John Calvin and His Book that Bombed

John Calvin (1509-1564) is best known as a religious reformer. He, like Luther and many others, broke from the Catholic Church when the Church become too corrupted with rampant scandals.

But I am not religious and I am here to talk about his first book,  Commentary on Lucius Anneas Seneca’s Two Books on Clemency, and not religious historyHe was 23 at the time and like any scholar with ambition eager to make his name known. He had to pay for the publication himself and like any author sat back to see what happened.

Nothing happened. As in zero book sales. Now you might look at the title and wonder why anyone would buy the book in the first place. But it was an age of ideas and change and literate people and other scholars relished argument, debate, and ideas. Except the Inquisition party-poopers of course. Besides there was no Stephen King books. Fiction? What was that?

Timing is everything and Calvin’s timing was off. His book was not to condemn the catholic Church, but an inoffensive argument, not a bad one to be sure, but not one the public was eager for. They had been, but now were very anti-pope and wanted an attack not something conciliatory and mild.

I mention this because other works of Calvin did sell and he made quite a name for himself with books, sermons, and letters. So if you write and self-publish, or write e-Books for the digital age, or even are a first time published writer, do not get discouraged if the book does not sell.

There are a few million book titles on Amazon. And with considerable competition growing daily it is easy to get the blues, become despondent and eat a freezer of ice cream and a semi of maple-leaf crème cookies. Yum!

Loonies in Hollywood sells better than my other books and it is my second e-Book. So write your second book, then your third. The future is bleak only when you give up.

Here are my five books at Amazon

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In an April 4th post about three cheap ways to become a bookaholic I mentioned  that I had 81 unread e-Books and 133 unread old fashioned books, the type you hold in your hand without use of a device, unless, of course, you recognize hands as a device. This amounted to 234 books waiting for me to crack open, or in the case of an e-Book tap open.

Two months and a few days since that post there is no relief as the avalanche continues to bury me. Unread e-Books up to 96 and the old fashioned kind up to 157. This adds  up to 253, a 19 book gain. And keep in mind I have read and finished books during this time, hoping to lighten the load bearing down on me.

And it is going to get worse. This Saturday and again on Monday the Friends of the Library is holding one of there sales. The proceeds go to the library to help them purchase new books,  to aid library programs and buy supplies for kids. So everybody wins. Except for a book hoarder like myself; I can barely breath, let alone move under the weight of unread books.

How good is the sale you ask? Hardback books at 50 cents or 3 for a $1. Who does this? This is as close to giving books away as you can get. Do they expect me to stay away, do they think I have discipline? I believe they have these sales knowing they will make a fortune off me. And paperbacks are 25 cents each or 6 for a $1. The same goes for VHS tapes, CD’s and audio books. To be honest the CD’s they had at previous sale were mostly music to accompany your yoga workout, or music from countries I did not know existed. But I go for the books anyway.

I will spend the next few days reading books nearest my hands, as many as I can, foregoing meals, bathroom trips, sleeping, and doing anything that prevents me from getting out from under this cataclysmic cascade of opus delicti.




Three cheap ways to become a bookaholic

After counting and doing a recount I have 234 unread books; 133 of the old fashioned kind, hardback and paperback and 81 21st century e-books. And I accumulated these books quite cheaply. And I have my eye on “The Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 1” for $2 and an American Heritage book of the Civil War; pictures, illustrations, with words from Bruce Catton and James McPherson for $3. If you love books, here are my legitimate secrets. And I am not talking about Goodwill, yard sales, and the like.

  1. In Western Washington, the Timberland Library has a section where customers can buy books. Paperbacks $1 and hardbacks generally $2. It raises money for the library and therefore you are doing a good thing. I don’t know what happens in other libraries, in other states or regions, but check with your local library. I have found classics like “Madame De Lafayette” by The Princess De Cleves, as well as books from Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, J.A. Jance, and some terrific non-fiction books like “The Oxford History of the Classical World.” The Friends of the Library raises money for the library and once a year they have a sale. I bought ten hardbacks for $2.25 and came back after 3 o’clock when everything was half priced and bought more books. And the day before the sale there was a box and two small bins that had free books. I took ten and they were from well known writers. One was a 1951 Dell paperback edition of Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural” and the cover was priceless, the condition quite good. Over those two days, including the free books I came away with 28 books, spending less than $4 and two bags of VHS tapes that they gave away for nothing, it being after 3 o’clock and they wanted to get rid of them. All were popular and classic films.
  2. In Olympia, Washington, and there may be one near you, is Half Price Books. They also have record albums, DVD’s, and classic comic books. The condition of their books  are better than what you might find at the library and once a year they have a sale where all books are $1.00. It is here I bought two Don DeLillo books, two early Michael Crichton books written under the name of John Lange, now published in the Hard Crime series, a great collection if you like crime noir and pulp fiction. I also purchased an Elmore Leonard, a P.D. James, among other books. They have other specials during the week, but this is one sale you never miss.
  3. Turning to e-Books there are many subscription services that send you daily emails where you can get e-Books from free to $2.99 and these e-Books, in the case of BookBub, are from well know writers. With BookBub you select the type of books you want, such as mystery, historic non-fiction, science fiction, horror, romance, whatever you desire.

The problem I face, and perhaps some of you as well, is that purchasing outgrows your reading. This is how I now have 234 unread books. Remember I never said you have to read any of them. I have read one since I reached 234, that being “The Ghost Writer” and am close to finishing James Patterson’s “Swimsuit.” So you can imagine with two books gone I will be getting itchy eyes for some more choices to read. I guess the Twain biography and the Civil War book may be added by days end.

If you have some cheap ways to get books please mention in the comment section. Not just for me, but for other bookaholics.

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