Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper
billroper

Stress (Part 2)

Last night, I yelled at Julie because she had a problem that she had created that I couldn't solve and was pitching a fit at me about it. This was not a good thing, but I realize that it was fairly symptomatic of what's been going wrong.

I have been working very hard for months on a project at work that is very important to me. I've managed to move the pile a substantial distance, but it's still a long way to the goal line and I frequently feel like I have very little help. (The people who might be helping me are also trying to move their own substantial piles and I sympathize with their situation -- it just doesn't help get my pile moved.)

But that's ok. I can work with that because, well, it's work. I can handle it.

What I can't handle is everything else.

Gretchen and I are bailing on trying to go deal at Contata, because we don't want to take the girls that far and we became convinced that they weren't yet ready to appreciate the joys of Washington D.C. on a vacation that would follow. And we'd kicked around dealing at Inconjunction, because it would give our girls a chance to play with Jen's girls again, but there's a fair chance that Jen can't swing it, so we're going to bag that one too.

Those things are not the problem.

The problem is ISFiC Press.

ISFiC Press was dumped on me in November 2012 when Steven quit. I say "dumped", because during the ISFiC Press start up, I had loaned some $24,000 to ISFiC Press to keep it afloat. At the time we made the loans, Gretchen and I were dinks, the money was put in over several years, and it didn't beat our cash flow to death. The parent organization, ISFiC, acknowledges that I'm owed the money, but I didn't want to pull it out and cause financial problems for the organization.

(Note: I've been on the ISFiC board, which is the parent body for Windycon, since Tom Veal left town to go write pension law for the Reagan administration. I feel a substantial sense of responsibility to the organization.)

(Second note: This was the second time that Steven quit on me in 2012, the first being when he told me after Chicon 7 that he was not going to run Programming for the convention that was coming up in two months. I take some responsibility for this, as I had twisted his arm to run Programming for the con in the first place, which was a mistake on my part.)

Anyway, I had been the finance guy for ISFiC Press from the start and there was nobody else to take it over. So I did, conditioned on finding someone to do the shipping, because there was no possibility that I would succeed in doing that. One of the other board members volunteered to handle this.

(Third note: It appears that shipping was one of Steven's major problems with ISFiC Press. He noted to me in a later attempt to apologize that he had discovered that he was getting mad every time that a book order came in through the website. Steven had complained for years that we were unable to take book orders directly on the website. Our then-webmaster, John McCoy, finally managed to get everything set up so that it worked.

And Steven discovered that he had asked for the mill that ground out salt. Suddenly, there was a lot more shipping to do. This was a fairly predictable result of allowing direct orders, but Steven appears not to have anticipated this and have been prepared to handle it, despite having insisted that we needed to be able to do it. And it is true that our margins are substantially better on direct orders, which I appreciated as the finance guy.

To his credit, Steven shipped all of the pre-orders and early orders for the first Velveteen volume before he quit.)

(Fourth note: Steven got essentially all of the credit for everything that ISFiC Press did. I was ok with this, as he was doing the vast majority of the work. It was even ok that I did essentially all of the editorial work on the first Velveteen volume and that it came out with the only editorial credit being to Steven as "series editor". I admit that I became substantially less ok with this when Steven quit with no warning -- to me; the board president knew this was coming, but had been sworn to secrecy -- at the ISFiC board meeting in the middle of the Windycon that I was co-chairing. Steven told me that he did not tell me in advance, because I was busy dealing with the convention. I am unimpressed by this. I honestly cannot think of any worse time or place to be letting me know this, save for perhaps at the funeral of a relative or close friend.)

Resuming the thread of our narrative, the hand off from Steven consisted of a phone call where he ran through a bunch of items, although he did answer questions that were posed by e-mail at later times.

And then the shipping problems began.

A wholesale order was damaged in shipping and getting the replacement books shipped proved difficult for some reason.

(Fifth note: Our new shipper hadn't anticipated that his mother would get quite unwell. Or that he and his wife would get sick. I sympathize with these problems.)

I started getting regular e-mails from people who had ordered books through the website and who had not received them. Or who had received the wrong item. I had to respond to these with apologies and entreaties to our shipper to please ship the unshipped or correct books.

Then we got the call from the mutual friend who Steven had recruited to store some of the ISFiC Press back stock that he needed the space back, so please come get the books.

Our shipper decided that this would be a good time to consolidate all of the storage near where he lived, so he acquired a new larger storage locker and recruited a crew to move the books. I did not share my concerns that moving the storage locker might not be a good idea, given how well shipping was going so far, since something had to be done. And I was heartened that our shipper was taking charge of the problem.

It turns out that our friend's house was not an optimal place to store books. I had not actually realized that they were stored in the basement there, since I hadn't been involved in the arrangements. Some number of books were damaged while stored there, whether by being crushed or being in boxes that were attacked by cats in the ways that unhappy cats will attack things. I was promised that our shipper would get a report to the ISFiC board on the state of the inventory.

(Sixth note: And I still don't have that report. At the moment, I don't actually have access to the storage locker. Admittedly, I haven't asked for it.)

By spring, I was regularly calling our board president and telling him that we had to do something about the shipping, because the situation was untenable. He was dealing with problems of his own, which I understand.

So when I got the fourth or fifth angry e-mail from the same customer who wanted the book she had paid for and for which I had repeatedly apologized and asked our shipper to please ship the book, I just forwarded the whole thread to the ISFiC board as part of my response to her, noting that I hoped that this would result in something being done about the issue.

This resulted in one of the members of the board deciding to jump down my throat for behaving unprofessionally and, further, why hadn't I brought this to the board's attention sooner? I had, of course, been discussing it with the board president on a fairly regular basis by now.

(Seventh note: That board member, by the way, is the hotel liaison who neglected to inform me at the Windycon that I chaired last year where and when the Friday morning meeting with the hotel staff would be, as long as we're discussing behaving unprofessionally. Yes, I suppose I should have remembered to ask.)

Well, the book shipped. And things continued to rumble along, but not well, as I continued fielding e-mails about late shipping.

All of this takes a toll on one's enthusiasm for the project. There are a number of things that I should have done that I have not yet succeeded in doing, because it is difficult to remain motivated when you are constantly having to cover for things that are going wrong that you don't actually have control over.

(Eighth note: A variant of this was Steven's excuse when he reminded me at some point last year that he hadn't gotten around to paying out the royalties for a while. Well, that, and the fact that he was nearly out of checks. I intend to get the royalty payments up to date as soon as I get a closing inventory for 2013, which I still don't have.)

(Ninth note: I was repaid $7000 of my loans to ISFiC Press via a grant from Chicon 7, which I greatly appreciate. I believe that there is enough cash available for me to draw out another $10,000, but I have promised not to do this until I pay all of the royalties out, since I don't believe that it's proper for me to be taking the cash before all of our authors are correctly paid. Consider me motivated.)

We did get the second Velveteen volume out, which I edited -- and which was, by earlier arrangement, the last book that Bob Garcia did the typesetting for. We also got Jim Hines' collection out, which Pat Sayre McCoy edited and which I did the typesetting for.

I am still dealing with problems with e-books, because the e-book conversion that our printer did on the second Velveteen volume introduced some errors. Our sales rep has promised numerous times to get me a fixed version, but that has not happened, so I will be getting it fixed elsewhere and considering what to do about future business with them.

(Tenth note: I hadn't initially wanted to use them for our e-book conversion, as they were more expensive than the alternatives, but Steven wanted to give them the business on our first two e-books. Since they came out fine, I figured I wouldn't switch. Foolish me.)

In December 2013, our shipper announced that he needed to quit ASAP.

Vlad kindly volunteered to take over the position. And when our webmaster quit in March of this year, he agreed to take over that slot as well.

Vlad has spent a substantial amount of time working to get the inventory and access to the storage locker from our former shipper. He has finally succeeded in doing so within the last month.

Last Saturday, he shipped a great many books.

I am very grateful to Vlad.

Please be kind to him.

In the meantime, the accumulated stress from all of this woke me up in the middle of the night and left me unable to get back to sleep.

I will be trying to clear up the things that are under my control and appreciate your forbearance while I do so, as it will take a bit of time.

For the moment, I am going back to bed.
Tags: home, isfic press, musings, windycon, work
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