The Corporation as an Incubator
The Grolier Enterprises School of Direct Marketing
In place was the system for selling books to kids through the teacher.
This meant creating and sending a fat booklet with tear-out pages that became promotional slips for the kids to show their parents. Working together, the parent would help the child select the books and then give the kid 35¢ up to a buck or two. The teacher would collect the money, send in a check to Peter Possum along with the children's orders and her selection of free premium books for her classroom library (or to give to those kids who could not afford to buy books). Books would arrive in the classroom and the teacher would distribute them to the students.
I quickly became an expert in copyright law and started frequenting New York antique shops and the legendary Strand Bookstore, buying out-of-copyright children's books with magnificent artwork by such great illustrators of the past as Beatrix Potter, Walter Crane, Edward Lear, L. Leslie Brooke, Gustav Doré and Boutet de Monvel. The design of the covers was elegant and practical—much white space with a four-color illustration in a center oval. It was practical, because money was being saved by not varnishing the covers. Had unvarnished ink been on the cover edges, little fingers would have become dirty and the cover and pages smudged.
I learned book production from a wizard named Marty Goodman, became conversant with lists, tests and keying from one of the industry's great professionals, Mike Chomko. I wrote and designed the mailing package—which meant knowing about letters, brochures, order devices and placement of address in the window of an envelope. The great art director Gil Evans taught me basic design.
The thing was a wild success. Every morning I would stop in the mail room and see workers unloading canvas bags full of orders and teachers' checks. It was thrilling!