Mommy, where do books come from?

"Mommy, where do books come from?"

"Well, dear, if they're Harlequin books, it's likely they come from the warehouse in Buffalo, New York."

"A book warehouse? What's that?"

Glad you asked...

A few weeks ago I had the enormous pleasure of participating in the Harlequin Customer Service Representative Appreciation day. It was a fascinating day, meeting the customer service representatives and touring the Harlequin distribution center.

First thing I saw when I pulled in? Geese. Okay, that wasn't interesting. But the very next thing I saw was an eighteen-wheeler with the Harlequin logo on the side. That was totally cool. Too bad I forgot to take a picture. Next time.

When I met with the customer service representatives I was delighted to bring them gifts. Thanks to the generosity of the other Superromance authors, I had piles of signed books, bookmarks, pens, and other small presents. I'd also collected signed book covers and made them into a collage thank you card.

Sorry about the flash on the glass.

Meeting the representatives was fascinating. They deal with a lot of interesting questions. I was intrigued by how much really personal service these folks provide. It made me want to call them up after I got home just to chat about books. ;-)

After the luncheon, I had a tour of the distribution center.

Warning: The rest of this post includes extreme book geekery. If your idea of heaven on earth is a bookstore, read on. The rest of you are going to be bored.

Harlequin has a short-run press in the facility that they use for *wait for it* printing short runs of books. Sometimes reprints, sometimes advance reader copies. Lots of different applications.

Here's some paper waiting to go on the press. (I did warn you about the book geek thing, right?)

My book geek soul was on fire when I took this photo. It's an actual book being printed. Sweet! You wouldn't believe how fast and intricate the process is--these long rolls get printed, folded, cut, and turned into a book in a few seconds.

Serendipity! I actually know the author whose book was being printed. Hello Maggie Shayne's book on the press!

After the books are printed and bound, the covers are glued on, and then they go up this conveyor belt to the machine that chops the edges off clean. (I'm sensing a Mr. Rogers vibe here.)

Want to know what's inside the book warehouse? Books! See?

Well, actually those are mostly boxes that the books are going to go into.

Here are books.

Finally, a close up of the very best kind of books. Superromance! This picture shows some of the June Supers. This is just one small portion of the copies of these particular books. These pallets were destined for K-Mart, I think.

That's it. Tour is over, folks. Now if anybody asks you where books come from, you know where to send them!



Kimberly Van Meter said…

That was WAY cool! Thanks for sharing and enlightening us. I would've loved to see that first hand. Your pics were a delight.
Ellen said…
Hi Kim,

You're welcome. It really is amazing. Too bad we can't take a field trip sometime as a group. It would be so cool.

Glad you liked the pictures. My kids have this silly little digital cameras but it did the job pretty well.

It was very Mr. Rogers. LOL! But it was great. Thanks for sharing, Ellen.
I will never have to wonder again. :0)
Amy Knupp said…
Very cool! I used to work for a newspaper and loved to see the presses working but how much cooler to see BOOKS being printed!! Thanks for the tour, Ellen. :)
Ellen said…
Hi Holly,

I always loved those tours Mr. Rogers did--I still remember finding out how they make those playground balls with the swirled colors. I guess I've been a technical writing type of person since my toddler days.

Glad you enjoyed the pictures,
Ellen said…
Amy--the idea that the machine could print a book on a continuous roll and then fold, cut, and assemble it in the right order was amazing.

It did kind of hit all of my favorite stuff at once--books and how things work. I was so happy!

Jean Brashear said…
Completely awesome and fascinating, Ellen--thank you so much for sharing!

Ellen said…
Hi Jean,

I wish I'd taken more pictures. I'm a little shy and I was the only one snapping photos so I held back. I really wish I could share more, though!

Carrie Weaver said…
Wow, Ellen, I had no idea how intricate the process was! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 8-)
Ellen said…
Hi Carrie,

I wish I'd taken more pictures. The press was really cool and super fast. And to think how complicated it must be to go from flat sheets to folded, trimmed, and pages in order books!

Glad you enjoyed it.
Chelle Sandell said…
The process is sooo cool. I can especially see how exciting it would be if you were published and held that puppy in your hand-to know where and how it puit together. (I liked the field trips with Mr. Rogers!)
Ellen said…
Hi Chelle,

It did make everything seem real to see the process right next to the product. Very cool.

Maura said…
Ellen, that was a cool tour. I am an aspiring writer but my bill-paying job is a software consultant. As such, I occasionally get to tour the plants of my clients. One was a paper company so I had seen those huge rolls before, but I have never seen how they lay out the pages for the books. That was neat! Also, I just finished reading His Secret Past. I loved it, especially all the music references. I'll be looking forward to your next book.
Ellen said…
Hi Maura,

Glad you liked the tour and the book! I'm always interested in how things work and having this tour be about books was just a bonus!

shelia said…
Call me a geek because I found this post very interesting :) Thanks for sharing.

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