Around the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008, I was working two days a week at a Tiny Bidness owned by a friend of mine, Dave the Computer Genius. I had known Dave off and on since 2002, ever since I had looked for a local computer tech to tell me what was wrong with my very first computer. I think that I found Dave through some on-line search, possibly through some local variant of Craig’s list. Anyway, he pronounced my computer well and truly dead, and sold me a rehabbed unit which even if rehabbed was still a better and more up-to-date one than the defunct unit, which I had gotten ten good years out of since buying it at the Yongsan PX. So, I referred Dave to my then-employer, the consultancy dealing in intellectual property (read – did marketing packages and a provisional patent for people who had invented a gadget), and later on he referred me to one of his clients, the ranch realtor, when I was job-hunting.
Dave did computer installation, training, and trouble-shooting – rather like a one-man Geek Squad – and having a nice collection of regular clients, he did pretty well at it. He talked once or twice of one of them, another Tiny Bidness – a little local publisher owned by Alice G. whom he insisted I would get on with like a house on fire. He promised that one of those days he would take me along when he went to her home/office to work on her computer system, and introduce us. He always thought that we should get together, since he thought we both had a lot in common. And so we did, eventually – although that wasn’t until six months after Dave died of a sudden heart attack.
So, Alice and I went into partnership. Her little company was basically a one-person shop, after the death of her husband – coincidentally about two weeks before Dave’s death. I re-did her website, and re-did it again, when the cost of the specialized software to maintain it got to be too much. I learned her system for estimating costs, took client meetings – and she had been doing business so long in San Antonio that the company has a lot of name recognition locally among those with the wherewithal to publish a book privately. I did editing and sometimes transcriptions when the client had only a paper manuscript and not a word-processing file. I learned how to do formatting – that is, book interior design – and a couple of years ago I talked Alice into establishing a publish-on-demand imprint. We had lost a good number of otherwise promising clients, you see; Alice preferred using a local lithographic printing enterprise, which is only a bargain if you want to print more than a couple of hundred copies at a whack, whereas a POD imprint which also fed into a national distributor would let us be more competitive – and put our client’s books on Amazon. The days of clients who could afford to pay $5,000 to $15,000 and up to publish their book was coming to an end, I would argue, and we were in competition with Createspace and Booklocker and Booksurge and a hundred other POD houses. She would point out that there were years when she only did two books a year, and I would say that we wouldn’t even have that many at the rate we were going.
So, we set up the POD imprint – and of our five clients last year, four of them were POD. I handled them all anyway. We re-did all of my own books that had been published already – and the sales of the printed versions came trickling back to the imprint’s book account. Alice was sidelined more and more with health problems, which have come to a head in the last few months.
The bottom line is that I am going to buy her out, for pretty much the cost of her lawyer doing all the paperwork to transfer the business to me. It’s a good thing that the land sold when it did – as I can just about afford to do this. It’s a nice little business, with all the necessary connections to freelance service providers. There are clients with reoccurring orders for reprints, and potential customers who just prefer to be able to sit down and meet face to face with a real person. Together with my pension, with the income from my own writing – there’ll be enough. I’ll never look to grow it to the point of hiring employees, though. Training up Blondie as my junior partner, as Alice trained me – well, that’s where my work future lies, and with luck it will provide for us both.
(cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)