“Relentlessness” paid off for furniture maker Peter Korn, founder and executive director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine, and author of Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, published by David R. Godine, Publisher just before Thanksgiving. That’s the adjective that David Godine uses to describe how he came to publish the book. “I give him credit for his persistence,” said Godine, who doesn’t typically publish personal, illustrated books. But Korn wore him down with his follow up after submitting the manuscript over the transom. The resulting book, which combines Korn’s memoir with his thoughts on the creative process, has been “an eye-opener” for Godine in terms of risk taking. The press has already sold out of its first printing of 4,000 copies; a second printing of 5,000 copies is due this week.
“Peter Korn has taken us all by storm,” commented publicist Sue Ramin on the book’s sales velocity. “Peter came to us with the proposal. I think it struck a chord in this era when everything’s mass produced. It’s not just woodworkers who are interested.” The book, too, was designed to appeal to a broader audience than typical Godine customers. It has a clear white cover with woodworking tools and red lettering that matches the red cloth cover. There’s also a 16-page glossy insert with color photos, many of Korn’s furniture.
Why We Make Things and Why It Matters got a boost late last year when the New York Times ran a q-and-a with Korn in the Home & Garden section. The book got an additional push from a national tour, which he is in the midst of, that is taking him from Maine to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Bellevue, Wash. He will speak at a number craft museums, as well as art museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. But even before the campaign got launched some booksellers found that customers were drawn to the book and to the idea of creative practice. John Netzer, general manager and buyer at Concord Bookshop in Concord, Mass called it “the surprise hit of the holidays.”
That’s not to say that Korn is a stranger to strong book sales. His bestselling book, Woodworking Basics (Taunton Press), has sold more than 60,0000 copies and continues to sell 6,000 copies a year. In 2013, it was translated into Chinese and Korean. It, like the other books that he has written prior to Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, is a how-to, which may account for part of Korn’s difficulty in finding a publisher for his new book, which is more of a philosophical/personal treatise. “I had any number of agents who thought it was good book,” said Korn, adding that they all turned him down. “They said that they wouldn’t know what shelf to put it on at Barnes & Noble. It fell between two stools. What I hope is that now instead of falling between two stools, I have encompassed two stools.”
As for Barnes & Noble, after originally passing, as the agents had predicted, it is now stocking Why We Make Things and Why It Matters. On Amazon it is in the top 20 in both philosophy/ aesthetics and woodworking projects.