Friday, August 3, 2007

Some Aspergian thoughts on publishing

Yesterday, I called my publisher. Rachel – my editor – and Mary – her assistant – were both on vacation. So my call got switched to Heather, another member of the Crown editorial staff, a loyal and hard working member of the Random House publishing Empire, subject only to their masters overseas at Bertlesmann.

Now, one of the tasks of any editorial assistant is to deal with authors. I had a small change to make, a word to be corrected, and I hoped I was in time. I knew Look Me in the Eye was headed for the printer soon.

And in just a few moments, she did it.

“I called production,” she said brightly. “You’re all set. Just in time.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. One more error, found and fixed. This late? What about unfound errors? I don’t worry about them, because I haven’t found them. So they may not even exist. Obviously.

So then I said, innocently, “By the way, who’s printing my book?”

Silence.

After a long pause, she said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to find out.” Apparently, of all the authors she dealt with, I was the first one with that question.

A little while later, she called back and said, “Your book is being printed by a company called Berryville Graphics, in Virginia.”

I decided to look them up. You should, too. Here they are: http://www.opm.com/aboutus.html

Well, a little bit of reading later, I found that Berryville Graphics prints 370 Million books a year. Wow! That’s a lot of books! And there’s more. They are a subsidiary of this group, http://www.arvato.com/index.php?LANG=en&PAGE=inhalte which prints a ton more books, along with CD, DVDs and all kinds of other stuff. And they distribute it, worldwide. Billions and billions of books, cds, and all kinds of other stuff, all over the world.

They are the six hundred pound gorilla of the publishing world. Hiding back there in the Virginia mountains, printing enough books every year to reach the moon, or totally bury Montreal, or cause Mexico city to subside 1/4 inch from the weight.

370 million books a year.

The masters at Bertlesmann own them, too.

That’s some serious book production.

Now, I know that I do not have to worry about my publisher’s ability to print and distribute as many copies of Look Me in the Eye as the public wants. And you shouldn’t worry either. In fact, with that kind of production capacity backing me up, buy three or four copies of my book, so you’ll always have copies to loan out. Buy ten. Think big. Buy a whole case.

And those of you who worry that Americans don’t read, be encouraged by that 370 million book statistic. And remember, there are more printers in this country. And they wouldn’t print all those books unless SOMEONE read them, or did a good imitation.

Woof!

I’m going to try and visit Berryville Graphics on my book tour, if they let me in.

11 comments:

mcewen said...

I promise to try hard not to be annoyed at annoying questions for the next 24 hours.
Cheers

Tena said...

That's really cool, John. Now how can I get my copy of your book autographed?

John Elder Robison said...

Tena, the best way to get your book signed is to come to a reading. Failing that, mail it with a stamped self addressed return book mailer to:

John E Robison
Robison Service
347 Page Boulevard
Springfield, MA 01104
attn: book materials

Holly Kennedy said...

Oh, I think they'd let you in. What a treat for them, an author who's actually interested in what goes on behind the scenes in production AFTER marketing and sales have had their say in it all. It does sound fascinating, and 370 million books is a head shaking number, isn't it?

The Anti-Wife said...

The company I work for has a timber division. Double Woof to this company!

John Elder Robison said...

I wonder how many trees it takes to produce 370 million books? Maybe they don't use 100% trees. Maybe they recycle phone books and plant matter.

Michelle O'Neil said...

I think they'll let you in.

Tena said...

Thanks, John! I'll check to make sure you're still coming to Milwaukee. Hopefully I can meet you IN PERSON, OMG!!

The Muse said...

Machines, LOTS of Machines. You will be like a kid in a candy store.

I'm sure you will love the powerful roar and clanking of the printing presses. They always remind me of trains. John, you will be right at home there. Better than a Shakespeare play!

Kim Stagliano said...

John - you'd best visit them. On Thursday night I settled in with a hard cover best seller from on of my favorite authors. I got a sense of deja vu while reading. The book was mis-bound. The book pages ran 1 - 87, 55 - 87, 119 to the end. I had an entire middle (88 - 118) missing! Tell those Virginians to lay off the bourbon while they print LMITE!

KS

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

370 million a year? Mind-boggling!

I know that the R.R. Donnelly Company here in Chicago prints millions of books for the worldwide publishing industry too, but I don't know if that number approaches 370 million. Wow!

One of my other soon-to-be-inked book deals is with a Random House/Bertelsmann subsidiary too, so perhaps my book will be published in the same plant as yours.