Good question. And it needs to be addressed. We don’t expect you to fork over your hard-earned dollars if you don’t clearly understand what your supporting and where we’re going with your money.
You need to believe that our mission is sound, that our efforts are strong, and that our product is the best it can be. If you don’t believe this to be true, then you should not support us.
Here are three question-and-answer arguments that may help clarify our situation. If you’d like to add to this query, please email your questions and I’ll answer as candidly as possible.
Why should I support a company that earns revenue through sales of books? Can’t Spinner turn a profit through conventional market means?
The truth is, we are doing business in a market and community that cannot support an enterprise of this nature. Our focus is local/regional; our aim is to celebrate our regions history and culture. Thus, many of our titles just aren’t going to play well in Poughkeepsie.
The publishing business requires a great deal of capital—high costs to print, high costs to create, and high costs to market and distribute.
Let me give you an example. One of our more successful books, Lincoln Park Remembered, took about 18 months to produce. More than 20 professional writers, photographers, editors, and researchers took part in the project, along with about 30 volunteers. We printed 8,000 paperback and 800 hardcover copies, which cost about $40,000 to print. Include contracted services, staff, marketing, and consumables, our budget easily eclipsed $100,000. Actually, this is not a lot of money. We were able to keep production costs down because of tremendous volunteer support and because the staff and freelancers worked for ridiculously low wages. After publication, add more costs ($40,000 to $60,000) for sales, fulfillment, marketing, advertisement, administration, storage, shrinkage, damaged or stolen goods, etc.
On the other side of the ledger, what do we earn? The math is simple. A book that retails for $25 normally nets us $12. Multiply 8,000 by 12; that’s $96,000. The hardcover books earned about $15,000. So the most we can hope to earn if we sell everything (which we never do) within a two or three year period (which hardly ever happens) is $111,000. This is not a formula for staying in business.
There’s no way around it. To publish local history. To provide creative opportunity for local writers, artists, and photographers. To leave an invaluable record of our lives, our culture and our heritage, we need support.
We’ve tried to give individual donors a sense of participation in a project. Many of our books feature sponsorship pages at the beginning where we acknowledge donors. (See these sample sponsorship pages from past books.) In some cases, we have dedicated an entire page (even the Title Page) to a particular sponsor.
Through this sponsorship method, we have created tiers of entitlement in which we give sponsors free books, discounts, and other promotional benefits based on the amount of the sponsorship. To see how we’ve designed sponsorships, go to one of the New Projects underway and click on the Support link for that project.
People give support if they believe the project is a worthwhile effort that will benefit the community or a sub-section of the community. Often, they don’t expect a high return on their investment. But if one equates the value of a sponsorship in a Spinner book with an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, I think it measures up well.
Consider this: You spend $100 to list the name of your business, enterprise, political campaign, or financial institution on page 5 of, let’s say, French New Bedford, which is scheduled for publication in the Spring. We print 10,000 books, which find their way into many homes, schools, and libraries throughout the region. Each book is read by several people, particularly those that are in schools and libraries. The book remains active for years, maybe decades. (For instance, many of our early books sell for ridiculous prices on eBay, Amazon and through rare book dealers. Try finding Spinner, Vol. I or Lincoln Park Remembered.)
Now consider what you get for a $100 ad in the newspaper. Yes it reaches a lot of people, but after one day it’s in the trash. Of course there’s a need for the immediacy of this type of advertisement. But there is also benefit in supporting work that enriches the cultural wealth of the community, including education, art, and entertainment.
In this context, your $100 investment doesn’t look so bad.
In addition, because Spinner is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the sponsorship is a donation that is tax-deductible. Please view our sample donation letter to see how this directly benefits sponsors.
During our 30 years of operation, we have had the good fortune of being able to employ hundreds of freelance writers, artists and historians, enabling them to practice their craft, earn money, gain experience, and beef up their portfolios through publishing. Though our budget is small, we spend nearly all of it locally—from printing and binding, to consumable supplies and professional services.
I am particularly proud of what we have accomplished in education. Our oral history curriculum, History Spoken Here, touched hundreds of young students, brought history to a personal level, and enabled the students to make major contributions to the community’s cultural wealth. We are now reviving this project and I have high hopes that it will continue to impact education and community history.
The story of Bom Dia!, our Portuguese language curriculum covering grades 7-12, is another fine achievement. The idea for Spinner to get involved in textbook publishing stems from the pursuit by area language departments to find a publishing company willing to provide modern Portuguese language teaching materials. For years, teachers had been without sufficient materials, often using Spanish language materials converted manually and printed on copy machines. When materials did become available, they typically did not meet the needs of the students or adhere to state and national Frameworks Standards. Most Portuguese teachers have struggled for years to create and recreate timely informative, appropriate and accurate worksheets, tests and materials to enhance the students’ learning, and to motivate the student to continue with studies in Portuguese. The lack of up-to-date curriculum materials contributes to the high dropout rate among students with an initial interest in Portuguese.
With lots of effort and sacrifice, and with much-needed public and private support, we have been able to complete one full curriculum (Level 1), and have nearly completed Level 2. Bom Dia! has paid off. To date, it has been our bestseller, providing schools throughout New England and across North America with high-quality, contemporary Portuguese language teaching materials.