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Small Time . . . Big Time

Local author wants readers to have a look at his novel after taking 10 years to write it
by: Bob Schoenberg, Bull Mountain area author, Ted Magnuson, is

The computer has made a lot of changes in how we work and play and how creative people present their endeavors to the public, including a book, like that novel picked up at Barnes and Noble last weekend and now sits by the sofa waiting to be read.

Musicians record in their basements, burn CDs and go on DIY (do it yourself) tours to sell their CDs to fans who come to the show; movie makers edit video on home computers and distribute their works on Ifilms or YouTube; dogged non-paid journalists write and post their work on blogs people read on the Internet.

Novels can be DIY too. Ted Magnuson, who lives on Bull Mountain, and who works at his day job as a retired financial planner in Portland, has in his spare time written a Science Fiction book, 'The Moses Probe.'

But it hasn't been picked up by any of the big name publishers. Instead the book was published recently by Mundania Press, a 'publish on demand' (POD) company in Ohio. The book is readily available through Amazon.com, one book at a time.

'Publishing on demand' or 'print on demand' are the terms used for the digital printing technology that allows a complete book to be printed and bound in a matter of minutes.

Besides Mundania, there is BlurbBooksmart, AuthorHouse, iUniverse and a host of others, some good and others more on the unscrupulous side.

What these publishers do is make it easy and cost-effective to produce books one or two at a time or in small lots, rather than in larger print runs of several hundred or several thousand.

What using a POD does is save money up front, by eliminating cash outlays for large print runs and removing the need for warehousing. That is what the big publishers like Random House or Dell do best.

There are PODs, like Mundania, that function very much like their commercial counterparts - rigorously screening and editing submissions, professionally designing books, and sometimes marketing the book to the book trade.

Magnuson's road to publishing a book was a long one, over 10 years in fact, and although the book was good from the critiques he received from his peers, he couldn't get a publisher to even take a look at it.

The novel idea started with a short story he had submitted to a contest at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in 1992.

'I called it 'Flight Beyond Reason' and it got an honorable mention in the contest,' said Magnuson. 'It had a kernel of the story in it and I started to develop that into the novel.'

Later he put together a sample of the novel, about 25 pages of it, and took part in a workshop with the noted Portland Science Fiction author Robert Sheckley.

Afterwards he joined up with a group of novice writers who were from the workshop and they started to meet several times a month for five years now at the Borders Booksellers store at Bridgeport.

'We read to each other and critiqued each other's work. From that I changed the order of some scenes or developed new scenes as we talked,' Magnuson said.

While he was doing all this in the 90s he was attending Willamette Writers workshops where, and here is where it gets complicated, he met an editor who knew a publisher who had an idea for a book and needed a writer.

It was golden opportunity for Magnuson who was then asked by the publisher to research and write a book in three months that became the non-fiction book 'Oregon Trivia' published by Rutledge Hill Press in 1998 and is available on Amazon.com.

From this experience it seemed easy to get a book published, but it wasn't enough to get his novel manuscript read and published by one of the big fiction presses. So Magnuson, went the DIY route, the back road, to get more name recognition.

To promote his book he meets with anyone now to get a mention on the radio, in a newspaper, or he'll meet with a book club, if that's what it takes, bringing along his poster depicting the cover of his book, 'The Moses Probe.'

'I was going to the workshops and conferences to get my fiction published,' he said. 'But I found out early that it is not easy being a self-supporting writer. I believe great writing will find a market. I just needed to get in the marketplace and I felt this was a medium step to getting my name know to the big publishers.'

Mundania Press publishes genre writers, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Romance and Western fiction. He submitted the manuscript and then waited to hear back from the acquisitions editor. They liked it and sent him a contract.

Magnuson signed it and a designer was assigned to create a book cover and an editor went over the book with him line by line.

'We reviewed it in chapter sized blocks. The biggest change was we cut out a whole chapter she didn't think was necessary.'

Published now, he has the book: paper, ink and cover art, but a POD leaves marketing up to the author, hence Magnuson has hit the road to sell the book. The book is listed by Amazon.com and Powellsbooks.com and Magnuson said he has sold about 50 copies so far.

He has to work at it, though, to get newspapers to review the book and to get mentioned in trade journals read by library buyers. What he would like to have happen is for a distributor to get an order from a book shop.

'The idea is to get it into a brick and mortar store. That's the next step.'

While he works at getting the attention of booksellers and readers for his book, he also has another manuscript ready to send off to publishers. His previous publisher, Rutledge Hill Press has had a look at it and he is waiting to hear from them.

He said the story is about two brothers growing up in the 60s and 70s, a time he remembers and wrote the novel about.

'It's my way of making sense of the time period,' he said.

Done with his interview, Magnuson packed up his poster of the book cover for 'The Moses Probe,' he packed up his bag to head home under Tigard's dull gray, overcast skies.

But he would be more than happy to meet with a book club group or talk at a bookstore about his book at a moments notice. He wants to sell more books and will take to the road to do so.