A Man's Word
By Janice Price
There was a time when a man’s word was his bond, and one new writer can remember that time. At age seventy he began to write stories. Recently, he self-published a book and has been learning the ups and downs of self-marketing. The book market is a tough world today. Anyone can self-publish a book, but not every book, self-published or otherwise, will be a raving success story for the author.
One successful author, J.K. Rowling, refused to publish an e-book version of her latest Harry Potter book, but within eleven hours of its release, it was posted on the Internet in its entirety. The United States used to have gangs like the Ma Barker Gang, the Jesse James Gang, or the Al Capone Mob -- which was hunted by legendary lawman Eliot Ness. Today we have the Have Scanner Will Copy Gang. Yes, it took a group of thieves to copy and post one book. Rowling’s sales will barely be affected; the book sold over ten million copies in one day.
Rowling is a famous author and undoubtedly has her pick of publishing houses to choose from, any one of which would gladly promote her book. An unknown, self-published writer, particularly one without means, stands alone. Unless he has good friends and encouragers who will knock on doors, tap on windows, speak to the purchasing agents of various stores, write to air shows to volunteer him as a prospective airplane wing tip walker, and just generally do whatever is needed to help promote the book. The self-published author – let’s call him F.T.P. (short for Feisty, Tenacious Perseverance) – has been blessed with such friends, one in particular.
I have never been interested in reading the Harry Potter series, but I am in process of reading the book by F.T.P. His book is “cute” and family friendly. (It has a hook, but I won’t give it away here) Storytelling is an art, not necessarily a punctuating spellfest. (Yes, I know there is no such word as “spellfest” in your dictionary.) F.T.P. was raised in an era when success was measured in hard work, not in perfect spelling and punctuation.
His style is open, honest and down to earth. I have never met him, but I can almost imagine him laboring over his keyboard to keep his stories uniquely F.T.P. It puts a person in mind of the days when people sat (or “set,” as he would undoubtedly say) on the front porch, spinning stories in a leisurely drawl.
I was surprised to learn this man of seventy-five, with little financial means but lots of F.T.P., traveled to a big city in his state to make the rounds of bookstores. That’s a daunting task for a younger person. He met with some honest refusals, but some bookstores did agree to display his book. Then they put it under the counter, either telling customers who inquired about the book they didn’t have it, or they didn’t have it but could special order it– for a fee, over and above what they would collect from the publisher.
When I read that, there was a red flag waving and I just had to “charge.” Whatever happened to the days when a man’s word was his bond? When a handshake was as good as a legal document? Today, we have attorneys writing ironclad prenuptial contracts, after-I’ve-kicked-the-bucket wills, in-case-I-keel-over-at-the-cell-phone-bill waivers, and the ever popular what-one-man-considers-porn-is-actually-art legislation.
When did Mister My-word-is-my-bond get off the train and disappear into the crowd? We need to find him, lure him back onto the train, and send him visiting these bookstores – for a start. Then we need to set up an itinerary for him, being sure to include each and every broken word or promise to adults or children, every broken contract, every overcharge, every deceitful practice, every outright or “subtle” theft, every dishonest business and employee, every cheating married partner -
Oh, my, it can’t be done! The history of man is littered with a trail of broken contracts, promises and relationships, too numerous to even list. We even break our solemn contract with God - breaking his commandments, making promises we know we can’t keep and allowing life to interfere in our relationship.
We are so blessed to have a Savior. Without Christ, we have no hope. We would have a lifetime of contracts, commitments and words without intent, and then we would die. But, unlike mankind in general, and the bookstore owners mentioned here, God is faithful; what he promises, he will perform. God will not break his word.
© 2005 Janice Price