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The Toilet Papers

The Toilet Papers by Jane Wingate

A new e-book of short essays by Farmington, NH author and photographer Jane Wingate explores just about every topic known to humankind. All that in a 300+ page book that does not waste trees and costs just $12. You can get less for more, but as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe put it so well, you can’t hardly get more for less.




ATTN READERS:  The Toilet Papers is now available in paperback form. Originally an ebook (See below) the TP cna now be purchased in nonelectric, tree-product form, which means you can now read these essays in any room in the house -- yes, even the bathroom -- without the aid of a computer. To purchase the newest edition, just go to CLICK HERE

Pieces Just the Right Length by Jane Wingate

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I don’t pretend to understand Jane Wingate. Her last photo CD "Caribbean Cantata" includes 2,640 images of Jamaica. That may be a couple thousand more pictures than the average viewer can process. The cover of her new e-book shows a cartoon of a woman sitting on the toilet. In an age of minimalism and political correctness, Jane hears the beat of a different drummer.

The Toilet Papers is a collection of 67 essays, many of them reprinted from The Baltimore Evening Sun, The New Hampshire Times, The Washington Post, The New Hampshire Sunday News, The Houston Chronicle, etc. They are mostly "op ed" pieces, in which the author pretty much says what she pleases on any topic that comes to mind. Judging from the essay titles, those topics include heart valves, cheerleaders, crickets, death, blueberries, television, mud, lawn care and more. The essays are arranged in three sections according to length and span the last 30 years. The book is 334 pages long.

Wingate started out writing a book using print on demand technology. But after "crunching the numbers" she decided that even these costs were too high. She was likely right. Having raised funds to publish a number of books, I can pass on the basic formula. With a standard regional book published by a real-live publisher, the author gets about 5% of the cover price. Multiply 1/20th TIMES the price of the book TIMES the number of books sold. It isn’t much.

Writers who publish their own work can make as much as 100% of the cover price, if they sell the book door to door, or on the web. Knock 40% off for the bookstore – if the bookstore will take your independently published book at all. Knock off another 20-30% for the distributor, if you can find one willing to push your book to retail locations. What’s left over has to cover the cost of design, art, printing, marketing, shipping and, of course, the author. Even with ODP writers can find themselves spending more than they earn.

The electronic age offers other options. You can put the entire book online and give it away. Or you can create an e-book. Now the fact is that e-books haven’t done very well. Even Stephen King gave up on the process when he tried to serialize a pay-per-play novel at a dollar per section. But the good news about e-books is that, since they can be duplicated one at a time, the author is spared a trip to the poor farm, no matter how many are sold. They don’t cost much to mail or print.

The fact that this is an e-book in no way means it is less than a book. The pages on the screen look exactly like book pages. They are neatly designed and highly readable. For semi-blind readers like me, it’s easy to expand the size of the page with a click of the mouse. Thanks to the Adobe technology, the PDF file has a handy clickable page menu on the left side. The table of contents clicks instantly to the chosen essay. It really is a slick format, despite the public preference for paper. And if you want a paper copy, just press PRINT.

I don’t pretend to understand Jane Wingate, but I can say after an hour with "The Toilet Papers" that she is an accomplished writer. Her prose is smooth. Her voice is true. Her language is vivid. And thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can read a sample essay entitled "What Got Bobby?". You can also buy the book while you’re there. The only problem is that, despite all this technology, readers have to snail mail their check. Hopefully, as soon as Jane reads this, she will set up a PayPal account so readers can click and buy instantly. Internet users and e-book readers don’t write checks. And don’t let the title fool you. This ain’t crap.

The Toilet Papers
Pieces Just the Right Length
by Jane Wingate
Sampson.s Ridge Press (2007)
343 pps, e-book CD, $12

Obviously, you cannot read The Toilet Papers on the loo, unless you are in the habit of sitting there with your laptop. But the title (suggested by friend Don MacDougall) was so much to our liking, that we decided to stick with it for this e-book version. In any case, these essays lend themselves well to the e-book form, because most are short and easily read at your computer, though you may wish to print out the longer pieces for reading over tea and crumpets, in bed, or—in the spirit of the title—on the throne.

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