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Reedy Press refocuses as it reprints books lost in warehouse fire

Kae M. Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

The owners of Reedy Press are fighting to recover from a Nov. 15 fire that gutted the warehouse containing all the publisher’s printed books.

An estimated 200,000 books burned, nearly all the unsold copies. The publisher is coordinating with dozens of authors to reprint the books.

“The misery of this — if you want to go that far — is having to do everything over again,” Co-owner and Publisher Josh Stevens said. “I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a more permanent warehouse, buying warehouse equipment that I already bought once upon a time. I joke to people that it’s like groundhog day.”

The fire couldn’t have come at a busier time, as people buy books for the holidays. But it gives Reedy Press some opportunity to take stock of its business and rethink the contents of the books it will reprint. Stevens is considering updating older books that have become outdated or inaccurate.

“Those books were popular at one time, resonated with people, and we can offer them with some new value and new interest,” he said. Some guidebooks will get new and updated content, and some histories will get updates.

Here's the latest on the reprinting efforts:

Reedy Press' recent progress on reprinting.
Credit Kae M. Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio; Icon made by SimpleIcon from flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY
Reedy Press is reprinting books while keeping the 2018 schedule for new releases.

Stevens also is considering expanding the company’s multimedia work — exploring video and documentary companion pieces and better helping authors promote their work.

Reedy Press was partially insured, Stevens said, adding that he’s not sure exactly how much the lost books were worth, given the fluctuations in production cost and retail value.

The day after the fire, the Reedy Press team met and started planning.

“We’re all on a mission,” Production Manager Barbara Northcott said. “We each knew our job and our plan of attack.”

They decided that Northcott would coordinate with the authors to make any updates to the print copies. Stevens would select which books needed to be reprinted, and in what order. The company will stagger its already-planned 2018 releases with reprints. Reedy Press had scheduled 40 new releases for the year, but with reprints, there will be considerably more titles.

“We basically have this long assembly line,” Stevens said.. “I think it’ll go well into next year.”

Northcott said that the process is going about as well as could be expected, especially with the help of the printers. “At Reedy Press,” she said, “it’s business as usual. Just a little bit busier.”

An event at Blueberry Hill last week celebrated the reboot and raised money towards educational materials to help authors.

On Saturday, several authors gathered at Anheuser-Busch’s main tour center to sign books that escaped the flames thanks to pre-orders. But they are being reprinted to meet expected demand. The company is storing books in a temporary warehouse space offered by Missouri Botanical Garden.

But Reedy Press still has a lot of work to do; the exact reprinting plan isn’t set, yet. 

Credit Kae M. Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio; Icon made by SimpleIcon from flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY
There's no way to know for sure how much a print run will cost. Reprinting requires additional labor that doesn't factor into the overall print cost. “You’re not pressing a button,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he’s focusing on reprinting the newest releases first.

“Those titles never really had their day in the sun because of the fire,” he said.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.