If Minnesota’s state government shutdown, going into its second week, lasts much longer, there will be serious consequences for the Minnesota Historical Society Press, housed at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Even though MHS Press employees are not officially employed by the state and the press receives less than 20% of its $1 million operating budget from state funds, its parent institution, the Minnesota Historical Society, receives half of its funding from the state; thus, like MHS, MHS Press was ordered to cease daily operations indefinitely as of July 1. MHS’ operations and other “core, non-essential” government services will remain shut down until a budget for the fiscal year 2012 is agreed upon by Democratic governor Mark Dayton and Republican state legislators.
Sixteen MHS Press staffers, interns, and volunteers are affected by the press’s shutdown, including eight full-time employees, who are not allowed to enter their offices, and cannot edit, design, print, or promote any books or the press’s regional journal until the state government resumes operations. They also can’t confer with authors on either current or future projects. According to Pamela McClanahan, MHS Press’s director, two fall books are ready to go to the printer now, and four are scheduled to go to the printer soon after July 15. McClanahan explained that the press anticipated the possibility of a shutdown, and planned accordingly.
“We essentially squeezed a summer’s worth of work into one month, and are in very good shape for our fall books,” she wrote to PW from her personal e-mail account.
But, if the shutdown extends through the rest of July, one of its fall releases will have to be postponed: The 1968 Project: A Nation Coming of Age by Brad Zellar (a former PW correspondent). The October release from MHSP/Borealis Books is a companion volume to MHS’s traveling exhibit of oral histories, images, sounds, and objects pertaining to that watershed year. The exhibit is scheduled to open in St. Paul on October 14.
“These first two weeks in July are critical for collecting photos from our partner host museums, and shooting artifacts in our own MHS lab,” McClanahan wrote about the production of The 1968 Project, a 240-page trade paperback. “We also are missing valuable collaborative time with Zellar.”
Even though only that one fall release may have to be postponed, the longer the shutdown continues, the worse it will be for MHS Press’ bottom line. McClanahan disclosed that 45% of MHS Press’ total revenues each year come from sales of frontlist titles. Last year’s total revenues from non-state funds – including earned revenues, grants, and partnership funds – came to about $1.2 million.
“If our books slip even a month in the fall, our best-selling season, our bottom line will suffer. And by pushing pub dates of new titles closer together, which might happen, the harder it will be to set up author events and garner publicity,” she wrote.
But, McClanahan points out, the situation could be much worse. Because MHS Press’s print distribution and e-book commerce is done offsite and does not require daily supervision by MHS Press staff, the press is allowed to sell books through those vendors during the shutdown. The press’s field trade reps, who also are not on staff, are allowed to sell books, for the same reason.
“If we hadn’t been able to sell books,” McClanahan noted, “We would have lost an estimated $80,000.”