Organization Name: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP)
Executive Director Name: Jason Pettus
Year Established: 2007
Contact Information: http://www.cclapcenter.com/
Product/Service: CURRENT: Electronic books, hand-crafted paper books, performance events, reviews and critical essays, social events, manuscript editing services, and an interview-based podcast. COMING: Classes and workshops, merchandise, eventual brick-and-mortar location.
Unique Features/Competitive Advantage: Nonprofit-oriented but with an underlying commercial business structure, CCLaP works much more directly with its fans and members than traditional non-profits do to determine not only the center’s agenda but which types of artists to most heavily feature; and by generating its revenue through commercial products and services instead of nonprofit grants, the center is free of influence from pressure campaigns by conservative watchdog groups, allowing it to fulfill its mission of supporting edgy and independent artists much more fully.
By currently being a mostly electronic organization with only one paid employee, both overhead and production costs are nearly zero, allowing the center to try such press-friendly experiments as “pay what you want” electronic books and a Twitter-based story series, ironically generating a bigger audience than normal and a healthy financial profit, despite only 25 percent of the books’ readers being paying ones.
Biggest lesson learned in the last year: That success in the small-business world doesn’t gradually rise like a curving line on a graph, but rather in random starts and fits, which also doubles as “most surprising lesson learned in the last year.”
Many times we can toil on a project for months without even the least external sign of success or recognition, the very reason that so many non-business people call entrepreneurs hopeless dreamers when times are tough; what I’ve come to learn is that these might very well be the times when you’re creating the long-term respect in the backs of the minds of random strangers who will eventually bring a big boost to your organization, like a high-profile journalist or venture capitalist, and that it’s this quiet time of simply getting the work done that precisely creates this long-term respect in the first place.
It’s why overcoming self-doubt is such a hidden but important aspect of being a small-business owner.
Best advice for someone starting out: Dream big at first, and get a good mental picture of what you see your business looking like when running at full steam; then cut that dream down to a tenth of its former size, and first try getting that running smoothly before attempting anything else. As I’ve learned the hard way, by announcing small goals and then doing a little better than promised, you will gain an immense amount of respect and loyalty from your customers, no matter how modest those goals are; but by announcing an impressive goal and then not quite reaching it, you will garner almost nothing but ridicule.
Newest Project: CCLaP’s newest original book is a “micro-story” collection called Salt Creek Anthology. Written by local author Jason Fisk, it consists of 75 tiny little interconnected stories concerning four sorta trashy families who all live on the same cul-de-sac in a far rural suburb of Chicago.
Not only content but also the form of this book is remarkable: it’s being released in what’s called a “hyperfiction” style! On top of being able to just read the book normally from beginning to ending in a row, there are also literal hyperlinks embedded within the text of each story as well, with the phrases that are linked giving you a little clue to the subject of the story that comes next.
This is also the first book in CCLaP’s history to be available in a special handmade paper edition right from the very first day as well, title number two in the center’s new “Hypermodern Editions” series this summer, special high-quality physical editions of all our electronic books, designed for collectors but reasonably priced.
Click on the Salt Creek Anthology page to download the electronic copy, order a copy in print version, or check out additional supplemental and promotional materials for this release!
Past activities: Recent video podcasts in the “CCLaP After Dark” series include the latest edition of “QUICKIES!,” a popular monthly reading held at Wicker Park’s Innertown Pub, in which a large group of performers each get exactly four minutes on stage; and an all-comedy edition of “Literary Death Match,” a global phenomenon started by Todd Zuniga which is now held in over thirty cities across the planet.
For information on the latest CCLaP events, check out: http://www.cclapcenter.com/events/