I felt great when I woke up the next morning. I did sleep through my alarm, though. I must have been pretty tired after all the fun we'd had the day before playing like kids out in the snow. We built snowmen and a great big fort that we declared was our New Publishing Palace.
When I wandered out into the living room I found, much to my surprise, that everyone was busily working.
"Morning, Sleepyhead," Mom laughed as she waved her coffee cup my way.
Everyone was doing something -- talking on the phone, typing out letters, collating papers.
"We've already called ten printers and four typesetters," Mike explained as I walked past his desk. "We'll be getting quotes real soon, they promised. Here, go type these up before we have our morning meeting."
I took the scribbled notes and looked over them as I headed for the kitchen and some coffee.
That morning's meeting was different. It was like the one's we'd had when we first started this project so many months ago. Before we'd become so disillusioned.
Mom explained that her trash romance novelist had told her the publishing industry takes forever to come out with a book. At least a year to a year and a half would go by between the time a writer hands in a manuscript to the time the book ends up on the bookstore shelves. But the books on self-publishing declared that it's possible to have a finished product in just three months.
"We'll pay extra to get it in less than two months," Dad said. "We've got to get them out by Christmas...that'll give us the best chance at making it work!"
Sounded good. "There's a lot that has to be done to set this thing rolling," Mike said as he handed out some pages. "Dad's worked up a schedule, and I've kind of gone over it a little." We fumbled dutifully through the ten-page agenda.
"WOW!" I gasped.
"CIP, ISBN, ABI..." Oh, brother," Davey moaned as he leafed through the pages. "I thought I had the day off from school. It looks like we have to learn a new language to be publishers!"
"While we're getting all these quotes," Mom laughed as she glanced briefly at the pages, memorizing them completely, "We've got to set up our company. We spoke with a lawyer this morning, and he suggested we incorporate to protect ourselves. Now what should we call our little publishing venture?"
"Adams Publishing?" Suzie offered.
"We don't want people to know we're self-publishing," I reminded her. "They won't think it's a good product."
"That's right, and we're going to have a quality book, here!" Dad declared. "We're not going to cut any corners!"
Gulp. That sounded expensive.
"How about Pipe Dreams Publishing!" Davey suggested.
"Just Dreams," Mom threw out.
"NAME BOOK Publishing..."
"The A Family Book Publishers..."
"ASTAR...for Adams and Star..."
We threw out names for quite a while. Mom wrote them all down, and after she read them back, we voted. Two votes for ASTAR Publishing and we had a winner, since no one else agreed on any of the other names.
Mom read down the schedule list. "Okay, we've got to get a post office box for ASTAR, open a business checking account, find out about getting a business license and a resale tax permit, call the lawyer to get this incorporation thing rolling, get ASTAR stationery and envelopes printed, we have to order boxes and mailers to ship the books in, oh, and tape and a scale...we have to get labels printed, and invoices printed and..."
Then Mike took over. "We've got to start writing and calling for photographs. Someone's going to have to go to Richmond and research the picture collection at the library for some old Johns..."
"And we have to get an ISBN number for our company, and for the book, and we have to write for an ABI form and CIP form and copyright form and..." Mom continued.
The list was endless and it was all still slightly Greek to me, even though I'd read all the self-publishing books through cover to cover. There was just so much to know!
"Hey, you guys," Suzie suddenly said. "Where's Mrs. Fitzenwahler? She didn't come today!"
She was right. That certainly was a first. No wonder I was feeling good.
"I'm going to call her to make sure everything is all right."
"Give me a break," I muttered. "Let's just be thankful for small favors."
"You do that, Suzie, honey. Her number's in my book on the table," Mom called.
We went back to planning while Susan made her little phone call. When she came back, she looked pretty distraught. "Her niece answered the phone. Mrs. Fitzenwahler fell in the snow and broke her hip. She'll be in bed for six weeks or more. Her niece tried to convince her to live with her for awhile, but she won't listen. An agency is sending a nurse to stay with her, but I feel awful. Her niece has to leave tonight, and Feona will be all alone."
"You just said she has a nurse," I objected.
Suzie glared at me. "You're always cutting that poor lady down!"
I rolled my eyes.
"Well, I'm going to visit her every day. You guys can get along without me here all the time."
"Sure dear," Mom sighed. "It sounds like a good idea. Maybe we'll all visit her from time to time."
"Not me!" I muttered as Mom purposely looked my way.
The phone rang and I jumped up to get it. Anything to get out of the line of fire. It was one of the printers, so I handed my mom the phone and went to sulk in my room.
Business must have been slow in the publishing industry, because by the time the day was over, three printers had called back and one had scheduled to meet with us the next day.
We were a little shocked when Judy from Ace International Printing went over the figures with us. We had gone into this thinking really big. We'd probably start out with a first print run of 50,000 or 100,000 copies, we had thought.
50,000 copies was $110,000. 100,000 was a mere $180,0000 -- a savings of 40 cents per book. Great deal, but we didn't have that kind of money!
We decided 4000 hardcover copies of our 240 page book was all we could afford. $12,000 for printing and binding was half the money we had!
By the end of the next day we'd chosen a printer. We went with Judy's company even though they were a little bit more than a couple of other companies because she assured us that she would be available to help us along. Having someone nearby was a definite plus, since we had no idea what we were doing, and needed someone to hold our hand through this. She also recommended a local typesetter, and we met with her that day, too.
Pam Dobson, the typesetter, was nice enough. Her estimate was a little higher than some others, $12 per page and $6 for any author's additions -- that is anything we wanted redone. We decided to go with her because she had worked with the printer before. Wow, this was going to cost a bundle!
"Maggie could probably do it for us," I mentioned when the typesetter had left.
Mom thought it was a good idea. Mom'll go for anything that would require Maggie to interact with me. She still had hopes for the two of us, and every once in a while she'd give me that "Why don't you two just try and work it out?" look.
Fortunately (or unfortunately -- I wasn't really too sure how I felt), Dad pointed out that typesetting for a book might be quite different from pasting up ads, and Maggie had never done a
book before. Pam works with the printer, so she knows exactly what they want. We had to get the book out by Christmas, so we didn't want to take any chances on delays.
Pam assured us that she could have it done in two weeks. The printer promised six weeks, five or possibly four if we paid extra. "We'll pay extra!" My father assured them.
Everything was set in motion. The lawyer was busy working away on making ASTAR a reality; the typesetter was typesetting the first few pages, several different ways, in several different typefaces, so that we could get the format down; the printer was scheduling us in, and we'd sent for all the forms we had to send for. Things were looking good for getting books before Christmas. Boy, were we excited.
Of course there were plenty of snags. We had a heck of a time picking the right typeface, for example.
"No, that looks much better. Or maybe this..."
We finally chose one, and after Pam's messenger delivered the first five chapters, we suddenly decided the other format was better. There went 30 - six dollar author corrections. Fortunately, Pam delivered the pages in batches so that we could go over them while she was working on the rest. Unfortunately, as we read over the printed pages for mistakes, we kept thinking of better ways to say things we'd written. It's funny how everything reads differently when set in type.
"We've got to do this right, even if it costs extra!" The dollar bills were just flying away.
Of course, Pam was pulling her hair out the whole time, trying to read her notes as we changed our minds three or four times during our daily phone calls. Naturally, we blamed her when the book still wasn't finished after 3 weeks. "But you changed it hundreds of times..." Pam muttered, and then smiled. The customer is always right, even a fickle one with six heads like us.
A few days later, Pam had everything finished, including the cover, and we had all the photos in that we could use, and we sent it all off Next-Day Air to the printer's main printing plant in Michigan.
Gosh, were we happy.
Meanwhile, we sent xeroxes of the typeset book to hundreds of places like distributors, bookstore chains, book reviewers and columnists.
All the while Mom was noting down our expenditures and we'd already far exceeded the $25,000. We called the printer and cut the print run down to 2000 copies.
We also decided to try and get some advance sales before the book came out. I had come up with a brilliant idea of sending a mailing to the wives of people named John. We got all the Virginia phone books we could find and scanned them for Johns. You wouldn't believe it, but there are more than an average of 10 per page. It wasn't long before we had a list of 5000 names. We just addressed them to Mrs. John, whatever. There was a 50/50 chance that there would be a Mrs. John, and if there wasn't, the John might order for himself anyway.
We also decided to offer three books, JOHN, MARY and MICHAEL. If we got orders we could print the other books up in a hurry. We had the manuscripts sitting here collecting dust, after all.
The typesetter whipped up a nice brochure, and we sent 5000 out. We decided to sell the book for $19.95 and we'd give the early-bird buyers $5 off and no charge for shipping as incentive to place their orders early. They'd pay only 15 bucks. This way we could get the money up front and put in a fast order for 2000 or 5000 more before Christmas.
We were really excited. If just every other person ordered the book, we'd sell out. And who wouldn't order the book. There's nothing else out there like it. It was a quality book and a great gift, and just in time for Christmas. The 5000 name list was just the tip of the iceberg. We had tons of names left we hadn't gotten to and if it worked, we could just send for every phone book in the country. We were going to be rich. We could just feel it in our bones!
We got our first order three days later and we were dancing and hugging each other. John and Mary Smith assured us in their letter that we had a great, can't miss idea. They couldn't believe that no one had done it before, and they wanted to know when other names would be out because they would be sure to order them, too.
That $30 check looked great! Oh, happy days were here for sure!
We weren't too worried when a week went by and we didn't have any more orders, yet. They'll be coming, we told ourselves.
Another week passed with no orders. Meanwhile, the printer sent us the blues for the book -- our last chance to catch any printing errors or upside down pages. They looked great, but while checking through we discovered a few more editorial changes. By the time I woke up that day, Dad and Mike had left to take the corrections over to Pam's.
I was pouring myself some cereal when I heard Suzie coughing something awful as she stumbled out of her room.
"I feel terrible," she moaned. "I'm burning up."
Mom told her to go lay down and she'd bring her some hot tea and toast.
"But I've got to go see Feona. She'll be waiting for me."
"Honey, go to bed. Ricky will go today," Mom volunteered.
I nearly swallowed my spoon. "I'll what???!!!" I gasped.
"Davey's in school. Your father and your brother have already left for the typesetter. They'll be staying there until she's done. So you, Richard, will go and see poor Mrs. Fitzenwahler!" Mom snapped.
There was no getting out of it. But I was sure going to give it a try. "Like what am I supposed to do, give her a bath or something? I can't do that!"
"She has a nurse to do that," Suzie croaked from her room. "Just keep her company for a little bit. She likes playing rummy and she'll show you her photo albums...She's sweet, Rick, give her a chance. It won't be that bad. Just spend a few hours with her..."
"A few hours...rummy...pictures...." I muttered, choking down my cereal. Visions of bats and cobwebs and coffins danced in my head as I stared at the table and mumbled, "I'm not going.
I'm not going."