Book Announcement and Mea Culpa

Well, I finally admit defeat. I did the ebook thing. I spent some months shopping my dark fantasy novel, Soul Exposure, to agents without catching anyone’s interest. I must say that form rejection letters are more polite than I expected.

The thing that finally got me to try the ebook route was my wife’s recent accidental seating on a plane next to a successful mid-list author with several published novels to her credit. They got into a conversation. This woman had been around long enough that she got into the game by the traditional route of paper manuscripts and snail mail, but told my wife that these days about the only chance anyone new has is to go with an ebook and hope for some traction.

Since it is such a hassle to get these things set up for digital submission, and the two main ebook vendors, Amazon and Barnes and Noble have somewhat different formatting requirements, I went with Amazon’s Kindle. Amazon has most of the market share and offered the perk of letting readers peek at, in my case, all of Chapter One and most of Chapter Two. (It would have been much easier had I been using Microsoft Word, since even after I jumped through multiple hoops with Libreoffice and HTML files it was clear that Amazon’s conversion software would have been much, much happier with stuff made by a Microsoft product. If I make enough from the book, I might buy a full-featured copy of Word. In fact, I should start saving my pennies today.)

I’ve had to do all this on the cheap because I can’t afford to have it professionally polished. I decided that the main thing was to get the text out there and see if anybody likes my stuff. My wife took a photo of a creepy old house in New England that my daughter and a friend of hers turned into the book’s cover. I think it’s pretty cool.


  1. Before you write your book go to the link below and carefully read the requirements for formatting your book. Follow them. It is much easier to have done it as you went along rather than have to reformat your book from scratch.

  2. Bite the bullet and write the book using Microsoft Word because that is what everybody is set up to process. Yes, I know that there are some other word processors, some of them available for the low, low cost of free, that work beautifully for traditional paper manuscripts and will turn out DOC and HTML files, but apparently there are subtle differences in the digital files that create minor hiccups when they hit the conversion software.

  3. Unless you are already a well-known author who can jump right into getting your book out in paper, don’t waste your time with the traditional route. Whether you like it or not, and I don’t, we now live in the world of ebooks.

And now, for a bit of shameless self-promotion, I give you Soul Exposure!






Next stop, 1934

There is a delightful, possibly apocryphal, story that in 1935 a man named Allen Lane, an employee at a British publishing house—who was returning from a weekend party at a country house that included Agatha Christie, no less—stood in a train station worrying about the book business. The Depression was on, and books were too expensive for most people. Book sales were weak. However, he noticed that cheaply printed magazines in the station sold briskly.

Junk fiction of the “penny dreadful” type had been around for decades, but anything like a proper novel or work of non-fiction got printed in hardcover. It occurred to Lane that legitimate books could be sold at much lower cost if they were printed on cheaper paper and without expensive hard covers. As he thought about it, he became convinced that there had to be millions of working-class people who would buy books if they could afford them.

His employer wanted none of it, so Lane struck out on his own. He priced his books at about the cost of ten cigarettes, which he decided was within the means of working-class adults and teens and left him a profit margin, albeit a tissue-thin one. His new company, Penguin, began by printing works by writers such as Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, and Dorothy Sayers. Penguin sold millions of the new paperback books, often to people who had never before been able to own a book. (Lane was later accused by Britain’s Conservative Party of corrupting the minds of the poor.)

Now it looks as if cheap paperback books may soon be a memory. Big publishers are making no secret of their desire to convert completely to ebooks, at least as far as the niche once occupied by mass-market paperbacks goes.

Although I think some paper books will survive in the form of over-sized art books and beautifully made, but expensive, hard-cover books for those who can afford them, books for those who must carefully calculate the consequences of even a small purchase may soon vanish.

People tell me that ebooks are cheaper. I fail to see how spending at least as much to merely lease (read your “purchase” agreement carefully and forget about leaving your “library” to your spouse or your kids or donating it to a charity) an ebook that you would have once spent to own a mass-market paperback is cheaper.

I fail to see how a book that can’t be read without the purchase—and frequent replacement due to breakage or carefully plotted obsolescence—of a gadget that costs at least as much as a major monthly utility bill is cheaper than a book that is ready to read as it is.

Book ownership and the example of parents buying books and reading in the home, factors that encourage respect for literacy and academic effort, are about to become too expensive for many families.

About one child in five in my country lives in poverty. In a used-book store I used to frequent, I often observed moms who were obviously counting every penny lovingly buying used paperback books for their kids. We affluent folks are about to take that experience away from those children..

I suppose I need to learn not to think about that the way I’ve learned to avoid thinking about how the nifty laptop I’m using to write this was assembled by someone in a sweatshop so hellish that the desperate people working there often kill themselves. After all, as a writer and someone able to afford ebooks, the end of cheap paperbacks could be a good deal for me. I’ve got mine, to hell with you. Right?