Drinking champagne from paper cups

“He who doesn’t risk never gets to drink champagne.” (Russian proverb)

It was my first published book, “The God-Dog Connection.” It was in Indiana. The designer of the book was there, and the production folks. So was the creative director and owner of the company under whose imprint the book was being published (Barry Doss of The Design Group Press). A few other staff members joined us – those who had participated in the development of the project or just wished us well.

It was long past office hours. We were sitting around on the floor and on couches in the conference room of The Design Group. The final print-ready layouts for the book had just been delivered to the printer.

I had purchased the best bottle of champagne I could afford (I think it wasn’t even “real champagne”– but a rather nice sparkling wine). And, with the leftover change, I had picked up some paper cups from which to drink it. We toasted to the book’s success – and to all the love and effort and talent and friendship that had gone into producing it. And so began the tradition of my pre-launch book celebrations – drinking champagne from paper cups.

The “frugality” part of the tradition was and continues to be based on reality. Because, beginning with that first book, I had decided to release all my own work “independently” with a small, independent publisher. I would pay for the design and production work myself, including the printing – and I would own the book and all its rights personally and outright. This offers me tremendous control relative to how a book looks, its positioning in the marketplace, how it’s distributed and how it’s promoted, among many other benefits. With my professional background and experience, it was not a difficult decision. And since I worked for The Design Group at the time of that first book publishing (and even now on a freelance basis), it continues to be the ideal situation for me.

But that first book was a huge unknown. And so, it was with great faith in my heart, as well as in the talents of my colleagues, that I cashed out all my savings, took out a second mortgage on my house, and just went for it. Cheap wine and paper cups was all I could afford.

In retrospect, it turned out to be one of my better decisions. One of my more worthwhile risks. One that has brought me to today, ready to launch my fifth new book.

This newest work is my first venture into the children’s book genre. It is entitled “The Childornot Tales.” It was great fun to write – and an even greater delight to watch it come alive with the brilliant illustrations of Cindy Johnson and the creative talents and contributions to its design and production by Barry Doss and Kim Noah.

Over the years since that inaugural printing of my first title, all my books have been launched with champagne from paper cups at various stages before introduction, and shared with a variety of individuals. Sometimes it’s been with everyone close to its development. Sometimes with just two or three of us. Once, simply by myself sitting out under the moon. But this book calls for a greater inclusion of friends and family, I think. Because I have found within Aiken a culture and people unlike any other place I know. Here, folks always seem to be ready to celebrate with one another, under all circumstances, and for all manner of happinesses and good things yet to come.

So please consider yourself invited to this one. Grab a paper cup with me, and toast this newest launch – this newest risk – that it may prove worthy of its champagne on Nov. 1 from 5 p.m. until the champagne runs out, at my house (call or email me for the address if you don’t know it). Book signings throughout the evening.