Chapter 514 Please Wait a Minute Mr. Postman

Here I sit each day, waiting for printed copies of the Dante Catalogue to arrive. I think the postman is beginning to be annoyed by my running out to greet him in the street to see if he has anything for me. 🙂

When I completed the first “draft” of the catalogue, way back in 2007 and took it to the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, I knew it still needed a lot more work. At only 20 or so books, it needed more books added to the collection. And that was just the beginning.

I spent a little over a year acquiring more books as the opportunities to do so presented themselves. In the meantime, I sold other books, went to book fairs, and went to the California Rare Book School. And helped raise our kids and run a household and helped a few friends who have helped me, and became a sometime-chauffeur to my 84-year-old mother-in-law. Needless to say, progress on the catalogue was slow indeed.

Finally, around this time last year, with the books acquired, researched, catalogued, and priced, I decided to hire a graphic designer to do layout of the catalogue. She would take on my project at a low rate if she could work on it part-time, she said. Sounds good, I told her. I myself feel like I work at the catalogue part-time. When at last the final layout was finished, I took the draft to University of Virginia Rare Book School in July and showed it to a couple of trusted bookseller friends. I wanted an honest critique. One of my bookselling buddies had an assistant who had been a copy editor before entering the world of bookselling. Would I like her to proofread it?

I sure would. So, off the draft went, and when it came back to me several weeks later, I contacted my graphic designer. (This was in October, 2009.) She let me know that she was in the hospital. She’d had a small stroke (!) and should be home and able to work on it in a month.

I waited the month and then contacted her again. “It’s only a few small, textual changes,” I told her. “The layout will stay the same.” Unfortunately, the poor graphic designer was unable to use a computer anymore due to residual visual problems.

At this point, I put the catalogue in a drawer. I started to think it just wasn’t meant to be. I was discouraged, wondering why I ever started the project in the first place.

In December, I attended a bookseller holiday party. When my friend and mentor Mr. Z introduced me to the crowd and said, “Chris will have a Dante catalogue coming out in 2010,” another bookseller with a passing acquaintance with the longstanding travails of the Dante catalogue scoffed, “Yeah, right!”


That hurt. But I deserved it, I admit. What bookseller in her right mind takes two and half years (almost) to complete a catalogue? More than a few booksellers issue several catalogues per year. Did I really think I would ever be able to do this?

I decided that this was not a good way to think about the problem. I mean, once there was a time when I thought I could never sell books at a book fair or when I thoughtother booksellers would laugh me right out of their shops because of my “beginner” status. Slowly but surely, I’ve worked in spite of some fears and insecurities that I would not be considered a “real” antiquarian bookseller. I no longer care at this point whether I am accepted by other booksellers as such (though that would be nice). I care that I’ve made my business a successful one and I’ve done it on my own terms.

I’m going to do this.

One. Catalogue. At. A. Time.

After the incident at the bookseller party, I explained to Thoughtful Husband that I couldn’t make the changes I needed to the catalogue because I didn’t have the graphic designer’s program (Adobe InDesign). It was too expensive to purchase. I also had no idea how to use the program. I had too few changes needed in the catalogue to find another graphic designer who’d be willing to take it on.

The week after Christmas, Thoughtful Husband came home with a wonderful surprise, what I like to think of as the best Christmas present ever: One of his colleagues used to work for a newspaper and had a laptop with InDesign installed. He was willing to lend me the laptop to get the changes made.

Thoughtful Husband has always been my knight in shining armor.

Together, we figured out enough about InDesign to get the catalogue looking the way I wanted it to. Later, TH’s colleague spent the better part of a day with me going over all the changes to make sure that everything looked as I wanted it. We sent the order to the printer on December 31.

After three separate printed proofs from the printer to get the color and the page order right, we were ready to print the final copies.

When I gave the ok to the printer a week ago Monday to start printing Catalogue #1: Dante Alighieri, I was ecstatic. Finally, after a long, hard slog, the catalogue would be finished.

Imagine my disappointment when the catalogues did not arrive at the end of last week as I had been told they would. I immediately got on the phone with the printer. And, seeing as how the printer is in another state, it was not easy for me to find out exactly what was going on. After spending most of Monday on the phone, I learned that they were having trouble getting the color on the front cover to print properly. The printing press was not operating properly.

I was disappointed. I was upset. The color on the last printed proof I received is perfect. I did not understand how there could be problems now. Once I sent the catalogue to the printer, I thought it was “done”. To find out that I was now experiencing delays due to more circumstances beyond my control was frustrating. I wanted to have the catalogue in the mail to you before next week’s San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair.

And, yes, I do realize the irony in taking more than two years to get the catalogue to the printer and then being annoyed because they can’t ship the finished product to me in the week’s time that they promised.

Which brings me (finally) to the crux of today’s post: I am so so happy to finally be able to report that, as of 5:00 p.m. today, all copies of the catalogue will ship to me tomorrow. (I even have the tracking number, lol!) It will take about five business days for them to arrive here. They should be here just in time for the book fair next week! After three separate printed proofs, a few issues with color separation, and a broken printing press, I’ve learned that sending the catalogue to the printer does not mean that I am “done” with the catalogue. It means I’ve entrusted it to someone else, and I need to be vigilant in making sure it meets my specifications. Keep your fingers crossed that the color looks as good and as vibrant as it does in the proof!

Winston Churchill once said, “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” Given the subject of the catalogue (Dante’s Inferno, etc.), I am taking his motto to heart. It hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a lot more effort than I ever imagined. I’ve had a lot of stumbling blocks along the way and have been embarrassed at the amount of time it’s taken. But I’ve kept going.

I’m still waiting for the postman. As soon as the catalogues arrive, I’ll let you know.


Filed under Catalogues

4 responses to “Chapter 514 Please Wait a Minute Mr. Postman

  1. Congrats Chris,

    So does this means that all of us readers who put our names and details to get a copy, a very long time ago, will still get a copy?

    Even if we are on another country (as I am)??
    I cant wait!!

  2. Absolutely. I have your address ready to go. If anyone else is reading this and you’d like a copy of the catalogue, please email your address to me:

    chris AT bookhuntersholiday DOT com

  3. Pingback: Chapter 521 2010 San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair, Part 3, Or, These are the Days « Book Hunter’s Holiday

  4. Marion

    Hello Chris,

    I have been following your report on the San Francisco book fair with much interest. I too would like to receive a copy of your Dante catalog. I am a new bookseller and basically have been just purchasing books. Not up on line yet. You are very inspirational. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s