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Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Writing OR Jeez, Is She Going to Bitch About Another Review (Probably) OR On Writing Again!

So I'm a self-published author.

I feel obligated to announce it in a loud and blatant manner.

I'm a self-published author!

I also have one traditionally published novel.  Recently one of my writing buds asked a question in his blog about whether it was better to self-pub and continue to look for the traditional way too or to not self-pub because it would damage your cred.  Here's the link to it.  R. Mac Wheeler.  Mac is an interesting guy who writes in several genres and is trying his best to break into the field.  (I also like his writing and am looking forward to what he eventually decides to do.)  He's got some neat things to say about it.  (Also he critiqued several of my novels and although I was dinged, I do appreciate his directness.) (Not that I appreciated it the first time I read what he wrote about Bubba and the Dead Woman, but he was spot on.  Whether I like it or not.)

Incidentally, a revised version of Bubba and the Dead Woman should be soon appearing soon at all the epubbers.  Yea, corrections!  I bowed before all the people who said my overuse of commas sucked the mighty purple wang and went to town.

Back to self-pubbing versus e-pubbing.  Everyone, every writer wants to see their work in print.  It's a big deal.  It's a huge deal.  It feels good.  I still have like ten copies of Bayou Moon in hardback.  Occasionally someone will ask for a copy and I'm all like, "Hiss.  Go buy a .01 library reject on Abebooks."  These are all that are left, unless I start selling madly and St. Martin's decides to take advantage of an ambiguous contract and republishes Bayou Moon.  (By the by, when any of you budding Stephen Kings and John Grishams sign your publisher's contract, make certain that you're not signing your electronic rights away forever.  There should be some sort of time limit on e-pubbing even for the traditional publisher.  For some reason this makes them think that it's not really out of print.  Just a learning lesson for the uninitiated.  Since I signed my contract in 2001, I'm entitled to say, "Duh," because Kindle wasn't even close to a household word then.)

Here's what I did fifteen years ago.  I wrote my books.  I polished my books.  I made sure I had a synopsis and an outline.  I developed a list of literary agents who represented what I wrote.  I wrote a query letter.  I polished the query letter.  I ruminated about the query letter endlessly.  I sent out query letters.  Interestingly enough I found an agent fairly quick.  This agency who got me first wasn't the best agency around but they got me in the door.  St. Martin's picked up one of my mysteries.

Throughout the next year, I re-wrote the book for the editor.  I bent over backwards to make this woman, whom I've never met, happy.  She didn't like the original name of the book.  She didn't like the original ending of the book.  She wasn't happy about the heroine's interactions with the love interest.  This, you would understand, was my first to be published, novel.  I would have flown to New York from Texas and given this editor a hummer, if she had been a man and had thusly demanded it.  She did not and I am kidding.  I would have given her a foot massage, however.

Finally, the book was published.  Happy days.  People assumed I had it made.  I spent $10,000, which is significantly more than my advance, on publicity.  I went to book signings.  I went to book stores.  I went to mystery conventions.  I sent out press releases and notices to everyone I knew, was related to, or had ever spoken more than two words to.

The book didn't sell particularly well.  It was received all right.  It had some nice reviews from official reviewers.  Library Journal, for example, was nice to me.
The Headless Horseman and the Pumpkin wishes to interject
their thoughts on writing.  No, really.
So after much noncommunication between myself, my agent, and the editor, the editor passed on my next effort.  (She wanted another book exactly like Bayou Moon and well, only an idiot can see that the book, which is about a woman looking for her long missing mother, was amiable to a sequel that is exactly like the first one.  Who was she going to look for?  Her long missing granny?  Followed by a novel about her looking for her long missing cousin?)  I dumped my literary agent.  I wrote a couple more books and sought out a new one.

But I had been tainted.  Literary agents don't want to touch you if you previously published and it didn't sell well.  Eventually I found a really good one who was willing to take on one of my works, Shadow People.  But what I discovered about this literary agent was that she was only willing to send out about six of the manuscripts and if it didn't get picked up quickly then hasta la vista.
Okay, I know this has nothing to do with this blog, but I'm
kind of rushed for a humorous interlude.
I had become the dumped one.  Agencies with big brand names don't necessarily have author loyalty.

A few years went by and I kept plugging away.  I followed the above formula.  I wrote, I polished, I queried.  Pretty soon, the literary agents knew who I was before they read the manuscript and wouldn't even bother with me.  (That's sad.)  (Honest to God, one had a database about all the authors she had read manuscripts or partials and she quoted to me in email when I had sent her what and when.)

Then there was an interesting article in Newsweek in 2010 about self-pubbing.  It dawned on me that I didn't need to query anybody.  I didn't need to write a synopsis.  I didn't need to worry about anything except making myself happy writing.  I didn't sell well at first.  (Well, I'm still not selling well, exactly.)  But I am selling.  I ended up giving books away to draw readers in.  It was a wise decision.  Bubba and the Dead Woman still outpaces everything else.

In fact, Bubba compels readers to buy other works by myself.  One particular reader who was enthused about Bubba, however, was so appalled by The Life and Death of Bayou Billy that she/he announced that she/he/it was deleting everything of mine unread.  (Let's see.  The words 'horrendous' and 'smut' were both used in relationship to Bayou Billy.  So I gathered that the person was unhappy with the book.  But since she/he/they/whatever didn't actually 'buy' any books, I figured that they're just frustrated because they didn't read the description of the book where I WARNED folks that poopoo language was contained therein.)  (There.  There's my relatively brief reference to someone bitching about my work.)

Writers.  Writing isn't easy.  It isn't going to be a matter of just here-ya-go and people will snap it up.  I see people on smashwords all the time asking bizarre amounts of money for minuscule amounts of words.  (Some of which ARE smut and possibly could be horrendous.)  I'm not sure where they got the idea that if they published the work on smashwords then readers would descend in droves to buy their 5000 word short story about their penis for $12.99.  (Not making that one up, btw.)  I don't think self-pubbing has the poor reputation it used to have.  There are authors out there who are very good and are worth snapping up.  (I'm not saying I'm one, but I think I have potential.)  But the world I started out writing in doesn't exist anymore and the pickings are slim.

Here's the most important lesson.  There's no rule book anymore.  Literary agents can be great, if you're able to get the great ones.  (There's a few of them out there.)  But for the rest of us, we've got to wing it.

I say throw the rule book away and write your own damn rules.  Any would be writers out there, here is the message.  99% of writers work hard to do their thing.  No one will 'give' you anything.  So eff the rules and do what feels right.  (Hahaha.  I should have said write.  But it was too much of a groaner.)

10 comments:

Tommy Brownell said...

That was awesome stuff...(I say, as a writer pursuing the self-published route).

And Bubba and the Dead Woman also made me pick up Bayou Billy, which I also completely enjoyed (just saying).

If nothing else, then I'm glad you persevered and went this route so I, at least, could be entertained by your works.

traveen said...

I actually think your self publishing business model is awesome. The 'Bubba' books were the first I heard of you. I'm positive I would not have tried it if it wasn't free.. Really!

The name 'Bubba' just turned me off. Besides that, I usually read history on non-fiction. Wifey read 'Bubba and the Dead Woman' first and said it was good. So I tried it and it was a great book and a welcome relief to the civil war and 1st century history stuff I've been reading.

Then I bought Bubba and the 12 Deadly Days of Christmas'($1.99 woohoo)and liked it as well.

Then I went and got every one of your books for my Kindle, free or paid, because you proved to me that you're a good writer. I should add interesting because there's lots of "good" authors I do not like, ie: H.P. Lovcraft, C.S. Lewis.. (huh, they use their initials too?)

I confess I did not like all of your books, one I actually quite hated (really), but I am probably not your target audience with that one.

When the 3rd Bubba book is done, I'll buy that too.

Sea of Dreams, The Life and Death of Bayou Billy and The Flight of the Scarlet Tanager are next up..

Rock on,,..

Carwoo said...

Appreciate the feedback. Go Tommy on the writing. It's a great time to self-pub. And Traveen I appreciate the input from you as well. Well, Sea of Dreams is fantasy, Bayou Billy is black (very black) humor, and Tanager is suspense. Talk about three very different books to read from one author. I'd love to hear what you thought of them.

traveen said...

Will do when I finish them.

Carwoo said...

And since I just read your review of Black Moon I'm probably going to regret it. If you're easily offended you might want to pass on Bayou Billy. Just saying. ;0

Cubop1 said...

I'm presently reading Flight of the Scarlet Tanager and I can say that it is one of the most enjoyable thrillers that I have ever read. Self-publishing allows you to write in many genres while most of the big name authors are stuck doing whatever the publishers think will make megabucks which describes the philosophy of the entire entertainment industry. Which is the reason there is so much crap for sale.

Certainly there are a lot of bad authors self-publishing but it is up to the reader to discriminate and not those publishers (and others in the entertainment industry) who would tell us what we should like.

That's enough out of me. I have to get back to FOTST to see how it comes out...

Carwoo said...

Power to the capitalist! Also to self-pubbed writers. Yea, me.

Mac said...

Hey...don't know why, but your blog floated off my Reader subscriptions list. What's with that!

But I found you again.

And I'm ready to go after that runt who dissed Bayou Billy. Just give me a name. I'll hunt him down. I'll take care of him. I promise.

I'm so ready to read another of your stories.

And thanks for forgiving me for speaking at all negative about your work. You know you're my favorite.

(Jeanie and Claire...you're my favorites too, okay)

-- Mac

traveen said...

Sorry about that. I did fully explain that it might be me, that I didn't "get it". Keep in mind I did that before I knew this place existed or that you were active ehre. I will actually remove it if I can, or edit it if I cannot

For me, someone who enjoyed the Bubba books, when I didn't think I would, means (again, to me) that you're a cut above other writers. So when I read Black Moon, it was a step backwards in quality.

Let me try it like this.. Take out the supernatural element of Black Moon, no werejags etc.. and what do you have? A book that could have Fabio on the cover and nothing more. It's all been done before.. Plus, I fully admit I do not appreciate the genere'. I just kept reading because I thought somehow you'd pul it together in the end. But for me, you didn't.

Forewarned is forearmed with Bayou Billy, thanks, but in reality I am not easily offended at all.

Carwoo said...

Traveen, like I said your review wasn't the worst. There's one on amazon that has the title of something like "Her Throbbing Question," which pretty much nails my coffin shut. (You should read it, it's hilariously snarky.) Anyway, my excuse is that I was writing to please an audience (I mean Black Moon) and I only made it available for free so that I could suck in more readers. Some people like it. Some don't and that's fine. I'll continue plugging along in my own sarcastic and silly manner.