A GONZO NOIR is a story about how a struggling writer – one Declan Burke, coincidentally enough – is approached by a character called Karlsson, the latter being a character from an m/s Burke wrote some years ago, but which got shelved for its lack of commercial appeal, principally because Karlsson is a hospital porter and something of a psychopath, given to alleviating the pain of old patients in a terminal fashion. Trapped in the half-life limbo peopled by fictional characters who never see publication, Karlsson has a suggestion for Burke: make him a nicer psychopath to give the novel more commercial appeal, and give the story more oomph. To this end, Karlsson will collaborate on a rewrite of the m/s, which will involve him blowing up the hospital where he works. If Burke doesn’t play ball, then Karlsson will turn his psychopathic tendencies on Burke’s wife and baby daughter …The novel has been out under consideration with a number of publishers for some months now, and – ooh, the irony – it appears that, despite the largely positive reaction from commissioning editors, the story lacks for mass commercial appeal.
As a result, I’m thinking strongly of self-publishing the novel, albeit self-publishing with a twist, as a kind of dry run for the co-op idea mentioned elsewhere on this blog. But before I get into the hard sell, let me offer you first a sample of the reactions I received when I sent the m/s to a number of writers in the hope of a blurb or two:
“A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny. Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler.” – John Banville, Booker Prize-winning author of THE SEAOkay, now for the hard sell.
“A GONZO NOIR is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN
“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” – Adrian McKinty, author FIFTY GRAND
“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” – Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of EMPTY EVER AFTER
“A GONZO NOIR is shockingly original and completely entertaining. Post-modern crime fiction at its very best.” – John McFetridge, author of EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE
“A harrowing and yet hilarious examination of the gradual disintegration of a writer’s personality, as well as a damned fine noir novel … Burke has outdone himself this time; it’s a hell of a read.” – Scott Philips, author of THE ICE HARVEST
Generally speaking, self-publishing involves a writer investing his or her own hard-earned money in having a book published, and then hoping that enough readers will buy the book to make it worth his or her while. Generally speaking, I tend to go about things backasswards, so I’m going to invert the conventional model and ask the readers to put their money where my mouth is. It’s a variation on crowdfunding, in which a reader pledges a certain amount of money to see the book published, and in return receives a copy of the book when it sees the light of day.
Now, I know we’re living through straitened times, and that no one has money to toss around willy-nilly. That said, and these straitened times notwithstanding, people are still spending money and reading books; the crucial issue these days, at least in my own experience, is value for money.
So: how much am I asking readers to pledge? Well, I reckon that €7 lies somewhere between what you might pay for a conventionally published book brand new off the shelves, and what you might pay for a decent book in a second-hand store. €7 converts (as of today’s conversion rates, February 17th) to roughly $9.60 (US), $10.60 (Aus), $10 (Can), and £6 (UK).
The cost of self-publishing, going the print-on-demand (POD) route, is roughly €1,500. At €7 per book, that means I need to sell 214 books to break even, which seems to me eminently do-able. Of course, if everyone who pledges is receive a copy, then I need to build in post-and-packing at €5 per book, which bumps up the cost-per-book to me to €12. Were I to ask for a pledge of €12 per book, that would mean I’d need to sell 125 copies to break even. Sticking with the original pledge of €7, however, which I’d prefer to do, means I need to sell 367 books to break even, which still seems do-able to me. In total, then, I need to raise €2,570 to print, publish and post 367 books; if such can be done, I will receive a profit of almost exactly nil, but I’ll have a new book on the shelf, and – hopefully, if a tad optimistically – 367 readers given good value for their €7 investment.
How to raise that amount in a fashion that is clear, transparent, and leaves the reader reassured that he or she isn’t going to be bilked for their €7? Well, there’s a site called Kickstarter, which offers a platform for the raising of capital for such projects as this. The basic idea is that I set up a project with a total amount that needs to be raised (€2,570). I let people know where and how they can pledge their €7, and hopefully 367 people buy into the idea. If the amount is raised within a specific time period (three months, say), then your pledge is accepted and transferred to my bank account, and shortly afterwards you receive your copy of A GONZO NOIR; if the total amount isn’t reached in a specified period, all pledges are cancelled and it costs nobody anything, except possibly yours truly’s pride. For more information on the Kickstarter project, clickety-click here.
So there you have it. Any takers?