Another drip in the torrent

People are creative. It amazes me how inventive they are. I once heard that there was a periodical publication called the Gazette of the Patent system. Since I like gadgets and worked with mechanical things it seemed like something to which a subscription would be desirable. I called up the Patent Office in D.C. and a very nice young woman was willing to take my subscription. If I remember correctly it was about $600 for the year.

“Why on Earth so much?” I inquired stunned. $600 was about what I took home each week at the time. “Have you ever seen the Gazette?” the young woman asked “Well no.” After asking where I lived she directed me to visit the main branch of the Detroit Library as it was the closest public institution that was a repository for the Patent System.

I had a mental vision of a magazine. The librarian sat me down at a table with what appeared to be a fair collection of large metropolitan phone books. That was the current ISSUE of the Gazette. Each entry was a summary only. Just enough to tell you if you wanted to continue and look up the entire patent. I don’t know if they even attempt to print it now, but back in the pre-internet days of the late 1970s it was the only way to scan and review new inventions. It was humbling.

Today I can go online and sort patents by category and pull up the full patent text and illustrations quickly and for free.

The internet is doing the same for other creative outlets. I know a village in Mexico that markets hand made sweaters and serapes and blankets on the internet to support themselves instead of relying on the occasional tourist coming down their road. There are entire markets online dedicated to hand crafts and art.

Writers have always faced the barrier of being PUBLISHED.  You can write a tremendous work that would appeal to hundreds of thousands of readers, but first it has to appeal to an editor who is stressed, overworked, jaded by looking at a thousand horrid manuscripts submitted by idiots, and trying to survive in a declining industry with ever shrinking margins. Oh sure, there are people who own printing presses who will run off as many books as your vanity will imagine you can sell. If you pay them. The people who do this are the same ones who will tell their lawyer to pursue a case, and don’t worry about billable hours, when he has refused to take it on contingency. They tend to end up poor. People tell the story and label them foolish behind their hand.

Now there is almost no barrier to being published. Doing it electronically is cheap and easy. With no physical book to produce it is cheaper. Some see that as an advantage to reach a greater market. Some have the mentality that a book is a book and worth XX dollars whether dead trees or electrons. I recently saw a 165 page ‘book’ for sale for just under $7.00. That just seems greedy to me, but each is free within the framework of their ‘publisher’ to set their price point.

Perhaps the best feature of these electronic books is the free sample. Since you can’t thumb through and read a few passages they allow you to read a few pages at the beginning. It’s not as good as examining several points but it can save a great deal of heartache, because a lot of this flood of new publication is just terrible. It seems many feel not only that editors unfairly rejected them, but that the other tasks of the editors such as there being an actual coherent story, and checking spelling and grammar are to be rejected too.

I hope to be able to distinguish my work from the torrent sufficiently to have a following. I have no huge ego to think nobody is better. I have authors as favorites who wield words so well I just stop in admiration and read a passage over a few times in wonder. Yet I do have a few passages of my own that make me feel good, or in one case I am not ashamed to say rereading it made me cry. Each story I write is a little better. I get a lot of good feedback from readers and editors to help that along.

I’m probably spoiled by the fact I sold the very first story I wrote to sell on the first try. That was “Common Ground” to Jim Baen’s Universe e-zine. That’s a separate story I’ll tell soon. My current book length offering is available on Kindle and Nook. Here is the link to the Amazon sales page and a couple reviews for “Paper or Plastic?”.

book cover

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