I got the last pile of books yesterday. A very heavy box. If I were my UPS guy, I’d wonder what was up. Teddy and I spent a while sorting and counting and marking off titles on our various inventory sheets. There are some very beautiful books in this shipment. As I was going through one of the categories, I was attracted by a title on a kid’s book. I opened the book and saw that the author had inscribed it with the hope that whoever opened it would enjoy it. My eyes got all misty. It was the message of every sincere aspiring writer.
I can’t look at these books that way. I have to be dispassionate and objective, stick to my rubric and so on which is fine with me. Not every person behind every book would write that message, either, but it was a lovely reminder.
It made me think (again) of what is now called “indie writing.” A long time ago, when I was still working to sell Martin of Gfenn, I went to a writers’ conference. I had done everything I knew to set myself apart from the other writers. I signed up for some workshops, one on self-publishing. It was led by a woman who had self-published her book “old-school” more or less using the system that existed before online publishing platforms had really emerged. Those books were often put out by the same kind of publishers who publish theses and dissertations.
The woman, in rapturous language, described the sequence of events that had led to her book’s victory — being included in the library in her town.
“What a loser,” I thought. “That’s not going to happen to ME.” At the time Martin of Gfenn had a New York agent who had signed the book on the gamble that the “leper genre” was going to take off. Kingdom of Heaven was THE BIG MOVIE of the time and who knew? Maybe books about medieval lepers were the next big thing.
I was totally unaware at that point of how bad my book was. I had had hip surgery a couple of months before. I was taking myself off of some of the sinister meds my “doc” had prescribed. The Evil X was still in residence. I was teaching all the time. I hadn’t yet had the epiphany that showed me the truth of my novel; I had not yet surrendered to the tutelage of Truman Capote. A lot had not happened yet.
Of the many incredible experiences in my life, writing Martin of Gfenn was truly one of the best. And when I surrendered to “indie publishing,” having prematurely contacted every possible agent, I didn’t feel like a “loser” at all. I knew what I had done to my book by submitting it long before I should have, by being so in love with the story that I couldn’t see how poorly it was told.
I wonder about the stories behind these many books. How many of them are books on which no agent or publisher wanted to take the gamble? How many of them are books like that woman’s who just wanted her kids’ book to be in her town library? How many of them are the product of someone thinking, “I just want to write a book”? How many of them are books produced by writers who — like me — discovered they enjoy putting a book together? And will they learn, as I did, that the best thing about a book (besides writing it) is someone enjoying it?
A few years ago I got an email from a woman who had read Martin of Gfenn and then sent a copy to her brother. This is the point of everything, IMO:
I truly enjoyed your historical fiction “Martin of Gfenn”.Since I was born in Switzerland, I was especially interested in your story. My niece lives in the general area of the book. Not too many novels have been written about that time, Switzerland was still in its infancy, barely separated from the Habsburg rule. Zurich joined the Swiss Confederation the first time in 1351, but was expelled and then joined again in 1450. Not too much of this was taught in school.
I felt compelled to send a print book to my brother in Switzerland. He taught latin languages and literature for many years. He just recently retired.
This is what he had to say:
. . . Dir zu danken für das Buch von M. Kennedy, Martin of Gfenn, das ich vor der Reise nach Andalusien mit grossem Vergnügen gelesen habe. Die Geschichte dieses Martin wird von M. Kennedy grossartig erzählt und die Geschichte an sich ist auch sehr stark. Ich war von diesem Roman begeistert und das kommt nicht alle Tage vor (, obwohl ich nach wie vor viele Bücher lese.)
Thank you for the book, written by M. Kennedy, Martin of Gfenn. I read it during my travels to Andalusien with great enthusiasm and enjoyment. The story of Martin is told by M. Kennedy with spellbinding language. The intensity of the story itself is exceptional. I read it with enthusiasm, which is not often the case these days, even though I’m an avid reader.
I thought you ought to know. Hopefully it will brighten your day.
Thank you for a great read.
Yep. That’s the great thing. Someone enjoyed my book. ❤
Indie publishing is not all clear skies, though. The writer (if he/she wants to sell books) has to do a lot of work to publicize it. That’s where contests like mine are helpful. So, as I plunge into this new pile I will remember that author’s little message.