So many books, so little time
In my recollection, I’ve written 20 books in my lifetime. Proper books, mind you. Fully-rendered stories with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Sometimes with chapters, sometimes just one long unending stream of consciousness. Most of them were pretty terrible. Clumsily ambitious and committing all manner of atrocities on the English language.
Of those 20, zero have been published. I can remember them all, and it’s probably for the best.
In the summer before my 7th Grade year I wrote a rambling soap opera about the life and loves of a rather dashing 13-year-old junior high quarterback. It was “autobiographical” in the same way that Moby-Dick was a story about a little fishing trip. Nevertheless, my English teach adored it and read excerpts to the class.
“Someday, I expect, young Mr. Prosser is going to produce something of note,” she told the class. I wanted to hide under my desk.
Now I am a grown man, pushing 40, with a wife and five kids. I work long hours at a mentally engaging (and oftentimes exhausting) occupation. I am a leader at my church and very active in my local community. Between personal and professional pursuits, I sink into my pillow bone-tired on a nightly basis. I am content and very grateful with my life, but my mind remains awash in stories.
To this end, I started jotting down my ideas a few years ago.
During the spring of 2009 I was working overnight hours at a drug addiction treatment facility, I had a lot of time to conceptualize, conjure up, create, and deliberate upon various ornate tales and wild narrative trails. I sketched out a multi-volume horror series based on a few tidbits of local lore a coworker shared with me late one night when a severe thunderstorm knocked out the power to the facility. The idea was good (and I still cling to the fanciful notion of perhaps developing it someday in the far future) but it never went further than a loose outline and a handful of book/chapter titles.
Since starting at the newspaper in August 2009, I’ve been better able to strengthen my talents as well as to research stories under the auspices of performing the regular tasks of my job. By 2012 I was finishing up my first “official” novel withe working title of “Woe Betide You,” completed in early July just a few days before my 36th birthday.
At the time I was in talks with a local independent publisher who had read a couple rough chapters and was excited to release the book under his imprint. I was not enthusiastic about the partnership. While his books sell well regionally (that is, within the confines of the smattering of small Texas towns from Texarkana to Beaumont), the kindly elder man was not technologically adept. When I asked him about making my books available on hand-held devices and tablets, his approach was frustratingly antiquated. I knew it was not going to work out.
Then, life happened.
A few issues in both professional and personal spheres made things complicated, and I wasn’t able keep my end of the bargain. I used the complications to break off our handshake partnership, though were still able to remain friends and colleagues. But as time wore on, I began to neglect pushing the book forward to publish.
Before the end of the year, another story emerged. Initially culled from an overwrought subplot excised out of “Woe Betide You,” (which had been revised to its now permanent name of “Aaron & Moses”), I found myself immersed in a second novel “Book of Loeb” which prompted my third, the tentatively titled “City Cafe.” The most recent work is all but finished. There’s still some polishing and editing to be done (just like its two precursors) but the narrative arc has been resolved. There’s no more story left to be written.
That leaves me now with three more or less completed books, and no idea how I’m going to publish them. I laugh as I think about which scenario is worse: an author with a book deal who’s suffering from writer’s block, or an unsigned writer who dashes off whole completed novels anytime he has enough idle enough weekends to type out the stories.
Aaron & Moses is a story of two brothers, of anger and envy. Book of Loeb is about one man, and is centered upon ambition and desire. City Cafe (I’m really not crazy about that title) has an ensemble cast, and focuses on interconnectedness and nostalgia. Of course, there’s also “Ghosts of the Pineywoods” (a loose collection of poems, anecdotes and free verse ramblings that defy simple categorization.
So, that’s three novels and a compilation, of sorts. I’ve got the works, I just don’t know how to get them to their future readers.
The problem is my fault, totally. Everyone in the industry I’ve talked to about publishing has tried to help me. But I want it a certain way, and I’m really not willing to budge on how I want to do this. It doesn’t help matters that I’ve done very little research on how exactly one goes about doing it the way I want. In many ways I’m like a petulant child, complaining he wants it his way, without really knowing how he could go about getting what he wants.
Here’s the deal…
I want my books available in print editions, with full ISBN numbers and the works. I want them able to be sold in stores as well as online distributors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Barron’s et al. In the print edition, I want it to be published totally in the traditional style. But I want something quite a bit different in the electronic version.
For the electronic version of the book, I want the customer to be able to download the book a chapter at a time for a base price. Probably something like $.99 a chapter until they get, like, 10 chapters in. Once they’ve bought at least 10 chapters, they get the rest of the book. Since I expect to charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-15 per book, I feel like this gives them the option of starting the book, reading a few chapters, and then deciding not to pay more than a couple bucks if they’re not interested.
I’m familiar with sites that allow customers to self-publish on their sites for a small fee (or percentage on each sale?) but I’m not certain how exactly that works. I also don’t know if they also make the books available in print editions. Living in East Texas, I know a lot of people still aren’t quite hip to tablets and readers like Nooks and Kindles, so I don’t want to completely leave them out of the loop. But neither do I wish to cut out those who no longer read bound books either.
Perhaps I should do more research, but my patience is my biggest hindrance.
It seems I’m still the little boy who wanted to hide under his desk when the teacher read his book in class. There’s a strange, perverse part of me that never wants to publish. That wants to greedily lust over my works, read them in my idle hours, and silently covet them to myself for all eternity. Seriously! I don’t understand it myself, but neither can I deny my feelings.
Someone should stage an intervention of something, or these books likely will never see the light of day.