Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

The Company of Black Books

Yeah, a Very Strange Title…

This story has to do with history and collecting and selling and other fun stuff.

Four years ago now, I was talking with Bob who owns two of the bookstores in this town and he wanted to show me something he had just bought and hauled over from the valley. Turns out it wasn’t one thing, but 740-some things actually.

Massive bound newspapers in black cloth covers. Each weighed over 40 pounds and went from 1904 to 1990, sometimes full years in one book, sometimes only one month. All from the Portland Oregonian Newspaper.

They had been bound to put into libraries, stored, and then never used for a hundred years until Bob got to them. That’s right, mint newspapers that have never seen the light of day. Never touched. Comics, stories, ads, you name it.

(You fiction writers out there, do you know they used to publish short stories sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, in newspapers?)

The black books took up over two full rooms in Bob’s main store stacked floor to ceiling and he had no idea what to do with them and wanted to know if I wanted them. (He was regretting buying them.) So with Kris shaking her head, I bought them and it took three 17-foot trucks and two days with two strong young guy movers to haul them a mile up to the WMG offices and get them stored in a back room.

Notice I said four years ago. Yup, they still sit in that back room.

We got a few of them cut apart (cut the spine off with a bandsaw) to sell some comics and ads and things on eBay, but that was as far as it got.  We did a few hundred pages and they all sold quickly.

I showed them to a good friend of mine a year ago and he took one home just for kicks.

So remember I said I was having meetings in Vegas when I was down there a week or so ago? Well, the meetings were about the massive pile of ancient, mint newspapers.

My friend’s company and WMG Publishing Inc. formed an LLC to start dealing with the black books. We hired a full time employee and my three major eBay stores that we have with our brick-and-mortar stores will be selling them. (I will give you the links when the pages and ads and comics and stories from these start to get listed.)

Got a hunch the front pages of the day of a family birthday are going to be popular as well. (grin)

So yes, I get into some of the strangest stuff. But trust me, looking through a 1920s newspaper is great fun. Or a 1950s. Or a 1980s. This person we hired to look through all these and take them apart might have just gotten one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

Weekender Pop-Up Online Workshops Are Now Up on Teachable.

A couple of these are about half full.

February 15-18, 2018

— Controlling Fear of Failure
— How to Study and Practice in Fiction (A Study Plan)

March 15-18th

— Adding Tension to Your Writing
— Making a Living in 2018/19 With Your Fiction
— Controlling Fear of Failure

April 12-15th

— The Indie Game. (Roll-play your way through ten years of decisions as an Indie Writer.)
— How to Study and Practice in Fiction (A Study Plan)
— Adding Tension to Your Writing
— (tba)

February and March Online Workshops Are Now Up on Teachable.

If you have credits from the Kickstarter, you need to write me to sign up. You can also sign up through me and use Paypal just like normal. Or you can go directly to Teachable and sign up there for any workshop using either Paypal or a credit card.

To see all the courses, just hit the link at the top of the Teachable page that says “All Courses” and it will show you all the lectures and workshops available.

Class #13… Feb 6th … Think Like a Publisher
Class #14… Feb 6th … Endings
Class #15… Feb 6th … Point of View
Class #16… Feb 6th … Writing Mysteries
Class #17… Feb 6th … Speed
Class #18… Feb 6th … Teams in Fiction
Class #19… Feb 7th … Depth in Writing
Class #20… Feb 7th … How to Edit Your Own Work
Class #21… Feb 7th … Character Development
Class #22… Feb 7th … Writing Secondary Plot Lines
Class #23… Feb 7th … Advanced Depth
Class #24… Feb 7th … Novel Structure

Full information about any workshop and schedule is under Online Workshops on the sidebar.


  • David Anthony Brown

    My sister’s first house had serious flood damage from a big flood decades ago. Nobody ever fixed the sheetrock in the garage or painted the basement walls, so you could see where the water line was. Anyway, one summer during my teenage years I tore out the sheetrock from the garage… and underneath they had used old newspapers for insulation. There was a treasure trove between the walls of WWII era papers. Absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever found. Unfortunately, those newspapers probably got thrown away.

    Really enjoying the tips of the week. Well worth the 10 bucks a month.

  • Gnondpom

    While reading your title, I couldn’t help thinking of the British TV-series Black Book, about a bookstore of the same name, whose owner hates customers (he prefers reading than interacting with them). I used to love the humour in that series (and what better setting for a sitcom than a bookstore?).

    • Dawn

      I had the same thought about Black Books. While there are some blah episodes, most of it is very funny. Being a bookkeeper working for accountants as well as a writer (and my love of bookstores), I SOOOO related to the first episode. My boys even told me that if I owned a bookstore, I would be exactly like the main character, except I’d probably close the store just to go write. I’m still waiting for my Little Book of Calm too.

  • Phillip McCollum

    Great tip, Dean. Not sure if you’re aware of, but they have a HUGE digital archive of digitized newspapers going all the way back to the 19th century. A treasure trove of history, great for research, and you can actually look up those serials that you mentioned.

  • Robert J. McCarter

    I got to see those black books when I was out there this summer (thanks for the awesome tour, Dean!). Truly amazing, and you really do need a full time person to manage it. It’s like you’ve got your own time machine, cracking each of those black books is a glimpse into the past.