For the last three years or so, I have been busy writing and drawing three different books. One book is about aging, which is something we all have to deal with. The second one is a cartoon book about golf. While penning the illustrations for this book, I discovered that “life is too short to learn how to play golf.” The third book, and the most exciting to me, is my autobiography. I started it a year ago with my co-author, Mort Lund, and so far we have written about my life up to the seventh grade, with 72 more years to come.
I heard about this great way of self-publishing recently, that some million-dollar company has offered to anyone with access to a computer, so I set out to try and find all about how I too could self-publish one or more of my books. Since I already self-published nine different books during my filmmaking career, I had a few questions. Simple questions such as: What size books do they offer, the cost of each size, how many signatures (16-page units) can they bind in one book, what about hard cover or soft cover, what do they require of me in submitting my manuscript, photos and art work, what is the cost difference in color and black-and-white photos and art work, etc.?
Not being your normal teenage computer wizard, I tried to follow the directions on my screen. I registered two different times during a three-hour ordeal. I finally gave up and called customer service. I heard the standard taped message from somewhere deep within India: “This message may be recorded for quality control purposes. Someone will be with you in a minute.” I then got to listen to an entire piano concerto from end to end. Finally someone came on the line. “May I help you?” And I proceeded to tell the voice my problem. The voice replied, “I will see what I can do.” I got to listen to another piano concerto in its entirety before I heard from the voice again: “Someone will be in touch with you in the near future.”
I thought I would try the same drill with another voice, so I went through the same thing once again with the same read-from-a-script answers. When I asked, “Is it possible to speak to a supervisor?” I had to listen to more piano concerto music. An agonizing five minutes later, the same voice said, “We are not allowed to go over there.”
Eventually I did find out what “will be in touch with you in the near future” means to this publishing company. It means that I will hear from someone within 24 hours. Since this whole charade happened on a Friday afternoon, am I expected to sit by my phone until Saturday afternoon? If the company is so busy that they can only return a phone call any time within 24 hours, something is very wrong. If I owned a company today and it took me 24 hours to return a phone call, I just might hire a couple of the millions of out-of-work people and teach them how to answer questions from potential customers such as myself. Can I wait until sometime next week to get my information? I will have to, unless I choose another publishing company in the meantime.
I think this whole hurry up and get it done expectation is a function of way too much information at our fingertips. Cell phones, iPads, iPods, texting, you name it. When someone shows me their Blackberry, I show them my Whiteberry. It’s a small 3-by-5 spiral notebook that fits in my back pocket and I always have a pen in my front pocket. I have been creating and selling stuff since I was 11 years old, and I managed to do very well with the old fashioned way of writing notes to myself and calling personally to answer the needs of potential customers. Do I need to carry around a device that can hold 1,500 musical tunes? No! How would I ever learn to use it? If I had the sudden urge to listen to Rachmaninoff?
Do I need or want to get my three books published? Yes! Do they have to be printed by tomorrow? No! I think many people today just can’t handle such an abundance of instant information, especially when you can’t get it from a company except by computer. It took me almost two years to draw all the cartoons for my golf book. I probably will sell it a different way. I just have to dodge and weave for a little longer to get the job done, just as I did for the 55 years I was making movies. In those days, I had to wait for someone to build a ski resort before I could make a movie. This time I might or might not wait for the message from that someone in India who will call me back within 24 hours.
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