My book Brilliant Deduction has been around for about one year, at this point; there wasn’t really a single “release date” except for formal purposes. It’s been a gratifying year, as I’ve written already. One thing I haven’t noted, though, is the interesting geographic range that my little project has traveled.
Thanks to the marvelous worldcat.org site, one can find library copies of just about any title, sorted by proximity to wherever the site thinks you are. As of today, searching Brilliant Deduction turns up records in 16 libraries. This is not a lot, but it’s fascinating that my words have gone so many places, many of which I’ve never been personally. It can even be found, so the site claims at least, (approximately) 3,000 miles away from me in Wasilla, Alaska. How about that?
Presumably there are more library copies out there, too, as worldcat.org does not seem to list the Lakewood Public Library’s Brilliant Deduction holdings, and I know they have three.
Meanwhile, I have begun writing a second book. Completely different subject matter, but it will be good. Trust me. I completed Part One of Three the day before Christmas, and while it will certainly need a lot of work, I’m making real progress.
I would like to say a formal “thank you” to all who have visited this site, or may yet do so, or taken an interest in my modest little project here one way or another. As well as, of course, a special double extra “thank you” to those who have purchased my book and/or shared kind comments in one forum or another.
I am very close to 100 posts on this blog, now; if we guess that the average post is close to 600 words that’s a total of about 60,000. As my book is a bit more than 112,000 words, then even allowing for a lot of ballpark estimating, I have now posted around half as much additional material online for free as the entire content of the book I’m theoretically promoting.
I’m pleased with that. My main purpose in writing Brilliant Deduction was not making money, which is good because at the current pace it will be a long time before the project achieves even a modestly defined profit. Having committed myself to writing and then publishing this work, I decided nonetheless to make a go at promoting it, and in the process have tried a number of things I have rarely if ever done before. I’ve done a good deal of “warm” and even “cold” sales pitching. I’ve sent out a press release. I’ve walked into stores with wares to offer for stock. I’ve spoken to an audience of strangers in a double-bill with a retired FBI agent. I’ve literally set out my stall at an author fair and spent the day meeting and greeting all kinds of visitors (and thanks, too, to everyone who stopped at my table at Author Alley). I’ve even contacted the alumni association with genuinely exciting news about myself for the first time.
It’s been a great ride even though, yeah, sales numbers have been modest. Nice all the same, believe me; I have been thrilled at both the critical and commercial reaction to this out-of-nowhere self-published book!
I’m approaching “the end of major combat operations” on this blog, and a bit of a valedictory post about this whole project is on the way… as a bit of a lead-in to that, though, I feel like jotting down a few thoughts about why one writes a book and what purposes it serves.
This was largely prompted by a recent e-mail, informing me of the publication of yet another book in what one might call the “jeremiad” category, i.e. a documentation and lamentation of some or other “wicked problem.” And it occurred to me to wonder, not for the first time, just what the point of these books could be. They generally look like miserable reading, as a result of exploring really depressing situations and, moreover, situations which provide benefit to a small, concentrated and powerful group while spreading costs among much larger but diffuse groups. i.e., situations all the more depressing for the unlikelihood of their being changed, certainly by books that I can’t help suspecting mostly just preach to the already converted. I mean, I certainly don’t shy away from reading about problems of the world, but generally a magazine-length article is about all I want to swallow in one go.
Thinking about it this most recent occasion, though, I had the idea that maybe the point of the book is, in some sense, simply a pretext for getting magazines and talk shows and online news to produce those kinds of briefer stories on the author and his or her cause.
Let’s see, it has been a little more than six months since I launched this blog, a little less since I launched the book it promotes (depending on what action one arbitrarily identifies as the book’s “launch”).
Since then, I have published more than 80 blog posts; spoken at one author event; basked in the glow of a modest but uniformly positive series of reviews; received a variety of interesting communication from readers and other interested parties; handed out a large number of free bookmarks; and recently received my first formal royalty check from lulu.com…
I think that about covers it. I can add that my book is genuinely “out there” and being read; I am absolutely not above checking the new book area at Lakewood’s public library every time I drop by, and as of my last visit both of the main branch’s copies were checked out. Meanwhile, searching the web today led to the discovery that the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System not only has added my book to its collection, but that all four of its copies are out right now. This kind of thing is fun because I didn’t even know where Prince George’s County is. (Apparently Maryland; perhaps the good offices of one of the state’s own accomplished authors at work here…?)
I imagine that this project will have something of an ongoing life for many years… which will be very nice of course given that it will likely be that long before it earns enough to cover my expenses… still, some kind of “mission accomplished” moment does seem to approach. I’ve made my pitch for reviews, and met with gratifying success, but I think at this point I’ve gotten most of those I’m going to get. I will continue some active effort to post new content here until my Author Alley appearance five weeks from now; after that this blog will probably switch over to low-power broadcasting.
After that, I may do some further evaluation of this whole strange affair, though at the moment I feel like it’s turned out a “realistic success.” No TV deal, no Times bestseller list, no windfall income… not even a break-even income as of this writing… but, within the world where all of these things were always long shots and the argument for this project therefore of necessity rested on other, more modest satisfactions… one may admit to feeling a little pleased.
I am pleased to announce that Brilliant Deduction will have a second life, of sorts, beginning next year! A few details remain but I now have permission to announce an exciting deal between Lyon Hall and Edition Epoca of Zurich: a German-language translation of my book.
Deduktivebrillanz: die wahre Geschichte der großen Detektive is projected for release in early 2014. Naturally, I will have limited involvement with the project, given that I know perhaps a dozen words of German. But I have every confidence in Edition Epoca’s selection of noted translator and author in his own right Professor Kurt Schwartzholdt.
Just as naturally, this gratifying turn of events has been a tremendously unexpected development…
I’ve been thinking a bit this week on whether Brilliant Deduction might be considered a “guy” book.
There is something to the idea, based on traditional concepts of gender in our society at least. First and foremost, women play only limited roles; it isn’t The Hobbit or The Shawshank Redemption, but as I note in the book’s introduction, the phenomenon of real-life famous detectives that I examine was the product of a particular culture and era, i.e. Western society during the “Long Nineteenth Century.”
That culture and era generally did not regard police work—from which the detective profession grew—as an appropriate career for women. For that matter, it didn’t exactly regard the idea of having a career as appropriate for women. Thus most of the other people appearing in my book—politicians, financiers, industrialists—are also men. Even among criminal society, with little concern for social strictures in other areas, women were almost equally underrepresented (or, I suppose, so much more effective that they avoided notice far more often).
Meanwhile, the world that shows up in Brilliant Deduction is not only predominantly male per numbers, but per (traditional concepts of) style and emphasis. Heavyset, bearded men enjoying brandy and cigars with their comfortable boys’-club connections; train robberies, bomb plots and jailbreaks; classic “man cave” settings from smokey taverns to William Pinkerton’s office* to Ellis Parker’s Elk’s Lodge. Is this, then, a book simply made to adorn the modern man cave? What kind of audience do I really have in mind, here?
When I began telling select members of my nearest circle of friends and family that I had written a book, last summer, most reactions were along the lines of “wow, that sounds neat, good for you; I look forward to reading it.” One reaction, otherwise along similar lines, came with an additional and rather different perspective as well. It may be little surprise that the following reaction originated with one of my PhD friends, who majored in Philosophy as an undergraduate…
[me]: My working title is Brilliant Deduction: The Story of Real-Life Great Detectives.
[The Doctor]: That’s not bad.
Technically, I suppose a lot of the inferences are inductive or abductive, not deductive. But hardly anybody would understand the distinction.
If you called it “Brilliant Abduction”, people would think it was about kidnappers.
And that’s the story of how Brilliant Abduction entered and left the running for book titles on the same day.
Somewhere back along the way, during this whole write-and-professionally-publish-a-book thing, I think there was some notion of selling lots of copies of the work. And one still finds this idea appealing.
Still, there’s something kind of cool about knowing that not only do I have a book, but I have a book on the shelves at real, proper public libraries. Brilliant Deduction is or soon will be available at both branches of Lakewood’s library system, as well as three branches of Cleveland’s.
Looking at those records, seeing my name in there listed just like a real author, I feel like I’m somebody…
In writing a book about real-life great detectives, you could say that I was almost writing a rebuttal to Sherlock Holmes, even an anti-Sherlock (in the sense of antimatter). In a way that’s true, too; I resisted including his name in the title (a decision which any publisher other than myself probably would have vetoed for the sake of sales) and tried to avoid making reference to him in the book, any more often than was really necessary.
And yet, he just kept finding his way in again and again.
But, then, the whole thing began with Sherlock Holmes in a sense, or nearly so. I have become a fan of the character, in recent years, and had I not been one I might not have stopped in the middle of The Mystery of Blue Train to take offense at Hercule Poirot’s declaring himself “probably the greatest detective in the world.” Had I not done that, I might never have considered the question that followed from the recognition that this was, of course, an exceptionally geeky response on my part. Instead, attempting to check my descent into “who’s stronger” comic book nerditry (endearing though it is) I thought of moving the question of “greatest detective” from fiction into the real world, and… here we are.
Looking at detective reality, however, doesn’t actually obscure Sherlock from view, truth be told. Read more…