On Friday I pulped the hardbacks.
Hearing that, questions may spring to your mind. “That bastard Wallis is still alive?” for example, but let’s leave that one aside for the moment. Mostly you can infer from the first sentence (because you are intelligent and wise people) that the Alas Vegas hardbacks have been printed and indeed delivered to a fulfilment warehouse, with the intention of shipping them in the immediate future.
Then I got the sample copies from the printer.
I'm sure I've talked before about printers and how adept they are at screwing up. Book printers are ridiculously bad at making books. It’s astonishing. No matter how much detail you put into your instructions to them, they will find a way to do it wrong. At first glance the Alas Vegas hardbacks looked fine. The paper I chose—and these are the hardbacks that will go everywhere except the USA, since the USA is getting its own print run by a different printer, using a different paper stock, because of reasons—feels like the paper that printers used in the 1970s, which is exactly what I was after, and holds the text and images really well.
And then I fully opened the book and the whole binding went FLOOMPH.
It didn’t explode. There was no dandelion of pages. The book-block separated from the covers and hung there, like a shot swan, because it hadn’t been glued in properly. And the other sample did exactly the same.
On closer examination, the spine is also (a) too narrow for the width of the book, and (b) crooked. So we’ve pulped the lot and are starting again.
That, in a nutshell, is how the last four years of producing Alas Vegas have been for me.
On the floor by my desk as I type is a pile of cover proofs. It’s a fairly substantial pile, all but two of them rejected, because we have gone over so many different crops and alignments, trying to get all the elements into the places they’re supposed to be on the finished book. This shouldn’t be hard. Cover design is a skill, it requires an understanding of bindings and process and bleeds and gutters, but this will be something like my thirtieth book cover design, I'm pretty sure I know what I’m doing. And yet the bit of the design that is supposed to be centre-aligned, and which I have painstakingly centre-aligned over and over, and checked on the PDF each time before I sent it to the printer, obstinately ends up as much as half an inch to the right of where it’s meant to be. I mean, the fuck?
Meanwhile the American hardcovers have arrived in the American fulfilment warehouse. The softcovers are somewhere in Reno, which is not where the warehouse is. We don’t know what they’re doing in Reno, or why they didn’t accompany the hardcovers because they were printed by the same company at the same time. We hope they won’t stay in Reno very long. But at this stage, who the fuck knows, really.
It wears you down, all of this. You do your best work, you send it off, and it comes back wrong. You correct it, you send it off, and it comes back wrong. You ask people to do something and they tell you it’s been done and send you paperwork to show it’s been done—though they sent the paperwork to an entirely different person at an entirely different company, thankfully someone I know, but what the fuck—and then several hundred books end up having a two-week vacation in Reno. It wears you down. Like being repeatedly punched in the face. And each time it’s that much harder to get back up and carry on.
But the end is in sight. The books exist, even though a quarter of them will cease existing imminently, and another quarter of them are in Reno.
The Reno thing and the pulping together do give us a last chance for corrections. If you have moved lately, please check that I have the correct delivery address for you. The books will be sent to the delivery address in your Kickstarter records. You can check the address is correct by going to the Alas Vegas Kickstarter page, clicking on ‘View Pledge’ on the right-hand side, then click ‘Survey’. You can see your details there, and update them if they’re wrong.
We are nearly there.