Selling Books

David Hume once said that his Treatise of Human Nature “fell stillborn from the presses,” because sales after publication were so miserable. He later wrote a couple of  shorter works titled An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and they sold quite well. Ironically, the Treatise is today regarded as his most important and best work by far. But, believe me, I know how David Hume felt: waiting to see how the book will sell that you have watched move slowly into published form, how many people will actually read the words you wrote — or buy the book and make sure it has a prominent place on the coffee table — can be a frustrating experience. To say the least.

I have been fortunate enough to publish thirteen books, but with one or possibly two exceptions they have not done well. It is to be expected, I suppose, since I write about things that don’t interest that many people — I do not write pot boilers or romances. Serious topics are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, as thrilling and exciting as it is to watch your book through the many stages of publication, the period after publication can be hard on one’s ego, one’s sense of self-confidence, if the book doesn’t move off the shelves. Because no matter how much we tell ourselves that we don’t care if no one buys it, we do care! It’s a fact. It is some sort of validation, I suppose, but there it is. Most of us need it.

In any event, my most recent book, shamelessly promoted on this blog, has also fallen “stillborn from the press.” I never thought it would be a best-seller, but I did think some (many?) of my blogging friends would want to have the book. After all, it contains several hundred of the best posts I have written and it is dedicated to my Fellow Bloggers. But as someone asked, why would anyone buy the book if it’s available on the internet for free? The answer, I suppose is that it is a BOOK! It is something that one can hold in one’s hand and return to from time to time. One never knows when the words on the internet might disappear into cyberspace, or WordPress goes belly up and all would be lost forever. So I thought: why not preserve some of the posts that are worth preserving? I have written over a thousand blog posts, most of them not worth the time of day. In the case of this book, however, I carefully selected the ones I thought were worth preserving, those with the broadest possible appeal. And I have arranged them into chapters and placed an index at the end of the book to help readers find what they might be looking for.

As noted, the book was dedicated to my fellow bloggers who inspired me to keep writing and delighted me with astute comments from time to time. I named three specially who have “been there” for most of the blogging trip. But as of this writing only two bloggers have ordered the book and I must confess I am a bit dismayed. But then I recall that these are busy people who have lives of their own and who are also writing their own blogs and they may well have better things to do or they simply forgot. So I am writing this gentle reminder that the book is available at It will never do well, I am certain of that. But my hope is that it will do better than it has so far. Pity poor David Hume. It can be a frustrating experience.


Note To Readers:

Lisa suggested that I indicate how the Ellis Press web page works.  Go to the site and click on “Order Info.” Click on “Printable Order Form.” Print off the document and look for “Hugh Curtler.” Indicate how many copies you want (!), include your check (or a 20 pound note if you are in England and you dare) and send it off to Ellis Press in Granite Falls, Minnesota. They will let me know of the order and I will write an inscription and send the book to you directly. Ellis Press will pay for postage and handling.

If you prefer to use a credit card, the book is available on Amazon, though it may take a few days for them to process the information Ellis Press sent them. Note that books sold by Amazon will not bear my inscription.

I hope this helps. I am really not good at this sort of thing — as you can probably tell.






Mea Culpa

I recently wrote a blog in which I complained about the lack of response (and thought) on the part of readers of this blog on the topic of parental responsibility. I was reminded by several readers, one of whom thought my comments were “insulting,” that lack of comments does not entail lack of thought. This is true. While I did not mean to be insulting — and I need to remind myself that not all of my readers are old retired farts with too much time on their hands — I was disappointed by the lack of response on a topic that I regard as immensely complicated and very topical. But, then, what is of interest to me may not be of interest to others. This is certainly the case, though the responses that finally did come forth (ironically) were outstanding and the very thing I had hoped for in taking on the topic in the first place. Go figure!

In any event, when I started writing these blogs I did so not to become popular, but to order and express my thoughts, get them out there and see if anything strikes a reader or two as worthy of comment.  But while I do write primarily for my own gratification it would be a lie to say that as one who puts words out there I don’t care if no one reads them. It can be rather frustrating at times. Comments are always fun to read and a type of “feedback” that keeps the engine oiled. Dana Yost, my friend and a former newspaper editor put it nicely: one does care and it is easy to get discouraged, even if popularity is not your goal. I used to hate it in class when I opened with what I thought was a doozie of a question and the class sat there like zombies on Xanax wishing they were somewhere else. The silence was enough to drive you up the wall. But I eventually learned that the silence did not necessarily mean lack of thought and if I was patient a student might just take the bull by the horns and astonish us all. The same applies with these blogs.

But in the end the comments on that blog that bothered me the most were those that suggested that the blog is all about personalities. My comments were regarded by several readers as “out of character,” and even the follow-up to my show of concern for this sort of reductionism struck the same chord: it was so unlike me. What I write, with rare exceptions (like the present blog) is not all about me. I don’t like writing about myself. My blogs are generally about ideas and issues that are worth serious thought. And it is clear that I am very lucky to have some very bright and astute readers who are both thoughtful and concerned (and sensitive). I will remember that, ignore the silence even when it seems deafening, and keep on blogging as long as there are things worth blogging about.

2012 in review

Happy 2013 to one and all. The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog and I post it here at their suggestion.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 16 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Looking Back

I have been blogging for a little over a year now and it strikes me it is about time to take stock. I have to say this blogging thing has been great! I was hesitant at first, but the community of bloggers of which I am a part has been not only supportive but (more importantly) instructive — an extended family of bright and interesting people.  I have learned a great deal and have been able to sort a few of my ideas out and present them to appreciative readers who have made some very insightful comments. Granted, there have been dissenters and nay-sayers and disappointing days. I realize that my blogs do not brighten everyone’s day, and my son keeps catching me up on grammatical mistakes that might be off-putting for some.  But that’s the remarkable thing. In spite of the fact that I tend to see the glass half empty, I have still managed to post nearly 400 blogs in a little over a year and have had more than 9,500 readers — or at least “hits. ” I don’t know whether they have read a word I wrote. But I am delighted they at least stopped to see what was going on. And the truly astonishing thing about blogging is the international dimension of the medium. I have had hits from over 50 nations in the past quarter — even including countries like Slovenia and Bangladesh! And two of my new best blogging friends are from Great Britain and Ecuador if you can imagine.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of my readers happened to be the editor of Empirical magazine and he asked me to expand one of my blogs which he was kind enough to include in the December issue of that magazine (and an impressive magazine it is indeed!). Of special importance to me in this regard was the opportunity to send a second essay to Empirical in which I drew heavily on the data provided by a fellow blogger, the “old fart” (who will remain anonymous), whose contribution was vital to the underlying message of that essay dealing with the issue of climate change. That article is scheduled to appear in the January issue of the magazine. Again, the community to which bloggers become conjoined is the best thing about the entire enterprise in my view.

My best day was 126 views when I had the audacity to suggest that Andy Roddick should try to find something more important to do in his retirement from tennis than open another tennis facility. Apparently that blog struck a nerve. Do I draw from that day the conclusion that one needs to strike nerves to get readers? I hope not. In any event, I will keep on trucking along in my own way and relish the thought that a number of fellow-bloggers have sent me a variety of nice blogging awards and even if the daily numbers are not that impressive, they are rock solid. And, more importantly, I enjoy doing what I do, it keeps the mind alive, and I have learned a great deal from some very bright fellow bloggers. Too bad there aren’t more readers “out there” who can discover as I have how much of importance and interest these people have to say. In a world in which there is so much dreck being dispensed as wisdom these people need to be more widely appreciated. Some of them are truly exceptional in so many ways. It has been fun!