recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
I am a Hollow Bookmaker Introvert (making a modest living crafting books from home and selling online), please AMA

Edit: 5:23 p.m. CST USA time - I'll be back later tonight. Received a big influx of orders since this which I didn't expect, so working to get them out tomorrow. We handwrap each book on our kitchen island!

Greetings my fellow redditors!

I'm Kara, here's my proof And another proof ! :) I'm 44 and work from home handcrafting hollow books in lovely Stillwater, MN, USA. About 9 years ago I walked off my day job as a gallery guard at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and took up making books full time along with my husband.

In a nutshell:

  • I graduated art school in '98 (studied painting and drawing)
  • During college also took a fortuitous course in book arts
  • Struggled with bipolar issues and past trauma issues throughout school and afterwards
  • Liked painting kind of sort of? Unsure who I am? OK weird.
  • Feared other people seeing my work (not good when trying to make money making art)
  • Did odd jobs for 10 odd years (counting out drill bits, teaching basic papermaking, horrible stint at The Gap, horse-carriage driving, stuffing envelopes, selling luggage, a nice stint at Barnes & Noble...)

Fast-forward to my day job as gallery guard:

  1. Midnight walked off shift that was supposed to end at 11 p.m.
  2. Joyfully started full-time at home job as hollow bookmaker

Rewind to why I started making hollow books:

  • I thought of making a hollow book when daydreaming about Anne Frank hiding while I was at the museum while automatically telling people not to touch the art
  • I wanted to use my hands to make something (but feared anything that would show my emotions to the world)

-----

Too long, didn't read: Just ask me anything and I'll just tell ya!

Thanks for reading a bit!

- Kara

p.s. Since there's interest in your comments, here are the direct links to my hollow books online and IG:


81
questions
3,135
score
December 1st 2019
interview date
misatillo

Can you really live out of this or do any of you have other sources of income?

How do you get clients for this? I can understand if you have been in business you probably are kind of known by now but how did you manage to get the first clients?

How do you advertise your business? (Other than doing this AMA)


Miskatonica

Edit: Ah oops edited some of links I had clicked on to check and no longer valid.

Hi u/misatillo,

Wish I could've answered you sooner, didn't imagine so many questions.

Can you really live out of this or do any of you have other sources of income?

If my husband and I stick to a very tight budget, yes, we manage to pay our mortgage and utilities, buy groceries and cat food. We don't have kids, so the extra time and money from no kids is a help. We do about 1/3 of our business in November alone, so sometimes in the summer, my husband will take a temp job to supplement our income. We have two sites where we sell, so it helps to have both Etsy and our own site: secretsafebooks.com and secretsafebooks.etsy.com

How do you get clients for this? I can understand if you have been in business you probably are kind of known by now but how did you manage to get the first clients? How do you advertise your business? (Other than doing this AMA)

I have more time than money to spend on advertising, so I really hustle with social media/contact bloggers/do user-generated content sites like Bored Panda and yes, this AMA! A quick rundown on some past promos that are still floating around on the web:

BUZZFEED

"14 Surprising Gifts For Complete And Total Liars"

"20 Perfect Etsy Gifts For Book Lovers In Your Life"

GO FUG YOURSELF

The 2016 GFY Gift Guide

URBAN DADDY

"The Godfather Has a Secret"

CORE77

"Kara Witham's SecretSafeBooks"

THE AWESOMER

"Awesome Stuff"

JEZEBEL

"Holiday Gifts for Ryan Gosling, Idris Elba, and Other Guys You Love"

MASHABLE

"The Book Safe Every Bibliophile Should Own"

THRILLIST

"Keep Your Flask Hidden Inside Legendary Books About Boozing"

SNIPPET AND INK

"Secret Garden Wedding"

BORED PANDA

7 Years Ago I Walked Off My Day Job As A Museum Guard To Make Hollow Books For A Living

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Dr_Psycho_

Hi there! First of all, I checked your website and your works are awesome! Now, here's my question: how many hours a day do you spend working on your books? One of your comments mentions that you make up to 30 books every week. Also how many days a week do you work?


Miskatonica

Hey there, u/Dr_Psycho_ (Great username!)

Thank you, wish I could've answered sooner, didn't expect this many questions.

How many hours a day do you spend working on your books?

Typically about 6 1/2 hours per day actually cutting and gluing and finishing the books. I also do all the photographing for our websites plus promoting; my husband does some of the prep work for making the books as well as the financial and website maintenance.

How many days a week do you work?

The actual making of the books, I work typically Mon - Fri, 10 - 5:30. In the early morning, I answer emails, do social media; on weekends, I like to take product photos and IG photos. Overall it's probably more than 40 hours a week, but I really enjoy 99% of it. (Only thing I don't enjoy too much is tidying up the workshop in our converted garage; I'm afraid it looks pretty messy right now!)

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

-Milquetoast-

What tools do you use to craft the cavity so cleanly?


Miskatonica

Good afternoon, u/-Milquetoast- (a strong, non milquetoast question!), and good afternoon, u/AngryHumanoid +1,

What tools do you use to craft the cavity so cleanly?

I use a Craftsman 16" variable speed standing scroll saw (with a few mods for bookmaking). For a time, I used a DeWalt scroll saw which is a larger, much more expensive machine. (Craftsman being only around 100 USD and DeWalt like 5x that amount.) Now Craftsman is discontinued but I've bought up a bunch of them for the future.

The DeWalt is probably a great tool for lots of projects, but it kept crapping out for what I was doing with cutting through book pages. I spent hundreds getting it fixed. The Craftsman appears amateurish in looks and even dumpy with the funny mods I've done, but it works really well.

I can't give away too many specifics as there are competitors out there, but it's a process I've developed through trial and error. There's a power sander involved I can say.

Sedowicz

What was the begging stages of started your business like? Did you have trouble finding new customers on Etsy? What tips for growing on Etsy do you have?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Sedowicz,

What was the begging stages of started your business like?

I'm going to assume you mean to say beginning stages? I started with an x-acto knife in 2009 and had a very rudimentary shop on Etsy. In 2010, this feature on Etsy's homepage boosted sales and got things really rolling.

  • For the first couple years, I was doing a lot of one-off titles and buying books in person
  • I worked out of a small 2nd bedroom in our Chicago apartment, I couldn't work very late because the landlord would call and tell me to stop
  • A DeWalt scroll saw I thought would be an upgrade to a Craftsman kept crapping out and we wasted a lot of time and money getting it fixed
  • I was kind of stealing brown paper bags from the grocery store to wrap up books
  • I used bricks I found under our apartment building to weight down books that were drying
  • I worked 7 days a week because I loved it so much (now I have to take breaks on weekends, but still love it)

Did you have trouble finding new customers on Etsy?

We get lots of repeat customers because we offer incentives to returning people. And the books are popular as gifts and for weddings. Etsy's search favors us because we've been around longer than other hollow-bookmakers and we offer free shipping which also boosts Secret Safe Books in the search algorithm. So, not too much trouble. I'm trying to turn more customers to our standalone shop; because Etsy is such a popular hub, it's easy to get people there.

What tips for growing on Etsy do you have?

  1. Every week, be sure to check the Forums for Admin Announcements of new policies; the new CEO is always doing new tests and improvements, so it's important to keep up with it to be relevant in Search
  2. Keep tabs on your competition; see what is working and not working for them. Read their reviews occasionally, to get ideas for what to avoid and what to employ.
  3. Cross-promote via Instagram with other Etsy sellers who are related to your product.

I could go on...let me know if you have follow-ups or other questions.

Yoinkelise

Do you adhere the pages together, or leave them loose?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Yoinkelise,

Do you adhere the pages together, or leave them loose?

The pages are adhered to form a solid frame or sides of the book box. The inside edges that form the interior walls of the cutout are coated lightly in archival bookbinding adhesive. There's an internal support system which I can't give away the secret of. The pages, dust-jacket if included, and interior endpapers are all original and the outside page edges are uncoated and natural so that it appears as a genuine book from the outside.

Then there's a hidden embedded magnetic closure so that your treasures inside won't tumble out even if the book is upright.

Thanks for asking! Let me know if you have any follow up questions or others; I don't want to give away all my crafting secrets, but I'll do my best to answer.

SpelingMatters

Do you make the hollow part different shapes to accommodate a particular item? Also what is your favourite thing to draw?


Miskatonica

Good morning, u/SpelingMatters (English major, you?)

Do you make the hollow part different shapes to accommodate a particular item?

Yes, upon request. Because I can make only about 25 - 30 books per week:

  • I make the most popular titles with the most popular type cutouts that are all ready-to-ship
  • I take a limited amount of custom orders
  • Here is a pic of a Crime and Punishment book I made for a customer to fit her Sig P238 with extra magazine cutout

Also what is your favourite thing to draw?

Ah, favourite with a "u", not in the USA probably, eh? Not that there's anything wrong with that. My favorite thing to draw would be a self-portrait.

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

meatybacon

Do you glue each page together? Or soak the pages in some kind of adhesive? I inherited a hollow copy of arabesque when my grandfather passed away, and in elementary school I used it to smuggle Pokemon cards. Good memories!


Miskatonica

Good afternoon u/meatybacon (just had some pizza, would've been good with a bit of bacon!)

What a lovely inheritance and nice memory to your grandfather. Do you still have the cards in the book?

Do you glue each page together? Or soak the pages in some kind of adhesive?

Let's see, I'll try to answer without giving away too many secrets to competitors. I know from looking at a competitor's blog that they do soak their pages in adhesive before they do their cutting process, but my process is different. (I don't soak the pages in adhesive).

I can tell you the inside page edges that form the inner "walls" of the book box I coat in a thin layer of archival bookbinding glue. There are unseen inner supports to the walls and a hidden magnetic closure. The outside edges of the book look completely natural like a real book.

Be sure to let me know if you have any other questions, I would have answered sooner but didn't expect so many people to ask questions.

removedforcontent

Do you have a business license? If so, what were the deciding factors that led you to which type? Great job working through trauma/bipolar and doing what makes you happy! It’s a tough journey.


Miskatonica

Hi u/removedforcontent, (do many of your posts get removed for content?)

Do you have a business license?

We're a registered LLC with the state of MN, yes. My husband first filed us as an LLC in 2014, the details are public here.

If so, what were the deciding factors that led you to which type?

My husband chose (he has a business degree; I'm what you call a "free spirit"),--an LLC he tells me because if we were to say, get a business loan and couldn't pay it back or someone sued us, the most we would lose are our business assets, which would be only our scroll saw, books, etc. We wouldn't lose our house for example.

Thank you, I've found good community with r/bipolar and should post there more! Let me know if you have any follow-up questions or new questions.

Deb_Eternity

What has been the most unusual/weird thing that a customer has asked you to make a hollow book for...?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Deb_Eternity,

What has been the most unusual/weird thing that a customer has asked you to make a hollow book for...?

ha, great question, well, one (wo)man's weird is another wo(man)'s normal, so here are a handful that stand out in my mind, all in my judgement-free zone!

  • Motorcyle keys which the wife was presenting to her husband for his birthday (I'm assuming there was a new motorcyle then waiting for him somwhere?)
  • Handguns (Sig Sauer handgun stands out in my mind because she wanted a specific cutout for it in Crime and Punishment)
  • Engagement rings (one stands out as especially cute; he bought his girlfriend's favorite book and then went to a bookstore ahead of time to plant it on the shelves. Then he did something to get her to pick it out and then the surprise proposal!
  • Tampons (she frequently had guests and very little storage space except on top of her toilet)
  • Jewelry (one stands out that it was a gift for her mom who had just been burglarized and had some precious jewelry stolen)
  • Jesus toast photo (I was asked to make a cutout in The Holy Bible as a frame for a polaroid of a slice of toast that had Jesus' image on it) See here.

Feel free to ask any follow-ups or other questions, thank you!

_winterofdiscontent_

What inspired you to go into just specifically this?

Do you think about doing other things in conjunction with this, perhaps with the aim of creating a web-based business?

Are you looking at this morphing into other things as time goes on?

Do you earn enough to make an actual living doing this?


Miskatonica

Hello u/winterofdiscontent_, (ha, great username!)

I hope you don't mind my doing one-sentence answers and then I can come back; I didn't expect to get so many questions from so many redditors this fast.

What inspired you to go into just specifically this?

I had a long string of odd jobs outside the home; I love working from home and this was a way to do it, I love making things that are useful yet somewhat artful.

Do you think about doing other things in conjunction with this, perhaps with the aim of creating a web-based business?

I'm open to possibilities; I'd like to make some passive income along with making books, but right now hollow book-making and promotion takes all my time and energy.

Are you looking at this morphing into other things as time goes on?

It's quite possible; this started as a hobby which morphed into a living, so I wouldn't be surprised if it morphs into something else.

Do you earn enough to make an actual living doing this?

Yes, my husband and I make a modest living with our hollow book business:

We pay our mortgage and bills but the budget is very tight. We do probably 1/3 of our annual business in November alone. During the summer, my husband sometimes takes a temp job to supplement income.

Thanks for taking the time to ask the questions, let me know if you have any follow-ups or other ones.

hotel-california-

What gave you this idea? Were you worried about financials in the beginning?


Miskatonica

Hi u/hotel-california- (Inspired by the Eagles? I love Don Felder's riff)

Sorry didn't reply till 4 hours after your question, never expected this many redditors to look at my post.

What gave you this idea?

It's a long story, but long story short, I was working a day job as a museum gallery attendant. In between standing around saying "Please do not touch the art" I was thinking to myself that I'd like to actually get my own hands on a project. I went home and decided to make a hollow book after having thought about Anne Frank randomly that day. So I got an x-acto blade I had and a Nancy Drew book and made my first hollow book.

Were you worried about financials in the beginning?

In the very beginning of quitting my day job to make hollow books, I wasn't worried; this was because my husband was still working at his own day job which paid quite well and gave us killer health insurance. Later on when he got laid off and decided to throw his own energy and time into the hollow book business, I definitely paid more attention to the financial aspect. But at the same time, I didn't have to worry about it per se, because my husband has a business degree (I have an art degree), so he has always been more equipped to worry about finances. I mainly only think about the making side of the business.

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions. Thank you!

looktothetrees

How much money do you bring in from something like this?


Miskatonica

Hullo u/looktothetrees, (the trees outside my window are covered in a lovely layer of snow!)

How much money do you bring in from something like this?

I hope a roundabout answer will be OK, I want to plead the 5th on annual income specifics.

  • My husband and I faithfully pay our mortgage in Stillwater, MN North Hill area
  • We may or may not qualify for state-assisted healthcare
  • Black Friday truly brings us back into the black

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

thri11co11ector

What do you cut more of: gun or dildo holes?

What’s your favorite rap song?


Miskatonica

Hi u/thri11co11ector (have you done anything thri11ing lately?)

Wanted to reply to this earlier because it made me giggle, but I'm replying in order of earliest to latest best I can, taking longer than I expected.

What do you cut more of: gun or dildo holes?

I hear from gun owners and from people who give gun books as gifts. I've never heard from any customer saying they wanted or had bought a book for the purpose of hiding a dildo. I have a competitor who makes books with dildos included. Seems gross to me, but who am I to judge?

So to answer your question:

  • We have a dedicated section for gun safes here and here but we're almost sold out for this weekend. I need to make more due to this AMA
  • The gun safes we make for ready-to-ship have very strong magnets which are designed to be able to contain when held upsidedown a fully loaded Glock19 plus full magazine
  • The ready-to-ship gun safes are full size cutouts where the idea is that one can switch out a variety of gun sizes and/or keep other items as well; but I do also take custom requests for cutouts to fit the exact outline of a gun and have done them in the past, such as this one.
  • We don't have a dedicated section for dildo safes
  • The amount of book safes we've sold that were then used to contain dildos could range into the thousands, since there are thousands of customers who never told me what they were going to put inside their book safe

But I do offer custom orders upon request. (Probably not during the Holiday Season, but anyone who wants a book with a dildo-shaped cutout or gun-shaped cutout can request it for a price quote/turnaround time). [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com)

What’s your favorite rap song?

This! It's got such a great riff that's an earworm like In Da Club but the puns are even more hilarious. Sorry to real rap fans, I wouldn't know the difference between rap and hip hop or what constitutes what or diddly do. But I heard that song somewhere and I think it's rap? The kind of music I like is classic rock, some pop, some punk, a little bit of alternative rock, a tiny bit of grunge and a teeny tiny bit of metal.

One of my favorite albums of all time is this.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3iK4JU5Q3M

Let me know if you have any other questions, loved those two haha!

lbroadfield

Does it bother you to hurt the books? I wouldn’t have issues with old law books or similar, but I winced when I saw the Jefferson biography and a Terry Pratchett.


Miskatonica

Good morning from MN, u/lbroadfield

Sorry I didn't reply earlier, I never expected so many questions and I want to reply in order and give a thoughtful reply to everybody who is so kind to take the time to post a question.

Does it bother you to hurt the books?

It does bother me if for example I accidentally drop a book and crunch a corner or spill coffee on a book. And it would pain me if this happened to one of my completed Secret Safe Books that I'd taken care and attention to handcraft it for a customer.

Terry Pratchett dice tray books are very popular with DnD players and Pratchett fans, but I 100% understand how the cutting out the contents of a book would make a booklover's heart ache, especially if the author and/or subject is beloved by you. Books are not only hunks of paper and board, but deeply meaningful symbols which evoke strong emotions and memories.

Things to consider:

  • Pratchett as well as Jefferson's bio (and pretty much all of the books I craft) are available in unlimited quantities and for as long as the web and digital exist.
  • In addition to being available in digital, most of the books in my shops are beloved titles by many people and therefore continue to be printed by publishing houses
  • I wouldn't craft an irreplaceable out-of-print book, limited edition, for example I'd never cut into my personal collection of early 1900s Poe pocket editions (frankly it would just be too expensive for me and for most customers) See my Poe beauties in the lower right corner of this product photo.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or comments at all.

Edit: Just noticed several comments responding to u/lbroadfield on this topic, just want to add their usernames before I take the time to answer their questions individually later today ~ u/TheHoodedNan u/shiyal u/Stormkith u/Chained_Wanderlust u/GothWitchOfBrooklyn

Smingowashisnameo

Can we see pictures please? What are your favorite binding methods? Or a they all basically boxes? I want pictures!


Miskatonica

Hello u/Smingowashisnameo (wow, would love to know the story behind your username!)

Can we see pictures please?

Thanks for asking,--a good place to check out some pics is my IG: @secretsafebooks

And props to u/WildRoses26 and u/B_Addie for mentioning my online shops, SecretSafeBooks.Etsy.com and SecretSafeBooks.com

What are your favorite binding methods? Or a they all basically boxes?

Well, for the hollow books, they're books that are already published and bound; then I craft the cutout inside them. I did take a book arts class in art school where I learned to do a Japanese stab binding, roundback hardcover, and others. My favorite book to make was an accordion book, which I still make some minis, you can see some in A few of my mini books you can see in r/bookbinding in this post here.

Please let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

HercDriver01

Where do you get most of your books - are they new or used? Also-love your work shown on your Etsy shop! I hope you have great success!


Miskatonica

Hi u/HercDriver01,

Thank you for your well-wishes!

Where do you get most of your books?

I get most of them with my Amazon Prime account, for a few reasons:

  1. Amazon 99% of the time has the best price for new and used books
  2. They have super easy returns in case the book arrives damaged
  3. I can get some books delivered same day, this is fabulous if we get a rush order or start selling out of a book we don't have in reserve. (We simply don't have the budget to keep a lot of uncrafted stock on hand).

When I started out on my own, I was going in person to 2nd hand bookshops, which was very enjoyable but not terribly efficient. So when business started picking up, I used online ordering to:

  1. Spend more time making books (since I can only make a small amount each day)
  2. Get multiples in a consistent quality/wear/price

Are they new or used?

Most of the books are new. The Barnes & Noble leatherbound and other line they do of classics with dust-jackets are new. Most of the books that are for ring bearers are new, but some brides want a vintage look, so we do those as requests. Many of the flask books and the gun books are made from used books, because I've found that a lot of these customers want a book that blends in more like a real book that has been read and handled so it doesn't stick out as the one weird shiny book on the shelf.

Please let me know if you have any other questions! Sorry I didn't get to your question till now, I didn't expect so many responses to this post.

embodimentoffailure

How difficult is it to make a living of of this? How much do you actually work?


Miskatonica

Hi u/embodimentoffailure,

How difficult is it to make a living of of this?

It's not difficult in the sense that I love 99% of everything I do for my business, making the books, photographing them for listings on my websites, doing promotion. (The 1% I don't care for is cleaning up my workshop, I'm lazy when it comes to sweeping, dusting, and organizing). It is difficult in the sense that the income is not a 100% guaranteed thing like a salary, so my husband and I have to be prepared for times of slow sales.

How much do you actually work?

For awhile, I crafted books 7 days a week because I loved it so much. But then I found it was more productive to focus all the bookmaking work in a traditional work week, Mon - Fri. I now usually answer emails and do online promotion/social media from around 8 a.m. - 9: 45, and then make books until 5:50 p.m. If there are rush orders or I need to catch up on the crafting, I'll start earlier in the workshop. I don't spend any time with a commute since the workshop is our converted garage. I love taking photos for instagram, so I do a lot of product shoots on the weekend.

Let me know if you have any other questions, thank you so much!

GustavoShine

Minneapolis checking in. Would you be interested in sharing your work with a history of print and early manuscripts class? I teach in a local MLIS program. Shoot me a PM and we can chat. Stay safe and snug during the snow.


Miskatonica

Hi u/GustavoShine,

Glad to hear from a fellow Minnesotan, and thank you kindly for reaching out! That sounds like a fascinating class. I've just saved this comment and will follow up. I wouldn't have time until after the Holidays, but I might be able to figure something out in January or later on.

Thanks again!

Rambos_Beard

Is this sorta work sustainable for the long haul?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Rambos_Beard,

Is this sorta work sustainable for the long haul?

It's tough to look into a crystal ball to see for sure, but if I do an educated guess, I would say it is sustainable. The reason I think that is because my husband and I have been able to make a modest living at it for nine years. A lot of the books we sell are for wedding gifts, and people are always getting married. It's not super easy for someone to get into the hollow bookmaking business in a consistent and full time capacity, so we don't have a ton of competition. If a hollow book company opened up and had tons of resources to take over the market, we'd probably not be sustainable then.

Let me know if you have any other questions, thanks!

BigTdaG

Do you ever feel guilty cutting up a good book?


Miskatonica

Hi u/BigTdaG,

Do you ever feel guilty cutting up a good book?

I feel guilty not having answered your question till 5 days after you asked it. Didn't expect this many questions and I'm slow to think and decide what to say.

As far as cutting up a good book,--I don't feel guilty cutting up a good book that has unlimited quantities in digital and also is plentiful and not out-of-print in paper form. I would feel guilty cutting up an irreplaceable book, but I don't generally get my hands on many irreplaceable books because they're so darn expensive. So really, it's economics that comes into play in that I am crafting mainly popular and easily found books.

Occasionally a customer will request a more rare book, or even mail me an antique book from their own collection to carve into. I made a hollow book from an antique book with amazing fine paper that was of such quality that hundreds of years later it was beautifully fresh looking with gorgeous print quality. I kept asking the customer if they wanted the first few pages left loose and uncut (which can be done and still have the magnetic closure), but they didn't want any pages left loose, so now that I think about it, I did feel a bit bad about that one. (However the content was available online).

Let me know if you have any other questions!

PMmeifyourepooping

I work at Large Bookstore and appreciate a well-bound book. I see a lot of beautiful... Machinemanship? But it's different.

Question: how true to life are books in a standard paper making section for 'DIY book binding'?

Thanks!!


Miskatonica

Hi u/PMmeifyourepooping, (ha username!)

This is late but doing my best to answer every question thoughtfully.

I work at Large Bookstore and appreciate a well-bound book. I see a lot of beautiful... Machinemanship? But it's different. How true to life are books in a standard paper making section for 'DIY book binding'?

If you don't mind coming back to clarify, I'm not sure what you mean in your question...are you asking if I've looked at DIY bookbinding instructional manuals and if I think there's a good DIY bookbinding instruction?

Let me know!

cedreamge

What is the process of crafting these hollow books like? Could you enlighten me as to how you make those?


Miskatonica

Hi u/cedreamge,

What is the process of crafting these hollow books like? Could you enlighten me as to how you make those?

The process is one I've developed through trial and error over the years. I'm reluctant to talk about too many specifics as I do for sure have competitors who I wouldn't want to give tips to. But in a nutshell, I use a scroll saw and power sander to create the secret safe cutout and archival bookbinding glue also in the process plus embedded magnets.

i__cant__even__

This AMA is great! I enjoyed the blog article too.

When you make the cut-outs for guns, do you need to use the gun as a template? Or do you have another method for gauging the size/shape?


Miskatonica

Hi u/i__cant__even__,

Thank you! Sorry didn't reply till now, didn't expect so many questions.

When you make the cut-outs for guns, do you need to use the gun as a template? Or do you have another method for gauging the size/shape?

When I make a cutout for a gun, the customer needs to snail mail me a tracing of their gun; this is an example of one where the customer sent me a tracing. There are specs and pics online of various guns, but I always ask for the customer's exact tracing because there could be variations.

But for the gun books we have in the shop that are already crafted and ready-to-ship, those are the largest possible rounded rectangle cutout so that various guns and/or other items can fit. A lot of people buy the gun books as gifts, so they usually don't know exactly the size of the gun. (Although I remember there was a woman who was buying for her boyfriend and managed to make a tracing of it and send it to me).

Let me know if you have any other questions!

w00gle

Where do you get your books? It seems like books would be your biggest material expense in this business, so how do you find affordable, good quality books to use as raw materials?


Miskatonica

Hi u/w00gle,

Where do you get your books? It seems like books would be your biggest material expense in this business, so how do you find affordable, good quality books to use as raw materials?

I get most of the books on Amazon.com, AbeBooks.com, and eBay.com. Amazon has the easiest return policy if there's any damage to the book in transit or for a gently used book it's in poorer condition than advertised. They usually also have the best prices and with Prime I can sometimes get books same day, which is great for rush orders.

Abe sometimes has great deals on UK editions like Terry Pratchett and Tolkien. eBay is my go-to for when I need to buy a vintage book or more rare book that I want to see the condition of the actual book, because some sellers there have photos of the actual book, not just a stock photo.

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

FatherSquee

Hello, thanks for putting up this cool AMA!

I was just wondering, how do you make the gun safe ones? Like what steps are taken to ensure they're actually locked away properly in a book? As opposed to just the standard model.


Miskatonica

Hi u/FatherSquee,

Thanks for asking, sorry didn't reply till now, so many questions to get to.

I was just wondering, how do you make the gun safe ones? Like what steps are taken to ensure they're actually locked away properly in a book? As opposed to just the standard model.

The gun safes have a stronger magnetic closure than our other books so that a fully loaded Glock with extra magazine can be held upside down without falling out. There's no lock as the books are meant to look like a genuine book from the outside. The books are designed to be a place to keep a gun hidden yet handy in the same way that gun owners might keep their gun hidden yet handy in a nightstand. The safety practices are always up to the gun owner, if that means keeping the gun unloaded in the book for example.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

UncleTogie

I took a look at the ones for firearms on your website, and was wondering if you had a manner of latching them shut a little more securely?


Miskatonica

Hi u/UncleTogie,

Thanks for looking, and my apologies for not getting to your question soon, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

I took a look at the ones for firearms on your website, and was wondering if you had a manner of latching them shut a little more securely?

The gun safes have a stronger magnetic closure than our other books so that a fully loaded Glock with extra magazine can be held upside down without falling out. There's no lock as the books are meant to look like a genuine book from the outside and are designed to be a place to keep a gun hidden yet handy in the same way that gun owners might keep their gun hidden yet handy in a nightstand, not as a locked gun safe.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

OlaafderVikinger

Do you use special bookbinding glue? I used normal white all purpose stuff, figured that the bookbinding glue was essentially the same with a far bigger price tag. Does it actually make a difference?


Miskatonica

Hi u/OlaafderVikinger,

Do you use special bookbinding glue? I used normal white all purpose stuff, figured that the bookbinding glue was essentially the same with a far bigger price tag. Does it actually make a difference?

Yes, I use archival bookbinding glue which is acid free and remains flexible. This means that over time it won't yellow or get brittle and crack or flake off. I extend its drying time with a methyl cellulose mixture so I have more time to position the paper yet the glue remains strong.

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

PaperBeatsScissor

I wrote a book to propose to my wife then hollowed out a section to put the ring... it looked like crap. I applaud you and your husband on the awesomeness of this, and will probably have to get one of these just for the craftsmanship.

As I have to ask a question, how are you two doing today?


Miskatonica

Hi u/PaperBeatsScissor, (agree, if paper beats rock, why shouldn't it beat scissors?)

Sorry I didn't reply till now, been trying to answer all of the questions thoughtfully and didn't anticipate so many questions! I applaud your romantic proposal!

As I have to ask a question, how are you two doing today?

Today we're both exhausted because we've had colds, but happily exhausted because this IamA post brought us an amazing amount of sales. We sold in 2 days what we normally sell in 6 weeks!

bcjh

What’s your income yearly?


Miskatonica

Hi u/bcjh

What’s your income yearly?

It varies from year to year. On some years, it's enough for my husband and I to pay our mortgage and all the bills, on other years, my husband needs to take a temp job for a few weeks to supplement our income. We're right on the edge with health insurance. Ironically, when we make too much money to qualify for state assisted health insurance, we have less cash left at the end of the year due to paying high health insurance fees; when we're making less money and do qualify for state assisted health insurance, we have more cash.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Sorry I didn't reply till now, been trying to answer all of the questions thoughtfully and didn't anticipate so many questions!

stare_at_the_sun

Would this be easy enough to learn for a fellow introvert who may want to pursue this as a job?


Miskatonica

Hi u/stare_at_the_sun,

Sorry I didn't get to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Would this be easy enough to learn for a fellow introvert who may want to pursue this as a job?

That's tough to predict as I don't know what your existing skill set is like, but if you're tenacious, I think you could do it. I never set out to make hollow books as my full-time job, it was just something that I enjoyed and through trial and error got better at it. It does take some investment in time, materials, and tools.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

MurgleMcGurgle

How do you get such clean cuts on the interior? Are you using dye cutters? Also how do toy make the unique cutouts like for that p238?


Miskatonica

Hi u/MurgleMcGurgle,

How do you get such clean cuts on the interior? Are you using dye cutters? Also how do toy make the unique cutouts like for that p238?

I use a scroll saw and power sander in a process I've developed over the years. I don't use die cutters. The cutout for the gun outline was made with a scroll saw just like the standard full size rounded rectangles.

Let me know if you have any other questions, I should get to it sooner next time! There were so many questions, I'm just getting to some of them.

OsonoHelaio

Hey! I live nearby. Are there any local stores that carry your product, or do you ever do events like at valley booksellers? Btw, looked at your site, love the classics ones like the hobbit:-)


Miskatonica

Hi u/OsonoHelaio,

Glad to meet a neighbor! I love the Valley Bookseller and Black Letter Books, and I'd love to do some sort of even there but haven't arranged one yet. We sell exclusively online, but you can always buy online and then pick up in person upon request.

Thanks for looking at our shop! Sorry didn't reply sooner, so many questions I didn't anticipate...

HXLFrosty

Hello! Have you ever thought of making a YouTube channel? I would love to learn about this. Thanks.


Miskatonica

Hi u/HXLFrosty,

Sorry didn't reply till now, didn't expect so many questions.

Have you ever thought of making a YouTube channel?

I'd love to at some point, so far I've been more focused on making books. Your question is now lighting a fire under me to get to it in the New Year! If you want to stay tuned, this is my channel.

Thanks, let me know if you have any other questions.

zen_ao

What a good tailor-made book!

Anyway, a quick question, Do you ever get copyrighted for the book cover?


Miskatonica

Hi u/zen_ao,

Do you ever get copyrighted for the book cover?

Do you mean, is it copyright infringement? Because I'm taking an existing product and altering it, (not reprinting/copying it), it's not copyright infringement. But Lionsgate has given us a cease and desist order not to craft and sell Hunger Games books. We don't have the lawyer power to fight them, so we ceased and desisted.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

barrelbobcat428

How and where do you publish your books?


Miskatonica

Hi u/barrelbobcat428,

How and where do you publish your books?

I don't actually publish books; I take existing books and then craft them into hollow books. My shops are secretsafebooks.com and secretsafebooks.etsy.com. The shops are a bit depleted not due to the holidays, but I'm working to restock!

Let me know if you have any other questions!

GOODahl

Would you expand into making Similar items? I love Stillwater Minnesota by the way!!!!


Miskatonica

Hi u/GOODahl,

Stillwater is great, isn't it? I'm just getting to your question now because I'm trying to answer each one thoughtfully, sorry so late!

Would you expand into making Similar items?

I'm not sure what you mean, similar to what...?

EffrumScufflegrit

Did you by chance gift someone a hollowed out Breaking Bad Leaves of Grass book for a Reddit Secret Santa?


Miskatonica

Hi u/EffrumScufflegrit,

Did you by chance gift someone a hollowed out Breaking Bad Leaves of Grass book for a Reddit Secret Santa?

No, that wasn't me, but it sounds like a cool gift!

TootsNYC

How do you get the inside edges smooth?


Miskatonica

Hi u/TootsNYC,

How do you get the inside edges smooth?

It's a process I've developed through trial and error and by watching youtube videos over the years. I use a scroll saw and a power sander.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

blue_raven007

Hello, people generally associate hollow books with rich people or spies, is it really so? Oh and, what is the most weird shape you had to cut?

Also, this is genuinely one of the more interesting AMA's. Thank you for your time.


Miskatonica

Hi u/blue_raven007,

Sorry didn't get to your question until now, been trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

People generally associate hollow books with rich people or spies, is it really so?

Well, there have been customers from all walks of life if I'm to go by the addresses I send to, rich neighborhoods and not so rich. If any of my hollow books have been used by spies, no spy has told me so.

Oh and, what is the most weird shape you had to cut?

I haven't been asked to do many shapes outside of the basic rectangle, heart, circle, gun shape. Most people wish to have the largest possible rounded rectangle to fit the most things inside. There was one customer who wanted a frame inside a book for his Jesus toast photo. See here.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

lovelifelivelife

This is so cool! I want to ask about the materials you use. Where do you source them and will you be looking to make them more sustainable, e.g. Using recycled paper instead of virgin pulp?


Miskatonica

Hi u/lovelifelivelife,

I want to ask about the materials you use. Where do you source them and will you be looking to make them more sustainable, e.g. Using recycled paper instead of virgin pulp?

I use books that are already published, I don't fabricate book covers or dust-jackets (that would be against copyright laws). Most of the books I get from Amazon.com, abebooks.com, and ebay.com. I look for the best value by searching on bookfinder.com. I'm not a big enough operation to worry too much about environmental impact, I'm more concerned about keeping the print industry alive, hoping that people will continue to buy real books.

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

clever_screename

In the immortal words of G Stefani , you ARE a hollow book guuuurl ?


Miskatonica

Hi u/clever_screename,

I'm afraid your comment sailed over my head but thanks for coming to my Iama!

RedditPrat

Have you ever considered working with authors or publishers to make a hollow book that still has all its works? That is, having a book that has a compartment that can hold a trinket or other gift, but that's completely readable? (Forgive me if you already do!)


Miskatonica

Hi u/RedditPrat,

Have you ever considered working with authors or publishers to make a hollow book that still has all its works? That is, having a book that has a compartment that can hold a trinket or other gift, but that's completely readable?

I haven't, but that's a fascinating idea, I love it! One of the books that's popular I've made with a Harry Potter book where the first several pages are left uncut and readable. It's for a ring bearer book, see here.

Please forgive me for not answering your question sooner, I answered a ton the first few hours and then have come back each day to answer more, but there were so many. Let me know if you have any other questions and I should get to it sooner!

OwnbiggestFan

2 part question. Have you seen the movie "El Camino" it has hollow books in it. And do you ever get requests to make false bottom items or hollow doors or to make appliances hiding places?


Miskatonica

Hi u/OwnbiggestFan,

Sorry didn't get to your questions until now, been trying to answer each one thoughtfully!

Have you seen the movie "El Camino" it has hollow books in it.

Ooh no, I haven't but now I will for sure, thanks for letting me know, that's cool!

And do you ever get requests to make false bottom items or hollow doors or to make appliances hiding places?

No, I've only gotten requests for making various kinds of hollow books. I don't have the expertise to make those other things, at least not yet. The other day someone emailed me with a request for me to create a spot to hide a cell phone in the spine of a book and then have it stitched back up and glued in. I probably could have done that, but I'm more interested in making hollow books.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Khassar_de_Templari

Why do you even mention the mental illness, struggles with inferiority and past trauma? Do you realize how that seems to someone who goes through the same struggles as you? If you don't, it seems as if you're using pity as an advertising tool. This entire post feels so disingenuous to me it sickening.

I don't list all my mental issues and past traumas on my job applications, why is it relevant here in your advertisement?

I wish I had a husband who would work to help support me trying to make money off my niche hobby. Sounds like a good guy but I feel bad for him, what happens to him when the hallow book market crashes?

What's your backup plan? Why don't you pick up a temp/part time job as well? Wouldn't that make things easier? I mean yeah working a real job sucks but.. that's part of life. Don't you owe it to your husband to help ensure the financial stability of your future together?


Miskatonica

Good morning from MN, USA, u/Khassar_de_Templari,

First off, I wish to say I empathize with the abuse you went through that you posted in your other comment, no one deserves horrific treatment like that. At risk of coming across as patronizing, I'm sincerely sorry that you had to go through such abuse.

Now to your questions, (since this is r/IAmA) :

Why do you even mention the mental illness, struggles with inferiority and past trauma?

Having read various AMAs in this sub, I "read the room" so to speak, and I felt a human to humans vibe in the original post and subsequent interations and questions. Author Neil Gaiman even talked about his sex life. So I tried to join that vibe; my mental illness, struggles with inferiority and past trauma are just as important as my if not more so than my work history, integral parts to how I came to this sub to say: "I am a hollow bookmaker." To omit those aspects of my life felt disingenuous to me.

Do you realize how that seems to someone who goes through the same struggles as you?

I wanted to get more viewpoints on the questions you're asking here, so I made a Feedback Please post in r/entrepreneur: "My mental health issues have played a part of my entrepreneurship, but should I suppress that in talks?"

redditor u/Neither_Celery replied: I think you should leave it in, especially if you're going to talk to a class about your entrepreneurship. I've struggled a lot with mental health issues all through college too and it would have helped me so incredibly much just to hear about someone else too that had similar experiences to mine and became successful.

I don't list all my mental issues and past traumas on my job applications, why is it relevant here in your advertisement?

This isn't an advertisement nor a job application; it's an Ask Me Anything directed to redditors and not potential employers. Posting the links to my shops' About Pages are to comply with Rule #1 in r/IamA, and I posted links to my shops' homepages because several redditors asked "Where do you sell", and since this is a "Ask Me Anything", I answered.

In r/entrepreneur, redditor u/QuietKodakCavort said, (and I agree): If you want to inspire people, keep it in. [mental health history] If you want to encourage people to invest in you or hire you, take it out. It's about the image you're projecting and your end goal. A history of mental health issues can come across as a red flag to employers and investors, either fairly or unfairly. This is because mental health issues have a direct effect on most, if not all, people's productivity.

I wish I had a husband who would work to help support me trying to make money off my niche hobby. Sounds like a good guy but I feel bad for him, what happens to him when the hallow book market crashes?

If our hollow book business fails, my husband and I will cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we're focused on crafting books and selling books. Our business, Secret Safe Books, began as my hobby which blossomed into a full-time living for the two of us. My husband had a full-time salaried position at a job outside the home; when he got laid off from that, he chose to join me in working full-time at Secret Safe Books.

What's your backup plan?

If Secret Safe Books fails, then I would either go into another business for myself or work for another company. I truly believe that when one door closes, another door opens. I guess I'm just an optimist. We do have a healthy 401K savings which we don't touch as a rule, but if we were between a rock and a hard place, we have the option to dip into those savings to get us through until our income stabilized.

Why don't you pick up a temp/part time job as well? Wouldn't that make things easier? Don't you owe it to your husband to help ensure the financial stability of your future together?

My husband and I make our decisions regarding our occupation and income as a partnership and respect each other's wants and needs. If the two of us decided together than for me to go get a job outside the home made sense, I would do so. But at this time, my husband and I together decided it makes more sense for me to work at Secret Safe Books; he has chosen to take a temp job if we need to supplement our income.

Let me know if you have any follow-up questions or new questions!

Kara

Scoundrelic

Hello!

Have you ever adopted a nom de plume, travelled to a different city, and met people you could correspond?

It is a way to vent with people without risking your immediate personal relations.


Miskatonica

Hi u/Scoundrelic,

Have you ever adopted a nom de plume, travelled to a different city, and met people you could correspond?

No, I'm much more of a homebody. If I need to vent, and not with my immediate personal relations, I'll journal or talk to a therapist.

Sorry didn't get to your question until now, been trying to answer each one thoughtfully. Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll try to get to it sooner!

zeezl

Hello, cool job! I definitely empathize with the struggle around feeling unsure about sharing art due to emotional vulnerability. I read recently here on reddit that women tend to have a developmental creative sport in their 50s so maybe we'll both get over that hump in the future.

My questions are if you prefer preparing certain titles, genres or ages of books. And have you received any feedback from your clients after they have used your books for a time? Seems like the stories would be interesting!

Have a great day-


Miskatonica

Hi u/zeezl,

Wish I got to your question sooner, I never expected so many responses here!

I definitely empathize with the struggle around feeling unsure about sharing art due to emotional vulnerability. I read recently here on reddit that women tend to have a developmental creative sport in their 50s so maybe we'll both get over that hump in the future.

Glad to know I'm not alone in this and that I have something to look forward to in my 50s!

My questions are if you prefer preparing certain titles, genres or ages of books.

Hmm I'd never considered if I have a favorite. Now that I think about it, I do love to do the heart shaped cutouts, there's something very satisfying and challenging about carving out a perfectly symmetrical heart. And then with the heart books I tend to get the most feedback because they're used for the special occasions of weddings and proposals.

And have you received any feedback from your clients after they have used your books for a time?

Yes, I've heard from repeat customers who have put one of our hollow books to everyday use as a hiding spot for valuables or that their giftee still enjoys the book. (Lucky for them I'm not into burglarizing houses haha). These customers have been happy with the book enough to purchase another one. I haven't heard from customers who email just to give long-term feedback without being interested in another book.

What kind of art do you do if you don't mind my asking? And let me know if you have any further questions, thank you so much!

Epic2112

What do you do with the paper that you’ve removed from the books? Does it just get tossed? I’m wondering if there’s maybe a related business where you could recycle it into new sheets and sell hand made/hand bound journals or something.


Miskatonica

Hi u/Epic2112,

What do you do with the paper that you’ve removed from the books? Does it just get tossed?

Ooh I would love to make it into my own recycled journal paper. I know some rudimentary papermaking from when I worked at Paper Source (before Paper Source became less an art paper store and more a gift shop; they even sell plush animals now!?)

I've made some miniature accordion books as a side project and have used some of the text from cutout pages pasted on the covers. And I've made some paper roses from the innards which I've used in photo shoots for my book safes, you can see the paper roses in my Secret Garden book safe here. A few of my mini books you can see in this r/bookbinding post here.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

drowsycosmos

What would you say was the most beneficial social media platform to boost your business? How long was it until you could do this as a full time job? (I read that your husband sometimes takes temp jobs in the summer, would you say you're close to being completely sustainable off of your books alone?)


Miskatonica

Hi u/drowsycosmos

What would you say was the most beneficial social media platform to boost your business?

If reddit qualifies for the social media definition, I would say reddit. It lets me talk right to a huge variety of people around the world, and fast. Plus on reddit I can get brutally honest feedback about my work which has improved my work, such as when I posted on r/magicTCG to ask hardcore players to give feedback on my deck box book.

Next would be Instagram, not so much because I have lots of followers who become customers, but more because the photos have attracted bloggers for example who in turn promote my work.

How long was it until you could do this as a full time job?

I sold my first hollow book on my Etsy shop in 2009. At that time when we lived in an apartment in Chicago, and my husband had a full-time day job outside the home. His salary was enough to support the two of us without me working at all. But I chose to work so we could live a little bit more comfortably. So when I walked off my day job in the summer of 2010, I didn't have to worry about being the sole breadwinner.

Then later on in 2010, Etsy featured me on their homepage which sold out my shop. After that, I actually could have been the sole breadwinner. (Albeit it there wouldn't be much bread left over at the end of the month). In 2011 I think it was that my husband got laid off from his job with a very good severance package. He helped streamline productivity and finances in Secret Safe Books and so business picked up even more.

So, after about 2 or 3 years it was successful enough for the two of us to make a living at it, (with a tight budget).

I read that your husband sometimes takes temp jobs in the summer, would you say you're close to being completely sustainable off of your books alone?

Back in our Chicago apartment with no car, we were completely sustainable off our books alone. Then we decided to move back near family here in MN about 6 years ago. We were good for several years until there was a string of expensive stuff (which would never be issues in Chicago) we're still paying off. (Pipe burst underneath driveway, electrical fire in workshop, car broke down, next car broke down, yadayadayada).

It varies year to year for enough sales. The ironic thing is that when our sales are high enough to support us and we don't qualify for assisted healthcare, we have less money due to what we then need to spend on healthcare; then when sales lag, we do qualify for assisted healthcare and have more money.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

unsupervisedviking

What's the general process for making these? Is it hard to find some of the custom order books?


Miskatonica

Hi u/unsupervisedviking,

What's the general process for making these?

Well, I try not to give away all my secrets about making them. I learned from watching scroll saw youtube videos and crafting blog tutorials for some parts. I started out before it became a business and was just a hobby,--using just an x-acto knife. Later on I started using a scroll saw. There's a particular way the book edges that form the cavity have invisible reinforcement, I use a power sander and archival bookbinding glue is involved as well.

Is it hard to find some of the custom order books?

In the beginning, I would get a custom order for say a "book about baseball", and then I would spend time sending 10, 20, 25 emails back and forth with the customer to decide on which book. This was taking up too much time, so I decided to make the policy that the customer must give us a link to the specific title and edition to the book they desire. Then from there, I try to find the best deal on the book that I can order in the time frame the customer needs. We've stopped for the most part of accepting books bought by the customer and then shipped to us, because if the book is damaged in transit or the wrong book is sent, it's a rigamarole to get it sorted.

Ha, so the short answer to that question is it hard to find custom order books? No :)

herr0kitty

Hi! Not sure if you’ll see this but I’ve been following your Etsy for a while now (at least five years, but possibly more?). I love how interactive you were with this AMA and that you actually paid attention to the details of people’s comments! It’s amazing to see how passionate you are about your work; I can’t wait to order from you for myself and others. (I haven’t yet because I don’t know what book to get myself!)


Miskatonica

Hi u/herr0kitty,

Oh wonderful, thank you so much for following me on Etsy! I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully. I'm working hard to restock books, you can always make a special request. Just message me on Etsy or [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com).

Thanks again and have a lovely holiday season,

Kara

joey32940

Is there any book you would say no to cutting and therefore “ruining?” Or is anything an option if the customer provides it?


Miskatonica

Hi u/joey32940,

This answer from me is coming 5 days after your question, so I hope you're around still.

Is there any book you would say no to cutting and therefore “ruining?” Or is anything an option if the customer provides it?

Great question, I just sat and thought about it for a moment. I think I would craft most any book if the customer wishes it. The books I would feel bad about cutting into would be irreplaceable ones such as limited run First Editions/Special Editions/Out-of-Print/Rare. But those types of irreplaceable books are generally very expensive, so most customers wouldn't buy such a book to be turned into a safe, nor would I.

Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll try to answer more expeditiously.

Abdulla05

Hi there,

I have two questions for you:

  1. How do you cut out the boos?
  2. do you just cut out the pages into the shape you want or is it note complicated than that?
  3. Can the book be opened and read (from the uncut pages) or they are stuck together?

Thank you for answering, I hope you have a great day.


Miskatonica

Hi u/Abdulla05,

Sorry didn't get to your question until now, been trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

How do you cut out the books?

I use a scroll saw, it's a process I've developed over the years through trial and error. I had started out using just an x-acto knife and then learned to use a scroll saw later on.

Do you just cut out the pages into the shape you want or is it note complicated than that?

The scroll saw is pretty easy to handle in order to make all sorts of shapes such as hearts or gun shapes. There are steps leading up to the cutout such as bracing the book and drawing the template on that are more complicated, but overall it's fairly straightforward.

Can the book be opened and read (from the uncut pages) or they are stuck together?

There are some books where I leave the first few pages loose and uncut which can be read like this Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ring bearer book. The other pages that form the walls of the book box are permanently affixed and can't be read.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

MapleDayDreams

Wow. Your works are beautiful. I've tried to do this myself with modge podge and an exacto knife. It's hard. Your edges are BEAUTIFUL. This is so cool.

How did you get into this?

If I was to use a jig saw, do you think it would work or would it just destroy the pages?

I might have to order your Narnia book 🙈


Miskatonica

Hi u/MapleDayDreams,

Thank you kindly! I started out with an x-acto and bookbinding glue too! I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

How did you get into this?

About ten years ago I was working a day job as a museum gallery attendant and when I came home I wanted to do a project to unwind. I had gone to art school and then had a long string of odd jobs as I was trying to figure out what kind of artist I was. I thought it would be cool to make a hollow book and I already had the blade and glue. I remember buying a gilt-edged book to see if painting glue over the edges would change the color and doing other trial and error experiments which helped me get better.

If I was to use a jig saw, do you think it would work or would it just destroy the pages?

I couldn't tell you for sure because I've never used a jig saw. I use a scroll saw and it works fairly smoothly. I use a blade that's designed for thick wood.

Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll try to get to it sooner!

CalvinsStuffedTiger

Have you thought of doing an Ayn Rand book like Atlas Shrugged?

You could target the libertarian / doomsday prepper / cryptocurrency crowd

Not going to say which group I’m a part of buuuut , I’ll definitely Pre order that product haha

Also escape rooms would be a good target customer in a growing segment


Miskatonica

Hello u/CalvinsStuffedTiger, (cute username!)

I love your suggestion about escape rooms! I'll have to look into how to contact the people who set them up.

Have you thought of doing an Ayn Rand book like Atlas Shrugged?

I've done three Atlas Shrugged secret safe books upon request; I haven't yet made one as a regular stock in the shop but maybe I will!

Sorry I didn't get to your question earlier, there have been so many questions, trying to answer each one. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Milieunairesse

Are there any books that you refuse to hollow out?

My family and I enjoy making altered books but I feel like if I picked up "Charlotte's Web" or a Philip Pullman book, I'd better do a SUPER excellent job or it would disrespect the book. Is that absurd? I know in the end, it's only paper.


Miskatonica

Hi u/Milieunairesse,

Are there any books that you refuse to hollow out?

If a customer requests it/send the book to us, there's not any book from a customer I'd refuse to hollow out. But as far as myself picking out books to hollow out and stock the shop with, I'd not hollow out any irreplaceable books like limited editions, out-of-prints, etc. (Plus I probably wouldn't be able to afford such rare books anyhow).

My family and I enjoy making altered books but I feel like if I picked up "Charlotte's Web" or a Philip Pullman book, I'd better do a SUPER excellent job or it would disrespect the book. Is that absurd? I know in the end, it's only paper.

I love it that you make altered books! Do you have any photos you posted on reddit or elsewhere?

I 100% understand the reverence for physical books,--books are symbols of knowledge, freedom of expression, human creativity. Cutting out the "guts" of a book can seems like it's disrespecting those things. The end result thought I think is beautiful, and the good thing is, is that the books I do are still widely available in print and digital alike.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Sorry I didn't reply till now, been trying to answer all of the questions thoughtfully and didn't anticipate so many questions!

Spy_v_Spy_Freakshow

% of customers use this for hiding weed?

Btw, Love this product, this is fantastic


Miskatonica

Hi u/Spy_v_Spy_Freakshow,

Thank you and sorry this reply comes so late, I never expected so many questions.

% of customers use this for hiding weed?

No customer has ever told me they were using it to hide weed. About maybe 10% of customers have told me what they're using the book for, so it's actually possible that the other 90% of customers not telling me are using it to hide weed.

FIRExNECK

How do you get your books -- wholesale? What do you do with all the scrap paper?


Miskatonica

Hi u/FIRExNECK,

Doing my best to answer every question thoughtfully, so this is really late, sorry!

How do you get your books -- wholesale?

Ooh I wish getting books wholesale would work for me. I get most of my books from Amazon with my Prime account. Basically, the reasons I go with Amazon is:

  • Their prices are typically the best
  • If there's a rush order for a book we don't have on hand, with Prime I can get it sometimes even same day delivery
  • If a book arrives damaged, it's super easy to return
  • I get double points with my Amazon card on Amazon

I can't get wholesale because each book is made by hand and between my husband and I we can only craft 25 - 30 hollow books per week, and we're always testing out new titles for popularity, so it's too much of a gamble to buy a large enough order to get a wholesale price.

The other places we buy books online are Barnes & Noble (we have a membership so prices are better with free shipping), eBay (especially for when it's to buy a harder-to-find title in good condition; eBay unlike Amazon has some listings where there's a photo of the actual book you'll receive), Abebooks, Biblio, Book Depository. We don't buy in person too much, but occasionally from Half Price Books.

mAn invaluable tool for finding the best prices on books online is https://www.bookfinder.com/

What do you do with all the scrap paper?

I've made some miniature accordion books for fun and have used some of the text pasted on the covers, and I've made some paper roses which I've used in photo shoots for my book safes. You can see the paper roses in my Secret Garden book safe here. A few of my mini books you can see here.

UndecidedEyes

Hi there! Fellow artist here- how do you get the cut edges on the inside pages so neat? I did it for an exhibition piece with a scalpel and it was torture & ended up looking pretty messy- any tips?


Miskatonica

Hi u/UndecidedEyes,

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Fellow artist here- how do you get the cut edges on the inside pages so neat? I did it for an exhibition piece with a scalpel and it was torture & ended up looking pretty messy- any tips?

I use a process I've developed over the years, can't give away too many secrets, but I can tell you I use a scroll saw and power sander. What was your exhibition? What kind of art do you do?

Let me know if you have any other questions!

cptn_panduh

Hi! If you're sold out of a book, could I send you a copy of one to cut? Looking at the custom dice-boxes specifically. Is it a lack of book issue? I would be more than happy to source a book!


Miskatonica

Hi u/cptn_panduh,

Glad you asked, and sorry I didn't get to your question sooner, I'm trying to answer every single one thoughtfully.

If you're sold out of a book, could I send you a copy of one to cut? Looking at the custom dice-boxes specifically. Is it a lack of book issue?

If we're sold out, you can request it and most likely we can get the book and make it fairly quickly. It's not so much a lack of book issue as a lack of time,--we're just a company of two, myself and my husband, so we can only craft about 4 - 6 books per day.

If you want to request a title that's out of stock or one that we don't carry, email me with your request [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com), and I can tell you a price quote/turnaround time. Put in your email:

  1. By what date would you need the completed book in hand?
  2. Which specific edition would you like? Please provide Amazon.com / eBay.com / barnesandnoble.com link, for example. (We like to buy the book on our end in case the book arrives damaged; then we can directly get the replacement sorted more quickly)
  3. What country is your shipping location?

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Tpb3jd

Bravo for dealing with what sounds like a lot of hard stuff. Have you ever considered making other hidden compartment objects? These remind me of dead drops. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_drop

Also is Miskatonka a reference to Lovecraft?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Tpb3jd,

Thank you kindly, and my apologies for getting to your question 6 days later! I wish to answer every question thoughtfully and didn't expect this many.

Wow, I hadn't heard of the term "dead drop." That's so cool, I love it. And thanks for the link.

Have you ever considered making other hidden compartment objects?

That's a great question, no actually I haven't...until now haha. Books have always been my passion though, I like the physical nature of a beautiful cover and endpapers, gilt edges, etc., and I'm a reader as well.

Also is Miskatonka a reference to Lovecraft?

You mean my username u/Miskatonica? Indeed! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! I'm a proud Miskatonic University Alum.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

[deleted]

[removed]


Miskatonica

Hi u/rossonabreak,

What are your dreams for the future?

I hope to be able to keep making books and to save up enough money to do more traveling.

Since you work from home, do you ever get tired of being inside both for living and working?

I love being at home, I'm a total homebody. My husband is the one to get cabin fever and loves to get out of the house when he can. He's done a lot of traveling, and thanks to him, I've been drawn out of my comfort zone and experienced the joy of travel from time to time. Just for going out around town here, I'm much more content to stay at home.

Let me know if you have any other questions, (sorry took me so long to reply!) been trying to answer all of the questions thoughtfully and didn't anticipate so many questions!

ValyrianSteelYoGirl

Well. I’ve found a Christmas gift for the wife. Thanks!!!

And since too comments must be questions, do you do custom orders?


Miskatonica

Hi u/ValyrianSteelYoGirl, (I love GOT!)

I hope your wife will like it, Merry Christmas!

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Do you do custom orders?

Yes, you can always contact me [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com), then for price quote/turnaround time, just tell me:

  1. By what date would you need the completed book in hand?
  2. Which specific edition would you like? (Please provide Amazon.com / eBay.com / barnesandnoble.com link, for example)
  3. What country is your shipping location?

Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll try to get to it much sooner!

alldawgsgotoheaven

Hi from Northern Minnesota!:)

How do you feel MINNESOTA does as a state in supporting small and craft businesses?


Miskatonica

Hi u/alldawgsgotoheaven,

Glad to meet another Minnesotan on reddit! I'm just getting to your question now because I'm trying to answer each one thoughtfully, sorry so late!

How do you feel MINNESOTA does as a state in supporting small and craft businesses?

I must admit that I leave it to my husband to take care of taxes, so I can't speak to business taxes specifically, but I know it's better here than when we lived in Chicago. Off the top of my head I can't think of something the MN state government does in support of small businesses, but we haven't sought out state grants or anything like that.

Where I live in Stillwater, we Stillwaterians (just made that name up),--love indie makers. There are a couple art fairs each year downtown that are really popular. I wish that there were more small businesses in downtown MPLS and St. Paul.

I took classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design as a senior in high school in the state supported Postsecondary Option program. So the state is supporting potential craft businesses in that way.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

tarzan322

So what brought on the need to hide things in books? What inspired you to start doing this?


Miskatonica

Hi u/tarzan322,

Sorry didn't get to your question until now, been trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

So what brought on the need to hide things in books? What inspired you to start doing this?

I'm an introvert and have always liked books. Hiding things in books seemed fascinating and fun. I went to art school for painting and drawing but really enjoyed the book arts class I took as an elective. I had long strings of odd jobs after graduating and wasn't sure of myself as an artist, but I still wanted to make things with my hands. I was uncomfortable with being emotionally vulnerable in hanging paintings for all to see and critique, I felt more comfortable doing a craft that wouldn't put me in a gallery setting.

So I started making hollow books with an x-acto knife in my spare time after coming home from my day job as a museum gallery attendant. It was relaxing and enjoyable and I put some up on Etsy which sold right away. Then I got a scroll saw and started making more of them and more smoothly. Etsy featured me on their homepage and then the business just took off from there.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

miaumee

Interesting career. How do you respond to people about the rareness of your profession?


Miskatonica

Hi u/miaumee,

How do you respond to people about the rareness of your profession?

Do you mean if people are surprised about the rareness? If so, I'm pleased, I like talking about it!

Let me know if that was what you meant or another question. Sorry I didn't reply till now, been trying to answer all of the questions thoughtfully, so many.

SumFuckah

Apologies if this has already been asked. What's your favourite (sp:🇨🇦) book?


Miskatonica

Hi u/SumFuckah,

sp:🇨🇦

I don't know what that is? I googled and couldn't figure it out. Let me know and I'll answer!

elegantjihad

There have been a lot of businesses that start up in MN, like Dairy Queen, Famous Dave's, Target, Best Buy, 3M, etc.

Would you say your business started out because there was nothing to do in the winter for much of the time and you were bored? I lived there for half my life and the winters can be pretty oppressive. Above is my theory on why those companies started.


Miskatonica

Hi u/elegantjihad,

Sorry I didn't get to your question till 18 days later! I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Would you say your business started out because there was nothing to do in the winter for much of the time and you were bored?

Ha that's a good guess, but no, I started out making hollow books as a relaxing hobby when I came home from my day job. I think it was in the summertime when I started. Then it was about a year later when I quit my day job to make hollow books full time.

Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll get to it sooner!

2sACouple3sAMurder

What kinds of things do people like hiding that you wouldn’t expect?


Miskatonica

Hi u/2sACouple3sAMurder,

What kinds of things do people like hiding that you wouldn’t expect?

Well, most customers don't tell me what they're going to hide in their book, but these are some of the things that customers have told me about:

  • Motorcyle keys which the wife was presenting to her husband for his birthday (I'm assuming there was a new motorcyle then waiting for him somwhere?)
  • Handguns (Sig Sauer handgun stands out in my mind because she wanted a specific cutout for it in Crime and Punishment)
  • Engagement rings (one stands out as especially cute; he bought his girlfriend's favorite book and then went to a bookstore ahead of time to plant it on the shelves. Then he did something to get her to pick it out and then the surprise proposal!
  • Tampons (she frequently had guests and very little storage space except on top of her toilet)
  • Jewelry (one stands out that it was a gift for her mom who had just been burglarized and had some precious jewelry stolen)
  • Jesus toast photo (I was asked to make a cutout in The Holy Bible as a frame for a polaroid of a slice of toast that had Jesus' image on it) See here.

Let me know if you have any other questions, sorry I didn't get to yours till a week later, I've been going through all the questions and slowly since I'm trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

bndboo

Have you ever considered pitching your products to shark tank?


Miskatonica

Hi u/bndboo,

Have you ever considered pitching your products to shark tank?

Oh I do love watching that show! But so far, I haven't seriously considered it, because for right now I love being in full control of my work.

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

wtysonc

Is your mental health history included as some sort of marketing?


Miskatonica

Hi u/wtysonc,

Is your mental health history included as some sort of marketing?

No. The reason I included a brief mention of my bipolar and trauma history is because this AMA is about my current occupation, and my mental health has been one driving factor in how I came to be a hollow bookmaker. From what I understand about posts in r/IAmA is that they're to fill in the what/when/why/where of everything about what has led to "I am a _______".

Do I understand the purpose of AMAs in this sub incorrectly?

G742

What overround do you normally set on early season futures?


Miskatonica

Hi u/G742,

What overround do you normally set on early season futures?

I'm not certain what you mean, could you clarify?

thebigdirty

do you have any that are cutout to fit cash?


Miskatonica

Hi u/thebigdirty,

do you have any that are cutout to fit cash?

Most of the full size hollow books will fit cash from most countries. I have specially crafted books upon request with a cutout sized specifically for bills. If you ever wish to request a custom book, you can always make your request at [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com).

Just tell me:

  1. By what date would you need the completed book in hand
  2. What specific edition you'd like (Please provide Amazon.com / eBay.com / barnesandnoble.com link, for example)
  3. What country is your shipping location

Let me know if you have any other questions.Sorry I didn't reply till now, been trying to answer all of the questions thoughtfully and didn't anticipate so many questions!

Luisaalava

Is this an ad to drum up business for Christmas?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Luisaalava,

Is this an ad to drum up business for Christmas?

This is a post in r/IAmA where I'm (still days later, sorry!) answering questions that any redditor asks. Quite a few redditors have asked for me to post the links to my shops. Additionally, the proof that the mods of this sub require I gave in the form of links to my reddit username mentioned on my online shops' About pages. If redditors decided to click on the proof links, then they'd be at the About page of my shops. If they wanted to, it would be easy to take a look at my hollow books that were for sale.

As a benefit of this sub's requirement to provide proof and my diligence in answering every single redditor's questions, this has resulted in many visits to my shops by redditors. So yes, I suppose this could qualify as an "ad" and yes, unexpectedly, it has indeed "drummed up" business as you suggested.

Let me know if you have any other questions, I'm trying to answer every single one thoughtfully, which is why this is so late.

PM_ME_BOOBS_N_ASS

Isn't bookmaking illegal?


Miskatonica

Hi u/PM_ME_BOOBS_N_ASS,

Isn't bookmaking illegal?

Bookmaking as in the activity of taking people's money when they bet and paying them money if they win might be illegal in some places, but I don't know for sure. Bookmaking as in the activity of taking paper and board and creating a folio of flippable pages is legal, as is hollow bookmaking which is the activity of carving out the center of an existing book.

Let me know if you have any other questions. I didn't get to this until now because there were so many.

Gandalf7q4

I am no quite sure you would have a good answer, but in your opinion what is the best way to repair a books binding?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Gandalf7q4, (I love Tolkien!)

I am no quite sure you would have a good answer, but in your opinion what is the best way to repair a books binding?

It would depend upon the type of book, is it a softcover or a hardcover?

Lanko-TWB

How’s Stillwater this time of year? I’m from Detroit lakes and we have absolutely no snow. Kinda sad but we don’t have to shovel!

Also what is a book maker? You make covers or write them or..? Seems very interesting


Miskatonica

Hi u/Lanko-TWB,

How’s Stillwater this time of year?

Right now it's beautiful, cold, and there's snow! Sorry it took me so long to get to your question, I spent hours the first day answering and then have been coming back to answer more for the past couple weeks.

Also what is a book maker? You make covers or write them or..?

I make hollow books! Meaning, I take an existing book and craft a cutout inside with a scroll saw. You can see the books I've made on my instagram: @secretsafebooks

vettehead90

I am intrigued by your use of the books to conceal firearms. I have an FN Model 24 rifle (43 inches long), do you have a book in which I could stash this?


Miskatonica

Hi u/vettehead90,

I have an FN Model 24 rifle (43 inches long), do you have a book in which I could stash this?

Ha no I don't have a book that big. But for a special order, I could sandwich together a full shelf of books with a cutout large enough to fit your rifle. It would be a pretty penny, but if you're serious, I could do it, contact [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com).

Sorry it took me so long to get to your question, there were so many questions and I haven't had time to answer all of them until now.

Evil-Kris

what's a 'hollow' book? Is that a Dark Souls reference?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Evil-Kris,

What's a 'hollow' book? Is that a Dark Souls reference?

A hollow book is a hardcover paper book that has the pages cutout for hiding and/or storing things.

Sorry didn't get to your question until now, been trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

The_Karma_Killer

Can you only do hard cover books, or is there a way to do soft cover?


Miskatonica

Hi u/The_Karma_Killer,

Can you only do hard cover books, or is there a way to do soft cover?

I could make a hollow book from a softcover book, but it wouldn't be as sturdy for keeping heavier items hidden inside. And I put in a magnetic closure with one part of the magnet pair embedded in the hardcover, so with a softcover book a magnetic closure wouldn't look as seamless. (It could be done, but the result wouldn't be as elegant and seamless).

I wish I'd gotten to your comment earlier, I didn't expect so many comments, trying to answer each one thoughtfully.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Music_Saves

What is a Hollow book?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Music_Saves,

What is a Hollow book?

Yes, u/Ziplocking is correct, it's a book with a cutout through the pages for hiding/storing things.

Sorry didn't get to your question till 18 days later! Let me know if you have any other questions.

cfraizer

Pics?


Miskatonica

Hi u/cfraizer,

Wish I'd gotten to your question much earlier, I answered a lot the first day and then didn't have time to get to them all till now. This AMA got me a lot of views and sales, so a lot of my stock is down, but here are my websites:

secretsafebooks.com and secretsafebooks.etsy.com and you can see more pics on my instagram @secretsafebooks

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Miskatonica