AdHouse Books, the award-winning and much admired small press run by Chris Pitzer, is closing up after 100 books published and 20 years in business. Pitzer announced the news in a blog post. Their next to last publication will be Grass of Parnassus by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, which is due in September.
Pitzer said there were many reason for ending the publisher, including his years in the business, retirement plans, and low sales via their distributor, Diamond. Pitzer acknowledged that moving to Kickstarter might have been a viable option, but “for some reason, I could never make the switch. It always felt like my putting my hand out and asking for alms. I know it’s splitting hairs, but when a publisher is supposed to bring the finances to the table, I always went old school. Hell, I took out a second mortgage… TWICE to make certain projects happen.”
Also, running a small press with tight margins isn’t conducive to finanical planning.
You all do know this is a side gig, right? I have a day job. There is no way I could afford to live on the earnings from the House of Ad. And I’m sorry… I want to travel, retire and be comfortable. Last I checked, all of that takes money. So, while it might have been nice to have AdHouse to keep me busy in my retirement years, I don’t want to bet with “House” money.
But Pitzer won’t be absent when small press show finally return:
So, here’s my plan… We have the previously mentioned GRASS that will be coming out in September. We have another Canadian surprise that will be released in October, and that will more or less wrap up AdHouse publishing. I’ve got three back-burner projects that might come to the front, but honestly, they probably won’t. We’ll take 2022 and hopefully attend any conventions we’ve always had an eye on. (Hey! If you run a show, and want to have AdHouse as a special guest, by golly, feel free to reach out! Remember when Nobrow was a Special Guest at CAKE? I still do!)
After a year of trying to move the final units, I’m imagining we’ll morph from a publisher into a dealer of sorts. I have a LOT of stuff, and it won’t sell itself. I mean, it will, but it needs a little help. So I might attend a few local conventions and try liquidating some of the collection.
AdHouse Books and Pitzer have been mainstays of what might be called “The SPX Era” of the small press, with such critical hits as Young Frances, Duncan the Wonder Dog, Afrodisiac, Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Street Angel and many more. Their output was small but extremely curated and when a new book came out from them, I knew it was something I’d want to read immediately. Pitzer has always been a wise presence on the scene as well, and an adviser to many, with an eye for talent second to none.
AdHouse is far from the only small press to shut down in recent months. Koyama Press ended in 2019, Peow Studios announced an end last month, and ShortBox is ending its subscription box service. Although the end of Koyama predates COVID-19, and Pitzer said the pandemic wasn’t a main factor, it’s hard not to see the general disruption and financial uncertainty of the world contributing to people reassessing their plans. ShortBox was directly affected by a huge rise of shipping costs and they’re not alone.
Also, just a guess, but the lack of the camaraderie and inspiration of in-person small press shows might also be a factor in lessening enthusiasm for a business that is long on sweat and short on financial returns.
No one who publishes small press comics does it for money. It’s purely a love-based business, and that goes for Pitzer as well. AdHouse will be missed, but its legacy will live on.