The Ugly Business of Firing
A direct mail virgin, I charged forth. Every time I found myself in over my head, I would yell for help and one of the four partners would immediately clear his desk, sit me down and talk me off the ledge and through the problem. I can say it was the greatest job I ever had. I earned what had to be the equivalent of an MBA in book club management in three months.
I quickly became an expert in copyright law and ran all over New York buying out-of-copyright children's books with magnificent artwork by great illustrators. Among them: Beatrix Potter, Walter Crane, Edward Lear, L. Leslie Brooke, Jessie Willcox Smith, Gustav Doré, John Tenniel and Boutet de Monville. The design of the covers was elegant—a lot of white space with a four-color illustration in a center oval. This design was practical because money was being saved by not varnishing the covers. Had ink been used on heavily designed but unvarnished covers, fingers of our little readers would have become dirty, smudging the cover and inside pages.
The test mailings went out, and bags full of orders and cash piled in. It was a raging success.
Neophytes Do Not Question Experience
The four partners ganged up on me. Instead of allowing me to roll out with our wildly successful test that offered nine books, I was told more is better and ordered to go find 15 more titles.
The covers now were to be solid colors and varnished. I said, "Yeah, but don't we want to back-test-mail the old mailing against the new one?"
I was shot down. "We know this business. The more titles the better. Color covers are better. Do as we say."
And, oh, by the way, I was told to start a book club for the next grade levels.