Being Hugh Malkovich pays off.

by Hugh Gilmore

This one’s for all the little people out there who want to write a book someday and need a pep talk to get them started. And it’s for all those medium-sized people who have written a book but haven’t been able to get it published.

Oh, and it’s also for all those big old souls who’ve written a book, published it, and now bob up and down in the chop, hoping the tide carries them ashore. Remember folks, all of you: We’re all parts of the same jetsam, and if it weren’t for us there’d be nothing lining the harbors but water, just water.

And there’s already plenty enough of that in our bays and rivers and estuaries. So, keep a sense of identity. Keep your head above water and float with me for a while. Easy does it.

Where was I? Yes: This time last year, despite years of trying, I had nothing to show for my writing but desk drawers that were hard to open because I’d stuffed large quantities of hopes and dreams in them. The thought of raking leaves and cleaning gutters and chopping firewood appealed more to me than sitting at my desk trying to unburden my soul by typing words onto a computer screen.

“The heck with it,” I said in a moment of raging defiance.

I was with my friend, the Mt. Airy poet Lynn Hoffman at the time. He lifted my beer and put it back on the coaster and looked me square in the eye and said, “You’d be a fool after writing all that stuff if you didn’t at least publish it yourself as an e-book.” He said it takes about an hour, costs nothing and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

“If you don’t know how to format your document,” he told me, “I’ll give you the name of the lady who formatted mine. Otherwise, stop complaining.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that that was then and this … well, this is now. If we were standing before a plush purple curtain, I’d clap my hands and have the curtains pulled wide to reveal a dazzling array of publications written by me and now available to the world at large.

Lacking such a curtain and the union-required minimum number of stagehands, I’ll instead invite you to turn on your computers, smart phones, tablets and all other e-devices and dial up At, type “Hugh Gilmore Books” in the search bar. Where last year I had nothing to show, this year you will find five publications. Five! Where there were none. Before.

I’m not bragging – though I am proud. The sight of that many book icons on Amazon is almost as satisfying as having raked together a huge pile of leaves. Actually, I think there are seven icons. The reason is that two of the works I published last year as Kindle e-books I also arranged to publish as print paperbacks. (I did that through and chronicled the process in occasional articles published in the Local during 2011 and 2012.)

Details: My major work was a “whydunit”-type mystery story called “Malcolm’s Wine.” This story had plenty of sex, kinky thinking, crime and violence in it. Enough to make people look at me twice after reading the book and give me that “Who knew he had such a dirty, twisted mind?” look.

In defense of my public perception I pulled together in three weeks a collection of stories I’d written during the past ten years. I gave the stories a connecting theme and published them as “Scenes from a Bookshop.” After that, people went back to looking at me as though I were a harmless drudge.

I also discovered that getting a book published in Kindle e-book format is fairly easy. Once you have an account set up, you can fly through. You need to have a cover (which is easy to make with Adobe Photoshop or iPhoto: find an image and put your name and book title on it).

I’d heard of “Kindle Singles” – short pieces that Amazon would feature if you got their approval. I pitched an idea to them, but never heard back. I wondered what would happen if I simply went ahead and uploaded a short piece to them. I sent “Redneck Noir Literature: A Personal Journey,” a six-part series I’d published in the Local this year.

What happened? It worked. It’s online now through Amazon as a Kindle e-Book. I’ve even sold a few copies.

Encouraged by that, I reworked the Loren Eiseley series I wrote three years ago and submitted that as a Kindle. It’s now online also. So far I’ve sold a single copy – to myself. That’s okay since I’m the only one I advertised that title to. Sooner or later someone else will want to read it.

And just last week I sent “Juan Belmonte’s ‘Killer of Bulls’ as an Existential Story.” That has so far sold one copy – again, to myself. But again, you’re the first people outside myself to know about it.

But, as I said in starting this excursion through the mind of Hugh Malkovich, if I hadn’t taken action I’d still have nothing to show for my years of effort. I get a big kick out of going to Amazon and dialing my own number. The book icons that show up make me feel like I’ve accomplished something in the past year. And the point is: for what it’s worth, if I can do it, anyone can.

Hugh will be a member of the Mystery Writers Panel at the 4th Annual Chestnut Hill Book Festival on Sept. 30. The other panelists are Solomon Jones, Cordelia Biddle and Jon McGoran. Books for sale. Quips for free.


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