Marolt: This little novel went to market
Mathematical theorists say, given unlimited time, a monkey typing randomly can write a coherent novel eventually. It only took me 21 years.
That’s a lot of polishing for publishing. But it wasn’t polishing that finally got my book to market; it was unfathomable changes in publishing occurring while I worked on this project.
Two decades ago, an unknown author had almost no chance of getting a piece of work published. A decade later, advances in technology made it possible for vanity publishers to print and bind books one at a time at a relatively low cost so that, for a few thousand dollars, a writer could self-publish a title in vain. Today, books can be loaded onto a Kindle or smartphone, and anyone can put an e-book on the market that is instantly available to millions.
If you don’t count the thousands of hours it takes to write a novel — which no self-respecting writer would do because, if they did, there would be a lot more demoralized writers and no more novels written — the cost of publishing a book is zero.
It takes a little tinkering with formatting, a bit of trial and error with cover design, and you have to set up an Amazon account and remember the password, but once that is accomplished, a few keystrokes put you in business. And if you sell just one book, your business is profitable! That’s not to say that every writer can make a living publishing their own books. It’s just pointing out that one doesn’t have to risk any capital to give it a try.
Of course, this means that the struggle for the writer has shifted from getting a book published to getting customers to buy it. This paradigm will change the thinking of every writer who ever thought, “If only I could get a publisher to read my manuscript” to “Do I believe enough in this book to beg, borrow and drain my retirement savings to try to sell it?” In essence, you become the publisher that sends yourself the rejection letters.
Anyone can produce a novel, ready to go. The quest to get published is over. Poof! The angst of the eternally misunderstood, struggling author is a thing of the past.
That makes writing a lot more like riding a bicycle or bowling — anyone can do it, but chances are pretty good that nobody is going to pay you a million dollars to do it. Thus, the writer is now faced with the age-old dilemma faced by hobbyists from long-distance swimmers to rope skippers everywhere — how to spend lots of time on a seemingly pointless endeavor and at least give it the appearance of being something bigger than a waste of time.
The answer, of course, is to turn writing into an “a-thon” and use it to raise money for a cause; as in a walk-a-thon, bike-a-thon or a pingpong-a-thon. You make it something tangible, like “I will ride my bike 10,000 miles; how much will you give to charity for each one?”
Sometimes this approach is nothing more than a cheap gimmick, and other times it is part of a lifelong mission. I would like to turn my book into the latter. It certainly qualifies as a write-a-thon; 101,000 words over the course of two decades is a long way to travel with a pen over paper.
I consider my enjoyment of writing a great gift that I have gratefully accepted to keep me coming back to the keyboard. That’s been enough excuse to keep after it, but now I feel like I have a new opportunity to make it more worthwhile with electronic publishing.
I want to do what I can to alleviate hunger. Starvation is the world’s most prolific killer, and its cure is known. I would like to be hands-on in this effort, and someday I will really try to be, but I have a family to raise for now and have to be content to send money.
I now have a product from this writing diversion to sell from which I can devote 100 percent of the profits to this cause. I can turn writing into my hands-on effort for now. If you download “Divided by Infinity” from Amazon to your Kindle or smartphone, I will give all I make from the sale to help the hungry and homeless. It’s good for the cause. It’s good for me. As for you, you will have to decide for yourself how you feel after reading the book.
Roger Marolt has experienced the revolution of book publishing with just one book. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.