I’ve written several articles about writing the book you’ve been called to write, following your dreams, and not letting your stories die inside of you. Recently I had the opportunity to make someone else’s dream come true. I first met Karl in fall of 2013. I’d JUST realized that Assisted Self-Publishing was really what I wanted to do and Karl was sent to me by a friend because he had a book he wanted to publish.
For Karl, the fees for my work weren’t an issue. It was that he wanted the whole thing done in a week AND to make matters worse, the manuscript had been typed on a typewriter; I’d have to re-type the whole thing. I felt I couldn’t compress my timeline of 4-5 weeks for publishing.
Months passed. We’d run into each other at the grocery store or post office. I’d always ask how his project was going. He had a friend who was turning his typed manuscript into a .csv file. Why, I’ll never know; the publisher needs a .pdf that’s laid out to their specifications.
In May, just after I stopped working at the tax office full-time, Karl stopped by there, looking for me. I hopped in the truck to go see him and see how I could help him out. See, something had changed for Karl and it became critical he see his book published.
Karl is dying. In May, he said his doctor was giving him four to six months; heart problems and nothing can be done for him. He wanted to see his book published before he died. Hold it in his hand and know that it was real. Because of his medical bills, the money to pay my fees had been spent on his care.
We decided we’d both think about what was fair for both of us. I have strong feelings about working for free – I think everybody should be compensated for their work. At this time, I knew he was dying. And what type of creep won’t do pro-bono work for a dying man? Trust me when I say I did a lot of soul searching and praying about this! I knew in my heart that Karl wasn’t out to get a freebie from me; he really was ill. And I already knew I was going to help him see his dream fulfilled, no matter what. The question was how could I ALSO do an energy exchange so he’d get his book published, I could help him, and he’d get to maintain his dignity and compensate me for the work? Where was the win-win so we would both be comfortable with the situation?
Thankfully, Karl himself came up with the perfect solution: He signed the rights to the manuscript over to me. He’s never spoken about family and I get the feeling that there isn’t anyone in his life to take care of him. Because here’s the other side of Karl’s story: he’s also homeless. He has friends that he bounces between so I think he mostly has couches to sleep on. But I have seen him napping in his car as well. He has no phone, no permanent address, and calls me from the gas station.
Just for the record, I’ve never asked him, but I get the feeling that this lifestyle is by choice. I have the feeling that at one time in his life, Karl was fabulously wealthy. And he’s still wealthy with lots of friends who look out for him. I think he’s more of a wanderer than truly homeless. But I don’t know. And it’s not the type of thing you can ask somebody!
I worked on his book every day, setting a timer for twenty minutes and typing it into Word from his typewritten pages. I juggled it around my other client projects and everything else I do. A part of me didn’t WANT to finish it; I was afraid that if I presented him the book, he’d get the resolution he wanted and then die on me. It was emotional: knowing I had been entrusted with someone’s dream and also knowing that time was limited.
Karl called me the last week in June. He wanted to make sure I didn’t need anything else for his book: I had the manuscript, the photos to scan, and all my questions answered. He’d just gotten off the phone with his doctor and the prognosis wasn’t good. Life would be measured in weeks, not months. I had been slowly typing up his book but suddenly there was a huge sense of urgency. Thankfully, I have some really awesome clients and they fully understood why I dropped all other projects and fell off grid for a few days. The call came late on a Wednesday afternoon. But the next Friday I had a proof copy in hand (don’t even ask me how much I paid in expedited shipping!) and was driving around town looking for Karl.
Because this is a small town, I was able to get word to him that his proof copy was waiting for him. He had a few corrections but all in all, he loved the book. It’s currently available for sale as a paperback.
As of this posting, Karl is still okay. While he’s alive, all earnings from his book sales go directly to him. Karl has published a book before through another publishing company. He’s never made any royalties from it. I would like to invite you to purchase “The Great Quartzsite, Arizona SNIPE Hunt” so he can also get the feeling of being paid for his writing.
Actually, I’m going to ask you flat out: Please buy a copy of the book. If it’s not your style, donate it your local homeless shelter, in Karl’s name.
After he passes, I’ll donate half of the book’s sales to a charity in his name. Not sure which one yet, I’d like to see if there are any causes he feels strongly about. If not, it’ll be an organization that helps homeless elderly.
I don’t know how much time he has left. In the meantime, Karl and I are currently working on a book together. It’ll be a collection of short stories and we’ll each contribute half the stories.