Article Archive

 

In publishing, one thing has
nothing to do with the other

2011 Fay Jacobs


I just got word that my company, A&M Books, landed two finalist spots for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award. I'm thrilled.

While I'm amazed and honored that the only two books tiny A&M published this year have both been recognized, visions of sugar plum fairies and enormous book sales are not exactly dancing in my head.

It's like my mother's stock answer when, as she was arguing with me, I raised what I deemed to be a valid negotiating point.

"One thing has nothing to do with the other," she'd say.

And after all these years, it seems Mom was right. One thing really has nothing to do with the other.

As A&M Books' publisher I run a teeny tiny independent publishing house (really. it's my house) in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The garage is the Rehoboth book depository, my spouse is fulfillment manager and my Schnauzers are security.

But A&M Books has quite a history. The original owners were Anyda Marchant and Muriel Crawford (hence, A&M). Anyda wrote early lesbian fiction under the name Sarah Aldridge and the women, along with another couple, started Naiad Press in 1973. It became the largest lesbian/feminist publishing house in the world.

In 1995 Anyda and Muriel left Naiad (which is since defunct) to form A&M Books. When these two brilliant and fun women passed away in 2005 (Anyda at 95, Muriel at 93) they left me A&M Books.

All fourteen Sarah Aldridge novels were still in print and still selling. Anyda had just published a novel by pioneering feminist writer Ann Allen Shockley and released my first book As I Lay Frying - a Rehoboth Beach Memoir, which was heading toward a second printing. A&M was on a roll.

However, the bank account I inherited had about $11 in it. Apparently, one thing had nothing to do with the other.

It's six years later and we got word two weeks ago that our two 2010 books won their respective categories for Delaware Press Association Books of the Year. The winners are For Frying Out Loud - Rehoboth Beach Diaries, my latest book of comic essays and The Carousel, a wonderful contemporary novel by Stefani Deoul.

In contrast, the A&M bank account is shamefully overdrawn. Once again, one thing has nothing to do with the other. Well, in this case, it might have. I overdrew the account with the check for the Awards ceremony.

Bank fees aside, I'm having a great ride. My first book is in its third printing, having sold about 6,000 copies. Books two and three are doing well.. After standing on my head, burning up email, funding Verizon's pension plan and promising to sell my royalties, if not my soul, for listing with Ingram, I thought I had it made. Yesterday a bookstore called, unable to find me in the Ingram data base. In a great big "one thing has nothing to do with the other," the distributor who listed my best-selling books balked at the exorbitant Ingram commission.

And then there are the staggering costs of small, small publishing. No matter the freight, I don't mind shipping books to independent bookstores. I'm happy they are surviving, albeit on death row. But my pals at Amazon are another story. It's bad enough to pay a couple of bucks each to print the books, but add priority rate postage (they sneer at book rate) and their diabolical habit of ordering one book each for four different warehouses, and it's appalling. Oh, I forgot the $1.14 for the padded envelope. I'm lucky I'm not writing from a padded cell. Amazon stats up, net worth down. One thing has nothing, etc.

And lordy, lordy, how 'bout those personal appearance readings? Everybody shows up laughing and cheering, then, one thing having absolutely nothing to do with the other, everyone goes home without buying any books. Well at least I get great material and glamorous travel. I loved careening through the narrow streets of Staten Island, NY, seeking a tiny bookstore sandwiched between Household of Love Church and Our Lady of Pity Ministries.

Not that I'm having an Our Lady of Pity party. It's been a real blast networking at book conferences and meeting readers in bookstores, signing and selling books. At some readings I get laughs like I'm doing stand-up.

So here I sit, two cars turning into rust buckets on the driveway and a garage stacked with towering pallets of books. I'm drowning in sell sheets, ISBN numbers, backorders and bubble wrap. My den is my distribution center, with books four feet high and purchase orders, packing tape and the ubiquitous bubble wrap filling every available crevasse. In the clutter I can easily lose a Schnauzer. Those Clean House reality show people would take one look and burst into tears.

So tonight I get the grand news about our two nominations for Book of the Year from ForeWord Reviews. In the first place, that two titles are actually vying for first place is quite exhilarating. This is the only year I've ever published more than one title.

And secondly, I love that Facebook, blogs and web pages are lit up with colleagues from other, bigger independent publishers congratulating me along with their own nominated authors.

Equally lit up are the little flashing parenthesis around the numbers on my online bank statement, noting the A&M Books account deficit.

Yes, yes, it seems that one thing may have something to do with the other after all. I'm having a blast and sometimes all this fun costs more money than the press makes. But what the hell. It's like the classic circus sanitation worker who follows the elephants with a shovel. "Why do you do this dirty work," he's asked. You know the answer: "What? And give up show biz?"

For me, it's "What, and give up the book biz?" I'm committed to keep shoveling.

Looky here. I just got a purchase order from Amazon for a whopping seven books to be sent to four separate warehouse destinations. I'm going to have a martini now. One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other.
_____
Contact Fay at: FayJacobsrb@aol.com
Fay's website: www.FayJacobs.com
Fay Jacobs is publisher of A&M Books of Rehoboth and author of the "Frying Trilogy,": As I Lay Frying - a Rehoboth Beach Memoir, Fried & True - Tales from Rehoboth Beach, and For Frying Out Loud - Rehoboth Beach Diaries. You can check her out at www.aandmbooks.com



Back to Article Archive.