February 15, 2013

A Publisher Who Loved Colorado History

The first book — OK, a booklet, really — that I ever published was called Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek. It was a spin-off from reporting that I was doing for the Colorado Springs Sun on the early-1980s mini-revival of gold mining in the Cripple Creek-Victor district, pretty minor stuff compared to the open-pit mining going on now

The core of it, some feature stories published in the Sun, had barely seen print when I was caught in a mass layoff of about twenty editorial employees.

Shortly afterward, I was talking with Leland Feitz, who was a sales rep for a Colorado Springs printing firm, but owned a house in "the District," and published his own line of saddle-stitched little books on Colorado history under the imprint of Little London Press. (Little London was an 1890s nickname for Colorado Springs, because of the influx of British mining capital, investors, fortune-and-health seekers, etc. in that decade.)

I think he bought me lunch, said,  "When one door closes, another one opens," and suggested that I do a book. (We just dodged the whole issue of work-for-hire!)

Leland's arrangement with authors was simple and direct. After each press run of your book, he paid you a royalty in advance. When all those books were sold (in gift shops, museum shops, regular bookstores, news stands, and so forth around the state), he would reprint that title, and you would get another check.  If only all publishing worked that way! I received royalty-in-advance payments for about twenty years before his health declined and he withdrew from publishing.

Now he is gone.
“We have lost our storyteller. The stories won’t be coming anymore,” said Loyal Campbell, a long-time friend.

No subject was too large or small for Feitz to preserve. He gave equal time to outhouses and whorehouses, churches and gold mines, the famous and not so famous. He wrote about encounters with Duke Ellington, Lowell Thomas, Harry Truman and neighbors who warred over placement of a rhubarb plant.
I think that I need to track down his autobiography.

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