A little over ten years ago, mostly at the urging of a friend, I wrote my first novel. It took me about a year to finish it, including some lengthy interruptions of the work, & though it was challenging at times I greatly enjoyed the process.
When it was (more or less) done, I gave it to read to a few friends & family members, who told me they liked it, in some cases enthusiastically. & then…
…well, & then I did nothing with it.
Through some neurotic combination of laziness, fear of possible success & the general perverseness that has characterized too much of my adult life, I made almost no effort to market the manuscript to agents or publishers.
You’d think the hard part would be writing the book, not offering it. But not for me, apparently. Maybe I had received the gratification I was looking for simply from the warm response I got from the acquaintances that had read it, & felt no need for further affirmation. I’m not sure. All I know is, after a few years I had almost forgotten I wrote it. Now & then I’d remember, reread a few chapters, & decide that I really ought to do something with it. I thought sometimes of turning it into a screenplay. But then I’d get busy with something else, & neglect it for a couple more years.
My novel was called Super Eight Days, & it was about a group of teenage kids in small-town Pennsylvania of the late ‘70s making their own scary pictures with a Super 8mm movie camera. Well, earlier this year I became aware of the J.J. Abrams film Super 8, now in theaters, which is about a group of teenage kids in small-town Ohio of the late ‘70s making their own scary pictures with a Super 8mm movie camera.
As far as I can tell—I haven’t gotten to the movie yet, though the TV ads make it look like fun—that’s roughly where the similarities between the two works end. The Abrams movie turns into some sort of sci-fi thriller, as the kids encounter an alien menace, while the book was my attempt at a classic American form, the coming-of-age story, the Summer That Changed Everything.
I was a little dismayed at the news of Abrams movie, however, because I thought that if I ever did get around to actually doing something with Super Eight Days, I’d probably have to change the title, just to avoid confusion. But as Super 8’s release got closer, I thought, why? The titles aren’t identical, & in any case I loved my title, and I thought of it independently, & probably first.
I didn’t mean for this to become such a confessional on the follies of my psychology. I really just wanted to say that I decided to make Super Eight Days available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle.It costs just ninety-nine cents; less than even a matinee ticket to Super 8.
So that’s my big sales pitch, but here’s one more story from my past:
Nearly twenty years ago, when I first arrived in Arizona, I worked briefly as a security guard at the Biltmore Estates. My boss was a leathery, old-school sort of guy named Amos. One night Amos was extolling the virtues of a small plastic money-clip that he’d bought at (I think) Walgreen’s. He clinched the case for the item’s excellence by observing:
“It only costs a buck. I mean, you’d watch a monkey f**k, if it only cost a buck.”
I wondered at the time if this was some common expression that I’d never encountered. But I’ve never heard it since, & no one I’ve told the story to has recognized it, either. So I’m going to go ahead & attribute it to Amos. In any case, it struck me that he was right—I would. I would watch a monkey f**k, if it only cost a buck. If it cost $8.99, or even $4.99, I’d probably think twice, but if it only cost a buck…
Deciding on a price for my debut novel, The Amos Principle came back to me as a solid formula for success in American commerce: Find something at least as entertaining as watching a monkey f**k—admittedly no easy task—& then charge a buck or less for it. So I leave it to the great Kindle-reading public to tell me if I’ve succeeded.