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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Book Four of the Oz Chronicles – The Land of the Dead – A Candid Look at the Publishing Industry

Book Four is coming.  I promise!

Book Four is coming. I promise!

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!

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    Is the publishing industry dying?

    The slush pile just got slushier!

    The slush pile just got slushier!

    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:

    Puttin’ Off the Ritz

    Read it and weep

    Blockbuster or Bust