Today is a very exciting anniversary for BookEnds. No, it’s not the official day we started the business; in fact, I would have to do some work to figure out when exactly that would be. No, today is a day that sticks in my head as well as my own wedding anniversary or my birthday. Today is the day that BookEnds sold its first book.
November 27, 1999, just months after opening our doors and proclaiming ourselves packagers (of course you all know by now that BookEnds started as packagers and not literary agents) we got an offer from Hyperion for two books. For My Daughter on Her Wedding Day and For My Daughter on the Birth of Her First Child were write-in journals that Jacky and I wrote ourselves. Boy, did we think we were so clever. The journals, like those you might have done as a child (The Book of Me) or those they sell now for grandparents to fill out for grandchildren, or the two I received from our soon-to-be Hyperion editor, The Book of Us and The Book of My Pet, were meant as a gift from mother to daughter on two of the most important days of her life. The mother’s job was to fill in the questions we asked—memories of her own wedding or the birth of her own children, advice, and of course memories and thoughts about her daughter. And if I do say so myself, they were damn good books and apparently Hyperion thought so too.
I remember getting the call and being stunned into silence. I was excited, sweating with nervousness, and trying to get off the phone as quickly as possible to call Jacky. Starting our own business was a thrilling and interesting experience. When asked what I was most surprised about by starting BookEnds, I always say it was how many contacts I didn’t have. After five years in publishing for me and more than ten for Jacky, we were convinced we knew a great number of editors and would have no problem networking more. Boy, were we shocked to realize that most of those editors were at the same one or two houses and that in the grand scheme of things we knew no one. That’s why selling these books was a very special surprise. Not only was the sale to a house we had never worked with, but it was to an editor we had never met before. In other words, after careful research and planning we had chosen editors we thought would like the book and we’d been lucky to hit the nail on the head. Selling these books was validation that we did in fact know what we were doing. We hadn’t been in business for more than six months (and certainly this hadn’t been out on submission for that long) when we made that first and very fruitful sale.
Although the books have since gone out of print I still look at them fondly (the cover for one hangs on my wall). It was an idea that I believe worked and it was the launching point for BookEnds in so many ways. Not only did it pay the bills, but it gave us the confidence and the reassurance that we knew what we were doing and yes, we would succeed. Now, eight years later, it’s so amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come. From gift books written by us to big business and health titles that we could never write ourselves, bestselling authors in romance, mystery, and women’s fiction, and fun every day on the job.
The best thing, though, is that with each new offer I get, no matter how small, I get the same feelings I did with that first book. The same thrill of excitement and rush of pride that yes, I do know what I’m doing.