something. I quoted some of these in Ridgeline but, if you’ll permit the narcissistic indulgence, I’m going to quote some more below:

I’ve never before received a book in a package that carries so clearly the air it was formed in. This book smells of ink, of bookmaking. Before I even reached the book, the instant I opened the cardboard, there it was.

Had to drop a line to say how much I enjoyed the book, man. Sat and read through the whole thing in one go last night, really compelling and surprising, and I really appreciated the subtle layout pacing, especially the page turn into the photo of the tomato farmer! Lovely. Something you only really get in print. Wasn’t expecting the level of candour and poignancy, just beautiful piece of work, sir. Thank you and congratulations on the well deserved interest. Can’t wait for book 2. But don’t rush yourself.

Finished the book - Craig I really love it. It was like a short story anthology + quest + fine art exhibit. It’s a work of art man. You experience it and it’s like - this person went way too far than humans should in so many ways and I’m the beneficiary of that - so good.

I wanted to drop you a quick note to say thank you for Kissa by Kissa. It is a treasure: a perfect collection of perfect details, like the just-right size of the blotting sheet for the signed and numbered page, the just-soft-enough cover, the restrained typeface.

The book is STUNNING!!! I am so grateful to you for publishing it! It is truly a piece of art and I will treasure it forever. Right now it’s the closest I’m going to get to being in Japan!!

I just finished Kissa by Kissa. It was exquisite – thank you!

And then the book itself. The smell! I have no idea how but to me it has that distinct scent of old books, which I love. The feel is great, the typography is sublime, it’s an object well made.

Overall, it’s been a ton of work to get this project into the world. I really can’t overemphasize that. The effort required to see this thing through, soup to nuts, has been approximately 100x greater than expected. This is the most intimate I’ve ever become with anything I’ve ever made. I simply couldn’t have done it during a “normal” year. It was precisely the forced sedentariness of COVID-19 that allowed me to dial all this in.

I turn forty on November 2nd. And then on November 3rd I step out of my house with the goal of walking to Kyoto along the Tōkaidō, and beyond. Experiments (video, audio, literary, tonsorial) will be performed en route, and I’ll launch a bit of collaborative newsletter fun next week.

I’ll write more about what it meant to get this book out as a kind of “final act” of my 30s in the Roden I send out on the eve of the walk. Suffice to say, it feels damn good. And if you want to “do something” for my birthday, please consider sharing the link to Kissa by Kissa’s second edition, grabbing a copy for yourself, or gifting it to someone you think it may delight. Those funds go back into the archetype machine, for more experiments, more books, more tools and essays to help others begin to think about, and produce similar things.

One final time, the big fat buy button:

buy kissa by kissa

Thanks, as always, for your attention and support,

The back of the book