Tuesday, September 4, 2007

You call it a grain transport, I call it a rail gun.

Today--several days late, I admit--I reveal what we've been working on with regards to the Virginia Edition and why there've been such delays. I'll be completely straightforward and honest and all I ask is that you read through to the end.

In taking over the publication of the Virginia Edition, the first thing we've had to do was to check on the financial status that had been left to us. Without delving too deeply into the details, matters were less than peachy-keen. One of the major roadblocks that we ran into was that the pricing of the edition--both production cost and selling price--was untenable. For those interested in an example, the slip cases that come with each book cost significantly more than the books themselves.

The Heinlein Trust's main goal in publishing the Virginia Edition is to create a quality set of the works of Robert Heinlein that can be afforded by most people and which will thus serve to ensure the availability and further the legacy of Mr. Heinlein. It is with that in mind that we are initiating the following changes in the set:

In order to reduce both production cost and selling price, we will no longer be producing the slipcases for the set nor do we intend to gild the edges of the pages. We are also removing the artwork by Donato from the spine--as we have acquired the rights to the painting that was to be used for the first set of twelve books, we would like to produce a poster of the full painting for all of the current Virginia Edition subscribers. In place of the artwork, we will print the title of the book on the spine and front cover.

On a somewhat brighter note, we will be eliminating the cloth-bound edition and printing entirely in leather at a significantly reduced price. We would like to let all the current customers keep the six volumes they already have, however we're investigating to see if we'll actually be allowed to do so. Keep reading for more information on that.

As starting these changes with volume 7 would result in a severely mismatched set, we are going to reprint the first six volumes--and take a little time to make sure some of the errors from those volumes are solved--when we next go to print. (That, incidentally, is the reason volume 7 hasn't been published when I said it would, when we realized we might be reprinting, we put it on hold.) In the interim, we've also managed to ready volume 8 and get substantial work done on volumes 9-12. Depending on how much longer our talks with the printer go (see below), we'll be printing at least 8 volumes.

This is still subject to change--for reasons I'll go into later--but we expect the new VE price to be in the $1800 dollar range. As this is below the previous cost of the cloth edition--and even further below the cost of the leather edition--we will be issuing refunds equal to the difference between the new cost and the old cost. If you've been on a subscription plan, we'll either reduce your total number of payments or reduce the size of the payments.

Refunds:
We are currently investigating to see if there's any way that we can carry the burden of producing a limited print-run of the original version of the Virginia Edition--sans Donato artwork--for the original subscribers and for the Exclusive edition subscribers, however, if we cannot, or if you're simply infuriated with the blasphemy that we're perpetrating and want no part in any of it, we will offer a full refund of your money in lieu of the new set of books.

Other details:
We are currently contracting with Windhaven Press--a small editing group that has had experience with Heinlein's works--to continue the editing for the project. Under this set-up, we hope to move through the editing process quickly and efficiently. Assuming no major problems crop up, our optimistic goal is to have the editing and layout work done by around January, pessimistically by April or May. Once the lay-out work has been completed, we can print any that hadn't yet been printed--we're hoping to print in at least sets of six every few months--and subscribers could have a full set by the end of next summer.

One of the few remaining hurdles we have to face right now is nailing down some of the details with Transcontinental Publishing--we've gotten a few sets of conflicting numbers and so we're looking to see where the error lies there--and that's been a factor in some of our delays.

We are also considering replacing the publication of "Grumbles from the Grave" with "Requiem" edited by Yoji Kondo. I've spoken with Mr. Kondo and he was excited about the possibility. Our rationale for considering the change is that "Grumbles from the Grave" follows several volumes of Heinlein's personal correspondence and including "Grumbles" would be largely repetition and so "Requiem" might be a welcome substitution.

At this time, I would also like to take a moment to recognize the work done by Bill Patterson. Bill Patterson is the official Heinlein Scholar and he is putting a lot of his time and effort into acquiring our source texts, putting together introductions, and sewing together the letters of correspondence, collections of non-fiction and short stories.

'tis all for now.

Send love and hate mail to sean (dot) thompson (at) dula (dot) com or leave comments on the blog. We really do want to hear from you, your feedback is important as we proceed.

5 comments:

Zarf said...

A couple of comments, and questions.

First, you wrote:

"We would like to let all the current customers keep the six volumes they already have, however we're investigating to see if we'll actually be allowed to do so. Keep reading for more information on that."

Maybe its just me (or the huge amount of info I'm absorbing from this week's blog posting), but I didn't see the "more information" on being "allowed" to keep the volumes I already possess. Can you clarify this item?

Also, as a (fully paid-up) subscriber to the leatherbound edition, I like the Donato artwork on the dustcover!!! I can understand eliminating the slipcases (although I think that they were nice), but please don't eliminate the Donato dustcovers! Print the name of the volume on the actual spine of the book, but leave our Donato dustcovers!!!

You also noted that:

"We are also considering replacing the publication of "Grumbles from the Grave" with "Requiem" edited by Yoji Kondo."

Given all the delays, and changes, and such, may I suggest that "Requiem" be added to the VE roster, rather than replacing an item??? This might be a slight compensation for all the changes to the program.


I realize that the first part of this commentary may sound very critical of the most recent update, but (while I am somewhat disappointed) I do appreciate the substantial update that you've provided. Thanks...



p.s. Once the first 'new' volumes start rolling off the presses, can you post an anticipated printing/shipping schedule?

Jack said...

Thanks for the update.

As a fully paid up exclusive edition subscriber I won't pretend I am thrilled by the news. However, I understand it might be more economically viable---and help keep Robert Heinlein's books in a new generations eyes---if you limit your printing to one leather edition with multiple edition printed simultaneously. I suspect that may be the smartest business decision you can make.

Though I would still prefer an exclusive or deluxe addition, I understand a refund and a leather edition may be necessary. At least you are communicating with us. Meisha Merlin was very poor keeping us accurately up-to-date on the edition.

Please continue to keep us posted.

John N. said...

Well, I can't say that I'm not disappointed at this news, though it's not completely surprising.

I did find the following interesting; you wrote:
"The Heinlein Trust's main goal in publishing the Virginia Edition is to create a quality set of the works of Robert Heinlein that can be afforded by most people and which will thus serve to ensure the availability and further the legacy of Mr. Heinlein."

This is certainly a laudable goal, but as a buyer of this edition, I felt that I was buying a limited edition collectable that would contain the best editions of all of Heinlein's works, presented in a format that would stand out on my shelves. The decision to drop the slipcases & go with only a leather binding sort of works against this. A big mass of leather-bound books tends to look pretty generic; the coordinated spine artwork of the original design was something that stood out. I can understand dropping the slipcases for cost reasons, but it would be nice if we had dust jackets with artwork that still allowed the volumes to stand out in an attractive way... Personally, I would rather have clothbound with nice artwork than have leather and no artwork.

I do, of course, understand that the cost issues may prevent this -- rights to artwork isn't necessarily cheap, and quality printing of dust jackets may push prices out of the sustainable range, but it's worth making extra sure there's no other way to make the collection!

Thanks lots for keeping us updated, I've been on tenterhooks wondering where the next volume was... having some idea of your plans helps.

--John N.

NC said...

Sean, I'd like to note for your readers that my company, Windhaven is not "a small editing group that has had experience with Heinlein's works" but is instead a prepress production company for publishers with over twenty years in the genre -- it includes editing, but that's not what we're doing for the Heinlein project. For you folks, we are providing scanning, typesetting & design, and proofreading for the Virginia Editions. Just in case your readers were/are concerned that we are re-editing Heinlein -- we are not. The timeline is also what we discussed with the trust -- a number of books a month over a period of months, into summer or fall 2008, at a standard pace for well-designed, well-proofread books, which is what we, and all of your customers, I assume, would like to see!

Alex said...

This is, at the very least, breach of contract. I bought the full Virginia Edition, with Slipcases and Dustcovers, so that I could have a VERY nice MATCHING set of everything Heinlein wrote. I am very upset with these changes, and if the new volumes are not IDENTICAL to the old, I will, at the very least, be canceling my order, expecting a full refund, and keeping what books I have, as you people have had the liberty of holding my money for so long. Also, if not from me, although probably, there will most definitely be legal action involved. I highly suggest you follow through with what was originally promised, and in a timely fashion.