Chapter 10:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 220

Chapter 10

In the courtyard of the suburban restaurant on a sunny day with a whispering wind and small white puffy clouds scrambling overhead, Jack sat with a light beer and Maggie sipped a single measure brandy, lime and soda.

After a couple of minutes to settle in after that first drink, Jack, as project leader, tutored Maggie the apprentice. Although Maggie was editor of Project-Kit, her experience in journalism was limited to writing and photography with still some way to go before becoming an editorial executive.

Launching a new magazine is not easy, not easy at all, Jack emphasized Jack. People outside the ring might think one simply gave the publication a name, shoved in a few articles and ads and that somehow it would land into outlets and sell out within a few days.

"That's basically what happens, isn't it?"

"Er, yes, actually. Very perceptive. But let's take that end bit first. The publisher has to ensure delivery of the publication on time to pre-arranged outlets - such as bookshops with magazine sections, magazine sellers, perhaps supermarkets and in the case of Project-Kit some kitchen shops could agree to sell the magazine as a fringe activity as the publication centers on its core business - kitchens. There has to be an independent audit of sales, returns or disposal of unsold copies made according to the agreement with the distributor or publisher or publisher's agent. Policy has to be set for spoiled, stolen, wrongly delivered and short-delivered consignments and then the sales transactions have to be economic to the on-seller and both publisher and on-seller have to end up with their due amount of income correctly apportioned and accounted for."

Maggie looked a little wide-eyed. "Wow, you know I really hadn't thought a lot about that - I guess I simply assumed it just happens."

"Well, Maggie, you wouldn't be alone in thinking like that. Fortunately I have good news for you - with Project-Kit we don't have to set up that distribution infrastructure as there's a professionally operated system already in place and our company is linked in with them. So all the hard work is done.

"You, as editor, Maggie, will have to set the number of pages for each issue, and have a plus or minus variation arranged in consultation with production. Once the final size is known, production advises the pressroom and begins the film-work as pages come to hand. Are you with me?"

Maggie nodded and swigged her drink deeply.

Jack then explained how the ‘book' of the magazine is made up pre-press. "The more you become familiar with these processes the better you will be in control in your role of editor. I shall take you through everything step by step."

Maggie and Jack had chosen beer-batter fish with French fries and a side salad and had a second round of drinks. They continued talking between mouthfuls.

"There are a host of other little bits and pieces to get sorted such as getting Project-Kit registered as a magazine, listed in various media directories and then promoted so that potential readers are aware of its existence. Of course, while you have over-all responsibility for many of these things - the success or failure of the magazine nominally rests on your shoulders; many people and their resources both internally and outside of our company will be engaged in achieving and maintaining the solutions Project-Kit needs."

Watching circling seagulls for a moment, Maggie said, "It really is a big job even for a little magazine, isn't it?"

"Yeah, that why every commercial publication needs a good team around it. Oh, another thing: If you think the New Zealand magazine market is as big as the biggest magazine display you see in the biggest magazine shop in this city, then think again. What you'll see is a small representation of the market. How many magazines do you think are published commercially in this country? Guess, I'm only asking for an estimate."

"Two hundred?"

"Try seven hundred."

"Jesus!"

"Yes, more words than you could possibly imagine are being distributed ranging from religion to sex - not that I'm suggestion there is any connection - and from sports field games to brainteasers. It has been estimated that in this little country of ours with the exceptionally high level of literacy of its population, there are more than 5500 magazine titles in circulation moving through 7200 outlets."

"Jack, this is bigger than huge. I had no idea!"

"That, of course, is the reason why we are discussing this. You now need to know these things. Continuous promotion of your title can potentially drain financial resources unless it's controlled property, and this is a vital area where the boss must be in control - which is you, as editor - but Gavin will want his say because at the end of the day you are his investment using his money."

Maggie's brow furrowed: "So he can veto anything that I plan, decide and commission?"

"There we go - thinking like a Pro! Excellent. But don't just focus on meddling Gavin who, incidentally, isn't as dumb as he looks and acts. Remember the whole of the business around us where we work was founded on his consuming interest as a real estate salesperson on the little A4 news-sheet that he typed out, one side only, and copied for a handful of his more promising clients. Gavin didn't get where he is today by paying someone to take over that side of his real estate business for him semi-permanently reside in Fiji for R&R and forget all about his business. True, he wasn't much of a writer so as he edged into publishing he acquired someone who was, and then someone who pushed his projects through production and so it was. Through this he's acquired power and prestige that is why someone as glamorous as Roberta wishes to sit on the knee of bespectacled man who wears a partial wig and displays the beginning of a potbelly. I guess she croons to him."

"Or whatever."

"Right, or whatever she does with him."

The two working journalists with executive responsibilities sat quietly for a moment, watching other dinners just there to pleasure themselves gastronomically. There were three pairs of elderly women plus a crowd of them around the largest table, a ‘distinguished gentleman' as people used to call them, with a moustache matching the silver of his hair and dressed immaculately in ‘flannels', shiny black shoes, dark blue reefer jacket, white shirt (probably crisp) and tie (probably done in the Windsor knot). Although he was alone he looked possibly to be the happiest customer in the place, hunched over a plate of chilled soup and munching crusty French bread.

Other tables were occupied by the usual mixes one notices in suburban restaurants at lunch time - work colleagues talking about anything but work, businessmen in pairs, heads together, and rattling on about business or social conquests or Wilf Allen's new book, whoever Wilf Allen is.

Always, at least in his mind thought Jack, there were two tables with couples that fit categories. The couple he was quite sure about would be a mother and daughter, but the other one that invariably left him undecided would also be a younger and older woman. Were they computer keyboarders or prostitutes?

Restaurants would be a perfect place for any novelist to ‘borrow' characters to fit needs ranging from mothers and daughters to lonely old men and, of course, prostitutes. Most writers wouldn't have an idea what a prostitute looked like, no more than Jack did. He preferred the cities overseas where prostitutes were dressed in black, with slits in their black skirts to reveal their legs, but according to what he'd been told, these days most women in most countries dressed in black and had a slit in their skirt. Most confusing, but he still contended restaurants were great places to observe character construction.

Jack's eyes widened as the waitress walked towards him. Holy cow, she was ready to walk straight into a film! Little pads of unbecoming flesh on top of her hips, accentuating by the ties of her tiny apron with pocket for her electronic pencil and hand-held computer, rolled as she walked. Pretty she was, with smoldering eyes and chewing gum. Her eyes never left his until his drifted away to check out something.

"Hullo Mr Nightingale, how is your pussy," enquired the waitress. That enquiry caused Maggie to splutter into her glass. Jack recognized the waitress was sweet Carolyn from the house backing on to his where she lived with her parents.

"Maggie, this is Carolyn who lives in the house behind mine. She's probably just finished lectures for the day and now has commenced work to help pay off her student loan."

The two women chatted briefly then Jack's twenty-year-old neighbor pulled out an electronic pencil from her small black apron ready to press their orders into her PDC.

"A lovely young girl, I think," said Maggie, as they watched Carolyn walk away.

"You think?"

"I've only just met her and exchanged eight-seven words or thereabouts."

"Quite."

"Pity about her nostril."

"Huh?"

"I'd imagine a healthy young girl like that would want to use everything to gain social advantage. Instead she's had a ring put through her nose, which means automatically removing herself from the A, B and even C lists."

"Oh, you poor, uninformed man. Actually, how old are you? Thirty-one, isn't it! I change my last remark, you poor ignoramus. You obviously know even less about women than I know about magazine production and marketing. She belongs to a social group where rings through parts of one's anatomy are considered chic."

"Er, could we talk about something else?"

Maggie obliged. "Gavin is taking a big risk with this seat-of-the-pants launch of this magazine, isn't he? And you've pushed him into proceeding."

"The truth is yes, but it's what he wants to do. He has in-house capacity to publish another magazine and has gone after it. He and I both go at things instinctively and really it's worked for us. All the commentators and media gurus say you need to identify a niche market and then thoroughly investigate the pathway to that niche, finding out everything about what those likely readers need and desire and do they really want your bloody magazine on their coffee table already piled to the ceiling with magazines."

Maggie decided to demonstrate that she was media ownership-minded.

"I am aware some of the highest-circulating publications are not your glossies and beautifully crafted narrow-interest magazines but productions printed on crap paper that try to sell you houses, cars, boats and junk. Hello, hello - did those publishers simply throw something together to toss into the marketplace to fill a perceived need, or did their consultant holidaying in Madrid advise them what to do? I bet they went on instinct, starting small and working up."

Jack grinned. "Anything else?"

"Essentially, Gavin sees a button to push and Gavin is using you and me to push it and make it work - or else!"

"That's it in an elongated nutshell."

"I beg your pardon, or pardon me as American women say?"

"A summary of three or four words is ‘a nutshell' summary, so I described your more wordy summary as being a lengthened nutshell summary."

Maggie shook her head, which signaled to Jack she thought he was being obtuse or perhaps intelligently over-complicated. He preferred the latter.

"Right," he said. "Pencils and paper out and let's start on composing a succinct mission statement, outlining our publishing objectives, starting a ‘What to Do' list - Milly will be a great help in working to cross off many items on that - and producing bullet-point ideas of what we think readers' want. Once the magazine is roaring away we can ask readers what they want. That will do for a start, but there's much more."

"Yes, I can appreciate that. I also want to get started on writing editorial policy, think out a layout dummy showing where things fit."

"You'll have to do that in your own time - enthusiasts regard that as creative therapy at home. We still have our main commitment to Property&You and must not allow standards to slip."

"OK, homework it is. I'm comfortable about that, but let me ask you, are you comfortable about the name you have for Project-Kit or is it just a working title? It was, after all, produced out of the air and neither moneybags nor I were consulted - me, the editor."

"Editor's don't own titles, publishers do but Gavin is incapable of either thinking up an appropriate name or even selecting a name produced by consultants unless he gets another consultant in to assist him.

"No, I'm very comfortable with Kitsch and Kitchens. Some people will hate it, others will be attracted, and those attracted just happen to be our target market."

"But kitsch is usually associated with poor quality and bad taste and, if I remember correctly, the objects associated with it have a humorous element," Maggie said.

"Exactly, and that's where we are heading - into the mass market where people have money, but perhaps not heaps of it. These folk enjoy having stuff around their homes that might be a bit cheap, like a piece of china purchased outside the gates to the Vatican or a small Union Jack they waved at the Queen as she was trotted down the Mall. Other people might scoff, but these little things are treasures that trigger memories."

"Kitchen magazines - I guess you've been into our library studying issues of kitchen magazines by the score?"

"Yes"

"Main impressions?"

"Quality and content various enormously. There are too many of them, the market must be saturated. Many run the same things as do their competitors - even the specialist columns have similar titles. There's tons of crap in them. The very best are very good. Much of what I read didn't seem to apply to New Zealand, though everything seems to be going international these days."

"Excellent, an impressive critique."

"Could we do better?"

"We could try, given the right resources. Is that how you see it?"

"No, dammit," growled the Rottweiler, "we'll focus on doing everything better."

"Down boy!"

"Pardon?"

"Just rattling on about a thought. I suggest you get the art department to make a small banner to put on the wall behind me, and every time you look up to perv at me you will see the words, ‘We do it better or we die!'

Entering the office next morning, Jack did his hip sway just before reaching Roberta's desk and said good morning brightly. He'd stopped the wink because she'd started winking back.

He placed his briefcase and laptop on his desk, noting with approval a new notice on the wall behind where he sat, ‘We do it better or we die!' - Kitchens &Kitsch.

After downloading homework into folders Jack spotted a new notice on the wall behind Maggie's desk, We'll ALMOST die doing it better!' - Kitchens &Kitsch.

Maggie you cheeky sod, he thought. That triggered a suspicion so he strolled over to Roberta who was busily sawing away at her fingernails.

"Where you here after Gavin left last night?"

"Yes, we didn't go to the motel until after 7:00," she said, matter-of-factly.

"No, I didn't mean that," Jack said, coloring.

"Did Maggie happen to ask if she could go into his office?"

"Yes."

"Was she carrying something?"

"Yes."

"Let's take a look."

Roberta and Jack looked around the office but couldn't see anything out of place.

"What are we looking for, or was that just a ruse to get me in here alone?"

"Oh Christ no, Roberta," Jack said, shocked. Then thinking she might take that as a rejection added, "You're much too woman for the likes of me."

"Oh, I think you could be under-estimating yourself, Jack. Never give up hope."

Jack looked around wildly and then saw the door to Gavin's tiny washroom. It had to be there. He opened the door and there it was, taped about the washbasin, ‘Gavin, help us to do it better or we ALL die!' - Kitchens &Kitsch.

"That naughty Maggie, I'm removing it."

Jack had to physically hold her back from charging in to rip down the unauthorized notice.

That distracted her. "God, Jack. You really are muscular, aren't you?"

"Roberta - please don't remove that sign. We want it to stay there always to keep Gavin aroused - I mean motivated."

He then raced out of the room, almost knocking over Milly.

"Has that over-sexed Roberta being trying to get at you, Jack? Just say the word and I'll fix her."

"No, she called for help as she had her hair caught in an overhead cupboard," explained Jack, inventively.

"Poof - that would just be a ruse. You watch that woman, Jack. She'd be far too much for you to handle."

Jack busied himself at his desk. What did Gavin have that he didn't, at least in Milly's mind? Who was spreading this apparent perception that he's a sexual wimp? Most likely it would be that Queen of Rumor, Michelle in film output in production. Well, next time they were in the corridor alone he'd fondle her and that would incite her to call a stop work meeting - she was a union delegate - to tell everyone of her fantastic experience in the passageway. Women would say to her enviously, "Not Jack!" and she would nod, confirming her experience with queenly pride.

Uh, uh - problem. Michelle is a body builder. One backhander from her would send teeth down his throat. She'd be the only female as well as most of the males in-house capable of going head to head with the Rottweiler!

Jack the wimp hung his head and wished principal gossipers could be small, non-aggressive women.

Perhaps he could get Maggie to put a notice up in Production, Jack Nightingale is definitely not a sexual wimp'?

Oh yeah, now wouldn't that be a brilliant solution?

Restless, this time Jack shook his head, wondering why he was wasting time thinking like this. He was turning himself into a pea brain, and that probably was being politically incorrect to the pea. He decided it would be much more satisfying to lock his capable brain into some productive work.

Just before lunchtime Gavin called Jack into his office.

"Our legal beaver says although the name of our new magazine is not registered yet he's certain it will go through as no one in the world would put two such names together for a magazine. That comment worries me, Jack, but I suppose you'll only rough me up again if I venture an opinion on that. So, we're going ahead with that name. Want to do lunch?"

"Nah, thanks Gav. Look, take Roberta out for lunch. She looks as if she'd like to sit knee to knee in a restaurant with you. Go to ‘Moon and Light' in Grey Lynn, it's got a really spacious courtyard and I'm sure neither your wife nor friends would go there because is not premium graded. But they serve real food there. Why don't you get Michelle to fill in for Roberta at reception - Milly will help her out if she gets stuck. Some front office experience might help to make Michelle less aggressive, as you know some women respond to being considered sophisticated enough to be asked to work in public areas."

"Good thinking but would you ask Michelle if she would consider filling in, mate. I'd hate to risk getting a backhander from her; she'd ram my glasses through my head if she didn't like the idea!"

"Gavin, be a General on things like this; always look for the easy way out. You know she's after power and position. Just tell her everyone will note she'd being temporarily promoted to reception for the executive suite, the will light her ignition."

"Great thinking, Jack. No wonder I let you push me around."

On the way out Jack stopped to consult Roberta, and tried not to breathe down the back of her neck and risk being embarrassed.

"Oh Jack, sneaking a look at my boobies, eh?" She said that just as old Mrs Roberts, sole owner of their office property, walked in. She glared at Jack. He wanted to declare his innocence but who'd believe him?

"Roberta, I need you expertise." He hurried on, before she could enquire at what level. "Could you please estimate the jacket sizes to fit Milly and Rott...um, Maggie?"

"Milly and Maggie? Are you kitting them out?"

"Yes."

"I want to be included."

Just as he was about to say no he saw old Mrs Roberts fix her beady gaze on him.

"Sure."

Roberta gave him the sizes.

This time Jack had walked around the big reception desk to keep clear of Roberta.

"The sizes for the other two girls allow for a bit of room for error but I like mine tight - jackets on me have to be tight otherwise I look all lumpy here," she said, jiggling her bust.

Jack watched that sudden performance with horror. He turned to see if old Mrs Roberts was looking at drain pipes or whatever she was doing; he looked straight into her watery blue and red-veined malevolent eyes as she she'd come right up to him.

"Do you work here?" she hissed.

"Um, good day to you madam."

Jack scuttled to the exit doors, leaving Roberta's laughter behind him.

Two hours later Jack returned with three packages and distributed them. All women had returned from lunch.

"Oh, cool," commented Maggie, who'd ripped her plastic bag open top to bottom in one powerful rip. Milly was poking around for scissors to open hers while Roberta was attempting to pull off the sealing tape without breaking a fingernail extension.

"Oh, fucking cool," yelled Maggie and Jack looked around the foyer frantically, fearful that old Mrs Roberts would come hobbling, wondering what was exciting Maggie. She came out pouncing, hips swinging, dressed in a cream and highly fashionable windbreaker.

"Ooh," said Roberta. "You look lovely in that. Come over and open mine, please dear. Fingernails you know."

Maggie held up Roberta's jacket, wondering how Roberta would get herself into it.

"Cor, look at all the sign writing," Maggie said positively. "It will make these jackets collector's items."

"Really?" commented Roberta, impressed. "Ordinarily I don't go in for self-branding with Nike and that sort of naming, although Chanel is acceptable. A collector's item you say - then perhaps we'd better dress in these just while we're in the office. No use wearing them out on the streets and watering down their rarity."

"I'm not wearing a jacket with words on it like a Milkbar Cowboy," Milly snapped.

"Just around the office then - for me."

"All right, Jack, I want to be fully integrated as part of the team."

The artistically created and presented screen-printed wording on the back of the jackets was, We do it better - Kitchens &Kitsch.

"I hope Gavin won't be angry with you spending his money on non-essential like this," Roberta whispered.

Jack replied that the cost of the jackets and printing had come from his own pocket. If Gavin decided he wanted one then he could have one and pay for the lot.

"I'll get him to do that," Roberta offered with a seductive smile.

"No, please don't. If it happens, it happens. Anyway, if word gets out that he's paying for jackets, everyone in the building will want one."

"Yes, and destroy their collectible value."

"Collectible value?"

"It's all right, Jack, you wouldn't understand these things."

Jack walked his jacket away not understanding much at all about Roberta, or women generally for that matter.


Submitted: July 29, 2007

© Copyright 2022 Grigor McGregor. All rights reserved.

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