Failing My Way to the Top – The Life of a Writer

Thank you, sir!  May I have another?

Thank you, sir! May I have another?

I have no idea how today’s post is going to be perceived because I’m just thinking out loud, and it’s really hard to gauge my mood.   For lack of a better phrase, I am emotionally numb.  I am a writer, which goes hand and hand with copious amounts of rejection.  In the beginning, you are genuinely hurt by it.  Then with each subsequent rejection it stings a little less.  I received word yesterday from my agent about another rejection from a major player.  This rather “mousy” company asked for a second look at the Takers, and for a second time they passed.

I should be upset, and trust me it wasn’t fun getting the email, but I was surprisingly detached from the bad news, and I’m trying to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I spent most of last night wondering if I have very thick skin or an incredible ability to suppress disappointment.  Is it okay to not care if I’m rejected by the gatekeepers to the industry?

I’m in a position where I’ve gotten closer than I ever have before as far as breaking through to the major traditional publishers.   They are actually holding meetings about my books.  I’m told that I should find solace in that fact alone.  And the first time, I did.  The fourth and fifth time it happened it wasn’t quite as comforting.  It was confusing.  How can the book get so close with so many publishers only to be turned away at the last step?

I love my agent and this is no reflection on her.  Ultimately, I have to take blame for the reception my book has received by the people in the know.  The reception I’ve gotten from the readers has been the polar opposite and frankly, may be why the rejection by the mainstream publishers doesn’t bother me as much as it should.  And yet, it does add to the confusion.  How can it be so well liked by the people who buy books, but  so uniformly doubted by those in the industry?  What am I missing?  I know that publishing companies want more than manuscripts today.  They want books that come with a built in brand.  While I’m not a complete unknown author thanks to the POD world, I am a little-known author.  Through this blog and Twitter and Facebook, I am building a platform that I hope to use to change that, and maybe that’s the only thing missing from the equation.

This is not my first time at the rodeo.  I have 8 books and 12 screenplays under my belt.  I’ve been rejected for 20 years by producers and publishers.  I’ve gotten close on several occasions, but I’ve never been able to close the deal.  Each time it doesn’t happen, I care a little bit less.  The question is at what point does not caring translate into not trying.    That point is not in sight as of yet, but it’s only logical to assume that I will get there.

I’m not writing anything new here.  There are literally tens of thousands of writers, a lot of them more talented than me, who feel just as overlooked and unloved by the mainstream publishing companies.  We’re all fighting for a very small number of publishing slots.  What my fellow writers and I have to keep in mind is that the publishing industry makes the wrong decision 70% of the time.  Only 30% of books published in the mainstream world make back the advance money they pay the authors.   Yet another reason I don’t feel so bad for being passed over time and time again.

I guess what I’m saying is while I don’t like rejection, I don’t sweat it either.  Thanks in large part to many of you out there who have accepted the books as they are written.  To the mainstream publishing world, the longer you wait, the steeper the price is going to be because I am going to fail my way to the top.  Just saying.

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Robert Miller – A Publisher Who Gets It!

Publishing Savior

Publishing Savior

I’m highly overdue on a geeky publishing post.  I’m constantly tracking the industry and trying to figure out why they continually give me the finger.  It usually leads me to post something off-putting and bitter, so I’ve avoided them altogether.   But surprise, surprise, I’ve found something positive to post.  Read on!

I have been a fan of Robert Miller’s ever since he started the HarperStudios imprint.  He’s created a mainstream publisher that follows an unconventional structure to get books to market.  He avoids the huge advances, gives the author a 50% take of the profits, has convinced retailers to forgo a liberal return policy that cripples most startup publishing houses, and relies heavily on the author’s existing online platform to build a durable marketing strategy.  In short, the guy get’s it.  He’s created something that was virtually unheard of before now, a nimble company that continually experiments with publishing models in order to keep pace with technology.

Here’s an excerpt of a recent article he wrote for Publishing Perspectives:

I don’t think that this solution goes far enough. I believe that publishers and authors should be equal partners, sharing profits fifty-fifty, as we are doing in all of our deals at HarperStudio. The author brings their creative work to this partnership, and their commitment to do everything in their power to help their book succeed. The publisher brings their financial risk (under our model, the publisher puts up the publishing costs, including the advance to the author, from which the author can decide to help the marketing effort if they’d like, or not), their passion for the project, and their staff time (we don’t charge any overhead to the profit split; the authors don’t charge for their time spent marketing the book either).

This financial structure requires both parties to think responsibly about costs, since both parties will be charged for those costs at the end of the day. The result is that the relationship is much less adversarial.

The question each day is, “What should we be doing for this book?” not “What have you done for me lately?” It feels healthier to me.

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Stephenie Meyer and Stephen King actually agree on something!

Stephen King, a vocal critic of Stephenie Meyer, has actually found common ground with the woman who didn’t write a series of vampire books (C’mon, those were not vampires. Vampires can’t go out in the sun. They have fangs. They can’t get near garlic… I digress) The two mega-author-gazillionaires agree that Catching Fire (the Hunger Games sequel) by Suzanne Collins is an excellent book. I was actually at BEA where Collins was doing a signing and giving out free Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), but I couldn’t make it to the signing. I could have thrown my blogger weight around with the publisher, but they would have laughed at me. They may have even held me down and given me a red belly. Who needs that? I’m sure I can find a copy somewhere. I smart. I can do things…Anyway, the book trailer has been released, and it is cool!

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Booktacts – The future of books

Booktacts - The book you can wear!

Booktacts - The book you can wear!

As an author and son of an ophthalmologist, I have been tinkering with a new invention in my basement that will revolutionize books, the booktacts. Basically, they are contacts fitted with wireless hyper radio wideband receivers that display text in ocular space. Yes, you read right, books you can wear. The booktacts can download any pdf or pcr file from any website. What’s more, you can control download functions and simple commands like highlighting and “send to printer” with a series of simple blink commands. I am coding them so they won’t download any Stephenie Meyer’s books because honestly, I am super jealous of her and really don’t want to give her access to another bestseller list.

In addition to being high tech, environmentally friendly, fabulously avant-garde readers, they are totally fashionable. They come in a variety of colors and can even be designed with team logos, obnoxious inspirational quotes, and slogans like “If you’re reading this, you’re way too close to my face.” I’m even working on mood booktacts. They change color depending on your mood while reading. Reading horror? They turn blood red. Reading a finance book? They turn money green. Reading erotica? They grow six inches.

I am not a scientist or a computer guy or an engineering-type person, and I don’t even have a basement, so the development stage has been really slow going, but I have tested a few prototypes on rats, and let’s just say, except for the blindness and brain damage, they work perfectly. I expect to start testing on humans as soon as I buy some duct tape and ether…. I mean as soon as my grant money comes in so I can pay a few test suckers…. subjects.

BTW – Tim O’Reilly claims to have come up with a revolutionary idea that will change books. You can read his article, Reinventing the Book in the Age of the Web, but it isn’t even close to being as cool as the Booktacts.

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