The frustrating…. errr, I mean rewarding pursuit of the traditional publishing deal

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m suffering from author madness at the moment.

Before I explain the title of this post, let me stress that this is not a complaint. It’s merely an observation.

As some of you know (and many of you probably don’t care), my agent has been making a herculean effort to sell The Takers (and as much of the series as he can) to major publishers. He updates me whenever he hears back from a publisher with either rejections, or notes on how to improve the manuscript. I’ve declined to make some of the changes, but more times than not the suggestions do add elements to the story that I think make it better. I’m not stubborn or naive enough to believe I have all the answers, so I’m always excited to hear what people in the storytelling business have to say. My sole desire is to deliver a story that is as close to perfect as possible. Suggestions and criticisms from editors are going to help me do just that.

That’s not to say I don’t like The Takers as it is currently written. I do, and many of you have expressed to me that you like it, as well. I’ll never change the tone of the story. The suggestions so far have been to give a little more background information on Oz and Stevie’s relationship and, for God’s sake, get rid of the cliffhanger ending. I’m finding out that editors do not like cliffhangers. I love them, but I understand that’s a personal preference that many don’t share. I have no problem stepping outside of my head and making the ending a little more concrete… But just a little.

Here’s the frustrating part. These are two separate notes I got back from two different publishers.

Publisher A – Oz is completely unlikable. The reader can’t relate to him and therefore will never root for him.

Publisher B – Oz is too likable from the beginning. There’s no room for him to grow.

Do you see my dilemma? Both publishers are part of what’s known as The Big Six in the industry. They’ve managed to make a lot of money in a business that fails 70% of the time. They know what they are doing. So, either I have somehow managed to create a completely unlikable main character that is too likable, or one of them is wrong.  The problem I have is figuring out which one is off the mark.

This sounds like I’m complaining, and I guess on some level I am, but I do deeply appreciate the time both publishers spent reading and providing me with feedback.  If the two criticisms had been similiar, I’d be busy trying to correct the problem.  As it is, Oz will remain unlikable in a likable way.

Pardon me while I go slightly insane.

4 thoughts on “The frustrating…. errr, I mean rewarding pursuit of the traditional publishing deal

  1. Oz starts off as completely unlikeable but then grows and earns redemption. It sounds to me that publisher A didn’t get past the first chapter and then publisher B just wasn’t paying attention.

    I always figured that Oz was supposed to be a jerk and someone you couldn’t get behind at first. Then, you played on our sympathies and gave him his illness and then his desire to make right the greatest tragedy in his life…Stevie.

    My interest in The Takers, when I stumbled on it, was that it was a post apocalyptic story. Or an apocalypse in process even. Oz was initially secondary to the concept, which I fell for almost immediately.

    I’m not saying I was a hard sell on wanting Oz to redeem himself. His admissions and guilt made me want to believe that he MUST want to set right the karmic scales, because that’s what I would want/need to do.

    What am I babbling at? I’m not sure any more, it must almost be time for bed.

    Oh, that was it.

    Your feelings for Oz are supposed to be dichotic in nature, at first. That’s what made me, the reader, root for him. He was flawed, he was a jerk, but there was this underlying sense of remorse for his actions.

    • Thanks! You’re right. Oz is a kid who’s struggling to determine if he’s a good guy who’s done bad things or a bad guy who does good things. The world isn’t black and white and Oz is learning that the hard way. As I told the kids at Pinewood Prep, I much prefer warts to beauty marks.

  2. I find Oz more frustrating in his (in)decision making. Actually, that’s very human, and very identifiable. It’s one of the things that has kept me reading this series. I’ve not found him either unlikable or too likable. His personality reminds me a bit of Odd Thomas, one of my favorite characters ever. Keep him the way he is. Some publisher will have the good sense to pick this series up.

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