The Writer

He was surprised, and of course, ecstatic, that someone actually wanted to pay him to write.  He had been publishing his work on the website for a couple of years and had what amounted to a cult following, some of them family and friends, others people who had stumbled on him one way or another.

When he opened the email from the publisher, he was sure it was another advertisement like the rest he got everyday, but he glanced at all of them, just to make sure,  and there it was.  One of their editors had been assigned to doing internet searches for new writers and she had found him and taken his short stories and the first four chapters of the novel to her boss, who said yes, pursue it.  They wanted him to leave the novel the way it was on the internet, but to finish it privately and submit the final draft to them for editing.  For that, he would be given a fifty thousand dollar advance and another fifty at publication.  The rest was standard royalties and signings and the rest.

He printed out the contract and read it three times before he really understood that they were serious.  His biography was also on the website, surely they understood they were hiring a retired engineer to do a first novel.  This was not the way things usually worked, but it may have had something to do with his site statistics.  The cult had grown considerably over the past two years and in the last few months, it had  almost doubled.  Someone was doing a good job  of promoting him, probably one of his kids.   It did really make a difference to him. He didn't need the money and he was satisfied with his current following.  He got a lot of emails, especially from young German women, fluent in English, who really wanted to meet an American writer.  With his ego showing, he always answered, telling them he was in a very happy relationship with a German woman and would get back to them  if it ever ended.

He read the contract again, then emailed it to his son, whose wife had worked for a publishing house a few years back.  She reviewed it, found it legitimate and suggested that it was a very good offer.  The only problem he saw was disappointing the fans who had been reading him for free for years.  He decided to put up a survey on the web site and ask them if they would actually buy the book if he went through with the deal.  In three weeks, a surprising 83% had answered yes.  He took the deal, wrote the book, and was once more surprised when the first printing was sold out.

He had just gotten back to Germany, after a short visit to his kids in the US, when his publisher called.  He was sitting in the café, drinking a Weizenbier.  They wanted to publish an anthology of his internet short stories.  What the hell, he said, send me a contract.  They put them all together tastefully, and he picked up another fifty grand.  The damned thing hit the New York Times best seller list, which sold more copies of the novel and the offer of another novel contract from the publisher.  This time he said no and went back to typing in cafes and publishing on the internet.

copyright 2007: john zavacki (the elder)