LITTLE FALLS -- Tired of rejections from traditional publishers and literary agents, first-time novelist Dave Schwinghammer took matters into his own hands.
The retired public school teacher signed on with an "on-demand" publisher he found on the Internet, joining hands with an industry that is rapidly changing the lay of the land for yet-to-be-discovered writers across America.
Schwinghammer -- like thousands of other aspiring authors -- plopped down a small up-front fee, and a few weeks later his "Soldier's Gap" murder-mystery showed up on the electronic shelves of Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other online booksellers.
A streamlined adaptation of self-publishing or the long-standing "vanity press," the on-demand book business has curried favor among authors weary of rejections from mainline, traditional imprints.
As a result, Schwinghammer's first novel, 'Soldier's Gap,' hits the bookshelves
High-speed printing, online ordering and other technological innovations have enabled the industry to grow, as traditional publishers concentrate on well-established authors to the detriment of first-timers.
"It was a joy to see that thing in print," Schwinghammer, who retired to Little Falls in 1994 after a 20-year teaching career in Sartell, Little Falls and Nicollet schools, said in an interview this week. "I had no faith -- after more than 40 rejections -- of ever being taken seriously by traditional publishers and agents.
"It's a way of getting into print and I'm hoping someone will come across it, read it and like it," he added, a process that could result in a pickup by a traditional imprint.
His online research led him to Bookpublisher.com, a company that specializes in printing soft-cover fiction and nonfiction as orders are received, thus the "on-demand" characterization.
The company charges the authors an up-front fee -- Schwinghammer declined to give a number but others have suggested the fee is about $400 -- which pays for copy editing, typesetting, design and other publishing services.
Bookpublisher.com also places its products, including Schwinghammer's novel, with Ingram Distribution, a major book distributor who markets to Web-based and traditional book retailers across the country.
"Soldier's Gap" can be ordered -- the price for the 360-page oversized paperback ranges from $15.96 to $19.95 -- online from Bookpublisher.com or from area bookstores.
Schwinghammer and other writers are responsible for marketing their books, but receive 20 percent of the sale price, about twice what traditional publishers pay their authors.
"I'm not worried about the money and I don't expect to sell that many," said Schwinghammer.
An English and social studies teacher, Schwinghammer has written three novels and the draft of another over the years, including "Soldier's Gap," which hit the shelves June 1.
His success follows years of experimenting with structure, form and style, a process that included attendance at numerous creative writing seminars and working closely with for-hire and volunteer editors.
"I revised 'Soldier's Gap' 23 times before the final draft, and worked with a copy editor from Bookpublisher.com before it went into print," he said with a chuckle. "I'm afraid to look at it now because I'm worried about finding another mistake."
Schwinghammer said he turned to the murder-mystery genre to overcome a problem with plotting.
"A mystery holds you to the line because you have a murder to solve and the complications that occur as you try to solve it," he said.
"Soldier's Gap" explores many of Schwinghammer's favorite literary themes -- religious beliefs, psychic experiences, quest for self-realization, the role of the maverick -- as it tells the tale of a murder investigation in a Red River Valley mythical town.
A "Writers Digest" columnist -- whom Schwinghammer once hired to edit his work -- called the novel "a complex interplay of bizarre yet believable characters ... a novel that falls somewhere between 'Northern Exposure' and 'Twin Peaks'."
An independent reviewer posted remarks at Amazon.com, calling the work "a smorgasbord of a book, full of quirky yet entirely true-to-life characters that offer humor, mystery, suspense and romance. It's a fun read."
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