David Kummer’s books are available at the Jefferson County Public Library. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
David Kummer’s books are available at the Jefferson County Public Library. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Many 16-year-olds dread writing a paper for a school assignment, but for one young author working on his sixth book, it’s old hat.

David Kummer, a junior at the Christian Academy of Madison, is preparing for the release of his fifth book in November, an as-yet-untitled sequel to his second novel. Kummer just released his latest short story as an e-book on Amazon last month.

Kummer said he’d always enjoyed writing as a kid, but it wasn’t until reading a book of short stories in the spring of 2015 that he felt inspired to create his own collection.

To be honest, he said, he wasn’t much impressed with what he had read.

“So I decided to write some of my own,” he said.

And with that, “As Trees Turned Away: a collection of scary short stories” was born.

The process of writing the book took three or fourth months and only began as a personal exercise, he said, but soon he decided he’d give self-publishing a try.

Kummer turned toward Amazon’s online store where he was able to make the books available at no cost to himself. For every book sold, publishers on the site can earn up to 70 percent of the royalties for e-books and 60 percent for paperback copies sold.

In all, Kummer has nine titles available on the site, all listed in horror, suspense and mystery – his favorite genre at the moment.

“When you go into horror there’s pretty set guidelines,” he said. At first, it was a comfort that those guidelines made the stories easier to write, he said, but since then he’s challenged himself to try to surprise readers while working within the boundaries.

Like many artists, looking back at his early works has made Kummer work harder on his more recent pieces. To hone his skills, Kummer tries to read as much as he can when he’s not doing homework, practicing for the basketball team or running cross country.

“Some books I read for enjoyment, and then there are some – especially if it’s a best seller, I’ll read it just to study it.”

Kummer has also enlisted some of his online peers to get involved in the editing process, swapping books and reading each others work. Kummer’s father, Tony, helped edit and design the covers of his son’s first two books.

“The subject matter was a little surprising for us,” Tony Kummer said of reading his son’s work.

The thrilling genre – dealing in death, kidnapping and perhaps a bit of the paranormal – made for dramatic early writings.

“You don’t have to kill every character in every story,” Tony remembered telling his son with a laugh.

But since then, he said, he’s seen progression in the stories as David figured out the “craft” of writing.

“He really wants to make this his career,” Tony said, and these early books are the perfect time to practice. Just as he’s put in the hours playing basketball with dreams of the NBA, Tony said, “it’s not a whim a kid goes on for a few weeks.”

The money from the books isn’t much. A few bucks here and there when a book sells a few more copies online. $10 here, $20 there; almost like any other teenager working a part time job. And while David does hope to support himself as a successful author one day, he knows he has time to figure that out between now and graduating with a likely degree in library science.

To support sales and potentially find a following, David has held readings at the Jefferson County Public Library and has plans to sell some of his titles at a booth at Old Court Days this fall.

Still, Kummer’s writings have managed to find a little traction online with readers – David knows the market for horror novels is smaller and therefore a bit more lucrative – and his father believes the feedback he gets from other writers and readers is more important than sales.

Still, Tony said, on a website with millions of titles, it can be hard to stand out and critics and commenters can be harsh.

“Don’t do it for any fame or glory,” Tony remembers telling his son. “Do it because you love it.

“I think that’s been his approach. We’re incredibly proud.”

To learn more about David’s writings, visit www.davidkummer.com.