I'm coming into the homestretch on my book of essays, Pyramid Scheme: Making Art and Being Broke in America--I have three chapters left to write, and I have rough sketches of all three. So, I've begun thinking about how to start generating interest in the book. I thought about using a combo of facebook and blog posts, along with a merciless Twitter bombardment, but I figured that wouldn't really do any good unless I have something to actually show off. This is when Richard Nash came to mind.
Richard is the former head of Soft Skull Press, who published my first book, A Good War is Hard to Find who has since moved on to start his own publishing concern, Cursor, which is launching very soon. Richard has been in the press for the last several months talking up Cursor (check out this article in the Utne Reader on what exactly he's up to). Long story short, Cursor, will not just publish books, it will be an on-line social networking platform for readers and writers to meet, build relationships, and collaborate. From what I understand, the publishing process will be on display, allowing readers to see drafts of books while still in manuscript form. Readers will have behind-the-scenes access to writers, as Cursor writers will blog and field questions from readers, making the relationship between reader and writer one with some give and take. And Cursor won't just publish paper bound books, but will release limited edition art pressings of all their titles followed by an e-edition.
Thinking about Richard and the potential of a more social publication process, I was inspired this week to begin offering excerpts (and some full-text) of my new book on my blog, along with interactive maps of the locales detailed in the chapters.
The first chapter of the book, "Underworld," which appeared in the fall issue of The Normal School, reflects on how the murder of four homeless men four blocks from our apartment in South Bend, Indiana affected me and my family. The map contains photographs of the crime scene and surrounding area that I took in the days after the bodies were found. In the three days since I put "Underworld" and the map up I've received over 500 views (Google keeps track of this), and over 100 people have read my essay, which I know because Issuu, the snazzy free pdf publishing site, gathers statistics on how many people have read your publication. It even tracks how many pages visitors read.
Click on the "Underworld" tab in right hand column to take a look. Click on the map points to see photos and find links to info about the crime. You can even click the "more" at the bottom of the pop-up window and see the "street view" of the area, which adds a whole other virtual dimension to the essay.
So, read the essay, check out the map and tell me if you think it adds anything to the reading experience. And stay tuned for more chapters.
View Map to "Underworld" in a larger map