Judging a coverless book

By Linda Herkenhoff


 Suppose you were wondering — I’m not sure why you would, but just go with me here for a second — what a part-time reporter working for a local newspaper does in her free time. In movies and in books, there used to be a stereotype about beat reporters that included a desk drawer with two lonely ingredients: a half empty bottle of bourbon and a dusty manuscript.

In my case, this is about half right.

I don’t intend to use this column as a self-serving vehicle to promote my outside ventures, over the next few weeks I’ll probably use just about everything else, but when I discovered I had a column scheduled for distribution the very same day I was also having an e-book released, it occurred to me that this was not only a swell coincidence, it also afforded me the space to instigate a little latent fervor in those who, from time to time, consider breaking into the literary world. The world can always use more stories, and the opportunities to participate in spreading them far and wide are growing by electronic leaps and bounds.

I have written and sold books of the paper variety over the years, and even tried an electronic download version right around the turn of century. I remember how cutting edge it all seemed. My e-reader weighed slightly less than a newborn. Aside from Oprah, I didn’t know of too many of other folks who indulged this way. Downloading a book was like a techno transfusion that required docks, cords, a certain level of computer savvy and a good half an hour. Still, the cat, so to speak, was out of the bag and it was apparent that this was the wave of the future even if it took a little longer to crest than expected. I’m excited about jumping back into this arena, the timing feels right.

For those still bucking, or doubting, the trend, you’re probably able to remember back to a time when encyclopedia use outpaced Wikipedia’s. Need I say more?

What this means for the dedicated reading community, in part, is that there will be a larger selection of titles available at all times from anywhere you can get an internet connection, compatible with any device that has a screen.

What this means for writers is more opportunity. Someone has to fill the demand. I know first hand how taxing it can be to get into print with a mainstream publisher. It often frustrates talented writers into abandoning the process altogether. Publishing houses have gotten even more leery lately of investing in unknowns while trying to figure out how to compete, or proceed, with the growing e-book frenzy.

Of course, with more titles comes the concern over how much is too much. Will capacity distort competency? I wouldn’t spend too much time on this one. The cream always rises to the top, and word of a stinker gets out just as fast as word of gem these days. I remember, with great clarity, talking to someone in the publishing industry that thought personal computers were going to be the undoing of literary world because “anyone” could write, print and send off a manuscript. Slush piles (the piling up of paper manuscripts yet to be read or destroyed at a publishing house or agent’s office) did, in fact, grow to enormous proportions during this time, as predicted.

Then came email.

I’ve consumed some remarkable contemporary tales in last decade, so I don’t think the quality of literature is declining. I say consumed because I download both print and audio, have for some time. I love having more choices (not to mention more convenience) and hope this trend calls out straddling artists with works in progress that might truly knock our socks off. I’m up for it.

As for the self-serving thing I promised not to linger on, here’s the scoop:

“Sins of the Mother,” a contemporary thriller set in Minnesota, is available beginning Dec. 15. I publish under the name Ellis Hoff (another story for another day), and, you know it, has a website. “Sins” can be downloaded at a number of sites and in a number of formats. If you are so inclined, I hope you enjoy. 

© Jim Herkenhoff 2013    Ellis Hoff email: ellis@ellishoff.com