Tag Archives: publishing

Everything Aside–This Is How I Really Feel About Being Published

Let me open by saying that I am thankful for every sale, every reader, and every review. This rant comes, perhaps irreverently, at the same time as the news that Betrayal at Phobos is currently ranked second in sales with my publisher this month. I am grateful for the support system I have, which mainly involves my significant other, a handful of close friends, some former students, a couple of mentors, and my immediate family. It’s unfortunate that I’ve chosen to air my frustrations, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut about these issues any longer. I hope, at the very least, that this post proves instructional to those with hopes of becoming an author.

When I was a junior pursuing my BA in English, I had the good fortune of signing up for a creative writing class with a seasoned novelist who has been publishing on and off since the 1970’s. I got to know this professor, who many considered bitter and curmudgeonly, fairly well.  And he, knowing my dream was to write fiction for a living, sat me down after class one day and explained that writing is quite possibly the world’s loneliest profession.

I thought I understood what he meant back then. After all, when you’re twenty years old and still struggling to find your voice, very few believe you have anything worthwhile to say. If you can, you seek solace in a group of like-minded people that will bolster your courage and inspire you to continue on the path to publication. They listen when you bitch about how most adults today are content to read YA novels and rant about the injustice of the university shutting down its Humanities program. They provide a mental forum to which you may bring your ideas, however hackneyed they might be. If your friends are geeks, you might even get to test drive a character or two in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign before you waste 100,000 words on a novel starring “he who nobody likes” as the protagonist and “she of the ever shifting nomenclature” as the love interest. These are your best friends, your brain trust, your stalwart companions on the metaphorical life-quest you all obsess over whilst rolling dice and punishing your body with Jack in the Box and Mountain Dew Code Red.

But are they really? Or did everything just mean so much more to you than it did to everyone else?

The biggest problem with being a creative type—and especially someone who loves Science Fiction and Fantasy—is that you elevate your interactions with people to the grandeur of an epic.

Somehow, I managed a three-book deal with a mid-sized publisher. By the time my first novel was published, I had more than a few followers online: former students, people who had discovered my blog when it was Freshly Pressed, co-workers who also teach English or history, and the aforementioned boon companions. In my mind of epic metaphors and unreasonable expectations, I believed my triumph would be shouted to the heavens—or that it would at least go viral. This, of course, would be even more unreasonable if I hadn’t stood by so many of these people when they needed my help.

There are certainly high school graduates out there doing well now but who never would have made it if I had not stepped between them and their parents, or between them and the administration, or between them and themselves.  I can count a couple successful marriages that may not have happened if I had not smacked some sense into one partner or the other, usually the male. (I am also a damn good father, and anyone who doubts this does not know the first thing about me.) But failing even this, I have always stood for moral and intellectual pursuits while doing my best to keep my opinionated nature in check, which, for me, is more difficult than writing a book or teaching a college course.

In the end, none of this matters. You can’t expect those who died for you in D and D to show one iota of loyalty in reality. You can’t expect the college student you befriended more than a decade ago in a screenwriting class to be bothered to read your work now that it’s published—even when you offer to read his. You can’t even expect the students (and fellow geeks) you’ve dragged through high school kicking and screaming to show up for your book signing at the local library.

Oh, and you certainly can’t expect anyone on the Internet to do right by you. Over 2,000 illegal downloads of my first novel and counting. I’m a public servant, people—a teacher in what is statistically the most underfunded state in the Union. If you’re going to steal bread from my meager table, at least have the decency to write a review.

Here’s one thing you can count on: life isn’t really about doing the right thing, struggling, and being rewarded with a big payoff—that only happens in the world of fiction. So that’s where I’ve chosen to stay.

I am committed to the world’s loneliest profession. I understand now what that old “curmudgeon” was trying to tell me. The readers who will get something out of your stories are almost never the people you know personally. Those who were with you at the beginning will never see you as an author and will go to great lengths to ignore your accomplishments whether you publish through TZPP or HarperCollins. If you happen to inspire an epiphany somewhere in the world, it will forever remain unknown unless someone decides to write a review.

This presents a frustrating paradox: the first rule of writing is to consider your audience, but the odds are long that you’ll ever know who they are, at least not until someone invests many thousands in marketing you, and not some label, to get your work in front of them. When that happens, love and appreciate those fans, but never allow them to become the reason you write. The only person you can count on is yourself. Write for you.

If I’m honest, I get very few questions about my book series from legitimate fans. The most common question both friends and strangers ask me about being a novelist is, “So you’re published, but are you making any real money?” This is generally followed by, “Do they stock your book at Barnes & Noble? Oh, well why not?” These people don’t seem to understand that they, and not I, hold the keys to my success. All I can do is write the books. They also don’t seem to understand how incredibly rude this behavior is. What if I walked up to an engineer and asked him why he doesn’t make six figures working at Motorola? He’d probably break my nose. And you know what? I’d deserve it.

I, for one, am going to finish writing this book series regardless of who reads it and who judges me based on the size of my publisher. Eventually, the naysayers who didn’t support me will see me on the bestsellers’ list. It will likely be the only place they’ll see me from now on.

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My Second Interview with TZPP

Yours truly is now being featured on TZPP’s front page. Come check out my interview with editor Danielle Romero about the first installment in my new book series, The Dream Box, which is scheduled for release this fall.  

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August 20, 2013 · 2:15 am

Five Benefits of a Small Press

writer

As of last week, I signed my life away on a three-book deal with TZPP. I’m expecting the first round of edits for my novel, The Dream Box, sometime this weekend. The project’s tentative release date is Black Friday.

This is my first experience dealing with a younger press as opposed to the industry giants in New York, and I have to admit that I’m pretty happy with it so far. I’ve always been a “shoot for the moon” sort of guy, but as you may have read in Rejection: Greatest Hits, some of these larger, more established presses can be surprisingly unprofessional. All things considered, there are some real advantages to signing with an underdog, which I shall attempt to illuminate:

1) The Contract and Your Rights

I can’t speak for every small press, but my publisher made it clear to me going into the signing process that nearly every aspect of my contract was negotiable. I confirmed with Professor of Great Renown that it was an industry standard contract save for a few sticking points, which I came back and successfully negotiated with no issues. My royalties, which I won’t share publicly, are fairly generous. I didn’t need to find a literary agent (what a joke so late in the process, right?) to hustle for me. Nor did I have to deal with the kind of silent treatment I received from a certain unnamed mega press who one day shall be named on this blog and shall live forever in infamy. But not today. ‘Tis not yet the time for naming…

Is He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named singing Journey or... :-0

Um, is He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named singing Journey? Man, I sure hope that’s all it is…

2) Personal Connections

Frankly, it feels amazing to know your publisher believes in you and to work with editors who seem to really want you to succeed. My publisher has given me gentle nudges (and the occasion kick in the rear) to get me writing again after personal mishaps–and this after generously promoting me on an anthology cover when he could have picked from a dozen other authors. Several of the senior staff members at TZPP (including my publisher) began following this blog after the press accepted just one short story, and we’re always promoting each other personally through social media and other avenues as opposed to staying on our respective sides of the “professional” fence.

Before I had my foot in the proverbial door, this was the sort of interaction I absolutely coveted.

angif-get-your-foot-in-the-door

At present, I’m not feeling any of that “cutthroat” mentality you read about–rather, there seems to be a true sense of loyalty. Not those patronizing shenanigans, either. Loyalty. I hope it holds.

3) Valued Input

After I signed, I did that thing all rookies do: “You know, I have some ideas for the cover design…” I did this knowing that most publishers could care less what an author thinks about the way a book is marketed. After all, it’s the author’s job to write and the publisher’s job to figure out what will sell, right? Wrong–although it’s a common misconception. The author first has to write something salable and pitch it to editors and/or agents, but seldom does he (or she!) get any credit for being sales oriented. There’s usually a sense of “You’ve brought it this far, but we’ll take it from here.”

My publisher, on the other hand, was kind enough to let me submit my input for the cover design for all three books. I was really surprised. Even some of my heroes have complained about the cover art they’re stuck with looking absolutely nothing like their original vision. I think every writer dreams of having some kind of creative control beyond just the words on the page. I didn’t imagine it would come this soon.

4) Collaborative Opportunities

TZPP has been assembling a team of writers to create an installment series through collaborative world building. I’ve been interested in this project since the get-go, and it sounds like it might finally be getting the green light. I haven’t had the opportunity to create by committee since college. Not to completely geek out here or anything, but those meetings in bars where we closed Mill Avenue down trying to figure out what a Postmodern version of hell would look like to Frank Herbert were more fun than most of the college parties I attended at ASU. Getting paid for the sort of thing you’d do for free during your college days is the very definition of living the dream.

Velociraptor

Patience, Philosoraptor! I was just getting there…

5) Growth

Every mega publisher out there today (before having a conniption about Kindle) started as a small press. Joining an already successful conglomeration wherein your book deal–your dream–might have been nothing more than some high-powered agent’s proviso for some bigger book deal would leave me wondering if I really made it on my own steam. The idea of helping a younger publisher grow and receive renown, on the other hand, hardly leaves room for that sort of doubt. Every writer seeks (needs) validation–whether through publication, sales, reviews, awards, a cult of die-hard fans willing to commit seppuku over the end of a book series, or–my favorite–all of the above.

A sane person would try to prove it to him- or herself before proving it to the world, but unfortunately for most of us, the process only works in reverse. Authority (i.e. being an author) isn’t something that can be assumed–it must be granted, bestowed. Only an audience can do this. The opportunity to grow with a publisher is probably the purest way of proving to the world that I was meant to do this.

Then, perhaps, I will have proven it to myself.

Is He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named singing Journey or... :-0

DON’T STOP… BELIEVING!!! HOLD ON TO THAT FEEEE-lay-eee-lay-ING!!!!

Uh, yeah. Thanks Bae–err, Voldemort, err, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named!

-Whew!- Close call!

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