Archive for April, 2007

Growing Up, I Heard of Mugs Who Were Arrested for Bookmaking

Add comment April 29th, 2007

I make books.

Or at least the electronic pages that distill into files that go to commercial printers, where large sheets  are printed and cut into individual pages. These printed pages then make their way into bound books.

If you send me a manuscript and textfiles, I can start the process for you.

I love making books.

Spending time securing clients who have books to be made is not so much to my liking. But, oh, how that process has changed for me over the last fifteen or so years.

When I began designing and laying out pages on my first Macintosh, I developed the Sunday morning ritual of going out for the New York Times and Sunday Newsday. The next few hours found me writing letters on the computer and printing samples of design and layout work to enclose with the letters, which I mailed to prospective clients, publishers, telling them that I wished to design and lay out pages of their books. The expression “book packager” was outside my vocabulary back then.

Sometime in 1998 I went online for the first time. It was an all-text connection, no graphics allowed, because Macintosh support essentially did not exist. I started to supplement my old-fashioned U.S. Postal Service mailings by sending out the cover letter in an email. No samples, but an invitation to contact me about seeing some.

Next I started to ignore the conventional wisdom to never send attachments. As bandwidth expanded, I believe it became less of a no-no. Occasionally I still hear people-at-large say they hate to receive attachments. But I have only experienced an angry response to my emailed cover letter plus attachment once. The circumstances were most odd, because when I emailed back an apology (no attachment) to the university press from which I got the angry response, another person altogether wrote back that they didn’t know how or why the guy of the angry response got involved, since he didn’t work at the press anymore. “Relax. No big deal,” was the gist of this note.

In 1998, one of my first email inquiries for work was actually a response to a posting on one of the first, now defunct, freelance job boards. The reply I received, from a publisher of science journals in Florida, surprised me. It began, “Steve, is that really you?” and then went on to offer me layout work that lasted a few years, until I moved on. The person who received and answered my email turned out to be an old friend from Long Island, where my wife and I live, with whom I had lost contact when she and her husband moved to Florida a few years prior to 1998.

I even got some responses that started by telling me how unique they found my email job searching. And now that’s one of the prime reasons people frequent the Wide World Web.

The first lesson is patience. Perhaps 97% of my inquiries go unanswered, a hair less than the percentage of snail mail inquiries that used to be ignored. And 99% of the replies are simply, “No thanks, we do our own in-house.” Of the 1% that say something even remotely positive, 98% of those say something to the effect of, “We have no need of your services right now, but we will keep your information on file.”

Patience. One of the publishers I inquired of twice each year since 1998 finally contacted me about a project last year. I just started layout on my seventh book for them in that time.

Patience. Keep at it.


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