Tuesday, September 29, 2015

point-of-view narration can make all the difference

A new book on Vladimir Nabokov was published recently, Nabokov in America--on the road to Lolita, by Robert Roper.  Reading it gave occasion to reflect on Nabokov's writing of Lolita, one of the most widely known novels in contemporary American literature.  Lolita is the story of a middle-aged man who pursues an obsessive love relationship with a twelve-year old girl, a stunningly controversial theme for mainstream literature at the time.  Early editions came out in Europe in the mid-fifties, and by 1958, a first edition in America.  Many of Nabokov's academic circle and some editors warned him it would not be well received; nonetheless, it proved a literary and financial success.

Although this first-person narrative seemed moderately engaging, it did not exert as powerful an influence as some critics have ascribed to it.  Humbert is a unique, sophisticated though demented, character, who is also a blundering assassin.  The reader may find some sympathy for his character, but it gets harder and harder to sustain as Humbert reveals his near murder of Lolita's mother, and toward the end his actual murder of a rival for Lolita's favors.  As for Lolita, she remains almost a cipher to the end, regarding her inner emotions or hopes, or the level of comprehension she may have regarding the two men who dominate her life.

In contrast, the third-person limited, simple but powerful novella length Member Of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers, 1946, tells the story of another twelve-year old girl coming into a growing awareness of an inner, vaguely sensual nature, a coming-of-age anxiety, which eventually leads her into a harrowing, near-rape experience with a drunken serviceman in her hometown.

The first-person narrative of Humbert doesn't really allow us to reach into the consciousness of Lolita, and how could we believe much of what this demented person tells us about Lolita, anyhow?  We can observe how Lolita physically acts in various scenes--sometimes she initiates the intimacies--but that doesn't help us to know her very deeply or on what level we can sympathize with her.

In Member, the writer easily moves us into and out of the consciousness of the girl, Frankie, without the many constraints and prejudices potentially imposed on a first-person narrator.  In consequence, we get to know Frankie more deeply
than her counterpart Lolita, and become more moved by her story.

No doubt there were many considerations Nabokov weighed in choosing to write his story as a first-person narrative, including the writing strategies of a rambling journey across the American landscape of sterile motels, a chance for him to use stream-of-consciousness Joycean dialog, chances for literary allusions, and other perks that appealed to his imaginative and writing powers.  His story was well received by many other readers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

more of new digital publishing opportunities

In a past post on new developments in publishing we discussed a new Amazon company called Kindle Scout.  Unlike a previous Amazon business plan to acquire books for its Kindle unit, where the only income received by an author is through royalties, the new program offers an advance and a 5-year contract for rights to a digital version of an author's book.  The advance is $1500, and a 5 yr. contract provides that all rights may revert to the author on request if royalties are less than $25,000 during the contract period.

It's not a huge amount compared to what one might get from a legacy publisher, if one could get through their lengthy gatekeeper hurdles, but Kindle Scout appears to promise a lot of marketing for a new author's book.  An author might not be intrigued much by the financial aspects, but their new book should have a far better chance at reaching more readers with the Kindle Scout program than existed before.  If Amazon has an investment in the game, as they do here, they will probably work much harder on marketing the book.  Any new author might do well to seriously consider this new contracting arrangement.

The process of winning a contract involves an online, public nominating period, whereby Kindle Scout will introduce your book to readers who visit their website, and gives them a chance to read your submitted book description, several sample chapters, and your author's bio.  If a book appeals to a reader, they have the opportunity to click on a 'nominate' button.  If Kindle Scout finds there's enough nominating interest for any book over a 30 day listing period, they will then offer the author a publication contract.  Readers who nominate any book on the site are notified if and when their nominated book has been selected for publication, and will receive a free copy of the book.  It's both a little incentive to get them to click on a book, and the beginning of a marketing effort.

The image at the top of this post is the cover of a new book I submitted to Kindle Scout.  The link to the book's campaign site where one can check out the details of the book and nominate it if they choose is at:


It's still important for the author to invite friends and associates, through email, and blogs, to be aware of his book campaign so that they might have a chance to nominate his book.  

I invite your comments--click on the comments link at the end of this post--and  also hope you will visit the link given above to visit the Kindle Scout page, and perhaps nominate the book if it appeals to you.  

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