Steven Heller – “Me, A Book”
originally published on The Daily Heller
In this E-Book era, it might be useful to hear from a real book. The Autobiography of a Book by Charles H. Denhard (representing the book) was designed by Ernst Reichl (designer of the first Ulysses jacket) with text composed by The Composing Room. It records the trials and tribulations of a book in the 1940s and how difficult it was, even then, to succeed as paper between covers. Here’s a snippet:
I remember the conversation between my author and the publisher. The plain truth is that the first publisher didn’t even care to read me. My author explained in elaborate detail what he had tried to do, how long he had worked over me, why he thought readers might be interested But to no avail. Publisher No. 1 was kindly, courteous and considerate, but it was obvious that he had not interest in me and was willing to forego whatever advantages might accrue to his house by making a book of me.
The story continues through the process of finding an agent, getting sold to a publisher, being edited and ultimately printed. Here’s another short excerpt:
Thus my author and I were separated – for the first time. I was tossed upon a pile of manuscripts, wondering what kind of inquisition threatened. I could scarcely feel lonely for I was surrounded by books of all kinds, on all subjects, by hundreds of writers. And, after all, wasn’t I destined to become a book?
Below are a few in situ passages. The book has a curious poignancy. Ahh, to be a book was not easy:
I discovered I was only one insignificant item in a list of sixty new books, all scheduled for Spring publication. Each of the sixty required the individual handling which I was to receive. Not alone setting type and proofreading, designing and printing and binding, but equally important business of selling and promotion had to be considered.