In an unusual move for an established author, critically acclaimed novelist, memoirist and National Book Award finalist John Edgar Wideman is teaming up with self-publishing and print-on-demand service Lulu.com to release, Briefs, Stories for the Palm of the Mind, a new collection of his short stories. The new book will go on sale exclusively through Lulu.com beginning March 14 and will be launched at a series of live readings from the book that will be held in New York and Los Angeles.
Wideman is the latest established writer to experiment with releasing an original book in a nontraditional manner. His books have been published almost exclusively by Houghton Mifflin for years.
Citing changes in the publishing business and a desire for more control over the publishing process, Wideman said, "I've been thinking about alternatives for a long time. I like the idea of being in charge. I have more control over what happens to my book. And I have more control over whom I reach." Wideman also noted his "distaste" for what he called mainstream publishing's "blockbuster syndrome"--the tendency for large trade publishing houses to focus their resources on books with bestseller potential.
Wideman said the emphasis on blockbuster bestsellers, "has gotten out of hand. Unless you become a blockbuster, your book disappears quickly. It becomes not only publish or perish, but sell or perish." The book is being published as part of Lulu VIP, a new customizable service aimed at luring established authors to the self-publishing service. Wideman is also making several of his backlist titles available for sale through Lulu.com.
Wideman described Briefs, Stories for the Palm, as a collection of "microstories" and said the book examines the nature of storytelling by using fictional voices that are eavesdroppers and diarists. He has also organized an elaborate series of live readings from the book that will held March 14 at SoHo House in New York City and at the Edye In Los Angeles on March 21. The readings will feature such prominent actors as Giancarlo Esposito, Lynn Whitfield, Roger Guenveur Smith and Lorraine Toussaint.
A two-time winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Wideman has been a National Book Award finalist and is the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award. He is the author of such acclaimed novels as Philadelphia Fire and Fanon as well as such nonfiction as Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir and Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race and Love.