A client approached me in 2022 with a box of novels under their arm. The books were her mother’s, who, back in the 1980s, had written several detective novels under the name Teona Tone. They were long ago published, brittle, and printed on eggshell paper.
Their family had always been a part of the horse and ranch world, as well as founding members of the Santa Ynez Valley Hounds, a local hunt club in the wine country of California.
Hunt clubs are organizations based in tradition and formality: red jackets, hounds, the (now ceremonial) fox hunts—a societies’ society, where wealthy and influential individuals gather. 2023 was this club’s 50th year celebration, and the client wanted to celebrate by re-releasing a small batch print edition of Full Cry, one of Teona’s books, for the holiday ball and banquet.
Polyverse Publications went to work. First there was the digitization of the novel, which required special equipment and software. My team was able to handle this, though we warned the client that this would destroy the book. And when we saw the thin paper, we actually asked if she had more than one that we could use, in case of an “incident” while feeding the pages through the scanner. Luckily, the answer was yes. And though I hate to destroy any book, we moved forward.
I got the call form my team the following day: It was a success! They delivered back to me the original book, though now spineless, otherwise in perfect condition. (We still have it on our shelf.) And we didn’t need to sacrifice any additional copies.
Differentiating a Special Edition
When taking on a small batch special edition request such as this one, the goal is to differentiate the special edition enough so that when the regular edition hits the shelf, those who financed and purchased the special edition do indeed feel special.
The old book cover had a very ’80s feel to it and needed an update, as did the book size and format overall. We suggest finding themes, goals, and concepts that fit that client or organization. In the case of Full Cry, (an old hunt club term) the solution was found in the story itself.
The book is a turn-of-the-century mystery, taking place at a hunting event in Virginia 1907. We knew the imagery had to invoke the horse and hound theme, but we also wanted to encapsulate the fashion and feel of the era. Early in the story, the main character, a detective named Kyra Keaton-McMasters, is lamenting the fact that, in California (during 1907), women could ride regularly but, in Virginia, they were still forced to ride side saddle.
We had found one important element, but we needed something to tie it back to the client organization, the Santa Ynez Valley Hounds Hunt Club. While researching their website and their online aesthetic, we found the solution. The hunt clubs’ colors were green and gold.
Our design team found an image that depicted a woman in a green dress, riding side saddle with yellow/gold gloves. To complete the effect, we added some green and gold flair to draw the eye around from the front cover to the back. The eye is pulled down by a definition of the term “Full Cry,” to the story description, (a modern update with multiple references to the original text), and, finally, to the hunt club’s own logo partially hidden next to the barcode ISBN—marking it as a special edition—and offering an elite message for the client. (This will be removed should we decide to release the book for mass market.)
Finding Creative Opportunities
As independent publishers, we relish creativity. And we have the ability to do what the main publishing houses cannot. Think outside the box. And small batch special editions can be a very fulfilling project.
If you are looking to generate income in this particular space, there are many project opportunities. Polyverse approaches museums, cultural centers, and even restaurants as we seek potential publishing projects.
A great example of a small batch special edition print is a beautiful book tied to the Santa Barbara restaurant, Barbareno. It features food, photography, and history, all themed around California, just as the restaurant is themed around high-end Californian cuisine—native plants, Hispanic heritage, Native American tradition, all included. After seeing the book in markets similar to ours, we began to approach other restaurants, asking them if they had seen that title, with the goal to produce something like it for other amazing locations. We are generating business for ourselves and passion projects for the clients, all while enjoying the process of researching of food and history. It can be a challenge to produce a high-end book, but that is what we do when we seek new markets. We seek new challenges.
Another area to consider in the small batch special edition book is the concept of a family history. Many people want to preserve their history in non-digital format. While there are many retail memoirs out in the world today, there are many influential individuals who only want to be remembered. They do not want a book for market, but rather a reflection on their career as a politician, business leader, cultural guru, or just a person. While the sales and royalties are not a factor, the initial design and willingness to work with a client and their specifications are another possibility.
Polvyerse Publications has been interested in the small batch special edition market ever since we were gifted one of the commemorative Kikkoman Soy Sauce box editions from the Noda Shoyu (today’s Kikkoman Corporation) 100th year anniversary celebration in 2017.
Only 2,000 copies had been created, and the box features a beautiful velvet texture, gold foil inlays, and a red foil top, like the bottle of a soy sauce container. It is not purchasable anywhere because it is a small batch, limited edition printing that a publisher somewhere is very proud of.