Alaska Litho joins First Friday art walk

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2011

The newest stop on the First Friday circuit isn’t a gallery, a cafe or a museum. It’s a business involved in the nuts and bolts of the art world: Alaska Litho, via their Seward Street satellite, Copy Express.

Alaska Litho’s first First Friday event will feature work by photographer Scott Foster and a book signing with author Roy Varni. The opening showcases two of the businesses most common services for local artists: high-quality photographic images and self-published books.

Photographer Foster was the winner of this year’s calendar contest, and his images of “Wild Alaska” will be on display at the store. Copies of the desk calendars that feature his work will be given out for free.

Varni will also be on hand to sign copies of his new book, “Piccolino: The Little Partisan,” his second self-published work. The first, “It Rains Murder Sometimes in Juneau,” was also printed through Alaska Litho and has sold more than 2,000 copies since it was published in 2006. Varni said he was asked to do a booksigning in part because of the success he’s had with his work.

“They’re not bashful about saying that my two books have started them on a new venture,” Varni said. “They want to do more of this.”

Travis McCain, sales and marketing manager at Alaska Litho, said the employee-owned business works with local authors at least once a week.

“I’m here to help these folks realize their dream.”

Self-publishing allows authors to print in small batches, making it financially feasible for them to get their work into print and cutting out the middle man. McCain said the only downside of this is that authors are forced to do their own marketing — a challenge for some, though Varni proved to be been quite good at it, he said.

The business also offers an “on demand” service for titles that they have permission to reproduce. Though this makes it possible for customers to buy a custom-bound, single copy of a book, that isn’t its primary function.

“Generally you’re not going to get (a) one book at a time order,” McCain said.

More likely, an author will use the on-demand service to print a small number of books and see how they sell — which is what Varni did with “Piccolino,” printing 100 initial copies. Or, an author will ask for several copies to use as a sales tool — John Venables took this route recently while marketing his book, “Journey to Statehood.”

The on-demand services can also be used to print books available in the public domain, such as “Gastineau Channel Memories, 1880-1959,” a book originally published in 2001 by the Pioneer Book Committee and now out of print. Also in the works at Alaska Litho: e-books.

McCain said the local business is excited about continuing to work with not only local artists, but those in the surrounding communities.

Alaska Litho’s Copy Express, located at 228 Seward St., will host a First Friday reception from 4-7 p.m. Friday. For more information, call 586-2174.

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