Topical Tuesday: If I Could Have Been the Author of Any Book it Would Have Been…

Slaughterhouse 5!

First, I jumped at the Bible. Oh to have written the Bible. But hey, I’m one guy in one place and that was written by dozens and dozens over the course of 1000 years so for the sake of keeping it a fascinating text, I let my dream of writing the Bible go.

My next reaction upon pondering this question was to look at my bookshelves and pick out something that I saw there. I love my book shelves. However, upon moving to San Francisco, I left them behind. I packed up hundreds and hundreds of books and stored them in my mother’s basement. With me came about two dozen.

I don’t really wish that I’d written any of the books I have here (other than maybe The Divine Comedy), and so I had to start thinking again from scratch. Of course, there are so many classics that I could have picked but what would my reasoning have been?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn could have made a fine selection. Mark Twain was brilliant. The book was sensational, influential, historically relevant, etc. But somehow I decided that I wanted something else. At first I was toying with sci-fi: The Hobbit, Dune. I really like the idea of creating a whole different world and think that it’s very difficult. I would love to move people’s imaginations that way. Stephen King’s epic The Dark Tower could have been excellent but Chandler and I did say 1 book.

Thus, I settled on Slaughterhouse 5. There are a couple of reasons. Personally, I’ve read the book about a dozen times. It reads so quickly and never ceases to amaze me. You can take so much away from this book. There are great one liners that stay with you – i.e., So it goes. There are hilarious quips about life’s odd situations. Billy, for instance, has a huge penis, and says, you never know who’s going to have one.

What’s more, the book has amazing historical relevance (related to the Crusades and WWII), an incredible message about war that it doesn’t just tell you but makes you feel, and makes you think 6000 times about the structure of the universe and time and other such things. I use the image of the Rocky Mountains from the beginning of time until the end of time all the time to convey various points about the nature of time. That and the attitude of the Trafalmadorians about life just make it an absolutely incredible book, with no extra words to spare.

So, thanks a lot Kurt Vonnegut for doing it first. Though I may not get your much deserved acclaim for this incredible masterpiece, I can certainly say that your book has inspired me on a personal level and for my writing. If I could publish – nay, write – anything comparable to the things you achieve inside that book I’ll be a very happy man.

What’s your favorite book? What book do you wish you’d written? If they’re different why? Did you like Slaughterhouse 5?

Enjoy your own copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Divine Comedy and many other great books.

Enjoy more book and movie reviews.

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Topical Tuesdays…on Wednesday! – Self Publishing

First, an apology. As some of my loyal readers (and for the record I love you all) will notice, this promised Topical Tuesday is not happening on Tuesday. It’s Wednesday (to be honest – I’m in San Fran so it’s still Tuesday here but since it’s Wednesday on the East Coast and most people on the West Coast won’t read this blog until Wednesday, here we are). Low and behold, you will also know, as a loyal reader, that I have just moved to San Francisco and so my life and schedule (and internet access) are a little thrown off. Please forgive me for the aberration in posting.

That all said, don’t forget to check out Chandler’s blog for more on this week’s Topical Tuesday subject, self publishing. I assure you it’s more informed than my own opinion. And here we go…

Self publishing is a challenging matter and Chandler’s point remains crucial: a self-published author has not been selected for publishing. The author has chosen to avail him or herself of the services of someone else’s abilities to print. That means you’re responsible for what happens (generally speaking) after said availing.

There are, of course, some benefits to self publishing. One is that, if an author is having trouble getting a book published, self publishing is a way to prove that the book can be successful. With a proper ad campaign (self-funded, of course) and good promotion, you can sell a lot of books (pending you convince people to buy your book). You can sell copies out of the trunk of your car after a book signing or talk. You can sell them over the internet and with an isbn number through Amazon.com. All of these things and more are possible and you could sell a crapload of books this way. If your goal is to be published, a publisher could be greatly incentivized by your book’s success and agree to give it a go through real publishing. So, in this sense, it could be a means to an end.

As far as money is concerned, first books and writing in general don’t yield a lot of money. Very few people become Stephen Kings or Nora Roberts. Most of us make next to bubkes doing this. If you self publish, you could be responsible for some money up front (I don’t know the details). Fortunately, if you get a lot of copies of your book (and some awful publishers like PublishAmerica don’t let this happen so be careful and as Chandler warns, make sure you know what you’re signing) by running a large print run at your expense and keeping the copies, you get to keep all of the profits if you sell them. That means that the harder you work to promote and sell the more direct fiscal benefits you see. In the world of publishing houses, they reap the financial benefits of your promotions (aside from meager royalties) and you only reap the benefits of a book thoroughly sold which increases your odds of being published again – a noble gain, no doubt.

On the flip side of all of this are two issues that I see. Number one: you’re not really published in an elitist way and your book is probably not all over Barnes and Noble bookshelves. And number two: you could pay more money up front and not really get paid by a publishing house. There are other issues but these are two that I see.

At the very least, before self publishing read your contract carefully and make sure you’re not getting into a mess you can’t get out of – or at least get out of with your book.

What do you think about self publishing? Are you self published? Was it a good or bad experience? Are there other pros and cons that I didn’t talk about that you think should be brought up?

Status Report: San Fran is great and I’m loving the city. This was our first day apartment hunting and we’ve seen some stuff we liked. We feared the worst before beginning but think that we’ve found some great things and are not worried about working out a positive situation. We are staying in a friend’s apartment 30 minutes outside of the city (Sunnyvale) and it’s quite nice. His car is a great bonus for apartment hunting. Cyrus, the cat, did not have a great trip in and was pretty upset all through the night (disoriented, still a bit drugged, upset by the move) but today he seems pretty normal and his usual self. Tomorrow we check out more apartments – I’ll let you know how it goes.