Pride goeth before a fall we’re told. I admit it; I was proud of myself. I devoted two years of my life to writing a book that presented a two-thousand year history of the people we mistakenly call Scotch-Irish – and I was pleased with the results.
It was no small task. It required a great deal of historical research that included everything from the Roman invasion of Britannia to the building of the gigantic Oak Ridge nuclear facility during World War II.
It also required a lot of investigative reporting, trying to piece together the facts about an incident involving a tiny family cemetery in the mountains of East Tennessee.
That incident was the departure point on this historical journey. I hoped that by weaving the incident throughout the book, the narrative would compel the reader to hang around and learn some fascinating history.
• • •
The book was a joint effort; I provided the writing, and my partner provided the money. We decided that rather than waste possibly years trying to interest a publisher in it; we would publish it ourselves.
I say we, but it was he who put up the substantial investment for two-thousand copies of a hardcover book. All he asked is that it be something he could be proud of, said he didn't even want to see it till it was in print.
I gave him the first copy, and he stayed up all night reading it. "Best money I ever spent," he said.
• • •
Thus my book was born, and like any father, I thought I had reason to be proud. Turns out, I was wrong. I’m told I should be ashamed of myself.
A couple of days ago, trying to be helpful to someone who complained in a post about his inability to secure an editor for his literary masterpiece, I remarked that I had been modestly successful publishing my own book. Apparently, I unwittingly violated some secret, sacred code among serious writers, and he proceeded to educate me.
"I'd no more publish myself than fuck myself.”
Now maybe I was too hasty in my response, and maybe I stooped to conquer. But among simpler folk here in the mountains, we have a rule: If you dish it out, you should be able to take it. So I replied:
“I guess that means you’ve never masturbated.”
• • •
I give him partial credit; he didn’t respond in kind – or maybe he didn’t want to own up to masturbating – or maybe he never has masturbated, I don’t know. In any case, I thought it was pretty gutless of him to delete my comment on his post.
Maybe that was his way of rubbing salt in my wound, deeming my attempt at humor not worthy of his elevated opinion of himself. After all, he’s from New York City, and in his post, he dropped the names of all the big-time agents and publishers who’ve ignored him – perhaps with good reason.
Still, if he really runs in those circles, he knows book publishing is a scam. Not long ago, Jerome Corsi, a hack writer, made the rounds of all the talk shows and got hammered for writing trash. But thanks to the New York public relations machinery, his book ended up on the NYT best-seller list. Of course, it should have had an asterisk, since it got a big sales boost from right-wingnuts who bought the book in bulk from the publisher.
See, even simpletons here in Beeffee know how the publishing business is gamed. I learned the lesson the hard way from my experience in the music publishing business, which is a very similar scam. Knowing the game is rigged is why I said to hell with ‘em and published my own damned book.
• • •
My education in self-publsihing was complete when I tried to market my book traditionally. At a friend’s insistence, I sent the book to Oprah and got back a one-sentence response letter thanking me for my story idea for her show (huh?). I sent it for review at Barnes & Noble’s Small Publisher arm and got back a form letter from a “reviewer” explaining that fiction was a difficult market to break into (fiction? uh - did you notice my book had a bibliography?).
Another friend told me the secret for getting play on Amazon, but by then I’d had enough. To hell with ‘em, I said again; I’ll sell it myself.
• • •
Sour grapes? Maybe. Am I a loser or what? Maybe not.
If I had waited for a publisher, I would probably still be waiting – and hundreds of people who have read my book wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn a little history in an unexpected way. See, unlike Corsi’s book, many of the people who bought mine actually read it. How do I know? Because many of them thought enough of it to write me.
Now I could throw in a few quotes from those letters about what a wonderful writer I am, but that would be bragging, and lord knows, I’ve been chastised enough about pride. But the gist of the most frequent comment is this:
“Why weren’t we taught history this way?”
Why indeed? Maybe because mainstream publishers were too busy making a buck off the next best-seller by Jerome Corsi or Ann Coulter.
Now, I think I’ll publish this booklet and go fuck myself.
©2008 Tom Cordle