Open Letter to Sherry Jones
Dear Sherry Jones,

Your UK publisher just got firebombed. We want to help publish your book.

One Jones to another: you are a target now, and you are not only a target yourself, but everyone around you is now a target. Why? No reason at all. The power of politics, ignorance, and illiteracy. Also, the power of stubborn opposition to the future of publishing: which is online, free, market-based,author-controlled, and fireproof. Stop kicking those copy machines and then worrying if they are going to explode. You believe in your book. You believe that if people READ your book instead of speculating about it, they would see that there is nothing to worry about and nothing to fear and nothing to be so goddamned upset over.

"What have I done? What did I write? Why did that bad woman in Austin call my story pornography OUT LOUD to FUNDAMENTALIST MUSLIMS?"

Everybody in the world can read your book tomorrow if you want them to. Everyone in every country can take a gander and spit and jaw and speculate. Why haven't you let them do this already?

Money, right? Do you think people in the Sudan are going to be able to buy a copy of your book and decide for themselves whether or not you need to die? Witness: I can't even afford to buy a copy of your book. It would cost as much as a whole day's worth of tips, and I eat my tips. How many books is Gibson Square going to give away in Unicef crates to ensure that the people who have been stirred up into extreme anger and extreme resentment about your tale will be able to see your side of things -- the side of fiction and romance?

The people who are mad at you are poor and oppressed. They think that you are only in it for the jewels and fame. They think that you are only in it to mock and exploit a religion. They need to know that you are a storyteller, an artist, a passionate person with deep dreams and deep faith.

Here's something else to consider. What if angry people do read your book and -- instead of absolving you -- decide that you are worth killing after all? What if they decide that "The Jewel of Medina" is worth burning, that it is another "Ulysses" or "Naked Lunch"? What if they decide that they were right to hate you, and what if they want to come after your publisher again and again -- to stop production, to paralyze the fiction world into screaming silence?

What if there are people out there -- smart people, unreasonable people -- who want to make an example out of you and your simple little story? What if they want to teach us all a lesson?


You keep all your other rights. We want to publish an online edition, not an ebook. The book will not function on any of those three hundred dollar proprietary devices that the gullible are toting around these days. The book will function for anybody with an Internet connection.

1) First off, we are gonna get a domain name. Possibly this will be "". Maybe you've already squatted on this domain name yourself. Right now, it is dealing jewelry, so I doubt it.

2) We are gonna slice your book up into natural narrative breaks. You've probably already done this and called them "chapters." These breaks were once bound up and sold individually, which were as much paper and ink as a publisher could profit from by selling them at a negligible, easy-to-move rate. A narrative break ought to be exactly as long as Flannery O'Connor's definition of a short story: as long as something your audience can read in one sitting.

3) Let's say your book has thirty natural narrative breaks. We are gonna get the thirty best artists who will work for free (and for notoriety) to illustrate each of these breaks. Each break will come complete with illustrations, with music that we will pick out together, and with a voice-actor who reads the break aloud. We'll publish each break as soon as we get it illustrated, read, soundtracked, and edited. Maybe we will publish three breaks a week; maybe fewer.

4) We put ads up through Project Wonderful. Anyone in the world can bid on these ads and put money in your pocket. You will keep 100% of the advertising revenue FOREVER and we can transfer ownership of the domain name to you whenever you want. We'll set things up such that you can edit the book when you want; talk to your readers; change music; change the art. WE WANT NO MONEY FROM THIS DEAL. Our recommendation, however, would be to give half the profits to Amnesty International.

5) The book will be free, beautiful, and fireproof. As soon as the site launches, it will be mirrored all over the world, and we will back it up ourselves to ensure that even if every single one of us is murdered, the book will persist, and it won't even be POSSIBLE to destroy. Here's the other thing: there will be no reason to pirate it or steal it. Since the website will be a definitive, persistent, online version, no one will bother copying it or trading it around in the underworld. Why bother? You are giving it away. No one pirates blogs; no one pirates air (yet).


We have plans in the works to create definitive online editions of classic books, and we are looking for modern authors whose work would do well online or whose work needs to be protected by the weight of infinity. Your work is in some danger, and it would be no sweat for us to add it to our ouevre.

Additionally, we are a clandestine, underground organization with nodes all over the country. It would be very hard to a) find us or b) scare us. You cannot bomb a search engine. You cannot kidnap the Internet. The government wanted an information storage facility that would survive nuclear war, and we broke in somehow, and now we intend to fill it with fiction.

If you were to do business with us, you would be sending a message all over the world that authors will always find a way to say exactly what they want to say. We don't care what your book is about. If your book is "Lolita" with Muhammad playing the role of Humbert Humbert, we are still interested. In fact, I am personally MORE interested in your book if it is filled with gushing, filthy prose that shocks and titillates.

By your own account (and according to Publisher's Weekly), your book is instead probably the sort of middlebrow historical romance that would bore me. But until you put out a free, online version yourself -- or until your book is pirated so profoundly that it enters the safety of the internet through subterranean means -- you and your story will remain choice targets. Not for any REASON. For no reason. That's why you get afraid. Because there's no reason.

We know that we can put out the best online version of your book, and we know that we can protect it better than anyone else. Because we will protect it; not just walk around like a bunch of square-jawed bully Christs waiting to die for freeeedom of the preeeeeeesssss. We are in your ghettos, in your sewers, and in your cesspits, working your worst jobs with books in our hands. We are fiction's invisible circus, and we are offering you our help using the same methods we use to protect our own works and each other.

You have to fight for a free press. It is a copyright you have to renew every fucking day.

Talk to us, Sherry Jones. Talk to us, Beaufort Books. Rip our idea off, even. But don't just walk around feeling smug and proud of yourselves until somebody guns you down in Bryant Park and there is no one to turn the cranks on your archaic, flammable machines. Ask yourself: how can you make your target so big that it is impossible to hit? And how can you still profit by it?


-- Miracle Jones

Posted by miracle on Mon, 29 Sep 2008 12:58:41 -0400 -- permanent link

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