Wednesday, June 13, 2012


The letter came a few days back:  an invitation from the publisher to purchase the remaindered supply of one of my titles before the publisher burns them.  Well, I assume publishers burn their unpurchased books.  That would only be fitting.  But at any rate, this publisher won't be printing any more of those books with my name on the cover, and the last copies can be mine for a fraction of the printing cost.

I never buy these books, however.  It's just too depressing.  I don't need a hundred (or even another thousand) copies of one of my book failures taking up room in a closet or piled in the garage.  Burn 'em, I say.  Burn 'em all!

The memory of writing the book still lingers.  That's enough for me.  Or, perhaps, it was that first jolt of the book cover emerging from the box of author's copies.  Or, perhaps, the joy of finding one of my titles on a bookstore shelf in Denver, or Louisville, or Akron.  I don't need the remaindered copies sitting around my house reminding me that no one purchased the book and that it was a dismal failure.  Again.

Keeping a box of these books in the house doesn't make me feel better about myself.  The box sits there, gathering dust.  A visible reminder that the publisher couldn't sell the copies and had to resort to a last ditch effort: namely, to have me, the author, take these unsold books off their hands.

In a way I deal in the redemption business, but when it comes to books, I'm irredeemable.  I won't buy, and I won't bite.  The books can burn.

There is, however, a kind of sadness that overtakes a writer when he learns, once again, that he is "out-of-print".  In this new digital age, what with all the print-on-demand and digital publishing being performed on computers and hand-held devices the size of Post-It Notes, it's difficult to be a dinosaur bound in the traditional publishing world of paper and ink and time.  But "out-of-print" is what I am.  I will no longer exist on paper and these words produced will, like time itself, gather into the dustbin of history.

I am gone, and my words are lost.  Again.

But perhaps, somewhere in future ages, a kid will find a copy of my book in an antique store and will ask his mother, "What's this?"

She will say:  "That is called 'a book.'"

I can sleep on that thought tonight and be happy enough.  And for a writer, it's all there is.

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