In 1971, while Preiss was teaching at a Philadelphia elementary school, he conceived, and with Jim Steranko, produced an anti-drug comic book, The Block, designed for low-level reading skills. Published by Steranko's company, Supergraphics, it was distributed to schools nationwide.
As a book packager, he developed titles for such publishers as HarperCollins and Random House. One such project, created in conjunction with the Bank Street College of Education, resulted in a series of educational comic books adapting well-known genre authors: The Bank Street Book of Creepy Tales, The Bank Street Book of Fantasy, The Bank Street Book of Mystery and The Bank Street Book of Science Fiction.
Preiss was co-author, with Michael Reaves, of the children's novelDragonworld (Doubleday, 1979), with 80 illustrations by Joseph Zucker. Dragonworld was originally planned to be the fifth "Fiction Illustrated" title.
In 1982, Preiss published The Secret, a puzzle book that combined 12 short verses and 12 elaborate fantasy paintings by John Jude Palencar. Readers were expected to pair each painting with a verse in a way that would provide clues to finding one of 12 plexiglass boxes buried in various parks around North America. Each box contained a ceramic key that could be redeemed for a jewel worth $1,000. The book was inspired by the success of Masquerade, written and illustrated by Kit Williams and published in England in August 1979, but The Secret never led to the same level of treasure hunting frenzy. One of the ceramic boxes was found in Chicago in 1983, one in Cleveland in 2004, and one in Boston in October 2019. The remaining nine boxes have yet to be found, and reportedly Preiss was the only one who knew where they were when he died.
Beyond traditional printed books, Preiss frequently embraced emerging technologies, and was among the first to publish in such electronic forms as CD-ROM books and ebooks. The Words of Gandhi, an audiobook he produced, won a Grammy Award in 1985.
Later life and death
Preiss was married to Sandi Mendelson, with whom he had daughters Karah and Blaire. On July 9, 2005, he died in a traffic accident at East Hampton, New York, on Long Island.
Both Byron Preiss Visual Publications and ibooks Inc. filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on February 22, 2006, after his death.
List of Byron Preiss publications
Published by Preiss, or packaged by Preiss for other publishers