Printed copies of Fire Answers Fire are now available here.
I just checked my reading list to personally quantify this trend, and I have read fourteen books in print (ten from the library and four from the bookstore) since the last one I bought online and read on my Kindle. This matches what I have been hearing anecdotally from fellow readers and seeing on the train to work, and the anecdotal evidence is in agreement with all the recent quantitative reports of rising physical book sales at the expense of the ebook fad.
So the only remaining question is why I waited so long to make this novel available in the format that readers — including this reader — prefer.
…Nazi Germany’s era as the only commercial supplier of transatlantic air travel came to a spectacular end.
Was it an accident?
For the past two years my Kindle has been gathering dust as I do all of my reading from physical books, whether from my local bookstore, my local library, or revisiting favorites from my own bookshelves. It seems it’s not just my experience that I’m reading more and enjoying it more when I’m handling bound pages of ink on paper.
“How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip'” by Paula Cocozza in today’s Guardian confirmed again that this is a trend that’s spreading. I can also use this as my rationale for the poor sales of Fire Answers Fire … and use it as my impetus to relaunch it as a paperback for the modern aficionados of physical books.
Really, I’m not kidding! This is an official TRIGGER WARNING from the author!
If you have been a personal victim of anti-Nazi terrorism, traumatized by too many YouTube videos of the burning Hindenburg, or been otherwise affected by deeply contemplating the tragic cover image on Led Zeppelin’s first album while high, then the novel Fire Answers Fire could conceivably trigger something or other. Don’t buy or read my novel. Or maybe the decade of the 1930s or New York City or questions of suicide or ubiquitous radio waves or family secrets trigger feelings of … well, feelings of something. Really, who would want to read anything that might trigger something?
As ridiculous and embarrassing as this whole new warning fad is at the university level, does anyone else get the feeling that bright red TRIGGER WARNING labels on books could be as effective a marketing tool for literature as ‘Parental Advisory’ stickers on CDs that use the word ‘fuck’ were for the music industry and ‘NSFW’ labels are for websites that feature celebrity wardrobe malfunctions? It’s certainly worth a try.
Last month I suggested a soundtrack for Chapter 2. Today, May 6, 2014 is the 77th anniversary of the burning of the Hindenburg over Lakehurst, New Jersey, so here’s a musical suggestion for Chapter 9 of Fire Answers Fire, “Under the Falling Sky,” the section of the novel during which that key event takes place.
This video is a live performance of Steve Reich’s Hindenburg, Act I from Three Tales:
This amateur video of a live performance in Novosibirsk jumps from the screen showing Beryl Korot’s video to the small orchestra to the Russian audience, but it may drive some of you to check out the 2003 CD/DVD version for the clean audio and video of this Hindenburg section of Three Tales as well as Acts II and III, Bikini (the atoll) and Dolly (the cloned sheep).
(Oh, and if you’re reading this on May 6, check out the Coupon tab up above for a special Hindenburg-day $0.99 coupon.)
To the left is one early draft cover design for Fire Answers Fire showing the 1937 burning of the Hindenburg and to the right is the current cover based on the 1934 cover of Ernst Toller’s autobiography.
The question is, with the official May Day publication only an hour away at all major ebook outlets, did I choose correctly? Would sales benefit from a little touch of the famous ol’ flames and terror?
Which also brings up the question of the title (which, for me, is no question at all). There is an abandoned (and fictional) Toller play within the novel entitled Fire Answers Fire that sparks this conversation in Chapter 12, “And Happy Endings with Dead Villains”:
“Well, there’s nothing I’d rather hear than the songs that weren’t written for Fear Answers Fear.”
“Fire Answers Fire.”
“What did I say?”
“Fear. Fear Answers Fear. It was a mistake Grandpa made too, wasn’t it? Maybe that shows it wasn’t the best — or even a good — working title. Wasn’t very memorable. Maybe it should have been something like I Blew Up the Hindenburg!!, so the audience would know exactly what it was gonna be getting.”
Would I Blew Up the Hindenburg!! attract more readers than Fire Answers Fire?
If so, is attracting the “wrong” readers a bad thing? (And can any paying customers be considered the “wrong” customers?)
A lot has been written about the surge in independent publishing from the author’s point of view, with the expanded opportunities to get a book out to the public without the intermediary services of agents and editors and accountants and publishing committees who are all looking at a writer’s work from a purely (or, in the best cases, primarily) financial standpoint. The most recent example of this writing about independent publishing can be found in the link I posted yesterday to the Smashwords’ “Indie Author Manifesto” written by Mark Coker.
Often forgotten in these discussions of indie authors’ expanded options is the unprecedented new power of indie readers. A book is, and has always been, among the most private of conversations from one mind to another. The option of independent publishing allows would-be authors to know that there will always be a way to reach readers, which is a great incentive to keep working — knowing that your work won’t end up as an unread file on a hard disk (or, as in the case of my first novel, a pre-computer typescript and carbon copy which may or may not still exist in an attic or basement somewhere). Indie readers are now able to find and enjoy books that might never have been able to run the traditional gauntlet of literary gatekeepers. The down side of that is that readers might have to search through a lot more chaff to get to the wheat. This is a role that even most publishers eschewed, leaving it to agents to whittle the slush piles down to a reasonable height. The up side is that the readers are now the gatekeepers. These readers also have new tools that allow them to spread the word about a new voice they felt was worth spending a few hours with and a few dollars on.
Early in my career, I moonlighted as a freelance reader for a major New York paperback publisher, on the front lines earning $25 to $35 per book for my reading and reports. My small thumbs up on a manuscript (which had already jumped the agenting hurdle) might have meant that someone with an actual title and desk in a New York skyscraper would be reading that manuscript to see if it was worth passing further up the line. If so, then years could separate those original readers’ approvals from the date those pages might actually be seen between covers on a bookstore’s shelves. Those years waiting for answers and then waiting for all the various stages of production before a book hit an actual bookstore might now be spent with an ebook languishing with slow sales on various virtual bookstore shelves, but every day there’s a chance that one of the new gatekeepers — not agents and underpaid editorial assistants, but one of those everyday independent readers — will find your book, read it with pleasure and write an Amazon or Goodreads review, or share it with all her Facebook friends, or recommend it to his book club, or feature it on her well-read and influential literary blog (by the way, if you are a book blogger, please let me know in the contact form below if you would like a review copy of Fire Answers Fire — please provide a link to your website and let me know what type of e-reader you use so I can send it to you in the right format).
Readers of this blog should also check out the pre-publication coupon good for a 50% discount until May 5th.
Remember. Authors write alone and love the reassurance that their readers are sometimes more than imaginary.