Adventures in Media Baronhood

It occurred to Robin Levy that if he wanted to see his name on another book, he was going to have to publish it. Levy had resisted self-publishing for years. He had come up when “vanity press” meant sneers from the literati. When, if you identified yourself as a writer, the first question to follow “Are you published?” was “By whom?” But now more and more writers were going the route of the looked-down-the-nose-upon. Writers he knew personally were crazy about it. The most enthusiastic embraced the DIY-aspect, the lay-out, the formatting, the etc. But in anything from wood shop, to home repair, to under-the-car’s-hood, to the mind-bogging mysteries of his home computer, Levy felt behind — if not buried beneath — the curve.

Two people offered to lend a hand. Michael, a friend for over 40 years, had published a dozen books via his local photocopy shop and advocated for the joy and pride of the accomplishment. Milo, who had edited many of Levy’s prior works and had set up Levy’s web site when he’d elected to accept that part of the 21st century, pumped for having a commercial printer do the book but leaving everything else for the two of them jointly.

Levy considered alternatives. A traditional vanity press in Berkeley wanted $3500 for everything, from design through marketing. It did nice books; he recognized some of its authors’ names; but the only one he knew personally swore the receivers of any marketing efforts she received must have shit-canned them. Lulu wanted $1000 (and 20% of sales) for its least expensive package. (That was attractive.) A retired professor at CafĂ© Bongo had a guy who charged $500 to get his book print-ready and then turned it over to Amazon, which did everything else. (That sounded good — even $500 better — but Levy had a resistance to all things Amazon.)

He decided to do one book with Michael’s help and one with Milo’s. (Levy knew he might not be making the best choice but he also knew he would feel the same about any choice.) He rented a PO Box, so disgruntled or fanatic readers would not pound his front door. He filed for a fictitious business name. He registered with the state, so it would know to tax him. He registered with the city, so it would. He opened a business checking account, so he could cash the checks which came to his fictitious name it its PO Box in order to pay his taxes.

He prepared, because of the taxes and governmental regulations to awaken one morning, surprised as Gregor Samsa, to find himself a Republican.