Walmart Hemingways

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Today I’m going to jump off into the wonderful world of self-publishing. Back in the day when you tried to produce a book you had to find this fella called a “publisher.” Now, a publisher is someone who looks at your material, and takes a chance that if he/she invests the money that something you may have written will generate enough interest that the public will spend more money buying it than they did printing  it. That’s called “profit.” Hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts would pour into the publisher’s office, and after much ado a few would be picked to be edited and pressed. Then, hopefully, the public would be so amazed by your brilliance that they would shower you with praise, some money, and you would be like Hemingway, all but the shotgun thing, that sucked.     Before I go on I need to fill you in on some things. All writers, including myself, are crazy. Only crazy people would spend hours alone chasing shadows in their mind hoping to make a buck. Writers are subject to delusions of grandeur. Because of this we had the invention of something called the vanity press. A vanity press is a publisher of sorts that will print anything you send so long as there is a check in the package. In about a month, or six weeks you get a paperback book and that will usually cause the self-published author to progress from merely delusional to full psychopathic involvement with a world of their own making, with all the frills up to and including walking around Walmart thinking everyone knows who you are!

Think it can’t get worse? Au Contraire! Enter Amazon.com! Now, I’m only pickling Amazon because it is the foremost of a new critter that will publish anything you send for FREE! Then, the wannabe “authors” progress from crazy, through delusional, right past psychopathic, all the way to pig-nuts!  They order cases of their epic to sell, or more than likely give away, and begin to feel the winds of destiny blowing through their hair. The only cure for this is the inevitable ego crash that waits at the end, and it is there, folks. They hang on numbers on the website, imagining that those huge numbers mean something. Verily, verily, I say unto you, nobody is reading your book!     The song remains the same. There is nothing new under the sun. When ink hits the page, if YOU pay for that ink, it is self-abuse. It is true that on occasion one of these works will stand out, I can’t remember one, but I’m sure it happens. People win the lottery, too. By and large you still have to find a publisher who will gamble on you as an author, and in order to do that you must BE an author. There must be enough content, style, and downright commercial savvy to entice such a person into your corner.

I know a woman, she came from my hometown. She wore her passion for her books like a thorny crown. (Forgive me Paul Simon,) She had this idea for a book about racial injustice way back in old time Texas. Now, God knows no Klansmen ever strung up any black guys  in the woods down here!  I personally have never seen a real live Klansman, but I’ve seen movies, and I know they wouldn’t lie! Anyway, she hammers on this thing for YEARS! Eventually she came out to Berry Creek and handed me a shoebox full of notes. I’m busy constructing my own pipe dream, but, at the request of my wife, I turned from working on my book to trying to untangle this convoluted mess. I won’t bore you with the details of the content, suffice to say I hated it. What started out to be a simple edit became a complete rewrite. I had to compose entire chapters, develop through lines, even transcend time and space to make this thing make any kind of sense. A friend even flew in from Detroit because THIS epic had to be an audio book, which, of course, I had to lend voice to. For all of this I was paid exactly nothing! Hey, I told you I was crazy.

The lady had abandoned a previous “editor” in a flurry of rage threatening lawsuits before she came to me. Guess what? When the project was complete she abandoned me, too, with the threat of lawsuits and even a call from a lawyer. The lady imagined that I was conspiring to “steal” her book, and make a fortune. It was an easy settlement. I told her I had no intention what so ever to be publicly involved with this racist piece of horse dung, and she’d get no problems from me! Time and tears went by.

She found another “editor” who found her a publisher . . . Amazon.com! (See where this is going, folks?) She called, all puffed up with her newfound fame, and asked me if I would do another audio book. I skirted the issue, but then this church shooting came up. So I’m sitting here on my porch, gingerly working my way through an article about the events in the Carolina’s, and I’m looking for a picture to put into the article. Originally I wanted a black Jesus. As I thumbed through pictures the cover of this stupid book came up. (I told you I was crazy!) I said to myself, “Self, why don’t you give a little plug for the old lady?” My reasoning was thus; I have it on good authority that five or six people a day read my articles. It doesn’t intimidate the New York Times, but it makes me feel good, and if I used her book cover perhaps someone may actually order her work. There was no WAY I could ever make any money from this. I even called her and told her my plan. After the article went up I immediately got a call. As I copied the image from my iPad I had held it in “landscape” thus causing the resulting upload to not show her name. No problem, I redid it in portrait mode and her full book cover appeared. I thought no more about it. Took the weekend off, had cocktails and began to think about what I would write on Monday. No good deed goes unpunished!

She called me on Monday, and ripped into me. I couldn’t really make a whole lot of sense of it, but I think it boiled down to the fact that her book had not hit the best seller list, and I was pocketing a lot of money at the expense of her notoriety. I was also warned sternly that should I ever even utter the title of the book I would be, you guessed it, sued! Why, there were even three very knowledgeable little old ladies in PoDunk, Texas who had “advised” her on this. That sucking sound you heard yesterday was me making quite sure that no one on the PLANET would ever associate my name with that particular work, and I didn’t do it out of fear, I did it because I know you can’t fix stupid!

I wish her all,the luck. Shucks, I could be wrong. Her book may be another “Gone with the Wind,” hope it is, but I reinforced some rules for myself. Publishing of any sort is a gamble. In that crap shoot, all is fair. A casual mention by a national celebrity, a book signing, a blog that supports the work, they all work in. It takes tons and tons of new material to keep your work before the public eye and ANY publicity is good publicity. If you are struggling with the world of self-publishing, blogs, or the like, and you imagine you are Hemingway, then you ARE crazy. I write because I enjoy writing. Also, helps me reflect, clarify, and explain things to MYSELF, and if someone out there sees my point, so much the better. If they don’t, hey, that’s cool, too, because, after all, I’m just a Simple Ol’ Boy From Austin.

Bill the Butcher

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