Publication-house blues

By By Danny Letz and By Danny Letz

By Danny Letz

Keith Moore’s most recent publication, a collection of short stories titled, The Transsexual in Progress Soldier, isn’t available on

The small chapbook has no title on its spine and occupies a shelf space of four inches above books by Rick Moody inside the U Bookstore. In other words, finding the book requires foreknowledge that Moore’s book exists, followed by a desire to purchase it.

The only press the book has received to date (outside its mention in this article) are the ads Moore purchased himself in The Daily Utah Chronicle, which ran for roughly a week before Moore’s investment dried (read: became too expensive).

None of this, however, affects Moore’s disposition or work.

“I’m a writer, and I’m not a closet writer,” said Moore, a U alumnus and Salt Lake resident. “One pen editor said of me, ‘Oh, Keith? He kills to publish; he’d do anything,’ and it’s kind of true. Except I would never kill anything, literally.”

Moore’s quest for artistic recognition and the ability to disseminate his works to a larger audience has occupied the majority of the last 30 years of his life.

“I’ve had office jobs all my life,” the 76-year-old said. “I never married, so I’ve been able to quit jobs and support only myself, but (writing) mostly wrecked my social reputation more than anything else. People don’t want bums around that are between jobs, living in apartments around the university writing. Americans don’t like artists in their midst,” he said.

Despite the publishing of a small run of two other books, including a brief novella and a book of poems, both published in the last five years, Moore’s endeavor to become a “recognized” or “published” author remains unfulfilled: Moore’s books still aren’t available on

When asked if he had any theories why he hadn’t been given the opportunity to publish a greater number of books or have a larger, more substantial run produced of his current books, Moore simply said, “I’m nobody.”

“I’m not a brand name. And to get a name is a Catch-22. You have to be published already or have clout among (publishing houses),” he said.

“If you’re not a closet writer and you haven’t a form or combination of clout, and nothing but sincerity, desire, motivation and self-teaching, you’re a nobody.”

The difficulty for Moore, and others struggling to attain the success to write for a living, is the dependence upon producing the works en masse for a larger populous of readers, which means a dependence upon money and the investment gained from a larger publishing house.

As with the sale of any artistic work (be it filmic, visual, musical or written) many strive to attain lucrative deals with larger corporations.

Unlike film, visual art or music, however, the distribution and propagation of literary texts is more expensive and requires the canonization that comes from publishing within a recognized literary journal (i.e., The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly). Self- publishing or e-publishing is looked down upon by the academic literati, which removes the ability to successfully distribute works via the Internet. In addition, producing a professional-looking book is more difficult than burning a CD or DVD.

Thus Moore’s ability to gain recognition through an underground or “cult” following are void. The Internet cannot help writers yet, and thus writers are confined to having their works published by larger firms, as there are no other viable options available.

“Why do I marvel at my obscurity? It’s built in. I take a bit of solace in knowing I don’t write for the general reader. But not a hell of a lot of solace,” Moore said.

“Most artists fall into this massive bottom of the pyramid where they remain unrecognized,” Moore said. “It’s a plain fact.”

Though these facts seem apparent and harrowing, they have little bearing on Moore’s continued work in writing.

“My mind is set up that I probably won’t get recognition before I pass,” Moore said, “but it doesn’t modify the fiction at all, because I know that is what will live after me.”

And it’s this commitment to the work, the text and the notion of one’s prolonged presence that gives Moore hope.

“A lot of good has happened in the last five years, so maybe something more will happen in the next five,” Moore said.

To contact Keith Moore or to request a copy of his works, e-mail [email protected].

Keith Moore