This is the presentation I gave at the Virginia Writers Symposium in Charlottesville, VA on August 4, 2012
WHY I CHOSE E-BOOK PUBLISHING
C. Neuroticus Absolutus
As our retirement years pass, everyone considers what his or her legacy to the succeeding generations will be. A scrapbook of all the kid's accomplishments? An indexed book with all of Grandma's recipes on CD? A totally worthless coin or stamp collection? A stack of unedited, single-spaced manuscripts that tell the family history from the time of the Great Flood, including an exclusive interview with Noah? Perhaps a nonfiction book telling the story of some personal achievement or adventure? Or maybe a how-to book on some specialty where you have unimpeachable expertise.
Biographies and “how-to” books fall in the area of nonfiction. A quick survey of my own personal skills and experiences did not uncover anything I would consider exceptional; no “How to Make a Million Dollars in the Stock Market,” or “How to Tune Pianos for Fun and Profit,” or “How to Cut Your Household Use of TP by 50 %.” No, nothing so interesting in my background.
That left me with writing about some amazing story from my life that would create enough buzz to make it a runaway nonfiction best seller. It didn't take long for me to find my story.
During WW-II, I became the youngest pilot ever to fly a Vought F4U. Mom had helped me forge the papers and with the stroke of a pen, I was born out of wedlock and mom was only 14 at the time I was born—at least on paper, a scandalous thing at the time.
After a particularly harrowing sortie, as the lone survivor of my squadron I was approaching the carrier deck, low on fuel, radio shot up, my hydraulics bleeding off so quickly that I had no rudder or aileron control. With a Herculean effort, I managed to line up on the glide path to the carrier and began taking visual orders from the landing control officer. When I dropped my landing gear, the nose gear actually dropped—and fell into the sea. Then the final drop of oil ran from the engine and it froze up. I think my heart also froze when the propeller flew off. Miraculously, I touched down on the deck. But my right tire blew and the plane careened into the conning tower.
The deck rescue crew ran towards me and were surprised to learn that I had completely escaped injury. I climbed from the cockpit unaided and ecstatically approached the ship's captain whom I saluted. “What a landing! Did you see that, Skipper? No radio, no hydraulics, no nose gear, engine seized up, blew a tire followed by that unbelievable crash into the conning tower. What a landing, eh Skipper!”
The captain looked me in the eye and saluted me slowly before speaking. “Oh, you plenty good pilot,Yankee Joe. However, you make one small mistake...”
I did consider writing about the time I crashed on an island in the South Pacific and was captured by a cast of singers who later . . .”
Oh well, by now, you've realized that this is not nonfiction and that I might fare better as a preacher or a politician. The qualifications are the same.
Upon realizing that I was stuck with fiction, I wrote a book and immediately began my search for an agent. I finished a second book without a single nibble on the first. In fact, I wrote 105 query letters and less than half the agents I solicited even had the courtesy to answer. Is it safe to assume that they steamed the stamps off my SASEs?
As you can tell from the color of my hair and my beard, I'm no spring, summer or even fall chicken. To be exact, I've weathered 74 winters. And I know that age is closing the door on me ―slowly, of course, not slamming in my face. At my age, I don't have a lot of career choices left in life. A couple of years back I decided that I could either become a writer, do stand-up comedy, or do Elvis impressions.
So why did I chose to e-publish? I'm old and I don't have a lot of time to waste on agents or publishers who may or may not even answer a query. Publishing on Amazon.com cost me nothing. I converted my manuscript into the proper format with programs provided free by Amazon.com. And my wife's little Sony digital camera provided the pictures that I used for the covers of the books. I did spend $39.95 on Paint Shop Pro so I could add the book title and my name to the cover images.
This sounds like a snap to do. Believe me, it wasn't. After days and days of using my Mozilla Firefox browser trying to upload my manuscript to Amazon, I finally tried Internet Explorer and succeeded on the first try. Imagine wasting days on incompatible software programs. My first experience with Amazon.com publishing took about a month. My second, about a week. There are always formatting errors between programs and you must edit your book completely between each of the three format conversions. But that's another story.
I gauge from your response to my attempts at humor that I might have a stand-up comedy career in my future if writing doesn't pan out. And then there's my Elvis impression.