Break Me In Pieces With Words
How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? — Job 19:2, The King James Bible
I’ve decided to conduct a little experiment. I was inspired by a news story in The Grauniad about a writer of ebooks who had just sold her millionth ebook. However, all was not leeches and cream in the world of self-published ebooks. According to The Grauniad:
Hocking became so burned out by the stress of solo publishing that she has turned for help to the same traditional book world that previously rejected her and which she was seen as attacking. For $2.1m, she has signed up with St Martin’s Press in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK to publish her next tranche of books. The deal kicks off this month with a paperback version of Switched. It’s a fast-paced romance featuring changeling trolls called Trylle who are switched at birth with human babies. The novel cannot be classed as literary…
That last line is a beauty: “The novel cannot be classed as literary…“.
What? A “…fast-paced romance featuring changeling trolls…“? Sounds pretty literary to me, buddy.
Curiosity piqued, I searched out and read some of this woman’s prose. Merciful God, it was wretched stuff. I was both appalled and intrigued.
Appalled, obviously, by the eye-wateringly duff writing; but intrigued by the notion that any idiot, be they ever so inept and talentless, can (and evidently does) upload and sell an ebook (or a multitude of ebooks) on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iPad bookshop, Sony’s ebook shop etc etc, at virtually no cost to themselves.
I got to wondering just how easy it would be to write and publish a best selling ebook.
So, I did a little research. First off, I looked at Amazon’s best selling ebooks. They fell into four distinct categories: Romance (which includes the sub-genre of ‘vampire’ romance); Crime (fiction); Fantasy; and Spritual Journey/Self-Awakening (How Ah Wuz Saved Bah Jeesus; that kind of thing).
Then I bought and downloaded the best-selling ebook in each category and read them (God help me).
I opened a ‘Publisher’ account with smashwords (this allows me to upload any number of books by any number of pseudonymous authors but with all royalties. copyrights etc accruing to me)
Then I bought the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking, far and away the most advanced speech-recognition software on the market (Apple’s ‘Siri’ is build around Dragon’s code).
Then I bought 10 grams of ethylphenidate, an isomer of methylphenidate (Ritalin), a powerful central nervous system stimulant, structurally related to cocaine and perfectly legal, from a UK website; it really is remarkable stuff; one small line (about 100 mgs.) and I scoured the house for things to fix/clean/tinker with/re-arrange.
Finally, having driven Inez crazy with my get-up-and-go, she urged me to get-up-and-go. “For God’s sake, go and ride your new bicycle; it’s exhausting to watch you.”
Talking to a graphic designer friend gave me one last pre-mission task: make sure that the books have arresting covers.
So I got some ebook cover-making software and roped Inez and the children into my project. I instructed them to go online and look at ebook covers, at Amazon, at Barnes&Noble etc; right-click-and-save the ones that catch your eye, ones that get your attention; don’t think, I told them: just respond. I want at least a dozen covers from each of you.
When the time comes, I’ll analyze these covers and try to work out what makes them arresting. According to my graphic designer friend, an eye-catching cover can boost sales by %30 to %50.
Now all I have to do is write four books in a month (the mission I’ve set myself). But fueled by a powerful CNS-stimulant and with Dragon transcribing my dictation at 300 words-per-minute, a daily total of 100,000 words is eminently do-able. But I think doing 20,000 words-per-day, five days a week is more than sufficient
We’re not talking about deathless prose here.
Joyce, Stendhal and David Foster Wallace are not going to be fearing for their laurels. This is a cynical experiment in creating, designing and selling a ‘product’. The product happens to be words, in the form of books.
Part of me feels a fleeting sense of shame, as though I’m betraying a lifetime’s love of books, as I imagine I’d feel if I slept with a prostitute when I have a wife I don’t deserve at home.
But I take some comfort in the thought that no matter how awful, how mawkish, how cliched, how conservative (because one thing I learned was that ‘best sellers’ are inherently conservative, in every respect), no matter how shamelessly trite these books might be, nothing I write will ever, ever be as aesthetically repugnant, as morally bankrupt and as stylistically inept as the works of Dan Brown. I couldn’t be that bad even if I wanted to.
But I have one last task: the choice of noms de plume, so I’m asking for suggestions. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Romance/Vampire: Cruella Hawksmoor, Circe Warmbloode, Jocasta De Sade; Selene de Pudenda
Saved By Jesus/Recovered From (you name it): Billy Ray Earl; Earl Ray Billy; Ray Billy Earl; Jimmy Lee Hushpuppy, Billy Bob Cornpone
Crime/Thriller: Harry Slade; Jack Sharpe; John Broke; Nick Fang; Chuck Dick; Ray Clit
Fantasy novel: Alex de Crise-Cardiaque; Theodore Bildungsroman; Wolfe Hundekuchen; Reymondo Galleta Paraperros
Let me have some ideas. The first million earned will go towards chartering this yacht and taking you all for a two-week cruise (extensions possible)…so get cracking.