Perhaps something as simple and open-ended as HERE isn’t so much a project as a starting point: we’re giving away 100 copies of Versal 5, 6 and 7 in the hope that they make their way to far-flung places and people. We want to be surprised about where and when Versal pops up in the world, so we’re encouraging the readers of these numbered and labelled copies to respond to us in any way they like. We’ll see where things go from there.
The HERE plan, inspired by initiatives such as Bookcrossing, was born one evening when a few of us were in the park. We were talking about expanding our distribution and finding different ways to pepper the globe with Versals (rather than simply stock-piling surplus back issues in Megan and Shayna’s flat). Our bookshop and online sales are vital to ensuring that people who know about us can get their hands on a copy, and these sales help us to recoup some of our printing costs. But in a time of economic recession, we can’t count on a lot of sales. Furthermore, shipping Versal (particularly outside of Europe) is very expensive.
To reduce postage costs, we already ask friends and editors to take copies with them when they’re travelling overseas. The HERE project is really a more organic, non-time-sensitive extension of this process, and a way to expand our readership amongst people who have never heard of Versal. Encouraging journals to be passed from hand to hand reduces transportation costs – both financial and environmental – and increases the number of readers per copy. I’m sure some people who currently buy Versal pass it on to friends, but the gifting of it is made easier (and perhaps more fun) when it never really belongs to any one person. The HERE Versal copies will improve the more scuffed and dog-eared they become; fingerprint smudges and coffee-cup stains will add to rather than detract from their value. And while we are happy to let these copies simply get lost in the world, we are also excited about the vagrant Versals’ “postcards home” in whatever form they take.
Breaking even is essential for our continuation, but profits are not – we are more interested in producing a journal that we’re proud of, which is read and appreciated by as many people as possible, which attracts quality international submissions. So if we are not driven by profit, why should we then adhere to distribution and sales methods of the commercial publishing world, in which much of the success of a book or publication is measured in terms of number of copies sold rather than total number of readers?
Fewer copies – less paper and ink, less air-freight – with more readers per copy. It might make sense in the long term. The HERE project will hopefully tell us more about what happens when a literary journal is allowed to wander.