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    Area man attempts to sell self-published book to 50 bookstores in 50 days, learns lesson along the way.

    Jonny Diamond

    September 25, 2019, 11:11am

    As reported in The Republic, Columbus, Ohio’s Mason Engel had already tried to get his self-published reboot of Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, into the hands of New York literary agents—like, right into their actual hands. After reaching number one in Amazon’s dystopian fiction category, Engel hauled copies of 2084, written when he was in college, around to actual agencies in Manhattan—unsurprisingly, he did not land representation (writers, don’t do this).

    But look, when I was 23 years old, I menaced big publishing houses across New York City by attempting to hand-deliver a book proposal about the life and politics of a Parisian squat. Yup. Scruffy and, I’m sure, sweaty, I finagled my way into the lobbies of the Big 5/6—back before they scraped your retinas prior to entry—with a whole lot of photocopies. Needless to say, the proposal—which was by an arts collective I was a part of—went nowhere. So I have some sympathy for, or at least understanding of, Engel’s staggering hubris.

    Stories of aggressive self-published authors/entitled young men often end badly, but this one… doesn’t? Having failed to attain his big city dreams Engel returned to Columbus and was shortly thereafter inspired to bring his book to 50 bookstores in 50 days.

    I know what you’re thinking, pity the poor booksellers… but wait! This is where the story gets kind of lovely, as over the course of his travels, living off tuna sandwiches and carrot sticks, driving hundreds of miles in his 1995 Mercury Tracer, Engel realizes the journey is less about his book and more about what he can learn from booksellers, what they care about, why they do what they do. As he says himself [cue inspirational indie pop]: “I didn’t really go into the trip knowing what I wanted from it, but it did give me the right questions to ask, which… I think knowing the right questions is sometimes more valuable than having the right answers.”

    So I salute you, Mason Engel, for dreaming big and not being a jerk about it.

    H/T Shelby Thomas, who wrote the original profile.

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