Why write books that may not sell?

HE SAT DOWN to write a book.

It wasn’t the first time.

It wouldn’t be the last.

He had a couple of characters tucked away in the back of his brain, and they intrigued him.

He told me about them.

Walter was his hero, and Walter was burnt out.

He had been a soldier.

He had been a cop.

He was tired of seeing men die.

He was afraid of dying.

Two wives.

Two divorces.

They were tired of being alone.

Now he was tired of being alone.

Candace was a socialite.

She had a rich husband.

He died.

Car wreck.

She married again.

She had a knack for finding rich husbands.

But, he ran off with his best friend’s wife.

He got the woman.

Candace got the money.

She loved the money.

It never loved her back.

What would happen, he wondered, if Walter and Candace got together?

Might make a pretty good book, he thought.

He sat down to write it.

“It’s a lonely job,” I told him.


“Writing a book.”

“Not really.”

“But you sit all day in a dark empty room.”

“I have my friends,” he said.

“But they don’t come to see you.”

“They come every day.”

“I never see them,” I said.

“I make ‘em up,” he said. He grinned. “If I get tired of them, I simply toss them in the waste basket. No hard feelings. I go my way. They go to the dump.”

“How many books have you written?” I asked.



“Five of them were.”

“Sell a lot of books?”


“You think this book will sell?”


“I like the idea.”

“So do I.”

“Then why don’t you think it will sell?”

“Nobody has figured out how to sell eBooks,” he said.

“Then why go to the trouble of writing another novel?” I asked.

He shrugged.

His grin never left his face.

“I can’t help myself.”

“Why not?”

“I have a story to tell,” he said.

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  • Because, when you figure out how to sell, you’ll already have a nice backlog of books satisfied readers can try next – they don’t disappear, as a paperback might disappear from a bookstore after 6 weeks.

    Those books may be paying for your retirement long after you write them. ‘May’ is the operative word, but it’s a real possibilitiy; the bookstore books are not going to be there long enough to get comfortable.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia, you hit on a great point. When publishers send books to bookstores, they are given three to six weeks to sell. If not, they are returned and, for all practical purposes, the book is dead. In today’s digital world, books on eRetailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo have a shelf life that lasts forever. Keep writing. Build a bunch of books. And if one takes off, they all sell. If not, at least I’ve told a story to somebody.

  • Mike Wigington

    So true. So many stories buzzing around in my head, I had to learn to stick to it to finish the novel. I was quite satisfied just getting the scene out of my head.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Mike, novels, like life, are written one scene at a time. Of course, in novels, we can edit out the ones we don’t like.

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