Sometime in the next few days, my self-published first book, Send in the Clown Car: The Race for the White House 2012, should be available on Amazon. Oh, if you insist, here is the cover …
The cover illustration is by my daughter Michelle Hernandez, the cover design is by the talented dianaani, and I have an overheated blurb from Matt Paust on the back cover. I thank them for going above and beyond the call of duty, especially because there was no call of duty.
Since publishing a book has long been one of the top items on my bucket list, you would think I’d be excited by this news. In fact, I’m suffering from a lack of enthusiasm.
Some of my reticence is normal pre-release jitters. Will anybody buy the book? Will anybody like it? Did I, despite careful checking and rechecking, overlook some embarrassing typo or hideous grammatical error? Did I inadvertently include something that readers will find offensive (always a danger when writing satire)?
Another reason is practical: self-publishing through Amazon is so ridiculously easy that being able to call yourself a published author is now meaningless. Anyone can compose fifty pages of drivel, submit it through Create Space and presto: hey, Ma, look at me, I’m an author just like Stephen King! It's like recording yourself singing along to a karaoke machine and calling yourself the fifth Beatle. (Not that self-publishing indicates a negative correlation to quality: some talented writers now self-publish while the mainstream publishing houses produce a ton of crap every year.) Once I had the completed text and a cover illustration, it was less than 48 hours before a proof copy of the book was headed my way.
Part of it is personal. Despite what you may think, I am allergic to attention. Publishing a book requires a level of self-promotion that goes against my nature. And in this area, I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.
The flip side of this “modesty” is the realization that writing, especially blogging, is an act of self-indulgence. Essentially I’m no different than a Kardashian. Every time I post words on my blog, I am, like that all-too-famous family, crying for attention. I may not be parading firm boobs, pouty lips and a freakishly large posterior for the paparazzi, but I am trying to seduce readers with (hopefully) wit, literacy and intelligence. When you see my name in the blogosphere, I want you to click on it just as many surfers click on the Kardashian name when it pops up on TMZ. If I were honest, however, I’d admit that no matter how often I mock that reality-TV family, when I look in the mirror, I see Kim staring back at me. And not in a come-hither way.
This relates to a crisis of conscience I’ve been battling for the last several months: the knowledge that what I’m doing here in the “blogosphere” is meaningless and utterly disposable. The thought that I spend several hours writing something (for which I won’t be paid a cent and which will be read by a handful of people) and delude myself into thinking it matters is comical, if not arrogant.
The newspaper comic Rhymes with Orange recently posted a strip that read simply, “NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: 10,000,000,000; NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO READ YOUR BLOG: 10
,000,000,000. One cannot argue with this math. The largest number of commenters I’ve ever had for a blog post was just over one hundred. That’s probably less people than have set foot in this coffee shop in the two hours I’ve been sitting here.
I’ve been part of the blogosphere now for 3 ½ years. Have I gotten anything out of it? Well, I’ve made a lot of new friends, for which I am eternally grateful. I admit that my ego has gotten a boost from some of the positive comments. I’ve read posts that have made me laugh, made me cry or informed me about subjects with which I was unfamiliar. But has any of it changed me in any concrete way? I doubt it. Not counting book recommendations, the only post that had a real-world impact on me was the one that finally convinced me to become an organ donor. If I’m brutally honest with myself, I have had the same lack of impact.
The great thing about the Internet is that it has given everyone a chance to speak his mind and be heard. The bad thing about the Internet is that it has given everyone a chance to speak his mind and be heard. The blogosphere is one gigantic Tower of Babel – or do I mean babble – and in order to be heard, one has to raise his voice even louder. And my voice is growing weaker.
The blogosphere has begun to seem like a really repulsive shopping mall. While I’ve been glad to have my little kiosk, and I know a few emporiums with quality merchandise, I’ve become more and more disturbed by the loud, blaring music emanating from this corner, the garish displays over there, the rude customers, and the whiny children running around everywhere. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about closing up my little kiosk and going home.
Constant exposure to bloggers who share my political views has, if anything, hardened my views, a result that seems counterproductive to the health of democracy. There seems to be little inclination to persuade and a lot of inclination to hector. When I see a post appear, I can usually predict exactly what the writer will say, which bloggers will chime in with “amen, brother” comments and which will begin hurling rocks. It’s like watching your sixth production of Death of a Salesman: a few of the details will change, but it’s the same damn script.
In the end, my book is no different. It consists of parodies of the political candidates, the top issues and the partisan atmosphere. Although parts of the book satirize President Obama and liberals, the jabs are overwhelmingly aimed at the Republicans. So if you’re a Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum supporter, will you find my book amusing? Probably not. Nor will you if you’re one of the extreme leftists who now detest Obama; you’ll think I went too easy on him and you’ll definitely resent the section of the book where I mock two extremist characters, one from the left and one from the right, and make them appear to be mirror images of each other. Therefore, I’m left with the realization that my target audience for the book is the people who already think like me. I’m no longer sure if merely amusing them is worth the effort.
By the way, this is not a passive-aggressive attempt to solicit supportive comments or to make you buy my book out of pity. My central concern is not how readers feel, or don’t feel, about what I’ve been doing. My central concern is how I feel about it, and my pleasure at word slinging has dwindled rapidly in recent months. Even twelve months ago, I thought I had found my niche in life and that writing would be an essential part of my remaining years. I’m surprised to find myself now thinking otherwise. Oh, maybe I just need a vacation or a change of atmosphere, but I know that if I were offered an interesting full-time job that precluded me from ever hitting “publish” again, I’d take it without hesitation.
An “interesting full-time job?” In this economy? Heh heh, there I go trying to be funny again.
NOTE: As of 7:00 tonight, my book is available for purchase at Create Space. It will take 5-7 days for the Amazon page to be created. This is fine by me, since I get slightly higher royalties from Create Space.