The post-woman working the counter at the Lahaina post office informed me that I could save twenty cents per package if I removed the metal clasp from my envelopes before I mailed them. I almost missed the information as it was in a deluge of monotone sentences strung together and interrupted only by spots of labored breathing. While I can’t say for sure, I would say it was a safe bet that the woman was a long time employee of the United States Postal Service. It wasn’t just that she seemed to subconsciously ask me if I had hazardous materials (for the record, does anyone every answer yes to that question? If so please tell me what happens in the comment section below), wanted delivery confirmation, insurance etc…She had a look about her that implied a serious commitment to USPS. She wore hiked socks that appeared to be two sizes to small and, if I were to guess, cause problems with her circulation. The shorts were hiked at least six inches above the navel and her USPS button up short sleeve shirt was tucked in tightly without a smidgen of slack. Putting it mildly, she looked uncomfortable, yet she seemed comfortable doing so. She wore her awkwardness proudly and I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that in a word association game if the phrase “postal employee” came up, she would reply, “hero.” I have to admit that my interaction with her wasn’t riveting and while I entered the building in a supremely good mood both my time in the line and her monotone speech patterns left me in a bit of a stupor. Some might call it a miracle that I heard her at all through the invisible sign posted above her head that said, “I take myself to seriously”, but I did.
I had to ask her to repeat herself, and she did with some added tidbits of information. It was like conversing with the Wikipedia article for the United States Postal Service as she explained that the metal clasps cause problems for the machines and can sometime cause them to break. Therefore they charge an extra twenty cents because of the danger these envelopes pose to their hundred thousand dollar plus machines. In my weakened emotional state I almost asked her if the damage caused to the expensive sorting machine cost twenty cents to fix but I quickly bit my tongue and nodded. The bottom line was this: if I cut out the little metal clasp on the envelopes I could save twenty cents on shipping. I am not sure if twenty cents sounds like much to you, but the moment I heard it the numbers started swirling in my head. For every one hundred books shipped that is an extra twenty dollars!
The next day I found myself sitting at a table preparing books to ship. The process sounds simple but I assure you that it is not. If I were to classify this activity it would probably fall somewhere in the “arts and crafts” column. For those of you who know me I would not consider this a personal strength and indeed handicap might be more accurate. I have to admit that for most of my life mailing letters or packages has been done by a secretary, wife, or some other willing individual. It was fairly slow going at the beginning of the process. My first few envelopes had to be thrown away as my wife didn’t like my typed labels and the placement of the recipients address was in the wrong location. As annoying as this news was, she was of course correct. The envelopes looked silly and leaving the decision of return vs. recipient address to the best guess of the post office was not a good idea. Therefore, with some creative deliberation from Chelsea, round two of envelope creation began. Addresses were now hand written and each envelope has been customized with a Baby Trek “Embrace Life” fake tattoo. Yes, I did each one. I hope you liked it. (I am curious if those of you who received the book even noticed if it was there, please let me know) In addition to these steps, my meeting with the postwoman, AKA “hero”, led me to yet another step of cutting out the metal clasp and adding a piece of white printer paper to cover the whole, thus saving me twenty cents per package.
While shipping may not be my forte, I find myself filled with a deep sense of appreciation for the phase of my life that I am in and I believe that when I look back on my life professionally, I will remember it with fondness. I have to hope believe that one day I won’t mail my own books, custom make each envelope, or remove metal clasps with a pair of kitchen scissors. Right now, each time a book is ordered I get an email from Paypal and it is a truly an awesome feeling. I spend a decent amount of my time envisioning future success. For those requiring an example I talk to myself in the shower pretending to do interviews about future books or imagine books that I am writing being turned into movies (a dream of mine). I think these things are essential to my eventual success, but I wanted to write a blog post that reminded me how special unglamorous beginnings are and how phenomenal the process is of starting up. I think before all of this is said and done I will have started my own publishing company called “Ninja Footprint Publishing” because of everything I am learning right now. Things like formatting, editing, printing jargon, kindle editions, marketing, shipping, order forms, and websites are all growing my knowledge daily. Since this is my first published book, everything has a learning curve that next time will be easier. Dusty is already working on the second children’s book illustrations and I am committed to finishing my fiction novels for grownups (I almost typed “Adult Fiction” but it just didn’t read right). I want to remember and appreciate the beginning, the joy of the feeling each sale, the road blocks of publishing, the nervousness in paying money for the books to be printed because these things won’t last forever. The beginning and the difficulties that come with starting something from scratch are a fun part of the journey. For me, I am going to remember each removed clasp with fondness as each time a piece of metal falls, it is one step closer to my dream of being a wildly successful author.
I hope you are loving the book,
Until next time,