Creating The Definitive Muscogee 221 Insignia Guide – the Author’s Story Part 3

The nice thing about working alone for the majority of the book was that I was able to work at my own pace. I could sit down and knock out just a page or two, or I could work until two o’clock in the morning and finish an entire chapter.

sashWhen I met up with Jeff or Tripp, I did my best to be courteous of their time. I’d give them a list of what I needed before we would meet up, and then together we would go through it and use whatever they brought to fill as many of those bulleted items as we could. I met with Jeff at my house, and I met with Tripp at my office after hours.

Jeff helped me with a lot of my missing scans and photographs of items that could not be scanned, such as neckerchief slides, &c. Tripp brought me these HUGE stacks of paper: invoices from patch companies, programs from fellowship weekends, editions of The Fox’s Tale (our lodge newsletter), original art/renderings, just everything. You name it, Tripp had it. I can barely keep my cloth straight and and presentable, and here he was with piles of paperwork and was able to pick out what he needed. It was amazing.

Together we’d go through these documents and extract the pertinent details that were missing from the book. From an order form sent to a manufacturer we would find the number of patches made, or from a program we may extract the date that an event was held. Sometimes we even found instances where an event was scheduled for one weekend, but rescheduled later on due to inclement weather.

Tripp was also able to tell me a lot of the backstories on certain issues or explain why there were variations. Any information that he was unable to provide himself, he would typically have the phone number for someone who did: former lodge officers, persons in charge of ordering/receiving items for the lodge, or another collector. Any uncertain details were jotted down with a question mark after them, and nothing was taken off the list of needs until it was confirmed.

Once the book was as completely assembled as I could make it using our pooled resources, I printed a single hard demo copy. I passed it around to Jeff and Tripp to look over, but also to a few other individuals such as Greg McDaniel. After doing so much work and rework on the same material, my eyes began to blur and many of the pages began to look the same. It was very helpful to have a few fresh sets of eyes comb through it to find any mistakes or typos.

The one demo copy was pretty easy to produce. What I hadn’t really thought out just yet was the distribution of the book, or printing it in any large quantities.

After the book had been proofed and reproofed, I had a final copy that I felt was ready to be printed and distributed. I also knew that as is the case in most ordering scenarios, asking a printer to run off a hundred copies was going to be far more cost-effective per unit than asking them to make only ten. The trick now was to get enough people interested in the book to lower costs across the board while still not over-ordering and getting stuck with a bunch of them myself to collect dust.

I would say that before the creation of this book, my name was fairly unknown outside of my own lodge. I have never been a section collector and haven’t been to a ton of trade-o-rees, so not a lot of people knew me. But as I mentioned previously, Tripp and Jeff are both far better connected and were instrumental in helping me get preorders placed.

Once a few weeks had passed I had a better idea of how many copies I’d need, and that number was right around 50. I began Googling local print shops and emailing them to request quotes on 50 and 100 copies, but only one was even close to the $40 target price. This made it a cinch to decide which shop to go with, and so I sent them a PDF of the final draft. What I got back from them a day later was an email saying “Oh, we didn’t realize you wanted full color copies. We quoted you for black-and-white.”

When you have roughly $1,500 collected from complete strangers, and you’ve promised them a quality product, you panic a bit when your price estimates double. The idea of sending out emails either offering refunds or asking for even more money made me cringe. I knew doing this would likely kill the project, so I had to back up and resort to emergency planning.

I spent the next week or so researching color laser printers, figuring out which ones got the best reviews for reliability/quality, as well as out-of-the-box toner yields. And I’m talking about the big boys: printers that were designed for small to medium-sized businesses that had full duplexing and the option to run off either 110V or 220V power feeds-- printers that most places only stocked one or two of at a time because they were so bulky and expensive. The model I wound up picking was an HP CP4025dn, which most online retailers had listed for $1,299.99, plus tax and shipping (which was murder too, since its packaged weight was 97 pounds).

The day the printer came in, I’ll admit that I geeked out a little. As an IT professional I love all technology, so this was exciting for me to hook up and try out. The only problem was that my desk at the time was only rated to hold 60 pounds, and the printer alone was 85 out of the box. I had to reorganize my entire office and make a second table out of scraps from my garage to make room for this behemoth, and when I finally plugged it in and turned it on, the lights flickered.

This is Part 3 in a 3 Part series on his experience writing the lodge insignia guide

Contributed by the author David Goza
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