Monday, February 12, 2007

What price literary immortality?

I've spent the weekend calculating the price of literary immortality and the figure I've arrived at is, including postage and packing, 800 UK pounds (1557 US dollars; 189896 Japanese yen; 125681 Angolan new kwanzas).

How it works is this. When I wrote A Half Life of One I wasn't striving after literary immortality. I wrote the book because I had to; I had a story to tell; something I had to get off my chest. However, now the book is written I want to leverage its existence into something equally important. Like immortality.

Why? Well, nearly everyone who has at some time been near and dear to me and who has died is virtually forgotten by everyone apart from me. My mother and father; the aunt and uncle who brought me up; my father-in-law who became a surrogate father. Within another generation their memories will be completely obliterated. They will have left no trace of their existence behind on this earth. I don't want the same fate to befall me.

I've given this a fair bit of thought and I've concluded that the best chance of being remembered in years to come is to publish a book. Of course, most books published in the past are now discarded and forgotten. I needed to make sure the same thing didn't happen to me. As well as the price, I needed to work out the odds against gaining literary immortality. My immediate priority therefore was to do some research into the expected longevity of the average novel. First off I consulted Miller's Antique Price Guide. Then I conducted some informal discussions with both Sotheby's and Bonhams, the well-known fine art dealers. To cut a long story short the consensus seems to be that any book published today has odds of a hundred to one against being around in three hundred years time.

That means that to secure my place in the literary pantheon three hundred years from now I need to publish and sell a hundred copies of A Half Life of One. And therein lies the problem. Although the book is good - some say very good - I am by no means confident that I can actually sell a hundred copies. And since we're talking about my eternal future here I can't afford to take risks. I've therefore decided to adopt a radical new business model to ensure I hit my sales target. I'm going to give the book away.

I'll continue to promote A Half Life of One over on my other blog. Anyone who wants can then read it online for free or if they prefer they can e-mail me and I'll send them a copy for nothing. I reckon that taking into account the origination and printing costs, together with postage and packing this little exercise in securing my everlasting destiny is going to cost me around £800. Which is a whole lot cheaper than selling my soul to the devil.

Because I'm only going to print a hundred copies I'm also virtually guaranteeing the rarity value of the book in years to come. As a result anyone who owns a copy a few hundred years from now is going to be quids in. You may think that I might resent this unearned future wealth passing to someone other than myself but not a bit of it. I look on it as my gift to future generations, an act motivated entirely by unselfishness.

All in all then, I think you'll agree that what I'm doing is a very small price to pay to secure my literary immortality, rubbing shoulders in distant centuries with the likes of Goethe, Shakespeare, Scott Fitzgerald, John Baker and Debi Alper.


  1. ooooh - I would have wanted one (pretty please) even without the toe-curling compliment of being placed in the same sentence as such esteemed company.

    My shoulders are rubbed, my toes are curled, my ears are useless - but my heart thanks you!

  2. Daddy2:41 pm

    I'm on my knees begging for one of the already rare 100. Please! Imagine puppy dog eyes looking up at can you say no to that?

  3. I would love to help you secure immortality, Pund, and I would even pay as well.
    Please tell Daddy to get off his knees - he looks untidy.

  4. You've gone white! What's all this lightness?
    I'd like a copy please, and yes I will pay too. I insist on it in fact.

  5. Maxine, it's the unbearable lightness of being, of course.

  6. Who can say at the end of the day, Pundy.
    Each destiny is different.

  7. I've got a toe-curling thing, too, just like debi.
    I would also like future generations of my genes to be rich.
    This is a waiting-list I'd love to belong to.
    If there are any copies left, please send one to me.