Time to make a fool out of myself! This a little game I like to play. What if Christopher Walken published my book? It makes no sense, and my Walken impression sucks, but what are you going to do? It’s strangely therapeutic. Spend any amount of time talking like Christopher Walken, and suddenly you feel like you can do anything. Plus, he actually came up with a great marketing idea. “Ring Tones!”
So, I figured out why it’s been so hard to get a publishing deal. Obviously, I’ve been making it really hard on all the publishing houses by having my agent do all that submitting and schmoozing stuff. That’s no fun and way too much work. So, I’ve decided to make it much easier on everyone. Here is a handy-dandy “Publishing Deal” button. Just press it and make your best offer. Man, I should have thought of this sooner.
Ok, I have been fielding questions now for about a year concerning Book Four of the Oz Chronicles Series. First, I want you to know that I really appreciate your interest. It means a lot to me that you care enough to keep needling me about the release of the next book in the series. Second, I appreciate your tolerance for my cryptic answers. I haven’t felt comfortable enough to tell you what’s really going on behind the scenes because it doesn’t just involve me. It involves my agent and about a half dozen major publishing companies. I have spent a lot of time responding to comments and suggestions from the big boys just to show them that I’m willing to play by their rules. Don’t worry, I’ve pushed back on major plot points that I thought were essential, but I’ve also given ground on things that were more aesthetic in nature. So far, I’ve gotten pats on the back for my flexibility, turnaround time, and skill at applying suggested edits. What I haven’t received is a book deal.
Breaking down the doors of the mainstream publishing industry is the hardest thing I’ve ever done from a professional standpoint. I’ve heard that getting a book deal is akin to winning the lottery, but I think it’s much easier to win the lottery. Getting a book deal is as hard as winning the lottery, discovering a cure for cancer, and having your Youtube video go viral all on the same day. I am in the fortunate position of having an agent who is my advocate in this process. She’s been terrific, and I now know why they are necessary.
I have been at this for a long, long time. I am one of those writers that has five manuscripts and 12 screenplays sitting in a drawer somewhere. They’ve been viewed by an elite group of people, and by elite, I mean people who were willing to read something written by an unknown bum like me. I’m not counting the three Oz Chronicles books in this count. They’re not sitting in a drawer. Thanks to the POD and ebook world, they have been read by literally thousands of people. In fact, I have been perfectly content with offering my books through these low-cost, high-tech vehicles. From what I’ve learned about the industry, I’ve made enough money and then some to cover the typical advance for a first time author. I’ve done it with a marketing budget that hasn’t exceeded $1,500 since I first self-published in 2005. I have what the mainstream publishing industry calls a working platform to get the word out about my books. Essentially that means I’m an active blogger, Facebooker, and Tweeter. In short, if you’re reading this, you’re a part of my platform. Please, don’t feel used. This is less a marketing tool for me than it is a release. Call it my place to vent and make a fool of myself. The marketing part is just a byproduct at that venting.
I have been asked repeatedly if I’m doing so well with POD and ebook publishing, why even try to get a traditional deal. It’s a valid question. I have a few answers:
- There is no question the mainstream publishing industry can offer me a level of prestige that the self-publishing world cannot. To be totally crass, this means more money coming in. My platform will broaden, and other doors will open for me. I consider my writing my career. What I do to earn a living, supports my writing. A mainstream deal means I am one step closer to my writing also being how I earn my living.
- I have always seen the Oz Chronicles as a multi-media project. It is not just a series of books. It is a video game, a graphic novel, a series of films, action figures, maybe even an online role playing community. A mainstream publishing company could give me access to all these different avenues for the Oz Chronicles. I can publish a book on my own, but I can’t produce a video game on my own. I’m not that smart or financially fluid.
- I have to finish this thing. I started this “publishing (or selling a script) as a goal” journey 20 plus years ago. I have been rejected time and time again. I have been told I am so close over and over again. I have been ridiculed on a few occasions (very few). I’ve even been called evil for my writing. It may seem petty and pigheaded, but signing that dotted line will justify every turn I’ve taken and every word I’ve written. It’s not like I’m dodging bullets to get published. I’m just fielding a lot of no’s.
What does all this have to do with Book Four of the Oz Chronicles? Everything I’ve written in this post to this point has been one big excuse for why I haven’t published Book Four yet. I’ve let it languish in limbo while the major publishers weighed in on Books One – Three. I’ve placated my writer’s soul by writing another book in the meantime (which I’m planning to publish soon), but I’m not willing to wait anymore. Book Four is officially on deck. I’ve had a hard time getting back into it, but I had a breakthrough the other night that gave me the direction I needed. I’m actually excited about getting it done. Always a good sign. I also realized that I have five other books I want to complete, and I have forbidden myself to get back to them until I’ve finished Book Four. I will keep you updated on word count as I go. Right now, I’m at 7,500 words. My goal is 65,000. So, you can see I have miles to go before I sleep, but the outline is done, and I’m ready to turn this march into a sprint.
Thanks for your patience and if you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help. There is. Spread the word!
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.
In a lot of ways, I am torn about The Forest of Hands and Teeth by first time author Carrie Ryan. Ryan is an immensely talented writer, and I love the story behind the story. The book was inspired by a night at the movies with her fiancé. He dragged her to see the remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” and it sparked that question in her that is the basis of every book, “What if?” What if it were her? Could she survive? And The Forest of Hands and Teeth was born.
It is a zombie tale told from a female point of view. To my knowledge, that has never been done before. It provided a fresh take on an old conceit, “zombie eat brains!” The element that it added (and I wasn’t wild about) was a romance story sprinkled in with all the flesh eating, running, and screaming. Romance novels have a certain “repetitive angst and remorse over an unfulfilled love” quality to them that tend to numb my senses. Unfortunately, I found myself frustrated by the romance storyline in The Forest of Hands of Teeth. The barriers that prevented Mary from being with her true love, Travis, did not seem insurmountable. He just didn’t seem that into her. Mary was afraid that the Sisterhood would toss her into the woods with the Unconsecrated (zombies) if she and Travis pursued their hot and heavies for each other, and Travis felt like he wasn’t man enough for Mary to actually lay claim to her, but I never quite bought that the Sisterhood was that cold and malicious. They were controlling and unpleasant, but I never felt like they would kill a girl for loving the wrong guy. And Travis had a bad limp. If he had been missing a leg that would have been one thing, but a limp doesn’t seem like enough of a disability to keep a guy from going after the girl he really loved.
Two more things that bothered me, and then I’ll get to what I liked. One, there was a fast moving Unconsecrated that the Sisterhood created by isolating the zombie. Not sure how that created a fast moving undead girl, but it did. I would have liked to have seen more of the fast moving Unconsecrated, and more of an explanation of why they developed their undeadliness differently from the rest of the undead. Two, the undead weren’t called zombies. They were called Unconsecrated. What up? How can you have a book inspired by Romero without creatures called zombies? You lack street cred without the z-word.
In the end, I liked this book. My misgivings aside, I enjoyed the writing. Ryan has chops, and I will read her companion book to this one. Take away the romance and the zombies and the sisterhood, this book is about a young girl trying to reconnect with her dead mother by finding the “ocean” she constantly talked about. At its core, it’s not a love story, or a zombie yarn. It’s a coming of age story told with great care and talent. I give Forest of Hands of Teeth my thumbs up, and actually think it’s a great book to introduce girls of all ages to the zombie genre.
Don’t make me pull out my Mark Twain quotes. Don’t do it. Don’t… okay, you asked for it. The rumors of the death of the publishing industry have been greatly exaggerated. Not exactly Twain, but you get the point. In December, 2008, the publishing industry went through some pretty significant downsizing, particularly among the giants in Manhattan. It sent a lot of people into an all out panic attack, and not just those people who lost their jobs. Authors are scrambling to find out what the cutbacks mean for them. And not just the previously published. The wannabes like me are among the inquiring minds. I have books on the market, but I use a subsidy publisher. My ultimate goal is to garner that all elusive publishing deal with a major house. That deal just got elusiver (before you hound me with comments, I know elusiver is incorrect or incorrecter).
The major houses are scaling down their acquisitions for 2009 & 2010. Red carpet and black ink* celebrities don’t have to worry. The deals are still going to be there for them, but little known and unknown writers are in for an even tougher next few years. We are going to have to buckle down and look for alternatives until the traditional publishing houses get their legs back and start taking risks again. But even then, the publishing industry will have a much different landscape. Don’t be surprised if you see a shift toward tie-in mergers. Film companies merging with publishing companies merging with online social communities merging with online video distribution companies merging with TV networks, etc. The media lines are about to be blurred in a big way.
The good news is the publishing industry is not dying. It’s changing. The money will be their again. The doors are going to open wider than ever before for people like you and me. The bad news is we just have to wait it out. Keep writing. Hone your craft. In other words, nothing much has changed from our perspective.
*Black Ink Celebrities are big name authors; J.k. Rowling, Stephen King, John Grisham, etc.
Articles on the demise of the publishing industry:
I just read a story in the New York Post about Catherine Banner. She is a 19-year-old Cambridge student that signed a multi-book deal with Random House. Her book, The Eyes of a King, is currently ranked 3,474 on Amazon (Very respectable ranking). She’s being called the next J.K. Rowling.
Are you kidding me? First of all, that is monumentally unfair for Banner. Rowling has sold over 400 million copies worldwide. That’s some awful big shoes to fill. She should be allowed to find her own audience without those kinds of expectations.
Second, I’m the next J.K. Rowling! Just kidding. My books are nothing like the Harry Potter series. I think Banner is getting the comparison because she’s British and her story involves magic, and a parentless boy.
Here’s a particularly annoying part from the NY Post story:
Banner was 14 at the time. She wrote the 435-page story in a year, scribbling with pen and paper up to 30 hours a week – between homework assignments.
A year later, Banner approached an agent at a local literary festival. “I’m 16, do you think that’s too young to start writing?” she asked him.
“He asked if I had written a book. I said I had, and he said, ‘Why don’t you send it to me?’
“I sent it off, and he got back to me . . . We decided to release it after school, so it was released this year.”
Yes, I’m jealous. Yes, I’m bitter. No, I don’t have access to any sharp objects. Please note, I don’t have a problem with a 19-year-old girl getting a publishing contract. I have a problem with one particular 42-year-old man not getting a publishing contract. I’m happy for her. No, seriously… I am.