Atelier 9¾A - Z
- Germany, Darmstadt
- Contact Persons / Persons Involved:
- Cai Schmitz-Weicht (Writer), Ka Schmitz (Illustrator)
- Main Language Published:
- German, English
Cai Schmitz-Weicht and Ka Schmitz hadn’t planned to found a publishing house. But when their eldest child began day nursery in 2010, they were the only rainbow child for miles around. At some point a teacher asked whether the parents could perhaps recommend a picture book on the subject. They could not. Not even after extensive research. The writer and illustrator therefore set their sights on a book of their own and in only a few sleepless nights produced Hello, And So Who Are You?—a bedtime story that neither explains nor justifies but simply tells the tale of a kitten and its mummy and mamma. The book proved popular with other kids too, so it seemed a pity to leave it in a drawer. The authors printed the first 40 copies in a copyshop then followed up soon after with another small book project: and so Atelier 9 ¾ was born—the name, a homage to the platforms, books, and spaces that do exist despite everything that seems to stand in their way. Only gradually did the couple come to see themselves as publishers. From the website, to sales, to shipping—they take care of everything. The lack of funds for large editions, classy prints, and marketing limits their scope; and time, too, is short for this labor of love. Nonetheless, the story of the little kitten has been ordered over 500 times already—which the authors behind this bootstrap publishing venture see as a great success. Now they are impatient to take several rough drafts out the drawer and move on to the final artwork. Reactions to their books have varied a lot, they say. Many readers appreciate the simple language and uncomplicated approach. But hate mails from right-wing circles also continue to arrive. In particular the book about trans*parenthood is repeatedly met with deep hostility.
- Content Focus:
To date, Atelier 9 ¾ has published solely works it produced in-house, namely children’s books and comics. Diverse forms of family and gender are currently the focus, but that may yet change. The authors’ current project does touch on these themes but is taking a somewhat different direction. All the books are meant to be fun and to open up space for issues dear to the authors’ hearts—and to begin to fill the yawning gaps in the present picture book market.
- Organization and Decision-making Process:
The publisher—which is to say, Ka Schmitz and Cai Schmitz-Weicht—sometimes cooperates with other individuals or publishers. Its work is done in the same office the duo use for their (freelance) day jobs; and since the latter take priority, meetings for Atelier 9 ¾ business tend to be sporadic and on the hoof. This at least keeps decision-making brief: whatever the couple is currently into the most gets done. Sales and marketing are done primarily through the 9 ¾ website. A few bookstores or Internet sites with an LSBTIQ* focus also stock the books.
- Financing and Support:
The authors themselves cover the costs of printing and materials, and recoup the outlay in the long term through direct sales. However, sales do not cover more than a fraction of the working hours invested in writing, illustrating, and shipping. Support comes mainly from friends who praise the books, from bloggers who review them, and from those networks and events, Queeres Verlegen for example, which take an interest. The Atelier’s book »Esst ihr Gras oder Raupen« [Do you Eat Grass or Caterpillars?], which the Austrian Hil-Foundation funded, was brought out by a bigger publisher so that it would reach a wider audience.
- Conditions and Political Situation:
Atelier 9 ¾ publishes solely the books it produces in-house and, since it fails to bring in money enough for rent and electricity, is a hobby project, in a sense. The founder-makers therefore have a lot of freedom—but little time for their publishing work owing to family and day job commitments. Networking, marketing, shipping, and knowledge transfer therefore happen only slowly, step by step.