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For Love or Money
By Zelda Leah Gatuskin

Back when I was trying to find a publisher for my first book, I fantasized often about having a contract show up in the mail, accompanied by a big check. Victorious, I would bundle up my manuscript and diskette, and ship my baby off to New York or Chicago or L.A., where it would be magically transformed into a published work. Visits with my developing child would be few - a proof here, a blueline there - and then, Voila! A book, all grown up, with a life of its own, and me the proud parent. From that point forward, regular and sizable royalty checks would appear, along with fan mail and other perks to bolster my ego and smooth the way of future projects.

I suspect this fantasy may actually come true for some writers, but so far I haven't met any for whom it has. I was lucky enough to bump into Harry Willson, Editor-in-Chief of Amador Publishers, at a now-defunct gift shop near downtown Albuquerque. Harry was signing his latest book, I was checking on a series of collages I had on display there. We talked. He seemed like a nice guy. I bought a couple of his books and read them, and loved them. More than a nice guy - an intelligent, humorous, honest, sincere and creative guy. I sent him the first few pages of my manuscript and eventually he asked to see the whole thing. Then he said he wanted to publish it, so long as I was willing to actively participate in the marketing, and understood that Amador's contract didn't come with a big fat check, but royalties only, as the book sold.

Well, I hadn't started writing to make money. Like my artwork, writing was just something I felt like doing, and then found I loved doing, and then realized I couldn't stop doing. No amount of rejection letters was going to discourage me. One way or another, I was going to have to get these children reared and read. I signed on with Amador. Now I not only had a book contract but, in Harry, a mentor and editor; and, in the other Amador authors and artists, a community; and, in the household of Harry and his wife Adela Amador, a new family. Amador means lover in Spanish. And indeed Harry and Adela are lovers of books and lovers of art, lovers of truth and honesty, lovers of people and humanity. They have something to say more than they have something to sell; and I certainly find that refreshing.

Cold cash will get you through the month, but it's passion that gets you through a lifetime. When passionate people get together, they're warmed by their own fire. So we are a poor but toasty group here at Amador. Our hope is to expand our ring of warmth and welcome to all who are feeling chilled by the icy waters of mainstream publishing. The evils of the mainstream press and distribution system deserve a Rant all to themselves; but let me just summarize the situation this way: For a book to be of interest to a big press or a big bookstore chain it is essential that 1) it can be summarized neatly in ten words or less, 2) fit convincingly into one and only one genre heading (Fantasy, SciFi, Biography, Romance, etc.) and 3) have the by-line of someone who is already famous - for anything - regardless of whether that person can write or has anything new or interesting or intelligent to say. To this criteria, we at Amador must ask, Why bother?

I have this joke about Amador -- well, it's not really a joke, just the flat out truth: At Amador, we write the books and illustrate the books, and edit the books and proof the books, we design the covers and do the typesetting, we send the books to press and publicize them and market them and sometimes sit at booths to sell them, and, at the slightest encouragement, we'll even read our books out loud to you. Still, this past summer when I watched Harry personally hauling cartons of just-printed books off the freight truck to put into storage, I thought, Something has got to give, and it better not be Harry's back! So, my current fantasy is that Amador's titles and authors become so well-known and in demand that distributors are ordering huge quantities of books even before release and their orders are shipped directly from the printer. Then Harry and the rest of us can stop muscling books around and attend to our writing... But perhaps this is another ill-conceived dream, unworthy of fulfillment. At least as things stand, we are at no risk of becoming wan and listless writers, so attached to our keyboards that we never surface to see the sun or stop to work-out with some heavy lifting. Nope, no flab here at Amador, and the writing's pretty tight, too.

Copyright Zelda Leah Gatuskin,1995

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