Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mr. Penumbra--Another Writer Creates His Own Publishing Break

I love it when writers—instead of complaining about the state of flux the book publishing industry is and worried about where it’s going—create their own breaks.  Recently I blogged about the amazingly swift ride of The Shack from a homeless, self-published book to 15 million sales.  Then today, following a lead on a publisher that still accepts unagented novels (hey, I got two agents reading two of them right now but it could takes months before they decide!), I came across Robin Sloan’s short story "Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store".  I dare you to read it right now and see if you’re not impressed and richly rewarded—it’s a fun read (you're pulled in fast), topical, mysterious (sorry no sex but it does lead to chance encounter that does lead to an actual date—we can imagine the rest), with plenty of clever wordplay by someone incredibly talented and confident and can pull it off.  If you like books and bookstores this is for you.  If you like what they do at Google (or have no idea—it’s scary), that’s in the story too . . . . Even Sherlock Holmes buffs will get a kick out of this – check out the buttons on the coat!

Robin Sloan not only got the short story selling on Kindle, he put it on Kickstarter (if you don't know what that is, check it out; a great concept like a start-up company with a guaranteed market-in-progress), and that led to an agent and a novel deal with Farrar Straus Giroux.  I’m thinking, how he do all that so fast?  This is like finding your way around one of those brick walls designed to stop people, as in Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.   If you’re over 30 like me (inside joke from the story), it’s about time we learn from those under 30 who are doing some amazing things on the internet and are getting their books published (and not just online).  If we can’t beat them (we’d look pretty silly trying), then join them.  It’s about time . . . before we get even older and start to all look alike (again from the story).  This is also a way for us to achieve a type of immortality—yes, from the story.  What can I say, been thinking about this story all day long and it’s been a really busy day because tomorrow I’m going on vacation for a week! 

So have fun, read it, read some of the comments, too (plenty of encouragement and helpful critiques), and start thinking about all the possibilities in your own writing.  It all begins with a good character and a good story; and yes, just maybe the internet will help you achieve your dreams.  But first, you got to do the hard work and write and then market what you write.  (If no one is reading it or even knows it exists…) Learn from Robin.  That’s what I’m planning to do right now, starting with this blog post.  (See I'm helping him out all the way from Borneo-- that's the internet!)  He did get a book deal, right?  And it’s only the beginning for this story-cum-novel.  It can be turned into a series, even something interactive. . . .There’s only one way to find out what you can do with a good idea… let your imagination run with the possibilities for this story and your own.  Let's see where you end up.  Just maybe you can join their club and have your own published novel...

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I 


kathleen said...

Thank you so very much for directing me to Robin Sloan's story. It was awesome and i had to reread it. I hope it rekindles that writing spark in my daughter actually. Yes, i'm one of the over-30's :-)

Borneo Expat Writer said...

Yeah, it does inspire you in that way. Love the idea that a short story leads to an agent leads to a novel deal. You just never know. Gives us hope, especially if we take the initiative to create our own breaks. Sort of have to these days, and that's not a bad thing. Forces us to write and market and in the long run we're better off for it.