In 1995 I published the 1st edition of Death on the Wild Side. Back in those days I could be found in the strip clubs in the Saint Louis Metro East three times a week. Farming 560 acres by myself while writing the novel, I was very busy back then and today I am simply amazed that I could accomplish it all. Being at times a bit of a braggart and very much a showoff, back in the clubs I kept telling everyone, “Yes, I am writing a novel and I will have it published soon”, and true to my word, I did. I was using film cameras back in those days so when I got around to putting the pictures together for the book I was dependent on the quality of my cameras, and how good a job others could do processing the film and getting the pictures print ready. Although I typeset the entire book myself using my Word perfect Word processor I looked over twenty-four different printing companies to see which one could do the best job at the best price. I chose Gilliand Printing Company to do the job and I ordered a large enough number of books so that I could buy in at a low enough cost to hopefully make some money out of it. Gilliand produced the novel’s covers based on my initial specifications. With the book finished at last, it was time to decide how to sell it. Only then did I begin to learn the harsh truths of what I was up against. First off, a self published author such as myself could expect low profit margins. Even worse, the prospect of facing bookstores and other outlets that paid their bills 60 days or even later came as a shock and an even greater shock was the realization that oftentimes the author–publisher would not be paid at all. The next harsh reality to be faced was the issue of damaged books and that I’d likely be responsible for any books one of my resellers claimed got damaged in his store. This whole thing was starting to look like a very bad deal for me, and no fun at all. But I learned about these self publishing harsh realities in how to do books after it was already too late–after that truck dropped off a few pallets of books at my front door. Numerous excuses soon arose for my avoiding the plunge into such self publishing unpleasantness as cold calling book stores or acting as my own collection agency. I had to harvest corn, plant soybeans, supercharge my Miata sports car, etc. Then I discovered the internet and said to myself…”Now that’s the way I need to go out and sell books.”
But I created a monster. It was a monster because what I wound up creating took me completely away from my original purpose of getting on the internet in the first place, which was to sell books. Right off, I got heavily involved with digital photography because I could easily put whatever pictures I’d take straight up on the internet. And because I was already going to strip clubs on a regular basis I found that I had gotten very popular with strippers in the Saint Louis Metro East as well as with certain club managers and owners. The digital photography ended up paying huge dividends and to make a long story short, eventually I found myself writing two articles a month for adult magazines while shooting pictures in strip clubs all over the United States. Oftentimes I’d be having my hotels paid for while receiving several hundred dollars a night to hang out with the kind of people I always wanted to hang out with in the first place.
I started to get confused about what I was all about. I was already Jack Corbett, which wasn’t my real name. And although I had started out as a writer by writing “Death on the Wild Side”, people had started calling me “the photographer.” So was I a photographer or was I a writer? For Xtreme Magazine I did both, but which was I really best at? And I was doing my own web site work as well. I started to think of myself as a jack of all trades and a master of none. I wasn’t making a living doing photography. Most of my money was coming in from the farm and when people would offer to pay me money for shooting weddings and other events I had no interest in, Id simply tell them, “No way.” Once in awhile people would ask me to shoot porn and once again, I’d tell them, “I’m not into it and I’m not doing it.” By this time I was starting to shoot a little video and my stripper friends and I started to concoct some really off the wall stuff while enjoying ourselves to the hilt. I met my real Waterloo when my editor from Xtreme Magazine asked me to do a cartoon to go with one of my Dick Fitswell articles that was about to be placed in the magazine, and I told Jeremy, “Look, I can take excellent pictures, and I can write well enough and I can do web site work, but there’s one thing I can’t do–I just can’t draw.” Jeremy asked me to try anyway so I worked up a cartoon and after he got it from me he replied, “You sure were right, Jack. You really can’t draw.”
Eventually I ended up moving to Thailand and started playing around with an idea I had of writing a few short stories about the people I was meeting here. One of my German friends caught me in the act and when he found out I was writing about a German builder I was calling “Herman the German” he started laughing his ass off, and from then on he kept asking me about how I was faring with Herman the German and the Fun House. The man kept goading me on, so eventually I turned my little project into the novel that became, Welcome to the Fun House. It was while writing Welcome to the Fun House that I really started to investigate “Print by Demand Publishing” where I could turn out just one or two or for that matter two hundred books at a time with virtually no up front costs to myself. At this time another one of my German friends, Ludwig Johner, a retired architect, was doing oil painting upstairs while taking care of his ninety year old mother who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. I felt Ludwig was truly an excellent artist with a really whacked out way of looking at life through his paintings and that’s when I decided that the front cover design for “Welcome to the Fun House” should be based on one of his paintings. I wound up producing the entire design of the back cover from scratch by myself.
When my first proof copies came in I was astonished at how good the book looked. To my eyes it looked far more attractive than the usual fare one finds in most bookstores. I had learned something after all from playing around with graphics arts programs such as Photoshop doing promo for strippers and doing my web site work. And that is when I vowed to turn out a new edition of Death on the Wild Side. Everything had just turned out so well with Welcome to the Fun House from the quality of the paper, the overall appearance of the book and the attractiveness of the text inside the book, but most of all it was the front and rear covers that made the book exceed my expectations.
The first big decision I had to make about the coming 2nd edition of Death on the Wild Side was who was going to be my cover girl. I had thousands of pictures to choose from that I had taken in strip clubs from Las Vegas, the Saint Louis Metro East. Indiana, and Texas, all the way over to the East Coast in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and I had scores of entertainers to choose from. I asked myself, “out of all those entertainers, which girl most consistently photographed the best? In my heart, I knew who the girl would be before I even delved into all those pictures so it didn’t take long out of those thousands of pictures for the perfect shot to reveal itself.
When I received my two proof copies from Amazon I was stunned. The book was simply gorgeous. My Thai girlfriend immediately said, “I want one. That one is my copy,” she said while pointing at one of the two books. She still keeps it close to her bedside.
It is as close to perfection as I could make it. As for its ultimate success or failure in the marketplace, only time will tell. After all, I might not be really all that terrific as an author. Who knows. Even so, if it were in a bookstore right now competing for space against all its competition, I am confident it would be crying out, “Look at me. Look at me. See how pretty I am.”