Behind the Bathroom Reader: An Interview with Uncle John of Uncle John's Bathroom Readers (a/k/a Gordon Javna)

St Martins published the first four books, and then we self-published. This is our 19th year, about 45 titles in all. Self-publishing is more lucrative if you have even a mildly successful product. It turned out to be a great thing, gave us a lot more flexiblity. Nobody could tell us, 'no, that won't sell.' Haven't had any clunkers yet! So far we've done very well.

As a kid, after comics, my favorite things were the almanac and the encyclopedia. We're just trivia collectors who like wacky information, and it turns out a lot of other people like it too. It is research-intensive, and we have to collect an awful lot to fill a 500 page book, but it's a lot of fun and we get paid for it—and we laugh a lot at work. Right now we're researching prehistoric plants called cycads. People collect them, they still grow. The meaning of totem poles, the origin of Jello.

We're talking to University Games about doing an Uncle John's board game. I've see our fact collections used on Who wants to Be A Millionaire, Jeopardy; you can't copyright a fact.

Our Fall Classic will be over 200,000 copies; some others are considerably less. A small run is 10,000 for us. We have legions of fans who wait for our publications. They write to us and tell us they wish their high school textbooks had been written like our books. Grandparents say our books are the only things they have in common with their grandchildren, and children tell us they're they only thing they have in common with their grandparents.

We have a staff of researchers and fact-checkers; I refer to them as our "crack staff"—bathroom humor. Roughly a dozen people.

We did an article for one of our children's books about what to expect in the future, and one was flexible keyboards that roll up. Now they even have keyboards you can project.

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