The Romance of Making Books

I’ve been in publishing so long that I’ve lost the sense of magic in making books. Don’t get me wrong: I’m as enthusiastic as ever about what’s inside books. But the ink-and-paper-and binding, the book signings and media interviews, don’t do much for me. (E-books still intrigue me a little, but that’s fading fast.)

That is why I take such delight in a new book I’ve watched in the making for two decades: Robert Digitale’s Horse Stalker.

Robert is a reporter for our local paper, the Press Democrat. His work has been prosaic: the education beat, the city government beat, the salmon beat, and lately the real estate beat. We’ve been meeting for lunch for at least 20 years, and I always enjoy hearing about the very real worlds he reports on.

Sometime 15 or 20 years ago—I don’t remember exactly—Robert asked me to read a novel he was writing. That’s not too unusual—many a reporter harbors dreams of literature. What is unusual is Robert’s sticking to it, through draft after draft after draft. I’ve read a number of them over the years, and they kept getting better. A few months ago I read the final go-round, and I had to sit back with a big smile on my face, It’s become a wonderful piece of work. I’ve watched Robert go from ordinary to excellent through sheer determination. How he managed this, while holding down a demanding job and raising three children, I don’t undertand. He had to love it to give up that many evenings and weekends.

Horse Stalker is fantasy, set in a world of horses, magical swords, half-forgotten legends, and monsters. It’s not the kind of fiction I generally read, but I found myself turning pages with genuine pleasure.

There’s another romantic angle to this story. Robert hasn’t found a conventional publisher. That’s a complicated but common tale in this age when conventional publishing is a mess, especially for fiction. In an earlier era, this would have put a sad ending on Robert’s determination. Instead, Robert has launched a small publishing company and the book is available in all the standard outlets. You can do that, in this new time! And Robert has done it with gusto. He’s taken such delight in figuring out the ways of publishing and marketing. He’s found the romance of book publishing all over again, and I’ve regained a little of it just watching his pleasure.

People like me, who have been in publishing a long time, have had our lives disrupted by this new era. We’re likely to complain and worry. I try to remind myself, however, that these are truly revolutionary times. The internet is transforming our lives more than any invention in history—more than the printing press, more than the automobile, more than the telephone. It’s transforming everything from long-haul trucking to the music industry. There has to be romance in that, somewhere. for publishing, I find it here: that the gatekeepers are panicked, and anybody with nerve and a story to tell can now publish for himself. Let’s hear it for democracy!

If you’re anywhere near Santa Rosa, you should drop by Robert’s first book signing at Copperfields in Montgomery Village this Saturday at 1:30. Alternatively, from the comfort of your home you can read sample chapters and hear some of the original music composed around the book at the website http://www.horsestalker.com/horsestalker/home.html.  You can order a book there, or at any of the major bookselling websites (like Amazon.com).

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One Response to “The Romance of Making Books”

  1. mindy Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Tim. I’m about halfway through, and I’m proud that I know Robert (and have an autographed copy of the book!). What new arenas are opening up for writers!

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