A few hours before the start of the First Hopefully Annual Rotary Toast to the Arts event Friday night, John Hutto called with an interesting question.
“When you become a lawyer, I know they put ‘esquire’ after your name,” he said. “What do they put after your name when you become an author?” I had to ponder that question at length, and finally told him, ‘pauper’ would do nicely.”
Toast to the Arts is a new fundraiser to elevate appreciation of the arts in Bartow, and to raise money to buy eyeglasses for middle school students. Not necessarily in that order.
A lot of people with actual talent were booked as exhibitors, and the job of Hutto, J.C. Martin’s assistant for this event, was to line up two or three authors.
I told John that Bartow has a paucity (I love to use words like that) of authors, but when I added my good friend Lloyd Harris to the list, which already included my own name, I could think of two.
Hutto knew of a third, a recent arrival to Bartow, who, as it ended up, was unable to attend but contributed a couple of books to the occasion.
I did not ask John why he needed to know what term of honor should be appended to authors, but it occurred to me that he might call on me for a few extemporaneous remarks. I do best as an extemporaneous speaker when I have few hours — better yet a few days — to organize my thoughts.
And even if he didn’t call on me (which indeed he didn’t) I decided I should have a few words of wisdom for the scores, or at least dozens, of young potential authors who would seek my counsel.
It did not occur to me that with tickets priced at 40 bucks a pop, there would not be many youngsters in attendance.
In fact, the youngest person I spotted was Jennifer Daniels, child bride of Cliff Daniels. She is the only Bartow resident I know who can ride a unicycle. In fact, she is the only person in the world I know who can ride a unicycle.
Nobody, not even Jen, asked my advice.
One of the best things about being a newspaper columnist is that you don’t have to wait for somebody to ask your advice; you just put it out there.
As author of “Frisbie’s Laws — 20 Surefire Rules for Successful Management” here is everything you never asked about becoming an author, but ought to know.
Rule 1: Don’t quit your day job. If your goal is to become rich overnight, buy a lottery ticket. Your odds are about the same, and your investment in time and treasure is infinitely smaller. If you are now discouraged from writing a book, quit reading. I have just saved you a few thousand bucks. You are welcome.
Rule 2: Reread Rule 1.
Rule 3: Wow, you really are a hard case. Okay. There are basically three approaches: Hire a publisher; self-publish; vanity publishing. A publisher will make all the decisions and keep most of the money.
If you self-publish, you will make all of the decisions and pay all of the expenses, and you will keep most of the money; heh-heh.
Vanity publishing is a combination of the worst of the other two options. Actually, that is just a guess. I self-published; Lloyd used a publisher. Neither of us is driving a Lincoln.
Rule 4: “Signed and numbered.” Why sign and number? Numbering is easy. I had 1,000 copies printed, and they came packed 66 in a box. Do you know how many boxes that is? Neither do I. But I have numbered and dispensed 157 copies. It is easier than counting unopened boxes.
Signed? If you have a copy of the Unabridged Works of William Shakespeare, and it is autographed “To my good friend Bo, with best wishes from your friend Bill (The Bard) S,” you have a winner. You have beat the law of averages.
But if you have a copy autographed “To my good friend Ishmael Yobonovich,” consider your chances of selling that bad boy on eBay unless there is another Ishmael Yobonovich out there somewhere. We authors know what we are doing when we include your name in our inscription.
A few days ago, I saw an interview with James Patterson on the Today show. He recalled his first book. It went something like this.
“I had 3,000 copies printed, and I bought 1,000 of them.
“I went to receptions at libraries. I had a lot of doughnuts and orange juice. I averaged four or five sales per reception. Thirty was an incredible day.”
JP and I have one thing in common. I had 1,000 copies printed and bought them all. The resemblance ends there.
Four or five sales in a single day would call for fireworks, or at least champagne. Thirty? Not in this lifetime, Bubba.
So why write a book? Because you have something you want to say; or more accurately, you have an incredible itch that you just have to scratch.
So go ahead and scratch.
Just remember Rule 1.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He itched; he scratched. He would do it again. He still does not know how many boxes of books he bought at 66 books per box, or how many boxes he has left. He doesn’t really care. He published his book two years ago. At his present rate of sales, he expects to break even in only two more years.)