It has been several months since the publication of my eco-manifesto Stocking Coal: Why Santa Should Give Clean Coal to All the Children of the World (Not Just the Bad Ones). I wish to again express my gratitude to you, my publisher, for supporting me in my efforts to make this the first carbon-neutral book of its kind.
With the initial publication behind us, I thought we might take stock and evaluate our results. I think we can agree they have been, at best, mixed.
Let's start at the beginning. The green-themed breakfast you arranged at BEA was well intentioned, and the idea of serving only green food seemed inspired at the time. The sight of all those green comestibles together in one buffet was truly impressive (though I felt the hash browns struck a jarring note). In the end, however, I think this gimmick backfired on us. Green eggs and ham is a charming conceit for a children's book, but a repulsive prospect when slopped onto one's breakfast plate at 7:30 in the morning. In retrospect, I think we may consider ourselves fortunate that no one actually showed up. At least we were spared the spectacle of a hotel ballroom filled with retching, nauseated booksellers. This should also work in our favor in negotiating a reasonable settlement with the Dr. Seuss estate.
At the galley stage, it was a marvelous idea to go paperless and make the manuscript available on a handheld device. However, I had hoped for something more sophisticated than an Etch-A-Sketch.
When you told me that the finished book would be printed entirely on recycled paper, I was ecstatic. I just wish you had mentioned that the paper would be produced by pulping the entire inventory of my previous book. It's true that Give the Gardner Gas-X: 101 Practical Ways to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions had sold less than one tenth of one percent of its first printing, and that its sales had slowed to a pace that even an optimist on par with Pollyanna might generously characterize as “a trickle.” Still, I wish I had been consulted. I would have taken the books off your hands myself and sold them from the trunk of my car, if I had a car.
I endorsed the idea of including a sample of clean coal with each copy of the new book, but must admit I never fully considered the implications of this. I suppose I thought you would affix the coal with naturally produced mastic or biodegradable glue, or friction, or black magic, or just good intentions. But shrink-wrap! My lifelong ambition has been to have an impact on the environment, but I never thought it would be as the unwitting conductor of 235,000 square feet of plastic polymer into the world's landfills. Once again we meant well, but I'm afraid the results left us both with carbon footprints of a size normally associated with Sasquatch.
Finally, we planned to compensate for 100% of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the production and distribution of the book through carbon offsets. I understood that these offsets would take the form of an investment in new trees. I probably should have pressed you about what kind of trees you had in mind—Redwoods, perhaps? Teak? Mahogany? I never dreamed you meant shoe trees. Imagine my surprise when an exhaust-spewing semi from Buster Brown pulled up in front of my house and deposited curbside more shoe trees than even Imelda Marcos could find practical use for—some 150 gross, according to the bill of lading.
Here's the bottom line: this publication has been a disaster. I now have two bomb books to my name, and we've helped the environment like Sherman helped Atlanta. Don't get me wrong, the environment's great, but I'd hunt whales with a plutonium harpoon if I thought it would sell books. I'm desperate here, so let's get together and come up with some ideas to move this thing. I could really use the green.
|Laurence Hughes works for a big publishing company. His writing will be featured in The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes (Vintage, Apr.).|