Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Tale of Two Books: Mary's & Mine

One day in the fall of 2015 I received a message from Shakespeare and Company saying that they wanted to get more copies of my book Writers in Paris, Literary Lives in the City of Light, but they were unable to come up with any. So I emailed the head of my publisher in Berkeley to find out what’s what.  Bad news. They love the book, but sales have slipped, and the company has decided not print any more. However, they offered to release the book freely to me as the copyright owner if I found a solid publisher with a contract.   

By a remarkable bit of luck, only two days earlier, I had been the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Paris Writers Group.  Its chief is the delightful and knowledgeable Mary Duncan, a writer and the publisher of the Paris Writers Press.  She liked my Writers in Paris!  So I called her and she said come on over.  Mary led me to her computer and showed all the steps of her favorite publishing app works. I’ve written books, but have no experience in publishing.  We could both see that I was not up to it.  So Mary said that, if I like, she could be my new publisher. Wow, what luck!

A few days later we met at the new Shakespeare and Company Café and discussed our contract. The paperwork was in order, but at this time of the year (Dec.) both Mary and I were leaving Paris for three-month jaunts. She was off to California to be with her family and to work on her project of translating to English the autobiography by Lynn Jeffress of the fearless publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert , who savaged censor laws in the France of the 1950s and ‘60s, and is best known for the Marquis de Sade. Meanwhile my wife Joanne and I went off to China. But before leaving Paris I let my Berkeley publisher know that Mary and I had an agreement for Writers in Paris, but would not be taking it over until we were back to Paris in spring.  They were perfectly at ease with that.

Mary got back to Paris in late March, wrapping up her Jean-Jacques Pauvert book, which now had a title, Sade’s Publisher, A Memoir,  and in early April the transferring of Writers in Paris from Berkeley to Paris began. Mary did it all by herself. There were a few glitches along the way, but it was remarkably smooth overall.   

Mary Duncan, Me, & Sylvia Whitman
On April 22, 2016, Mary and I signed our contract in the Shakespeare and Company Café, with owner Sylvia Whitman our witness.  

While Mary was on business in New York in early May, UPS dropped a box from her printing press.  It was early proofs for both books, Sade’s Publisher and Writers in Paris, Second Edition in it. They were almost spotless, Mary told me on email.  Just a few little things to be altered.  And when she handed it to me in Paris, I found it at least as attractive as was the original version– which is saying plenty, because Counterpoint in Berkeley had done a beautiful job.  Mary was very pleased too with her brand new Sade’s Publisher.  And seeing the two books together was a treat.    

My first batch of Writers in Paris arrived in Paris on May 25th. Ten copies went to the shelves of Shakespeare and Company.  And from the photos sent to me from the D. G. Wills bookshop in La Jolla, California, the two books have stayed together come the long way from la Belle France.  

I thank for Mary for everything.

No comments:

Post a Comment