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Relying on the kindness of Kindle readers

Alex Miller
Alex Miller
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This sounds more exciting than it really is, but I published my first novel over the weekend.

When I started writing “Ohiowa” in 2002, I envisioned this process that would culminate in a big, ego-pumping trip to New York to sign a contract worth a few hundred grand. Maybe there would be a movie deal attached to add another million or so to it. And, who knows, we could afford to buy a house around here, finally.

The news for novelists, however, is not good these days. And the ability to get published appears to have a lot less to do with how good your book is than how successful your previously published books have been, which largely excludes the newcomer who has no track record. Of course, there are exceptions, but rising to the top of the heap in the publishing market is roughly analogous to making it big in Hollywood: There are the fortunate few, surrounded by groaning, whining hordes making do in other occupations while their creative pursuits go largely unpaid.

Writing a novel is a ridiculously difficult thing to do. Writing even a crappy novel is a major act of self-discipline; creating something truly crafted, laboriously re-written and endlessly fussed over can take many years. You get up very early or stay up very late, all to work on something that, for all you know, the world has zero interest in.

It is, however, the quintessential exercise in pursuing the American Dream. It’s not impossible that one of us part-time scribblers could somehow write something that would sell like crazy, turn into a movie and spawn a hugely lucrative career a la Stephen King or James Patterson. It’s that spark of hope that gets the would-be novelist up at the crack of dawn to work on plots and characters that will likely remain unknown to the world forever.

News from the publishing industry is that people don’t read anymore, anyway, and that those who do like writers they’re familiar with. Unless you can get anointed by Oprah, traditional publishing seems to have little to offer the average writer who just wants a few people to read his book.

So after rejection notes from a score of literary agents, I published my novel electronically. Amazon, you may have heard, has a new e-book reading device out called the Kindle. I have not seen one yet, nor do I know anyone who has one, but my guess is this could turn into the iPod for reading. You can wirelessly download books, newspapers and magazines to this thing. You can read it in sunlight and in the dark. Its new “electronic paper” technology promises to be much better than first-generation e-readers. And, best of all, it opens up the publishing world to anyone.

For the Kindle, I converted “Ohiowa” into HTML text, whipped out a quick jacket design on Photoshop, uploaded it on Amazon’s Digital Text Platform site, gave it a modest price and sat back expecting nothing.

Which is what I got. The next step is figuring out to how to market my book to the small population of people who have Kindles. I found a book on how to do this, but since it’s only available in a Kindle edition, I’ll have to buy the damn thing.

Anyway, if anyone out there has a Kindle, I suggest you buy my book and write nice things about it on the Amazon site. I don’t know where e-books are going, but if they’re the next wave of publishing, I want to be out there on my little creative surfboard.

It may come to naught, but I’ll never learn: I’m already halfway through writing my next novel.

Alex Miller is responsible for the editorial oversight of the Vail Daily, Eagle Valley Enterprise and Vail Trail. He can be reached at (970) 748-2920, or editor@vaildaily.com.


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