That’s how it goes, folks! Those who read books want to unload their bookcases and give them away to a book fair for charity purposes! I recently attended a book fair where they also invited authors to offer their new books. That’s a great idea and an interesting way of looking at a book’s life cycle. With our backs against the wall, our tables displaying our books, we watched book lovers buy books by the cartloads that were “discarded,” all displayed on rows of tables. Except ours.
Nobody realized the cruelty of that scene: us staring at our graves!
George Vercessi and me
I only became aware of it later in the day when I decided to lower the price of my new books by half to compete with the penny-priced tons of dead books in front of me. Books by John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Joyce Carol Oates, so many others, lined-up majestically together, waiting to be carried to the books grave.
We did have a few buyers, though. But next year, would we find our books also dumped on those tables or decaying in carton boxes?
For readers, do you know how much goes into writing and publishing a book? It’s unbelievable how much time and money it takes! And then you sell it for $10-15 dollars a piece at a book-signing or a fair, or if you are lucky in a Barnes & Nobles store.
It often takes more than a year to write a book. Suppose it’s a “good” book, and that, after months of querying, you are lucky to find a good agent to represent it. Then it takes 18 months before it is published, after many edits and re-edits, and sweat, tears, and curses. By that time it’s an “old” book already. Also, it’s not even “your” book anymore. So many people other than the author have meddled with it: your writers group, your editor(s), the agent’s input, the publisher’s editor, an endless process. Why would you even take the trouble to write?
Well, that’s the quintessential question. So many do! Every day, thousands of new books arrive on the scene on Amazon.com. If you self-publish, you sell at between .99 cents and 2.99 dollars (remember my blog about the US 99 cents craze – July 2, 2016?), which seems to be the range where the “greedy readers” buy. If there is one example of reader price distortion, it’s on Amazon. I heard of one good writer who sold many e-books at 99 cts, but got only one penny royalty per e-book. So if you sold 1000 books you earned 10 dollars royalty. Give me a break!
Still, as a writer, you want to get that story out, you must write that book. Maybe you have to say something that’s worth telling. Maybe it’s good therapy to get something off your chest that’s been bugging you all your life. Maybe it’s a character that has been spooking through your mind and imagination that spurs you to write about her. Or maybe you just like to scare the hell out of people (Stephen King, and he laughs all the way to the bank with it).
I know about industry because I worked a long time in trade and development economics. But the “writing industry” is a different cattle of fish. It’s not manufacturing or money lending. I realized that only after I decided to write myself. There are so many people learning to write, teaching to write, editing other people’s writing, writers conferences with hundreds of “speakers” about writing, advertisers, publicists, and booksellers, it’s huge. It has expanded exponentially since the first printer was invented in the mid-fifteenth century by the Dutchman Laurens Janszoon Koster. Of course, the Germans pretend that it was Johannes Gutenberg who was first, at about the same time. Let’s say both had a telepathic moment, to keep the peace and avoid a battle with and about Germans always saying Germany “uber alles.”
Laurens Koster in Haarlem – The Netherlands
I’m afraid we writers are the biggest suckers in all this. We pay for all those lend-a-hand services offered by the “eager providers,” the middlemen (or is it now middlepersons to be gender neutral?), with only a handful of us recovering our costs, and even fewer making a buck.
Poor Writer and Rich Writer
Still, I want to write that book because otherwise, the character keeps bugging me, night and day. I want to get her off my back and start with another one. Like changing girlfriends (or boyfriends, depending). One advantage: no alimony payments.
Till next time.
By John Schwartz:
http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o: Enchanting The Swan
http://amzn.to/1QIL94B: Some Women I Have Known.
End of la belle vie, the beautiful life, het mooie leven (Dutch), das schöne leben (German), la vida hermosa!
Au revoir, another twelve harsh months ahead.
Back to Work.
Back to School.
Back to Sports
Back to writing.
Oh yeah, back to the traffic jams at rush hour that get longer every year.
How good it was to be away from it all. You must take the time to reset your buttons; to reorganize your brain; to shake off those negative thoughts that grew on your persona from last September thru June/July. Dolce far niente (translated: time-out) to face or settle kids troubles, spouse troubles, money troubles, you name it. And then travel to an island, relax on a soft yellow sand beach, have your butler bring you a refreshing cocktail, and sip from it while watching the sun go down in bright to crimson splendor. Then wake up after a pleasant night with your romantic companion, hear the waves rolling in, get a coffee, drink it while viewing the deep blue sea, and catch the first glimpse of the rising sun. And don’t touch that stupid TV with that awful CNN. Shut out that dreadful world in which we live. Do you still remember?
After a day of swimming, rolling on the beach, sailing in the wind, have champagne on your terrace. Enjoy the fresh salt water scent. Listen to the crickets. And recycle that brain. Why can’t we do that all the time? Well, Dolce far niente is not for everyone.
Then the rude awakening!
We are back to what has become the US Normal: terrorist attacks (about which another time), riots, burnings, destruction, disgruntled people screaming, all on extended TV, especially the yellow-orange flames in close-up, to grab the ratings for higher advertising rates. As a foreign national enjoying your hospitality, I’m just perplexed at what you are doing to yourself. More so even after eight years of a “black” president rule.
From the moment I touched the American soil in 1972, I have been perplexed with this riot phenomenon. OK, we had a few in Holland, and in Paris, where they burned cars, all religious-inspired.
But here whole inner cities go up in flames. And this has been going on as long as I have been here, for almost 45 years. Be it in Los Angeles with Rodney King (“Why can’t we all get along?”), Seatle (anarchists against the WTO conference–interesting when comparing this to the current Trump opposition to the TPP), or the latest round of Ferguson (“Black lives matter”), New York (“Can’t breathe”), and Baltimore (“more of the same”). I’m sure that if TV did not show it, these protests would be over right away. After the mess they created, they go home, look at TV the whole day to see themselves, and if not, return at night for an another try.
I get so tired of having to watch this all the time that my TV viewing is limited to Turner Classic Movies (great inspiration for writers). I canceled my newspaper subscriptions a long time ago. Either they tell me what I already know, or they irritate the hell out of me. I don’t need all this repetitive analysis. Why pay money for that?
But I will look at the “debates.”
For starters, I am perplexed that Hillary is even allowed to run for president after all the crimes she committed. My mouth stayed open for many minutes when the FBI said she had no “intent.” And that after all the info to the contrary that had been shown left and right. Well, the US is not the only country with double standards. In Russia, if you dare confront the establishment, you are poisoned in secrecy while Putin kills everyone he wants and still walks free. In France, all presidents in my lifetime committed some illegality for which they were pursued by the high court and fined (not sure if they paid up). In Italy, wealthy TV owner, Silvio Berlusconi,
was convicted of sexual misconduct with an underage girl and then for tax fraud, but because he was over 70, he was exempted from prison and only did a bit of “community service.” Well, Berlusconi is my age, so I wonder what that sexual misconduct was all about. But putting your national security in danger? Because that’s what the US Secretary of State did. I can’t figure that. And then she has the audacity to wonder why she isn’t 50 points ahead in the polls.
Anyway, I digress. I have no vote, so I’ll be curious who “the American People” elect as their next president. I still remember the US planes dropping food bags when they liberated us from the Nazis in 1945, and restoring law and order in The Netherlands and the rest of Europe, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain. When I look at the American spirit of today, a lot has changed. I pray that it will be restored. So be wise.
And that’s my view.
For some relaxed reading, check out:
Some Women I Have Known, in which John van Dorn confuses playing from sheet music with playing between the sheets.
and Enchanting The Swan, in which pianist Paul narrates his story how he fell in love with Fiona while performing The Swan by Camille St. Saëns, but met a wall of resistance when her parents of old Belgian nobility blocked their marriage. Will they ever play The Swan again?
Till next time!