To give you an idea of the flurry of e-mails behind the scenes at this time, I offer the exchange below, which occurred during the conference.
To Sean: Here's a question. What if there's no way POD can publish this book? What then? I think it's probably good to think about contingency plans now rather than later. The only thing I can think of is going in on it with another press. If these problems persist.
From Sean: I'm frustrated...as much as you are. Unfortunately, there isn't anyone better and traditional printing of a project this big and complex would mean expenditures of ten thousand dollars or more, which is not a viable solution. We simply have to bide our time and make sure that the book is done properly. There's not much that I can do right now but wait until they show that the book is available for printing.
This missive was followed the next day by my admittedly hyperbolic e-mail based on what had been happening at the conference:
This is getting serious, folks. I'm at this conference and people are begging for the damn hardcover--could have sold 30 or 40 copies at this conference ALONE. I brought 10 copies of the trade paper City. They SOLD OUT. I brought 10 copies of the Exchange. They SOLD OUT in an hour. Michael Dirda of the Washington Post, the book review editor, wants to review the hardcover. Wants proofs. Book dealers were saying they'd take copies. So here's my point and my idea re the hardcover: (1) Go ahead and order the 20 review copies, regardless of the quality of the interior. (2) IF the illos are still fucked up, I'll get with Eric to make them simple line art that should be okay. Garry, we might have to replace the cover sheets for the novellas, but I have an idea that would give us part of the image but still look cool. (3) Sean--after you get the 20 copies, if the art is still screwed up in them, you tell Lightning Source, you're replacing the PDF. Yes, I know this costs money, but I don't see what else to do. (4) We replace the PDF and hopefully still have the book out by May.
In the meantime--there may be some need to talk to Mark Kelly at Locus Online and to Keith Brooke at Infinity Plus about the delay with the book. Some sort of damage control. I know they'll be a little weirded out about reviewing a book that doesn't quite exist yet.
At the very least, we've got to see the finished hardcover so we know what to do next. Career-wise, this could really get me to the next level and help the trade paperback tons.