Maybe there's an opportunity to become one of those "disruptive technology" people.
Like some others in the writing business, I've got a problem. Yes, I'm a good writer, meet deadline and stay organized. I'm dependable. I've got interesting stories to tell. They're fun to read. For 40 years in the newspaper business, and fewer years in the self-publishing world, people I don't know tell me how much they enjoy reading this or that. It's not like I'm imagining I can write, I've got the awards and the feedback to give me good reason to believe I can write.
However, the fiction stories I prefer to write feature male protagonists and deal with guy things. You know: There's people with a problem, things blow up, people get hurt, the guy perseveres or is clever or tough or all of the above, the problem gets solved. Guy books. That's actually the problem.
It is too much to say the publishing industry doesn't think men read books. It is probably not much of a stretch to say that most of the publishing industry doesn't think enough guys read books to make it worth investing time and resources in writers like me. There's more money in books for women, especially younger ones who seem to think vampires are great stuff.
OK, so if agents and publishers are correct, they can't be blamed for thinking their percentage of "not much" will be "even less". So why bother when a book about a handsome young vampire not only sells extremely well to young women, but also can be sold to the movies, where young women will come see it three, six or eight times? I'm not judgmental in any case, but it's tough to get upset with the logic based on the assumption that it is much more lucrative to publish for women than for men.
But here I sit, out of work, with ideas brimming out of my ears, processing a lot of frustration as the rejections come in for "Jesse Ludlam's Wars," a story about a teenaged boy who has to grow up quickly in the middle of a war that could get him killed. One person suggested I could change him into a girl who pretends to be a guy in the Civil War and gets away with it -- it was really done a few times -- but I just don't see myself taking that route. I can't think like a woman, and there are already enough fictional women who act like men to fill a small library.
Here's the thing: The guys who read this book for me during its production loved it. They didn't say "not quite my cup of tea" or anything like that. They said "stayed up late at night all week reading it" and "wonderful book." It was definitely their cup of tea, a male brew reeking of sweaty wool uniforms, woodsmoke, gunpowder, seawater and coal-fired steam engines.
So the question becomes, "Do I really really really need an agent and publisher?" The answer might cautiously be "no," with some asterisks.
I have a company already set up, Broken Lance Enterprises. It was the vehicle for producing a couple of books back when it was just a hobby. I'm legally set up and have the taxes to prove it.
Amazon has made it easier than ever to self publish. Amazon will print, list and sell any book, for almost nothing up front. I can also make any book available on Kindle, as well; don't even need paper any more.
For all this Amazon takes a portion of every sale. But I get a fair share. Steadily. Money is already trickling in from the titles now up, and I've not really started viral marketing, just the ramping-up part of it. Like this blog, Facebook, all that great stuff.
I won't get rich. In my whole life, getting rich has, pretty obviously, never been a reason for getting out of bed every day. But some money coming in from someplace other than investments and whatnot would be good. There should be enough guys who read guy books out there to keep me off welfare.
Or maybe I'm just a crazy guy with a mule and a broken lance who thinks a windmill is a monster I'm supposed to whup because that's what you're supposed to do, slay the monsters.
Kind of like Spenser, Philip Marlowe, Travis McGee, Sam Spade, Jack Aubrey, Mike Hammer, Adam Dalgleish, Mick Stranahan and the improbably named but still wonderfully plausible Horatio Hornblower.
Those guys that even many women enjoy reading about.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
My last post was on a mystery Civil War officer image found among my late aunt's stuff. I've had a lot of help from folks pointing out that the man is an officer and that he's wearing some kind of modestly interpreted "chasseur" uniform, somewhere between a plain vanilla uniform and a fancy Zouave uniform.
First question: Who thinks these two photos are the same guy? I'm tending to think so, in which case he is Thomas Cunningham. And yes, there was a Capt. Thomas Cunningham who served three years with the 1st New Jersey Regiment in the First New Jersey Brigade, Sixth Corps. Additionally, some of the men in that regiment re-enlisted, along with others from New Jersey regiments whose time had expired, and formed the First Battalion, Veteran Volunteers, also Sixth Corps. And a Photoshop processing of the headgear in the hand of the man on the right shows what is probably a "1" within the circle made by the brass infantry bugle.
There's a complication. The photo on the left is identified as Thomas Cunningham, for sure, but it's also identified as the 38th Regiment NJ Volunteers, a short-time, end-of-war unit that was NOT attached to the Sixth Corps.
Even the uniforms look similar, with a Russian knot across the shoulders instead of the typical officer strap.
Anything else? Yes. He was Irish, according to the 1890 veterans' census, and it's possible he may have been from southern New Jersey along with my (Irish) ggf William Thorp, who was only a couple of years older. There are dozens of Thomas Cunninghams in the census and it's going to take a while to sort it out, but Thomas may simply have been a friend of the Thorp family even before the war.
Meanwhile I think I'll see if I can get service and pension records for the Thomas Cunningham, Captain, Co. B, 1st NJ, and see what they have to tell us.
It's still like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with no idea what the final product is supposed to look like. Kind of like life in general.