The Greatest Job In The UniverseAn Article By Clarence Wright Jr. Editor of PC-BOOKS INC.



by Clarence Wright Jr.

It's a little after six in the morning. Outside my office window I can hear the birds begin to stir. The morning sun has just begun to peep over the edge of Grandfather Mountain as I enjoy a steaming cup of coffee. Is this my first cup of morning coffee? Hardly! I'm not just starting a day's work. The odds are 50:1 or better that I've been at my PC keyboard straight through the night, getting maximum mileage out of the peaceful hours between 10:00 PM and 10:00 AM. I'm not a night auditor or a desk clerk at a hotel or motel. I'm a publisher. To be a bit more specific, I'm a Digital Electronic Publisher of computer ePubs.

I have the Greatest Job in the Universe ... maybe the greatest job in All the Universes! I may be the First Person to read the offerings of new, young Authors -- the Hemingways, Tom Clancies, Michael Crichtons and Earl Stanley Gardners of tomorrow. I am privileged in being able to help them see these early works put in print. I am in the "delivery room," assisting in the birth of a new book -- a new Author on his or her way to becoming a #1 Best Seller. When I am not working with someone else's manuscript, I'm still here at my PC, working on a manuscript of my own. I usually read the manuscript on my computer. I can spell-check it, run it through a grammar-check program, then pull it into a "desktop publishing" program like Ventura Publisher(tm) or Aldus PageMaker(tm). There, I create the lay-out, typeset the text, "import" graphics or photographs and set up Chapters. I can create fancy titles, line up a Table of Contents and I-don't-know-what-all, all at the keyboard of my computer. More than that, as I have mentioned before, I am a Digital Electronic Publisher, as well. I create books on computer disks called ePubs.

The first question most people ask is, "Whazzat you said? Computer Digital e-Whatsis?" Although the same basic skills are used to publish paper products and digital electronic 'books,' the electronic 'book' format offers us a much wider publishing environment in which to work. Let me give you a short example. At the moment, you are reading a page of text. Terrific! (I thank you very much for reading my article.) However, on the printed page, text remains simply that ... TEXT. In electronic digital publishing, we use what is known as Computer Hypertext. This allows us to 'link' the texts you are reading with other text that may be used to explain, elaborate, define or merely parallel the thought that is being expressed in the original text. The Reader of an hypertext digital ePub sees the hypertext link symbol or a word that is marked as a 'link' by using a different color. The Reader presses the TAB key on the PC keyboard and the screen cursor jumps to the link or link-word. Press the Enter key and the text on-screen shifts to the linked text. When you finish reading it, press the ESCape key to return to the original text.


"So, what's the big deal about that," you ask? Have you ever been to a party with friends? Of course you have. The average party is just a collection of hors d'oeuvres, drinks of one type or another and little clusters of people in (usually somewhat forced) conversation, right? You're standing there listening to someone telling you about something. Right in the middle of it all, the speaker breaks off by saying something like, "That reminds me of a joke. Two guys are walking down the street late at night when they find this drunk on his hands and knees, looking for something and ..... "`

Unlike the printed text, normal speech is non-linear. It doesn't necessarily follow a straight line from Point A to Point B because the human mind rarely works that way. Your thoughts rocket around inside your head like a mad pinball in a pinball machine, banging against seemingly random memory synapses, collecting odd bits of data until the thought is completed. The difference between Hypertext Publishing and the guy at the party is that you can skip around, using the hypertext link, if you want. At the party, you're stuck with the guy (and the joke you've probably already heard one hundred times at the office). In hypertext, after you've read the 'link,' you can always return to exactly where you left off. The guy at the party? His ability to return to exactly what he had been talking about (before the joke) depends to a large degree on how many drinks of what kind and what potency he/she has consumed prior to the conversation.

How did computer hypertext start? The idea of hypertext and linking written material in ways similar to human thought isn't all that new. The term 'hypertext' was coined in the mid-1960s by computer scientist, Ted Nelson. However, the original idea came from a man named Vannevar Bush, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's wartime science advisor during World War II. He proposed the creation of a machine he called "the Memex" that would emulate the non-linear functions of the human mind -- only on a much larger scale. (If you want to check it out, you'll find it in The Atlantic Monthly Magazine(tm), June, 1945 edition, under the title, "As We May Think.")


About ten or twelve years ago, we offered our first hypertext digital ePub. In those early years, there was no such things as PC Multi-media. Hypertext was just that ... TEXT. No graphics. No sound effects. No music. Just text. Our first offering was more-or-less free of charge to anyone who wanted to download it from a computer bulletin board. Ted Husted, President of UserWare of Fairport, NY, had just released his first version of IRIS, a programmable hypertext program. Our first ePub used that program to teach other people how to use IRIS to include color artwork, photo-quality graphics, sound effects, (monaural) computer-generated music, how to launch Executable computer programs and how to generate a (really, really terrible) form of computer-generated speech as part of their hypertext ePubs. Under the title, 'GRAPHIC EFFECTS IN HYPERTEXT,' the publication was split into two compressed computer files and 'uploaded' to computer bulletin boards as GRAF-1.ARC and GRAF-2.ARC. (In those days, the average PC User didn't have a hard-disk. Most people used a pair of 360 Kilobyte "floppy disk" drives. [One kilobyte = 1024 bytes -- about 1,000 alpha-numeric characters.] Most programs were limited to 360K for that reason.)

I have been told by several employees of the Samna Division of Lotus Development Corporation (then a separate company) that the idea for 'SmarText(tm)', Samna's commercial hypertext program, originally came from several Samna engineers who downloaded our tutorial. Maybe they did; Maybe not. I have no way (and no real desire) to prove it either way, but it is gratifying to be told that perhaps you have played some significant part in developing the publishing format that will probably be used for the next few thousand years. One thing I believe we can say. Of my own knowledge, at the time we distributed 'GRAPHIC EFFECTS IN HYPERTEXT,' there were no other hypertext ePubs of any kind, anywhere, that had color graphics, high resolution color photos, computer music or voice simulations in them. In that, I believe we can safely claim to be The Pioneers of Modern Multi-Media Hypertext.

Since that time we have become members of the Digital Publisher's Association(tm) and have enjoyed regular exposure through both the Electronic Publisher's Network(tm) (ePubNet) and the Electronic Publisher's Forum(tm) on the GEnie(tm) and CompuServe(tm) commercial electronic bulletin boards. We have also continued to offer our services freely to novice digital publishers, dipping into our own experiences (and our many past mistakes) to help. To answer your unasked question, 'No, I don't mind helping a potential competitor. The only 'competitor' we recognize at Publisher's Choice Books is ourselves. We always want to make the next book better, more readable and more exciting than the last.' I know. It sounds corny and trite, but it's true all the same.


To avoid potential copyright infringement with another company with a similar name, we changed our name from Beacon Hill House to Publisher's Choice Books. At present, we are expanding from the bulletin board market into full commercial publishing in both printed books (like "The Eternal Man: Awakening" under our old Beacon Hill House label) and electronic or "digital" publishing. (We are already listed in The Writer's Digest and the annual Writer's Market as a "new publisher" even though we have been publishing [ePubs] for a number of years. We are already registered with the ISBN Agency with our own ISBN number and have applied for our International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSNs) through the Library of Congress.) Publisher's Choice plans six more offerings this year. Meanwhile, our "sister" company, The 45 RPM Music Company, has published eleven multi-media programs with over 1,000 high quality stereophonic music files that may be heard on any IBM(tm) or IBM-compatible computer with a Sound Blaster(tm) audio card. (Next month we release five new programs that will bring the total to over 1,500 music files.)


Still with me? Good! Using our own form of hybrid Hypertext/Multi-Media format also enables us to do a few other things that you can't do with the printed text (and most folks can't, won't or don't do with hypertext.) All right, you're reading a paperback book. Spotted here and there in the book you may find black and white line-art illustrations. Maybe somewhere in the middle of the book you find half a dozen photographs (also, usually in Black & White.) Now, let's take the same paperback book and publish it in Computer Hypertext. You read a page, then press the Page/Down key on your PC keyboard to get to the next page. As you're reading, your eyes come to an hypertext link. Using either your TAB key or your PC Mouse, you trigger the link. Instead of a B&W line-art illustration, you come to an illustration in FULL COLOR. If your PC is equipped with an audio card like Sound Blaster(tm), ou might even hear voices, music, and sound effects.

" =BANG!= " and the villain drops dead at the lady detective's feet, a hole neatly drilled right between the eyes. (So, who says we can't do a little gender-switch here!) The heroine turns to the gentleman in distress. She says, "Well, Fella, I guess that wraps this case. Buy you a drink?" (Or, words to that effect.) Take it a step farther with hypertext and we could just as easily put in a full motion, full color, 3-D animation clip with realistic sound effects and stereophonic, orchestral-quality music and voice.


Interested in ePubs? Why not hop right down to your nearest Digital Publisher and see what he/she has to offer? Oh. You don't think there are any Digital Publishers near where you live. Maybe there is; Maybe not. It's just a guess on my part, but 90% of the Digital Publishers I know operate out of their own homes. Why? Why not?!? In my home, I have a custom-built JDR 486/33 computer with a hard-drive that will hold roughly 1.6 Gigabytes (1,600,000,000 bytes) of programs. At the moment, it is nearly half filled with programs that allow me to publish in both the paper-printed format and in our own hypertext/multi-media hybrid format. (I know I've already mentioned it, but one more "plug" won't hurt. Our most recent offering was a book called "The Eternal Man: Awakening," a Sci-Fi/Mystery that suggests a potential cure for the AIDS/HIV virus and a number of virus-induced cancers such as leukemia. It was published in the 5 X 8 inch soft-cover paper format.) I have programs that allow me to draw, paint or otherwise manipulate photos and other graphics one pixel (or picture bit) at a time in ultra-high resolutions up to 1024 X 768 pixels per square inch. Other programs allow me to create, edit and manipulate stereophonic orchestral-quality music, voice and sound effects.

Do I do it all by myself? It may seem that way sometimes, but the answer is no. The Graphic Arts and Illustrations for Publisher's Choice Books are done by Dale Buchanan, an illustrator who lives (and does his art-work) in Newland, NC, about thirty miles from my home. The multi-media programs we use in our hybrid format were written by Orlando Dare of DareWare, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland. Animation work is done by Alex Bale, who lives in West Allis, Wisconsin with animation consulting by Henry and Carlos Ovalle in Downey, California. Future paper-published products will be produced by BookCrafters, Inc. of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Manuscripts arrive almost daily from all parts of the U.S. So, you see, Publisher's Choice Books is rather liberally scattered from one end of the U.S. to the other. Each of us works in the environment that is most comfortable and productive for ourselves.


Where do we go from here? Who knows? We continue to develop the quality and versatility of our publishing formats. Our most immediate goal is to move into CD-ROM production, giving us the capability of publishing in all three medias -- paper, Digital ePub Books and CD-ROM. The problems we face are the problems almost all electronic publishers face. The hardware and the software exists right now -- TODAY. Working and expansion capital? That's another story. The average Investor won't invest in something that he/she doesn't fully understand. (Here in the hill-country of Northwestern North Carolina, many folks think that if it doesn't have dirt under it and a house on top of it, it isn't a "real" investment.) However, consider publishing as an investment. During the Great Depression of 1929, the two industries that had the fewest failures, the fewest lay-offs and the greatest potential for profit were the well-managed firms in the Motion-Picture Industry and Publishers. We sell fantasies, dreams, hopes and information that will help people to make their fantasies, dreams and hopes a reality. (Investors' Thought for The Day: Now is a good time to get in on the ground floor.)

Am I worried about this (temporary) lack of Investor Interest? Not really. I'm a very patient person. In the 1890s, the Director of the U.S. Patent Office suggested that the government close the Patent Office because 'everything of any value has already been invented.' People once thought that the telephone, the electric lightbulb, the 'horseless carriage' and the 'flying machine,' radio, and television were all just passing fads. As the late, great Jimmy Durante often said, "You ain't seen nothin', yet!" It may take a little time, but people -- and Investors -- will eventually realize that the publishing format for the next millennia is here ... now ... and it's called Digital Electronic Publishing. Meanwhile, my colleagues and I in the Digital Publisher's Association stay at the keyboards, reading the newest manuscripts, publishing in the various formats, developing better presentation techniques and maybe doing a bit of writing of our own. I've said it before.


Copyright 1995 by Clarence S. Wright, Jr.


Do you have the itch to write ? Have you ever sent a manuscript to "The Slush Pile" in New York ? Have you ever waited weeks and weeks, hoping that your manuscript would be accepted ... only to have it rejected by some faceless nobody for reasons they didn't even bother to explain. {Form-letter rejection slips don't count.} If you have ever opened the tattered box containing your precious (rejected) manuscript, only to find it ruined with coffee-stains and smudged pizza sauce, then I know exactly how you feel.

About five hundred years ago ... give or take a century or two, cowled monks labored in dimly lit monastic cells copying texts by hand. As they felt that their time was too precious to be wasted on just anything, it was the monks who decided what would be copied and what would not. Then a goldsmith named Gutenberg cast the first moveable type and, using an old wine press, invented the first printing machine. Now, hundreds of books could be printed in less time than a copyist could create a single chapter of a book. The Reading Revolution Had Begun ... or so we thought.

It didn't quite work out that way, did it ? At one time, many book publishers would publish works that they *=KNEW=* would not be very lucrative, but it was quality literature. It was culture. It was something that the people needed to read. Not any more.

Today, the unpublished author faces a bewildering merry-go-round that has caused many good writers to throw up their hands in disgust and quit. If you aren't represented by a Literary Agent, the average publisher won't even bother to read your manuscript ... and the average Literary Agent doesn't want to handle a writer until he or she HAS HAD SEVERAL BOOKS PUBLISHED.

How about the old Advertising Scam ? Very few first-time authors will ever make the Best Seller List because most publishers make no real attempt to PUBLICIZE the works of a first-time author. If your name is Stephen King, W.E.B. Griffin or Tom Clancy, the publishers will spend millions of dollars to publicize your book. However, you may have noticed that you foolishly decided to be born someone other than a known, respected, Best-Selling Author. If there's anything to this reincarnation business, maybe you can do something about that minor oversight the next time 'round, but it's too late for this life.

So, what's the answer ? How do you get to be a Published Writer if they won't read your stuff unless you have an agent and the agents won't represent you unless you are already a published writer ? {Ever watch a dog chase his own tail ?}

Well, one alternative is for you to log on to the Disktop Publishers Assocatiation and download ORPH122A.ZIP, ORPH122B.ZIP & ORPH122C.ZIP or DART1G.ZIP and become an Electronic Publisher and publish your own works. On the other hand, you might not want to bother with all of that. Maybe you just want to write your books and let it go at that.

Another alternative is this. If your manuscript it in an IBM Compatible ASCII format, then why not submit your manuscript to PC CHOICE BOOKS, Publishers, for consideration ?!?

Yes, the New York Big Time Publishers still employ their modern-day "monks" to read incoming scripts. However, the "bottom line" is C-A-$-H. It is no longer a matter of whether or not your novel is any good. It is a matter of whether or not they can make $ubstantial Profit$ from publishing it. The "monks" are still deciding what the public gets to read and what gets buried beneath a mountain of rejection slips.

At PC Choice Books, I don't work that way. *=IF=* your book is good and *=IF=* it fits the parameters of the types of books we publish, *=THEN=* you've got a publisher. We'll help you to "massage" your text to make it the best of which you are capable. Where possible, we will add graphics illustrations to enhance the readability and marketability of your book. We will handle putting it in the most readable electronic publishing format, copying and distribution.
We are interested in books and novels in the following categories:
a. Science Fiction.
b. Action-Adventure.
c. Mysteries.
d. How-to
e. Photography and Photographic Albums of all types. (We use special Multi-Media display programs for these.)
f. Children's and Family Oriented Books and short story collections.

We are definitely *=NOT=* interested in: a. Pornography.
b. Excessively descriptive erotica.

We are also not interested in political or economic philosophies (about which hardly anyone knows anything, anyway) or Religious works (about which there are too many self-styled "experts." Sorry, but there are just too many conflicting points of view to make that feasible.)

If you are interested in submitting your manuscript for consideration, send a Query Letter first. (If you are unfamiliar with the format, go to any public library and ask for a copy of "The Writer's Digest" or "The Annual Writer's Market.") (This is to save YOU postage and US time.) Send your Query Letter to PC CHOICE, Publishers.

P.S. LAST-MINUTE NEWS FLASH ! Look for PC CHOICE , Publishers in the NEW MARKETS column of THE WRITER'S DIGEST. We'll be in the JUNE, edition of that magazine. Look for it at your favorite book store or - better yet - subscribe to it for the lastest information about the craft of writing (and getting published).