Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Advice Needed: The Parish Book of Chant, 2nd ed.

Publishers don't usually (actually never) do this sort of thing. We are supposed to be omniscient beings who know our markets perfectly, have all things figured out, and manage every detail of publishing precisely as it should be.

The reality is that publishers make gigantic errors all the time, about what to publish, yes, but, more substantially and more importantly, about other details such as how much to print, what form to print, how much inventory to keep on hand etc. We misjudge our market and that can be a disaster. Well, I'm here to tell you that despite years of experience in this industry, I do not know the answers.

The ChantCafe has built up a large readership. I would tend to trust comments here and to my private email as a good market indicator. I need such indicators going forward here because the Church Music Association of America operates on an absurdly thin and tiny budget.

Our net income is zero or near zero and we all celebrate when we can pay the bills. And despite this, our activities and publications are more extensive, and certainly our impact more widely felt, than organizations that plow through $10 million per year.

Now to the point. We have a second edition of the Parish Book of Chant coming out soon. This is the book that four years ago pretty well kicked the sacred music movement into high gear. It galvanized a generation of Catholic singers to re-embrace their heritage and make the music native to the rite and the culture come to live again in our times, right in our own parishes. It has been the essential resource, the infrastructure on which everything since has been built.

What about the second edition? It is amazing. As Richard Rice says in his introduction, it is what the first edition should have been. First, it has everything the first edition had: the ordo for the ordinary and extraordinary form in English and Latin, ordinary chants for the Mass, chant melodies for every occasion, and a tutorial.

The first edition sold 12,000 copies. They are all gone.

The second edition is twice as large in pages but we hope to keep it thin in physical form. What does it add? The ordo for the ordinary form has all the Eucharistic prayers. The Sequences are all in here. The Requiem is complete. The ad libitum communions from the Simplex are here. There are litanies. The Kyriale is complete with all Vatican Gradual ordinary settings. All the verses for all chant hymns are notated and not merely pointed.

All these additions make this book something spectacular, something essential, something that can really take us to the next stage in the development of the chanted music of the Catholic faith. And of course we will make it free online as well.

Now, I had known that Richard had been working on this project for at least a year or more. I had seen all the details as I just typed them. But nothing had prepared me for what the physical book would be. He sent me a draft copy and I spent time with it today. I was just blown away by the value of this book.

As wonderful as the first edition was, this book is more complete, more substantial, more comprehensive, more useful in every way. It provides material you cannot get in any other book in this form. It is the best that the second edition of a great book should be.

Now to my questions. Are you interested in buying this book? Do you have a sense of how many others might be willing to purchase this book? Do you know parishes that might even want this book in the pew? These are the issues I'm dealing with now. I am absolutely sure of its value. There can be no doubt of that. What I'm unsure about is the practical matter: how marketable is this product and how invested should we be in this?

I'm biased. This is why I'm breaking every rule in the publisher handbook: I'm asking for your opinion about a matter that is usually kept very private and internal to any publisher. Is this the time to act and take a leap and prepare for a real smash hit? I'm thinking that the answer is yes.

Contradict me if you think I'm wrong. I need to be checked here. If I need a dose of reality, give it to me plainly and clearly.

Finally, let me make an appeal. The CMAA is a non profit organization. We can accept tax deductible contributions. If you would like to donate to this, that can only drive down costs and the price and increase the distribution. We can't do a fundraising drive but if you are interested in making a substantial gift, we would love to talk to you. Just drop me an email.