Monday, January 14, 2013

Nonfiction and Me


I spent the day roaming about New Jersey in search of a crested caracara (pictured above) that had wandered far, far from its usual territory -- Texas and Mexico, mostly, but there are some as close as southern Florida.  Alas, Marianne and I did not see it, though we did talk to a man who had, only a few minutes before.

That, anyway, is why this blog post is almost (but not quite) late.  But it's still today, so I'll share with a letter I received over the weekend.  The writer's name has been removed because there wasn't the time to ask his permission to use it:

I'm a long time fan. I actually briefly met you at the SFWA event in NY earlier in the fall. I had a quick question. Are there any plans afoot to reprint "Hope-in-the-Mist" and "What Can Be Saved from the Wreckage?" Maybe even in one volume? If not, I think your non-fiction is due for a collection. I've had my eyes peeled for those for a while and really am desperate to read them. Anyway, thanks for what you do.  

The short answer is that while there's no collection of my non-fiction in the works, I have plans on the back burner to publish an e-book of Hope-in-the-Mist with a couple of short related non-fiction pieces, just to make it available to scholars and other interested individuals.  Since there's so little material available on Hope Mirrlees, anybody who wants to write about her pretty much has to read my book, which is now perilously close to being unobtainable.  So I feel an obligation to do something about.

So why haven't I done that already?  Well...

Years ago, while the project was cooking, I told critic John Clute that I was writing a book on Hope Mirrlees.   He looked alarmed and said, "You do realize that there's no money in it?"

"I do, and I'm researching it in my spare time, as a hobby."

"Good, good, good!" John said, visibly relieved.  Obviously the man had some experience with how naive commercial writers could be about academic publishing.

Which is why I haven't done more with my non-fiction.  Because it's a hobby.  Most of my time goes to my fiction, which pays me pretty well.  A lot of my free time goes to writing non-fiction, which because I only write about things I feel passionately about is satisfying to the soul.  And the rest...

Well, much as I'd like to have a collection or three of my non-fiction, I don't currently have the time to go looking for a publisher.  Maybe after I've got the next two novels finished things will open up more.

And that's my unsatisfying answer.  I apologize for it not being more like what you and I would prefer.  I write for the love of it and the work which I write for love which brings in money has people who will do all the grunt work of selling it and publishing it.  That which brings in little money simply has to wait.

Someday, though.  When I can find the time.



Ken Houghton said...

"Well, much as I'd like to have a collection or three of my non-fiction, I don't currently have the time to go looking for a publisher. Maybe after I've got the next two novels finished things will open up more"

You need an intern who has a vested interest in your legacy. Probably best if he grew up around computers--say, someone born in the late 1970s or early 1980s. He could probably even prepare an ebook version and set up his own publishing company using h/i/s/ f/a/t/h/e/r/'/s/ your books as his sales pitch.

Unless he has something better to do, of course.

David Stone said...

Are there specific reasons you published your book the "old fashioned" way, rather than just making it available online?

I am not trying to suggest that your book should be given away, that it's not worth the cover price, or anything else. I am just curious about what factors go into the decision to publish something as a book when the author does not expect to make a significant amount of money from it. Are you at least able to "break even" this way in terms of how much time you spent on writing this?

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Should such a book appear, "The Postmodern Archipelago" would be a welcome inclusion.