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Wednesday, 08 October 2008

Krakoen, an innovative editorial structure…

which proved its worth!

Translated by: Natalie Costello, Manchester Translation (ManTra)

  Krakoen is a group of authors whose Max Obione, also inspired the inventor of this new form of publishing: the co-operative of editorial self-production, Krakoen.
Krakoen, what is it exactly? What is a co-operative of authors? The formula is simple: a small group of authors, tired of being turned away by publishing houses, have taken control of the situation by creating a bit of a crazy project, setting up their own formula, a structure which would allow them to finally see their texts become books and meet their public.
ImageThe Krakoen adventure was created. Krakoen is first of all an association under the 901 law, an association which brings together a group of authors. Each member becomes its own publisher. But take care, this is not a question of printing on demand. The idea was meant to be richer and the aim was not to satisfy a need for recognition by all means, even the most ineffective, but to pool energies to achieve a structure capable of managing the production of books, by finding partnerships with graphic designers and printers to develop a recognisable collection of quality for the public, as well as to promote their authors. The risks were crazily high… Yet, today Krakoen has been running for four years, has over thirty titles in its catalogue and can boast that it has helped authors to realise their dream of seeing their texts finally published. But all of that was not made without conditions. Krakoen, and it’s herein that its success lies, wanted (and continues) to promote a certain quality not only in the book as an object, but also its contents, and allocated funds so that these books finds public and are read. Thus the authors themselves have become publishers. Each author rolls up their sleeves and in turn becomes a member of the selection panel, correcting and giving literary advice to the other members of the association, but also… above all… the author becomes the principal actor of this chain which turns his typescript into a book!
But we must also add some details. And for that, I am going to share my own experience. My first book “Mektoub” was edited by a small regional publisher (Pavic à Avallon in Burgundy). Of course, it was my first step in the ruthless world of publishing, and today I am still infinitely grateful that someone believed in the text and took the risk of publishing it. But like many of these small structures, Pavic publishing rests on the shoulders of one person who makes all the choices, monitors the manufacturing, marketing and distribution. But how does one cope in these competitive conditions, with thousands of new pieces of work that emerge each day and display themselves in our bookshops? You should know that currently, most major chains, like Fnac, Privat and others refuse to stock books from small imprints. Only the independent bookshops still believe in the smaller contributors of the publishing world. You would need to be everywhere at the same time, obtain invitations to attend exhibitions and festivals, find financing, act as a sales rep and travel the roads of France in order to achieve a visible presence in these new book supermarkets. In short, the mission seems impossible. 300 copies of “Mektoub” were printed the first time. I had been invited to the Recey-sur-Ource exhibition at the hypermarket in Semur-en-Auxois, which, sad to say, that I was not the flourishing author who brought success to the publishing house, who has since stopped his collection of regional detective novels.  The example is telling, revealing how Krakoen has succeeded. The authors have committed themselves, they invested financially to make their books, but the co-operative was there to provide support where a small publishing house could not.
So certainly, the author must get financially involved but in compensation, besides the fact that the financial gamble is quickly reimbursed (once 100 copies have been sold), the authors support does not weaken. Krakoen always wanted to favour a professional quality for all that the association offers. Today, Krakoen works with a distributor, Calibre. The bookshops no longer have any hesitation when ordering books. Krakoen has worked in partnership with the movers and shakers of the book world, and the co-operative in its own name or its member authors, who once were poorly represented, are now present at all the principal festivals and events, the book exhibition in Paris, the exhibition of detective novels in Montigny-lès-Cormeilles, Sang d’encre in Vienna, the Besançon festival of noir and social literature, to name a few, but there are many others. The site is always up to date, the books are today listed chronically on specialist noir literature sites and some authors are even able to see their names listed in the Dictionary of detective literature or the review Crimes of the Year by Bilipo.

The success is there. To continue to ensure what it has always done, that is, keeping track of its authors and the quality of their production and distribution, the cooperative is being forced to refuse new authors.
Of course, there are limits to everything; the very structure of the co-operative cannot manage big successes. For storage reasons and to avoid too many books being printed without an assured distribution, printing is limited, reprints are made on demand - so nothing is perfect as the price therefore increases per copy. But the system proved its worth, and the authors still own the rights to their books, no subsequent rights are imposed and Krakoen can now also claim to have been a springboard, a platform which some of us were really expecting, to make ourselves known and perhaps continue our literary adventure in the publishing houses that have more resources.
My own experience with Krakoen was so rich that I do not need to force myself to find defending arguments and, if luck continues to come my way, I know that I will always have texts, those which have no place amongst the “great” because of them being too atypical, to continue the adventure. I know this little co-operative, small in size but rich in experience, has other nice surprises awaiting me.

 * “Calmar au sang” and “les vielles décences” Max Obione, Krakoen ed.
**Author of “Mektoub”, published by Pavic and “Le sceau de l’ombre”, published by Krakoen. “Mektoub” was subsequently reissued in partnership with the local newspaper of the Côte d’Or, Le Bien Public.

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