Monday, August 29, 2011
The Living Dead Star
I promised a minor announcement about the future of my memoir and I guess it's time to make good on that.
Three years ago I began offering Dead Star Twilight exclusively on this site as an e-book that could be downloaded for $12.95. I took the internet publishing route for three reasons. The first was that with the sudden and massive rush of new traffic in early 2008 that followed my untimely dismissal from CNN, I had all the publicity I could ever dream of and I knew that if I played my cards right, and if I struck quickly, it might very well translate into book sales; the second was that, after a couple of lengthy conversations with a good friend of mine who had worked as both a literary agent and an independent publisher, I started to understand that I potentially stood to see a better return by cutting out the publishing industry middle-men and taking the reins of the project and its promotion myself; the third was simply that I had positioned myself as a true believer in the power of the new media revolution and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.
Since April of 2008, I've sold a few thousand copies of my little book and the response to it has been largely positive -- sometimes effusively so -- and for that I can't thank the readers of this site enough. I got a very nice blurb for it from Arianna Huffington, as you probably know, and at one point the book was taken in and championed by a really terrific agent in New York City who believed in it wholeheartedly and fought tooth and nail to see it get picked up by a major publishing house. Although that never materialized, he continues to insist that it had less to do with the quality of the work or the story than it did with the overcrowded genre I was apparently thick-headed enough to want to dump another 332 pages into. Regardless, his effort -- and his unwavering faith in the project -- remains very much appreciated by yours truly.
The end result of all of this is that, as it now stands, I think Dead Star Twilight has reached a point of diminishing returns -- meaning that pushing it further on this site for the purchase price probably won't lead to a significant increase in the number of sales and it's gone about as far up the publishing world food chain as it's going to. But in spite of all the work I put into it and obviously wanted to see a financial reward for -- it's a book, after all; it took months to crank out -- the most important thing to me as a writer is that people read it. I want as many people to see it as possible. I want it to be read, and hopefully enjoyed, far and wide.
And that's why this Friday, September 2nd, I'll begin offering Dead Star Twilight as a pay-what-you-want download. The download itself will be free of charge. If you want to throw a few dollars my way for the effort, feel free to make a donation to the Paypal tip jar in the right-hand sidebar; if you read it and love it and feel like I deserve more, that's your call; if you think it's garbage, you can potentially be out nothing at all except a little bit of your time.
For those who already paid for the book and have read it -- particularly those who've enjoyed it -- obviously I wouldn't expect you to pay a dime to re-download it if you choose. With that in mind, there actually will be a reason to give the book second look: Included this time around will be a new afterword which will feature, among other things, a rundown of what the "characters" who populate Dead Star Twilight are doing ten years after the events described in the book and how I feel about my addiction, time in rehab, role in the destruction of my marriage at the time, and recovery in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, looking back a decade later. I do promise a few interesting revelations; suffice it to say, hindsight of the events described thoroughly and brutally in DST -- and the consideration of what happened in my life in the wake of them -- has given me an entirely different take on the story than the one I committed to posterity several years ago. Also, and maybe this is the most pertinent reason that I can recommend re-reading DST if you liked it the first time around: The new edition of the book has been cleaned up significantly and, quite frankly, reads a hell of a lot better than the one that's been available for purchase here for three years. When it was first being pitched to publishers, my agent and I went over it carefully and re-edited it -- without changing the story itself, of course -- to the point where the thing now pretty much barrels along like a tank.
In the end is it a great book? How the hell should I know. I'm a writer -- which means that there are times I look it over and think, "Wow, that's not half bad," and there are likewise times when I read it and think to myself, "You're a worthless hack." The fact is, though, that you should decide for yourself -- and I'd very much like you to.
A couple of years back, Chuck Klosterman and I got into a conversation via e-mail in which he said something about the pitfalls of journalism and writing in the modern age that really stuck with me. Without giving his personal feelings away in too much detail, he said that one of the problems fledgeling writers run into -- particularly ones who avail themselves of the opportunities for exposure provided by new media -- is that people don't always value their work; essentially, the public often correlates the amount it's forced to pay for something with the quality of what it's getting. Without actually realizing it, I had a notion like this in mind when I first made Dead Star Twilight available: Just because it was being released only as an e-book, I didn't want people to go into it thinking it was a cheap product -- that it wasn't a "real" book. As I said, though, three years later I think I've done pretty well and have gotten a damn good response overall -- and now is the time to simply get it out there to as many readers as possible and leave it in their hands. Let them -- let you -- make the decision as to whether or not it's any good without my trying to put a dollar value on it for you.
Another reason I'm doing it right now should be obvious: The centerpiece of the book is the 9/11 attack, and ten years later it's still staggering to think how that singular moment in time affected the country and the world -- and on a personal level, how it altered my own path in immeasurable ways. If 9/11 hadn't happened, there would've been no story for Dead Star Twilight, and looking back on it a decade after the fact from my own perspective -- the devastating downward spiral leading up to it, the desperate and insane decision I made to try to rebuild my life in the shadow of it, and the emotionally overwhelming days and months spent bringing myself back to life as those around me mourned their dead, yet never lost their fight -- it occasionally leaves me without the words necessary to truly relate what it was like.
Which is why I'm glad I thought to put it down in print when I could find a way to describe it all.
Over the next couple of weeks, there are going to be a lot of retrospectives about that singular period in our history and what it meant to us as a nation and to many of us individually. I thought hard about what I could contribute, given that I was there, in New York City, immediately following the attack, and spent months covering 9/11 from the ground while trying to reconstruct my own life out of the wreckage I'd foolishly created. And then I realized that I already had. I wrote an entire book about that period. I'd told my personal story of it as best I could.
And now I want everyone to see it -- no strings attached.
Much more to come over the next few days.