The Company You Keep – Lost Art Press

Our biggest project yet: the Anthe building.

If this were corporate America, I would have been fired either today or on the Tuesday after Christmas (let him have a nice holiday with his family before we can him).

Lost Art Press shrank about 6 percent in 2023 across the board – that’s sales, revenue, numbers of orders and visitors to our website. So far this year, we’ve shipped out 43,341 books, tools, posters and T-shirts directly to woodworkers (I don’t yet have the numbers for what we shipped to our wholesale customers). That’s about 6 percent down from last year.

In corporate media, shrinking is unacceptable. You have to grow top-line revenue every year and maintain your profit margin – or increase it. Sometimes the goal that was handed down was to grow by 5 or 10 percent during a year, without additional expenses.

Why did we shrink? Because we grew in other ways. We bought a building so we could bring our fulfillment operations back in-house – where they belong. Megan, John and I stuffed a lot of boxes this year and attended a lot of construction-site meetings when we could have been making books or videos. 

We also grew as an organization. We added two employees – Mark and Gabe – who run the fulfillment side of our operation. All our employees have company-sponsored health insurance (even though we aren’t required to offer it because of our company’s small size). And everyone started the job with vacation days in the bank.

How we judge success is – thankfully – different than in corporate media. Here’s how I evaluate our year:

  1. Are we eating, paying our bills on time and enjoying what we do?
  2. Do we have enough money in the bank so we can make good books, tools and the like?
  3. What are customers complaining about? Are we getting more or fewer complaints than last year?
  4. Are our authors happy with the royalties on their book(s)?
  5. Do we have enough challenging projects ahead to keep life interesting?
  6. Would I rather push a broom at Costco?

By these measures, Lost Art Press had a good year. To be sure, we had some flubs along the way. Both Megan and I failed to get our primary book projects to press. Both “The American Peasant” and “Dutch Tool Chests” were supposed to be out this year. Not to mention Vol. 2 of “The Stick Chair Journal.”

All three projects are entering the third trimester. We should begin pushing any time now. 

So what’s ahead for next year?

  1. We hope the Anthe building will be stabilized and fully operational by the end of January.
  2. Matt Cianci’s book “Set & File” will be out in February. 
  3. “The American Peasant” will be out in March.
  4. Other projects will follow: “Dutch Tool Chests,” “Stick Chair Journal,” a new book from Jim Tolpin and Geo. Walker, and full-length videos on building the Anarchist’s Workbench and my Hobbit-inspired stick chair.
  5. I’ll start working on my next book (it’s a pocket book on finishing à la “Sharpen This”).
  6. We also hope to release our claw hammer, plus a couple canvas accessories for your tool chest.

Will we be able to do all that? I hope so. But if we don’t, no one’s getting fired.

— Christopher Schwarz

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