Tuesday, August 20, 2013
New details on my plans for my "Do Ask Do Tell III" book and supplements
I am working on the production of my first book since 2003. Actually, I had put a preliminary version ofo it online in just PDF files in the fall of 2011 (see this blog, Oct. 1, 2011). It is to be called “Do Ask Do Tell III: Speech is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened To Is a Privilege”
I had thought then that I could simply leave the world of non-fiction book publishing, put everything online, and move on to other things: a novel (to be called “Angel’s Brother”), a non-fiction video, and some screenplays.
By the early spring of 2012, just before I went to NYC for a LGBT book fair, I started got get more calls from my on-demand publisher (iUniverse) about trying to buy marketing packages and pump up sales of my old books (particularly the second 2002 book, “Do Ask Do Tell II: When Liberty Is Stressed”, written after 9/11, but less ambitious than the “epic” first book that I first self-published with my own print run in 1997; that book went to print-on-demand with iUniverse in late 2000 after the first printing was sold out or depleted).
The basic problem with these appeals is that usually, old “public policy” books don’t sell, because history quickly tends to outrun what the author wrote. Some old fiction can have that problem, particularly spy or thriller fiction, if it is grounded in circumstances that no longer exist and wants the reader to take the protagonist’s position seriously. That is in contrast to true historical fiction, like “Gone with the Wind”; the best of this always sells forever. That’s the stuff in literature classes centuries later.
For each of my first three books (which include the pamphlet “Our Fundamental Rights” (1998), the only work not with a DADT title), I maintained the content with “footnote files”, which added notes keyed to specific chapters and pages in the printed books.
In time, I would add “sidebar” files and separate essays, and eventually migrate to blogging in 2006. There were some other experiments (like with Java starter, and eventually my web presence became diffuse and hard to pin down. That’s a topic for a different post. What matters here, right now, is the value of publishing a new book in “finite form”, and being willing to play ball with the commercial world on how well it does.
The idea of a book, or sequence of books (like a franchise), with web supplements that are closely keyed to the books, makes it easier for third parties to work with an author like me, because it is easier for them to wrap their arms around (conceptually speaking) what I have done. It’s hard to do that with a sprawl of “autonomous” blogs. To work with others and gain more opportunities from media third parties (including “the movies”), I do need more cohesion in my presence, again. I did have that cohesion for a couple years from 1997 onto 2000 or so, after my first book came out. That’s partly because social media as we know it today didn’t exist yet, and it was easier to focus on a smaller set of ways of delivering content. The Web 2.0+ world has made it much harder for an author (like me, at least) to keep a presence coherent.
The new book is going to comprise five chapters, topical rather than chronological. There will be a prologue and epilogue. In some topical areas, there is some overlap with the material in the other books, particularly in some specific areas like the controversy over self-publishing, and in the direction of the “fair and prosperous workplace”. The “story” narratives will mostly emphasize history since 2002, but there is some more detailed coverage of a few events that happened as far back as 1960.
The book, as described, is often rather abstract. I keep finding different entry points into discussions of various ethical (and therefore social and political) problems, so sometimes I find myself traveling in circles, rather like a train following a very complicated model railroad track layout, covering almost the same material from different vantage points and viewing angles.
Inevitably, after publication, more issues emerge. That’s partly because history changes quickly (with legislation, litigation, court opinions, and all kinds of incidents) and partly because in my own mind I tend to develop new entry points into the same material and draw a certain focus to these new points. So it will be appropriate to have some core supplementary essays online (as there were for the 1997 book), and a (new) blog with footnotes keyed to the content of any of the books (including supplementary core essays), with an “inverted list” (in relational database terms) to the blog entries so that the reader can trace all the content from the books.
I do think that for authors and artists today, a mixture of various media (books, web blogs, social media, music, video) can be effective. CNN just presented the work of Marisha Pressl, “Night Film”, as an example of a multi-media project. I have just heard about it, and so I can’t “review” it. But the feedback I seem to get from the business world, especially book publishers, that it is morally and practically important to be able to sell what you write in fixed, printed form. That is still true even “as the world turns”.
In addition to the “non-fiction” book I’ve described, I’m actually planning to include three fictional excerpts. They will comprise:
(1) A Chapter of a 1969 unpublished novel “The Proles”, which I wrote by hand in Army barracks at Fort Eustis, VA. This chapter gives an account, with fictitious names (including for me) of my fourteen weeks in Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson SC early in 1968. The history of that year is a backdrop. And, yes, I did get recycled.
(2) A fiction story, “Expedition” (1981), where I investigate strip mining in Appalachia with a former graduate school roommate, and make a surprising find
(3) A new story, “The Ocelot the Way He Is” (2013). At the time that his mother is about to pass away in a hospice, a college-age “acquaintance” invites “Bill” to a rural ashram, where Bill is shown an even more apocalyptic secret.
It’s possible that these three items might have to be packaged as a second book, a kind of “DADT III-B”.
I’ll continue the discussion of the “web portion” of this “final exam” on my main blog soon.