How to love your own book

Etonnement (5389364101)Past. As I’m recording1 this blog post I realize that I really, really don’t like using this space to relate news, you know, raw information, subjective or objective, about what’s been happening or what happens right now. I really like to write nonfiction for the same reason and with the same aspiration as when I’m writing fiction: namely to surprise myself. I do not want to know beforehand what I’m going to say or, when I’ve said it, what I’m in for next by way of attention, or inspiration, or desperation. And I believe that this is exactly why you are reading this now. You’d like to be surprised; you’d like to have a thought that you didn’t have before, or a feeling not yet felt or have them with greater, or with less intensity, strength, duration than you’re used to. To find out what’s new you should join platforms that are known for, and to some extent have been optimized towards, sharing of news and daily information, like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. I regularly look at my own Facebook page to prove to myself that new things are happening to me, too, but when I need confirmation that I’m still thinking bravely and feeling deeply I return to my blog.

small cover book TYFYS

Cover of TYFYS

Present. There hasn’t really been a situation in my life as a writer so far that made what I said above necessary to say. However, at the end of April my debut collection of short fiction, “Thank You For Your Sperm“, emerged from the shadows; was born; came into the light; was thrust into the eye of the public; survived the hurricane of post-production; surfaced; battled its way into being; released the shackles of “maybe”; could be purchased on the web everywhere; began to attract reviews; had a poem written about it; was featured in photos; wanted to be read; was printed on white acid-free paper; proudly showed its colorful cover to the world; carried on its flaps the supportive voices of writer friends2; was talked about in interviews (yet to appear3); shot up to (by me) unheard off heights on the Amazon bestseller ranking lists in the US, in the UK, and in Germany (where on a particular day in the beautiful month of May it reached position number 130 among the list of English books sold at Amazon.de); was eventually on sale in real bookshops in Berlin4; was autographed by me for a friend who bought my book shortly before a new Berlin writing group began (an occasion on which I mentioned the book as being mine, a short speech that I heard myself repeat over the past few weeks in German, French, and English in a multitude of places on and off the grid); all of which is to say in many ways that “Thank You For Your Sperm” was published by MadHat Press, a new small press from Asheville, NC, whose editor-in-chief, Marc Vincenz (his name was just now transcribed by my dictation program as “marketing sense”!), proved highly responsive throughout the production and the selling of the book and firmly stands by my side in all matters interesting, confusing or necessary to the cause, while the book was mentioned in fellowship applications, casual conversations with colleagues, briefly shown to MBA students who had or hadn’t heard yet that their professor is also a writer; found entrance into a course on the short story taught at present by Joani Reese at Collin College in Plano, Texas; was sent out to reviewers and to family members who read the stories to each other at night; became the target of a great number of sperm- and sex-related jokes (unfairly though not unexpected); was read by me on the morning of its arrival as a physical, printed book; and, perhaps most important of all, was loved by me as much as if it had been someone else’s book, which is, given my lassitude and reluctance to ever read anybody else’s prose (while they’re alive anyway), almost the greatest compliment I can pay myself. Aw, I love making lists.

Thank you for your sperm! (Award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden)

Thank you for your sperm! (Award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden)

Future. It’s not hard to see what’s next for this book. It’s out there now swimming among other fish in the sea, enjoying, I think, its new life, as I am enjoying fatherhood all over again, and with all the positive energy, hope and goodwill surrounding this little artistic organism, this verbal artifact of a man’s imagination. More might happen to it in the future: award ceremonies, more reviews and unimaginable riches, everything is possible. That is the marvelous thing about the future & the terrifying thing about it. I will for the foreseeable time (probably until my next book appears, which is already more than a possibility namely subject to a contract with Folded Word Press) keep talking about it; I will continue to publish excerpts from it; I will reminisce about it’s genesis; I will feature new readers with interesting stories surrounding the book; I will take photographs showing the book lying down, standing up, flying through the air, or drifting through outer space like a green star; landing on the lap of politicians; being processed by scientific machinery; being scrutinized by literary critics, and so on — but I will in all likelihood not ever use it as an excuse for another blog post like this one. Even though I enjoy making lists. But whatever happens: rest assured that as long as I live I will, if you buy TYFYS (you don’t even have to read it or like it), give you one of my warmest and friendliest handshakes and a hushed, still slightly embarrassed (not because I don’t feel I deserve it but because I’m new to this) “Thank You”. And on a good day I might even say “Thank You For Your Sperm”, leaving you behind confused perhaps but hopefully gratified by the paradox of a shared absurd summer moment. Thank you for listening, constant reader, now you know how I love my own book.

What’s the story of your own (first) book?
How was it for you? Any surprises? What about marketing? Reviews?
Or if you’re not published yet, what’s your fantasy?

Virgilthomson

Virgil T. is sad that TYFYS seems out of print.

PS. before I could even post this article, TYFYS is listed as “Out of print” at Amazon as I noticed this morning — after less than 1 month! It’s turned into a rare book over night. I’m sure there’s a natural explanation for this. TYFYS rapidly turned into a rare book…you can sell your used copies at a premium now! Seriously though: I’m sure there is a natural explanation. A publishing epiphenomenon. An epidemic among Amazon warehouse staff members. A sudden run on sperm. More copies will be coming in promptly, I’m sure. Virgil is sad.


Footnotes

  1. Since about 1 year I dictate all my texts. Must blog about this some time soon. I use Dragon by the way.
  2. Kathy Fish, Frank Hinton, Jürgen Fauth, Bill Yarrow, John Minichillo, James Robison and others.
  3. At Flash Fiction Chronicles (thanks to Susan Tepper) and at Connotation Press (thanks to Mia Avramut) in June 2013
  4. Shakespeare & Sons (1 copy left) and Saint George’s Bookshop (2 copies left)

9 thoughts on “How to love your own book

  1. In some ways, Marcus, it’s a love/hate wave of emotions. I’ll use Clock as an example. There are moments when I’m so pleased with the words placed in the book. And it makes sense. They feel right. Then that passes, and I’d like the remove most of the pieces, inserting new work that – on that given day – are a much stronger fit. But you can’t do that – or so Thomas Wolfe led me to believe.

    At any rate, reading TYFYS – is just right. My cup of porridge.

    • Thank you for reading TYFYS, Sam, it’s always good to hear that…as for that “wave of emotions”, I shouldn’t like it, I think though from the way you describe it sounds as if the wave is part of an overall creative process hence a good thing, movement cannot, should not always go in one direction…the inability to exchange pieces, isn’t that one of those marvels of the non-digital world? I’m appreciating print all over again since I hold my own paper baby in the palm of my hand.

  2. The Night Rainbow is 3 months old now. Which if you’re a parent you may remember means that the birth itself, although it has marked you indelibly, is confined necessarily to a hazy memory. And the seismic tremors of those first few weeks when everything is in somehow affected by this new thing in your life, the adrenalin, the insomnia, the shock of how overwhelmed and happy and depressed you can feel all at once, has transitioned to your new version of normal.
    It’s hard to stop staring at a newborn. At something you created. And these days too it can be hard to stop telling other people about it, any that you miraculously see face to face, or others in your new life, where responsibilities often limit social interaction to a phone call, a status update or a tweet. But at some point you realise that only your world has been turned upside down and life goes on for everyone else. Interesting life, enviable life, things that are not about the management minute by minute of the well being of your protégé. And you find balance again. Find and feel more like your old self again. That feels good.
    And you realise that your offspring is no longer a part of you, that it possesses it’s own character which is only partly of your doing. That people may be charmed by it or not at all. The love and congratulations of others are welcome. And as for the rest? They could never change the way I feel about my first-born.

    • I’m feeling humbled by your response, Claire, which is both eloquent and intimate, a rare mixture anywhere. Also: mirroring my own little pursuits rather closely. Especially your observation that “[interesting] life goes on for everyone else”. How true! And good vibes for the “Night Rainbow”!

  3. What a wonderful post, Marcus, it resonates with me in so many ways. First, huge congratulations on having a book! A copy of it in all its colourful glory sits beside my bed, I can’t wait to read it! Second, it really does feel like birth, and I can say now, having had two books, that the second time was easier. With the first book it was an immensely joyous thing to see it, to hold it, to feel finally that somehow this part of me, these stories, would always be there even when I am not. And yet I felt like I was flailing in terms of book promotion, came to hate the sound of my own voice talking about it, pushing it, it was a role I had never wanted. That dichotomy caused enormous stress, and so I determined with my second collection to be kinder to myself. I am totally in love with both books, I look at them and feel such pride, I stroke their covers, I often sniff copies of the new collection which is printed on gorgeous paper. Even a year on, I still get this enormous rush when I catch a glimpse of it somewhere, partly because I adore the cover image, the look and feel of it all, the care which my wonderful publisher put into it. But I try also to limit these kinds of blog posts, because they make me feel enormously uncomfortable. Someone said to me that I owe it to my book to get it out there as much as possible, but I also owe it to my mental health to only do it as far as I am comfortable. Which means rarely, and as a tiny percentage (I hope) of all tweets, blog posts and suchlike. And I also try and share my experiences with my book in ways that might be useful to other people – as you are doing so well here – and not just to trumpet all the good things.

    I wish you a wonderful journey with this book and all that follow – my books have travelled, and taken me, to places I could never have imagined!
    Tania xx

    • I am only just beginning to understand what you mean — I think authors are bound to fail at the promotion of our own work, “flailing” is just the word! I hadn’t appreciated either the value of print or the value of having a publisher until this first book. Good to hear that you’ve found a way through all that while still staying in love with your books. Your comment here has the same visceral, direct quality of your prose—I’m right there with you, thanks for that & continued success with your books! — Just watched your reading from the writing shed and loved it!

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