Just over 10 years ago I had an idea for a Christmas book and teamed with illustrator Glenn Wolff to write Flight of the Reindeer: The True Story of Santa Claus and His Christmas Mission. The book didn't really have a demographic in mind—let's face it: if you believe in the Big Guy, you can't read 20,000 words, and if you can read 20,000 words, then you probably have your doubts. But, God bless 'em, the folks at Macmillan got it. They understood that the story—which set out to prove Santa exists—wasn't a joke or a gag, but a far-fetched yet hopeful Christmas story for adults and children. They published it enthusiastically and Flight received a kind reception. PW called it "a charming new Christmas classic." Macmillan eventually printed something like 180,000 copies and sold most of them.
The mid-1990s saw a few other "charming new Christmas classics." Two I particularly liked were The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a picture book by Susan Wojciechowski and P.J. Lynch, and Robert Sabuda's pop-up 12 Days of Christmas. Last December I spotted a 10th anniversary edition of Toomey, and then I saw that Sabuda's 12 Days was coming back, too. It got me thinking.
A lot had happened to the characters in Flight in the intervening years. The original book featured interviews with experts confirming Santa's existence and explaining details of his "mission." So now, 10 years later, they might be able to weigh in on how, for instance, Santa was coping with a shrinking polar ice cap. Or maybe the current President Bush could update us on the international accord that the first President Bush told us about, the one asking the world's airlines to curb circumpolar flights on December 24 and December 25 so there's not a terrible accident, what with Claus banging in and out of the Pole almost 2,000 times in 31 hours. Perhaps it was time for a 10th Anniversary Edition of Flight of the Reindeer.
As it turned out, a lot had happened in the intervening years to Macmillan, too. It had been sold by Viacom to Pearson, then part of it had been spun off to IDG, publisher of the Dummy books, and then this had became Hungry Minds, and then Hungry Minds was sold to Wiley. (I think that's right.) Flight had traveled the decade as a wayward animal, careening from publishing house to publishing house like a drunken reindeer.
I wasn't unhappy to be affiliated with the noble house of Wiley, but Flight seemed out of place with a publisher that specializes in, as the company profile explains, "scientific, technical, and medical books and journals." So I figured I'd approach Wiley and either get them psyched about this new version of Flight, or I'd retrieve the book and see if anyone else was interested.
I found out there are some new copies left—maybe 5,000. I'm not sure where they are: you can't buy them at Amazon or B&N.com, and they're not on the holiday table at our local independent. But they're out there, somewhere. My darn book is still in print. The Wiley people were very nice and offered to let Glenn and me buy out that stock. But while I've always been charmed by that story about John Grisham selling A Time to Kill out of the trunk of his car, if a Wiley truck pulled up to our garage to unload 5,000 books, my wife would cast me out. Even at Christmastime.
But I'm not giving up. I don't know how yet, but one way or another we'll get Flight out of limbo so Glenn and I can do the updated version. I figure we can start a new publishing tradition: The 11th Anniversary Edition. Or the 12th. Or maybe lucky number 13...
|Robert Sullivan is the author of several other books, including AtlantisRising: The True Story of a Submerged Land, Yesterday and Today.|