Frequently Asked Questions

The publishing house Media Vaca will be 15 years old in November 2013. During this time we have published an average of three titles per year and the 50th book in our catalogue has just come out. Despite the fact that the last paper catalogue was published in 2006, and we have not had commercial distribution since 2008, through our website we receive a small but constant number of orders from bookshops (and, to a lesser extent, from private individuals), which makes it possible for the publishing house to continue to exist. Although to say exist is perhaps an exaggeration, considering the precarious and somewhat supernatural life of these products.

The words that follow are to address, above all, the people who at some point have shared with us their CVs, portfolios, or information about their projects, and to whom we may have not answered as we would have liked, or have not answered at all.

Although we are a very small publishing house, we receive a considerable volume of communications, more than we can cope with, which causes us a great deal of uneasiness: letters received by post orbit permanently around the work desk; emails, except those of indiscriminate advertising, are marked in red and await their turn to be answered. In the meantime, we carefully file them in individual folders and place them in one of the following groups: a) Illustrators (plus a few painters and photographers); b) Storytellers (that is, all writers); c) Layout Designers; d) Translators; e) Proofreaders; f) Readers; g) Journalists; h) Literary agencies; i) Librarians and Teachers; j) Students; k) Bookstores; l) Documentalists; m) People who ask for free books; n) People who collect bookmarks; o) Others. (Note: all graduates of Psychology, Pedagogy, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Education, etc. have ended up in the Documentalists folder; they would have perhaps had a specific mission to fulfil in other publishers dedicated to children's books, but here we have not known where to accommodate them.)

The writer Augusto Monterroso once said that when he received a letter he liked, instead of replying by post, he answered it by showing up to the sender’s house to begin a long conversation. This is also the way we like to answer letters, but, for whatever reason, we have never found the time. At best, we have managed to answer some of the most frequently asked questions by our interlocutors and have come up with the following plan: we will upload this open letter to our website and send a message to all those who have ever written to us. Thus, in one click we will correct this already unbearable delay in correspondence in one day. In the worst-case scenario, it will automatically start a new fifteen-year cycle. It seems like we will solve everything with the push of a button, but nothing is ever so simple: the folder dedicated to illustrators (plus a few painters and photographers) already contains 1,536 names. We are aware that not all messages will reach their recipients, but we are optimistic: there have been times when a message logged in a bottle has reached its destination.

1. In response to those who collect bookmarks.

In the past, when we had paper catalogues available, we used to print cards with texts about children's books and reading, illustrated with the logo of the girl with the fly and the ant in the unique versions of different illustrators. They were not exactly bookmarks, but they could serve that purpose (which raises the question whether collectors even use bookmarks to mark pages). In any case, we are sorry, the answer is negative: we do not have bookmarks and we do not plan to produce them for now.

2. In response to those asking for free books.

We would like for those who write to us to bear in mind that, unlike other publishers, our books have quite high manufacturing costs and we have never discontinued any titles and do not intend to do so. Since our production is not overwhelming (three books a year), we do not need to empty our warehouse periodically as other publishers seem to do. However, if the request comes from a school or a library, we can arrange the shipment of courtesy books provided that: a) the applicant takes the time to look through the catalogue of books and asks for specific titles (logically, those that will be of most interest to the readers of their centre); and b) the applicant makes the shipping arrangements and pays the costs of the courier (which, in relation to the price of the books, represent a smaller amount and are easier to bear).

3. In response to students who wish to do an internship with the publishing house.

On several occasions we have made an effort to welcome students who were interested in doing an internship with the publishing house (greetings, Sandra, Laura, Stella, Carolina), but we are a team of two and we work from home. We do not have the adequate space, nor do we have fixed schedules or the time necessary to dedicate to internships, which require a minimum of conditions to be effective and pleasant. At present, we have no choice but to decline these requests because we cannot make such an important commitment.

4. In response to bookstores and libraries.

When we launched this website in its current format, we wanted to address first and foremost the authors who sent us their projects and the booksellers and librarians (mostly women) who enquired about how to get copies of our books. That article can still be consulted through the following link. From the beginning, and for quite some time, the publisher sold its books regularly through different distributors, but at one point we had to cancel it. This was not due to a single reason, but several of them. The most painful experience was with a distributing company that, after a useful reading of Harry Houdini's How to Do Evil Well, managed to make the twenty thousand euros in books that were entrusted to it disappear into thin air without leaving the slightest trace. Nowadays, we distribute the books ourselves, with the limitations that this implies: we cannot manage deposits and we cannot attend to a service of novelties to which many bookshops and libraries are accustomed. To compensate for this, we accept any book order (no minimum required) and ship by courier 24 hours a day, free of charge. The query about the availability of a certain title, published one or two years ago, is also a frequently asked question. The answer is invariably the same: it is a priority for us to keep the catalogue alive and ensure that there are copies of all its titles, so we usually reprint those which are running low on stock. The sale is sometimes so slow that we still sell books published fifteen years ago with the original price intact.

5. In response to illustrators and writers (and the agencies that represent them).

The most frequent question asked by illustrators is whether we accept original works or samples for evaluation. Some do not ask and directly send us large and excessively heavy files (which would be the equivalent to leaving a menhir as a business card). To some, we publish this link as one of the oldest news in the section of the website named ‘Miscellany’; to others, the following explanation, which we have only had few occasions to offer before, will be of interest: right now our efforts are focused on completing a series of projects we have been dragging along for some time, they are already very developed and should be finished promptly so we can give our attention to something else. Until then, we will not be able to embark on new projects. Therefore, we ask the illustrators and writers who contact us to be a little patient; we also ask them to be a little curious, and to research and get to know better this publishing house, which dedicates several years to the making of a book. One could deduce from the sheer amount of messages received, that few people have held a Media Vaca book in their hands, and many of those who have heard the name owe their knowledge to having seen the occasional image on the Internet. It is difficult to explain the books we make to those who have not seen them. Of course, nothing is impossible, but books and explanations are different things. To conclude, let's say that most of our books are our own projects and that, in general, they are not what we consider illustrated albums. Illustrators and writers who wish to publish a book of these characteristics should preferably contact other publishers.

6. In response to translators, layout designers, proofreaders, documentalists.

We appreciate those who send us their CVs, but for the moment, we are not going to expand our team, which consists of only two people supported by a small number of collaborators. On several occasions we have regretted not being a large company in order to provide employment to some very competent people who have shown a real interest in our work and have even paid us a visit.

7. In response to journalists.

We are grateful for the attention that some journalists give us. We do not have the capacity to invest money in advertising (we have never done so), but we are always willing to send reading copies and image files and to answer questionnaires or interviews to those who request them. More than promoting our books through reviews (which is also great), we find it particularly rewarding to find interlocutors with whom we can talk about published books, their authors, working with images, the publishing trade, or about the subjects of the books, which are not always about the academic world, the world of fairies, or the world of dinosaurs, but about human rights, child labour, the disaster of war, or money. The only question we have never answered is "where does the name Media Vaca come from”, and it should be noted that this is by far the most frequently asked question. We have never given much importance to the matter of the name, so our answers have always sounded evasive and sometimes a little crude. However, since we are answering all the outstanding questions, and taking advantage of the fact that we are addressing a wide audience, we will finally answer that question. Why is the publishing house called Media Vaca? It is a long story that goes back to the autumn of 1991. Begoña and I lived in Madrid at the time and every so often we would meet with our friends from Zaragoza, Antonio Fernández Molina and Josefa Echeverría. One day, we were eating at the restaurant El Lac... Can you believe it! I have run out of ink! Could I borrow a pen? Thank you, ma’am! Oh, this one does not work either! Gee, how unfortunate!

Vicente Ferrer Azcoiti

[Drawing by Mireia made during the exhibition 'Media Vaca: The Secret Life of Books', which took place at the Rector Peset Hall of Residence in Valencia, 2003].