Monday, November 9, 2009

zen and the art of self-publishing

INTERN was starting to feel a little mournful and over-serious after her last NaNoReVisMo post, so she packed herself some apples and half a loaf of bread and set off on a self-imposed Quixotic Journey. Over the course of her wanderings, she visited some kind of Zen buddhist establishment, where a kindly nun pointed her to a pile of Free Books. INTERN emerged from the temple with a cute little self-published tome called simply "CAUSE AND EFFECT," and repaired to the nearest forest to read it among the dry leaves and withering nettle.

Here's the deal with cause and effect:

"If in this life one loves and enjoys hunting, in the next one will suffer from chronic nervousness to the point of insanity."

(pencil drawing of sneering hunter with "effect" arrow pointing to foamy-mouthed madman)

"Excessive attachment to tastes will undermine the normal functions of the lungs leading to sickness there from"

(pencil drawing of vomiting man surrounded by garlic bulbs, leeks, and green onions)

"Do not simply pour hot water on the ground. This is because many small insects (cause) live in the ground. This reckless action will harm their lives and moreover it will result in us having a short life (results)."

(pencil drawing of helmeted, jackbooted soldier type sneeringly pouring water on the ground while centipedes and ladybugs twice his size writhe around him).

It goes on like that for 180 fully illustrated pages. INTERN wanted to run back to the temple and investigate the other books, but she might have splashed her coffee on the ground and was nervous about the Effect that might have on her lifespan.

Anyway, the whole experience made INTERN reconsider everything she's been hearing about the book is an antiquated form soon to be replaced by electronic readers. Had the buddhist temple offered free downloads of "CAUSE AND EFFECT" INTERN would have never bothered. As it is, the (rather spooky) little volume has wormed its way into her imagination and her shelf.

Maybe, like the cockroach, the Free Book will the last physical book scurrying around after the apocalypse, when all those weak, silly "for profit" print books are decomposing in their graves. Maybe self-published books with massive print runs will be the proverbial last man standing in the history of print. Somebody please prove INTERN wrong.

Back to regular scheduled Revismo-ing next time. INTERN is feeling refreshed, and a little paranoid about all that lion hunting and seal clubbing she used to do in the evening after interning. Four-point restraints in the next life...


  1. What a great post, and it sounds like the book is quite entertaining! I think the type of book one has created might also match up with a type of publishing. Maybe self-publishing was the best thing for this particular item. If it had been produced by a big publishing house, I probably would have felt like it was trying too hard.

  2. The thing about self-publishing is that it's useful for short runs and insider publications where no great distribution efforts are needed. I've done a couple dozen of 'em, between a dozen-copy "memento" publications for fellow travelers, calendarists, memoirists, poets, and prosaists, and my own comparatively wildly successful 1,000 copy sale over the course of four years. I also helped do some of the layout and editing work for several other self-published titles that met their purposes and then some.

    My own kharmic debt cause and effect for which I have great pride-guilt is hunting for mistletoe in the treetops of soaring pin oaks with a ten-gauge shotgun loaded with double-ought buckshot. Them mistletoes are wily creatures. Then there's the time I was poor starved to death and I dug up some Yucca roots and took away a nibble or two for dinner. Myrtle berries for spice and candle wax and potpourri, a cedar, a beech, and a holly or two for woodworking. Wisteria and grape vines for wreaths, wild rye for flour . . . Oh, I've been a bad boy on them there wild plants.

  3. INTERN, you frighten me at times. Your options are numerous and maybe that frightens you at times. Talent is always a responsibility and difficult for the individual as well as others to handle. You have several skip-loads of talent.

    Clarify what you want to do. Do it. Fail, Then reaccess. Failure is measured by a system neither you or I believe in. Success is measured within.

    I sound like your father, but do it.

  4. Make those free books edible and you might be on to something.

  5. My goodness, it sounds like a guide to Buddhism by Lemony Snickett.

  6. Doctor Query could swear that book just passed across my desk.

  7. As shitty as some self published books may be, I just don't think you can write them all off. The reverse is true: there are shitty traditionally published books, but certainly the whole group shouldn't be written off.

    Plus, one man's shit is another man's treasure.

  8. That's why I love paper books. They can have a sense of history that, for me at least, a e-reader file cannot.

  9. My absolutely free, piece of shit, unedited NaNo "freebird" just-for-fun book has over 100 downloads already. People will download a picture of a dog turd if it doesn't cost them anything.

  10. Intern's musings (cause) make us all laugh and feel cheery (effect)...

  11. Ahh....the beauty of the written word. Having read thousands of books, some of which were self-published, I must say that despite the protestation of some literary agents, there is a delineation of good/bad writing. It is similar to "B" movies (or Water World), or bad modern art. Even though the masses may find them hideous, repugnant , or shallow (like "Grindhouse"), they indeed have an audience. Often, a very vocal, money-spending, friend-telling, support-group advertising audience. And, that, my friends is why we as writers (not necessarily as humans, though) have hope. Even if you are writing about ninja walruses or apocolyptic fairies or (ugh)vampiric angels, you have the potential for an audience.
    If you are reading this post and are thinking "Gee, he uses parentheses entirely too much," you'd be correct. Thank you for your editorial insight.

  12. Soldiers who hunt garlic with hot water in this life will find themselves nervously vomiting foam in the next.

    It’s so obvious. Why didn’t I see this before? I’m doomed.

  13. Does it count if I enjoy poaching lilac blossoms in the spring? Or is it just garlic? What then? Will I suffer outdoor alergies in my next life?

  14. I couldn't resist illustrating this as you outlined (see the link via my name above).