Authorship is NOT a get-rich scheme

If anyone tells you that becoming a book author puts you on the path to riches, or you read that claim on the Internet, discard the statement as poppycock. I’m three years and two published books into my new career as an authorpreneur, a made up word that contains author and entrepreneur. It refers to those who've chosen self-publishing, more as a way to control the publishing process than as a sure route to a pot of gold

If you saw someone who looked like me boarding a private jet or coming out of a $2 million second home at Big Sky, sorry. That wasn't me — and probably never will be. Here's a sobering statistic I found on the web: the average U.S. nonfiction book, traditionally published or self-published, sells less than 250 copies per year, probably netting $1,000 or less. Let’s say I matched that number in the first year after my first book, “Win 'Em all” was released and am on track to match or beat that figure in the first year that “Midway Bravery” is sold.

But the real reward of authorship results from more than a monetary source. It's psychological, that sense of purpose that for me was missing for years, the sense of having touched other people's lives.

Yesterday provided a perfect example. My cousin Sandy (the same age as I; she also has Eastern Montana roots) and her husband, Steve, stopped at my home in Belgrade, Montana. They live in Casper, Wyoming, and were driving to Seattle. Their planned Wednesday night stop was in Missoula, Montana, Steve's hometown and the city where he and Sandy met and were married more than 45 years ago.

Steve and Sandy attended our family reunion in August at a church camp in Montana's Paradise Valley, north of Yellowstone National Park. I attended and brought an amply supply of my new book. Yes, your family loves you — or you hope they do. But my five brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews were genuine in their support of my latest writing project. They bought more than a dozen, maybe close to two dozen, copies of the book.

Steve and Sandy were among the purchasers. When they got home and starting reading, the preface of “Midway Bravery,” rang a bell. In the preface, I thanked a man from Missoula, Craig Swartz, whose help was was invaluable, and I’ll explain Steve’s connection to Craig in a bit.

Craig’s uncle, Hank Swartz, was Jim Muri's best friend in high school in Miles City, Montana. After graduating together in 1936, both enlisted in the Army and became Army Air Force pilots in the Pacific theater during World War II.

Unlike Muri, Swartz didn’t make it home. His dive bomber apparently was shot down and crashed during a mission against the Japanese in New Guinea in April 1942. Hank and his gunner were declared missing in action. Not until the fall of 1945, after the war ended, was their status changed to killed in action.

Craig, too young to have known his uncle, became the keeper of the older man's legacy. He gave me copies of photos, newspaper clippings and the like that that showed or mentioned Hank, which Craig's deceased grandparents had saved. Craig also loaned me Hank Swartz’s wartime diary, covering several months in early 1942. The diary ended on the day, around Easter in April 1942, before Hank took off on his first and last combat mission.

To fully acknowledge Craig's contribution, I pulled a copy of the book out of my inventory, signed it and started making plans to get it to him in Missoula, where he lived. It would have been complimentary, of course,

Then, In late spring I got bad news. After calling Craig's number several times and getting no answer and not being able to leave voice mail, I called his employer in Missoula. That’s how I learned that Craig, at age 59, died last January of a heart attack.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending, but it does have an ending a little more satisfying than this glum preview. It turned out that Steve, my cousin's husband, went to high school in Missoula with one of Craig's two older brothers and also was a friend of the other brother. Both still live in Missoula.

So Steve bought another copy of “Midway Bravery” to give to one of the Swartzes, and he delivered Craig's copy to the other brother during the visit to Missoula.

Tying that loose end is one of the things that warms this author's heart.

Additional satisfaction will come in two weeks. That's when I’ll be in Miles City for a long-planned reception and book signing in Jim Muri’s de facto hometown. A number of his relatives still live there, and I’ll meet new family members and renew acquaintances with others.

Besides family, I anticipate a modest attendance at the October 19 event by people alerted to it by the Miles City Chamber of Commerce. Terri Fandrich at the chamber was extremely helpful. She sent a long list of possible venues and created a flyer with copy and photos I emailed her, to help promote the event.

Thanks, Terri! It will be good to return to the place I also consider home.

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