Traditional Publishing: Is It Still Possible?

Kyle, a 19-year-old writer enrolled in a BA creative writing program at a local university, posed the following query on Facebook:

Alright, so my ultimate goal is to make a living and career out of writing and publishing books. I want to do it the traditional way of going through a literary agent who will establish a contract with a respective publishing company. The tricky part is getting a foot in the door. Agents receive query letters every day from hundreds of people trying to get themselves out there. The agent needs to see something that separates a writer from the rest, someone they know has credentials and can market. This is usually done through building some sort of resume and getting published in minor places like magazines and online sites, contests and whatnot. I am working on my BA in Creative Writing which I will receive from Salisbury. I’m hoping to get published somewhere somehow along the way, so by the time I have my degree, my resume will speak for itself in the query letter. At the same time, I’m toying with the idea of somehow getting an agent sooner, though it is a very long shot. I have a 4 book series I would be presenting, something I’ve been working on for 2 1/2 years, recently turning 19. The original novel, which was just supposed to be a linear story, is now a complete universe with a working prequel, sequel, and a bridge between the original and sequel following a new character and his overlap with the main plot. In addition to this, I’m working on a complete summary of the series, starting with all relevant background information of the universe, following into the prequel and going from there.

Kyle, the good news is that you are doing all the right things, and I believe you have a bright future ahead of you. Let’s break this down and see why.

Traditional publishing is getting harder to crack every day. You would think just the opposite would be true, as so many people are turning to Print-On-Demand (POD) and digital (eBook) publishing. Surely the traditional publishers would be searching far and wide for writers to stick with the “old way” of publishing books, wouldn’t they?

Well, it all comes down to numbers — dollar signs, to be exact. The increase in digital publishing also means a decrease in readers actually buying print books. The Go Green movement has made it fashionably correct to stick to the digital downloads and avoid the bulky books that get tossed on a stack of other used books somewhere in the corner of your bedroom.

Therefore, traditional publishers are being very choosy about what and who they publish. Here’s why Kyle is doing all the right things.

First, he is young. At 19, Kyle is seen as a long-term investment for an agent who wants to establish a relationship with an author. The younger the talented writer, the more opportunities for multi-book deals, which leads us to the next advantage.

Second, Kyle has a four-book plan to pitch. In fiction, agents want to see a polished manuscript of at least one book in a series, with detailed outlines of subsequent books in a trilogy or series. The outlines must demonstrate to the agent that the writer understands the bigger picture of a four-book deal, where he can see a greater story spanning four books, yet each book has its own self-contained story. The multi-book deal shows the agent and the publisher that this is an investment. Think of the hottest books on the market in the last ten years; most of them are part of a series, and serial books mean big money in merchandising, film, and (of course) digital downloads.

Third, Kyle understands the game. He knows that he has to stuff a folder with “clips” of published stories to demonstrate two things: 1) validation from other reputable publications and 2) continuity and consistency. Kyle should be sending out shorter works of fiction at least every other month, if not more frequently. He needs to demonstrate that he can manage the business side of writing as well as the creative side. This is where most writers fail. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to see that this is a business. There is no such thing as “Writer’s Block” to a professional writer. As David Simon once wrote about his own father, I have no more right to say that I have writer’s block than my father has to say, I have milkman’s block. He would never get away with skipping a delivery because he couldn’t find his creative muse; not delivering means not working; not working means not getting paid. If you want to be a writer, you have to work hard and deliver the product. Consistently.

Fourth, Kyle has created a universe that opens up endless possibilities with spinoffs, sequels, fan fiction — you name it. Agents and publishers love it when the author makes it this easy for them. Kyle and his writing have dollar signs written all over them.

Of course, without saying, the writing has to be very, very good. Not great, but very very good. Clear, crisp, and concise writing sells books. Tell a good, clean story, and demonstrate the ability to do it again and again, is the golden ticket to success in the traditional market.

Now, Kyle would be wise to consider both traditional and digital markets for getting published now. Many reputable traditionals publish additional works online, and many more reputable journals have gone all digital. It does not mean that their criteria for publishing have changed; it just means that they have the opportunity to, perhaps, publish a few more works than they might have had the money to publish traditionally.

Also, Kyle needs to begin networking at local and regional conferences, where agents are sitting on panels, serving as keynotes, or leading strategic workshops. He needs to pitch his ideas concisely and convincingly. He should have business cards printed with his contact information, and the card should pop, but in a professional way (in addition– Kyle needs to make sure that all of his contact info is simple and as close to his name as possible; abandon creative email addresses that have nothing to do with you [and thus won’t ever be associated with your name]).

As Kyle gains momentum in getting his work published and finds an agent, his works will logically flow into a hybrid stream of publishing opportunities in both traditional and digital platforms.

Good luck to you, Kyle, and all others who still believe in traditional publishing. It’s still possible to make it as a full-time writer; it just takes a lot of work and a good amount of talent.

Is Brevity Replacing A Writer’s Sensibility?

Writers are being forced to think too much these days (I think), and they are facing a danger that is both very real and damaging to the relationship between reader and writer.

Because of the changes in how we spend our time reading stories, not to mention how we read them in the first place, writers are working desperately to keep a captive audience — not an easy thing to do with so much writing now available so freely and immediately.

Do I focus on search-engine optimization (SEO)? What about word count? What does my target audience (who is that anyway anymore?) really want?Ā  What is going to hold my reader more than 90 seconds, when their finger is perched precariously on the tip of the mouse, ready to click me into oblivion as the search continues for something more entertaining?

With the exception of SEO and the ease of maneuvering from one piece of writing to the next, all with a click of the mouse, the questions I pose for writers above are no different than what writers have been asking themselves for decades. We still want to write for an audience that understands what we are saying, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it.

But how to do that?

It is precisely due to the ease of leaving your work that makes writers more desperate to hold on to your attention. Before blogs and search engines and RSS feeds, we just had to tease them enough to buy the darn thing. Once they got it in their hands, they gave us a fair chance — maybe a few chapters or up to 100 pages — before they made a decision to keep on reading or line the birdcage with its ripped-out pages.

In that desperation, I think we are sacrificing sensibility, the very essence of a writer’s passion for writing the piece in the first place. We are so concerned about getting to the point very quickly that we do not allow our purpose, our intent, to build in the story.

This is why, I think, we are seeing “flash fiction” and similar nonfiction subgenres continuing to emerge as a legitimate form of writing. How quickly can you get to your point and share that sensibility before you reach your last-allowed 750th word? At times, I feel like I’m reading stories that are more suited to fit in the microwave-ready Lean Cuisine dish.

Sure, these stories/meals are good on-the-go, but is it really possible to establish and sustain long-lasting and filling themes with such a diet?

As I wrap up the final edits on my book that goes to the printer next week for a December 9th release, I know that one of the best things going for me is that the story is short — a mere 51,000 words that barely pushes the 200-page mark.

But I am also making sure that, to the best of my ability, I didn’t compromise sensibility in keeping it short.

I guess it comes down to this. Go ahead and microwave my story, but please set aside the afternoon to enjoy the sliced turkey and corn niblets. I hope that what I have to share takes a little time to digest. šŸ™‚

We Are Writing More Than Ever, Or Are We?

On the surface, I should be really excited about this ever-evolving global explosion with writing. In fact, the statistics are nothing short of staggering.

In February 2011, The Nielsen Company documented over 156Ā million public blogs in existence. In 2009, 1.5 trillion text messages were sent or were received ( According to Facebook’s statistics page (accessed at the time of this posting), there are more than 750 million active users, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook, and they share more than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) each month.Twitter, by its own claim, boasts that members are now posting in excess of 200 million tweets a month.

People are using writing and social networking to communicate more than ever before.

Consider the following passage from Jeremy Norman:

If we go back to the end of World War II in 1945, the year in which telegraphic use peaked in the United States, Americans sent 236 billion telegraph messages that year, seeming a huge number relative to U. S. population at the time. With respect to the amount of information transferred, numbers may be deceptive since telegraph messages were charged for by the word, and tended to be exceptionally brief, while the amount of text, audio and video information that can be transferred or exchanged in one minute on the Internet is incomparably greater than the amount of text that could be exchanged in the same time by telegraph. Because of the availability of increasingly rich and diverse information over wireless networks, the nature of telecommunication has changed. As of May 2010, cell phones, used by about 90% of American households, were used more for data, such as text messages, streaming video and music, than speech, and during 2008 to 2010 the average number of voice minutes per user in the United States fell. In his book, The Information. A Theory. A History. A Flood (2011, p. 395), James Gleick quotes Jaron Lanier dramatically describing the scale of the ever-accelerating flood of electronic information we are experiencing: “It’s as if you kneel to plant the seed of a tree and it grows so fast that it swallows your whole town before you can even rise to your feet.” (“From Cave Paintings to the Internet”

Finally! People are writing more than they are speaking to communicate! After all these years, the written word has become king of the communication hill!

Or has it?

It seems to me that quantity has nothing to do with quality here, and in fact — all this “writing” is actually working against the production of any meaningful and significant written correspondence or communication that will survive a cache-clearing data dump of trivial information. We’re so caught up in instant communication in under 160 characters that we’re skimming the waves of our life experience. We are losing our ability to kill the motor, sink in the waters of who we are and what we feel, and share that with others in a meaningful way.

One staff writer for the Independent , who wrote an article on the state of love letters in the 21st century, posted this question last February:

Do people send each other love letters any more? Or is the exchange of amorous declarations between partners now forever delegated to the insulting greetings card, the fluffy-bunny message in newspaper classifieds, the wholly unpassionate email, the economical salutation of the text message?

The documentation of our lives, as only we can accurately record it through our own experiences, is becoming nothing more than an eWhisper, a vanishing trademark of communication that leaves us with nothing but the news, so immediately reported that we have little time to think or react to an event before the next breaking story pushes the previous one from our memories.

I am not totally discouraged. I was reduced to tears this summer when a fellow writer/teacher taught us all the art of digital storytelling, and how we can empower our students to do the same in the classroom. The integration of writing and images can be a powerful thing, and such historical documentation in a simple, digital format was not possible just a few years ago.

But I think this is the exception and not the rule. Even before programs like iMovie came along, there wasn’t a whole lot of non-digital storytelling going on either, which leads me to believe that the technology explosion is not necessarily killing all aspects of writing; it is simply revealing the ugliness of our society’s negligence in writing authentically.

We can change that. We can help each other turn off our motors and sink into the genuineness of our being.

The first step is to recognize the absolute importance of our existence, as well as the documentation of our understanding of the world around us.

Hard? I guess so. As Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard; the hard is what makes it great.”

So who’s with me? Let’s accept that challenge, turn off the tweets and the updates, and sink a little. Then write.

I wonder what we’ll begin to discover . . . .



Stay in the stream?

Distractions, distractions, distractions….

I am guilty of inviting them, these distractions. I interact with Facebook friends on an hourly basis at times, especially when I am engaged in a rather exciting experience. Earlier this week, My wife and I took our two younger children for a Light Rail tour of Baltimore, stopping on three of the stops and exploring coffee houses, museums, and the lure of Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor. Along the way, I updated my Facebook status, “checked in” at each location, and uploaded pictures of each site.

In many ways, I felt as if my Facebook Friends were with us during the entire day-long trip.

I was the one who invited you. Nobody asked me to take them along. I just jumped in the stream and paddled with the current.

I am so happy and disgusted with this stream for so many reasons. I am not a black/white person; I believe in variations of gray, where flexibility and participation runs on an experience-by-experience basis. But I don’t think I have ever faced such a love/hate relationship with two extremes in my life.

I click on any of the news feeds, and I am bombarded with unspeakable tragedies–all in my own back yard. I click over to Facebook and agonize over status updates and how others are doing. I am both comforted by being in touch and overwhelmed by the stream of information that sustains this pulse with the rest of the world.

By doing this, though, I lose my own pulse and struggle with le seul mot juste, that one precise word that I can no longer find to capture my dizzying thoughts that have lost their ability to just slow down enough to appreciate the simple movement of the Earth.

Just the other day I had breakfast with a good friend, and I expressed to him the agony of trying to wrap up my book and get it out to the public. I have wrote and rewrote and revised and edited and changed and destroyed and recreated the ending dozens of times. And now, I find myself right back where I started when I had first drafted the ending. All of that rewriting–and for what? Was my motive to find the right words for me? For what I wanted to say? Or was it to please my readers? To give them what they wanted?

My friend reminded me that I cannot be bothered by any of that. As artists, as writers, as creators, we must work with and share what is the most authentic and genuine reflection of ourselves, whether it be fiction, fact, watercolor, or pastels. I nearly ripped out my hair when he said these words, the very same that I have been preaching for the last 20 years to writing students and colleagues. Why is it so hard for us to follow our own advice?

I know that if I unplug to find and retain my own pulse, then I risk losing that other pulse of the stream that feeds me.

But is that so true? Spending so much time in the virtual world has cost me time with one of the best people I know, and I miss our unplugged meetings at the Bean Hollow in Ellicott City. Facebook has reunited me with another wonderful person in my world who now lives in Maine, but would it be so hard for us to write letters? Call each other? Actually make plans to travel north for the first time 17 years?

When I visited the Walters Art Museum a few days ago, I thought of the time, energy, and commitment–discipline–it took to create those paintings, statues, and sculptures. We treasure these findings because they represent those individuals’ unique perspective on their time period–but collectively, the lot of them gives us a greater understanding of the struggles, the imperfections as well as the interplay between life and love, between love and war, between war and peace.

Do we have such depth anymore? What will be in our museum in 2,000 years? Status updates and cool pictures that have been rendered and manipulated by high-tech, low-cost apps that do all the work for us?

Where is the individuality? The hard work? The unique perspective that is not being filtered by some money-making program created by some individual who, like every other developer, is just trying to make our lives easier.

I don’t know if I want your help going down the stream. I don’t know if I want you to make my paddles of the finest wood or plastic. I don’t even know if I want your 21st-century kayaks and canoes that have been tested, thousands of times, to ensure my journey will be both thrilling and safe.

I don’t even know if I like this stream at all. But O! The pressures to stay with the current! To keep up and swim with the masses! I know Emerson wrote that the Great Man is he who can keep the sweetness of solitude with him in the heart of the city. But really, Ralph–did you ever imagine it would be this crazy? Thoreau would walk into town daily to meet with friends and buy his day’s groceries, but he never did his writing immersed in such travels. The distractions were isolated by physical spaces and distances. Today, we are tracked (and we track ourselves) by technology. Any lapse in response to text messages, emails, or the antiquated phone message casts immediate concern and inquiry. Where were you? Didn’t you get my message? Why didn’t you respond? You didn’t have 20 seconds to reply? What was so important that you couldn’t have answered?

Distractions, distractions, distractions.

We are living lives tied by the needs and desires of others, stuck in this whirlwind of what-do-you-thinks and why-didn’t-anybody-responds… (Guilty. Right now. Wondering who will comment, if anybody, and whether this post will click with my intended audience. Whether I will get support and encouragement to leave the stream. Whether this will be a popular decision. Absolutely guilty.)

Hey–I’ve already damned my connection with my reader at this point. I’m over 1,000 words, and most people won’t read beyond the 25-word blurb posted on Facebook’s status feed anyway.

(Have I offended thee, reader? Are you feeling insulted that I have lumped you in with the masses that I am railing against now? Please, do not be offended. I do none of these things. I merely write to understand this struggle within to stay with the masses while staying in my own waters.)

Even with these words, I am concerned with my reader, concerned that I have offended in my own struggles to understand this raging battle between the desire to please and the necessity to create.

I do not believe that an authentic life is possible blending these two. The Sweetness of Solitude can only come when one has learned fully who he is.

Distractions, distractions, distractions.

Will I (or any of us in this new era of distractions) ever be able to accomplish such a feat in our lifetime?



2011/365/058: Write Anything

Today marks my first post on Write Anything, an international website by writers, for writers helping people from all over the world and of all ages to, well, write anything. I’m honored to be a contributing writer, and I’ll be encouraging writers of all ability and experience levels to delve into the genre of creative nonfiction (personal essay, memoir specifically) and, as a result, live more authentically in everything else they do.

The first thing I encourage writers to do in my opening post is to write first for themselves. Because so much emphasis in our society has been placed on the final product (and then on what you did wrong in that final product), we’re taught to shy away from any type of writing in fear of judgment, failure, and all-out ridicule.

The truth is, though, that for most people who write, they share maybe 10% to 15% of what they write with a larger audience, if that. Yep– 85% to 90% of what we write never makes it to an audience bigger than one.

That’s not the way writing is taught in school, though. Nearly every writing assignment we offer our students is product-based with a pending evaluation. Although there is sound reasoning for assessment on some pieces, I think schools have really missed the opportunity to allow our children to embrace writing as a tool for discovery, exploration, risk-taking, and decision-making.

Instead, we send our young learners the message that writing is–and will always be–an evaluative reflection of yourself. There is no room for “shitty first drafts” as Anne Lamott calls them in her book Bird By Bird. There’s not even room for raw writing, brain drains, freewrites, or reflections that are just between the writer and the page. Everything, it seems, has to be evaluated.

Therein lies the inherent flaw, ladies and gentlemen. If everything we write faces evaluation, we will always consider writing as a tool by which others will judge us. We will not take risks. We will not challenge conventions. We will not write outside the lines. We need better-than good grades nowadays for colleges to even consider keeping our applications in the Maybe We’ll Consider You pile. There’s no time to be ourselves; it’s all about going through the hoops and generating the generically approved product that demonstrates little more than our ability to follow instructions and play nicely with others.

Writing is so much more than that. As individuals, as human beings for goodness sake, we need to get out of the ruts of manufactured writing and blaze a new path that embraces writing as a genuine tool for growth, understanding, and authentic living.

I hope you follow me and the other writers at Write Anything. This site is for all of us who still have the courage to pick up a pen and spend a few minutes scribbling on some parchment. And don’t worry. We don’t track you, follow you, or have any expectations except one: that you will write, and that you will trust yourself as the sole owner of those words.

Gaining Experiences

My friend recently returned from a trip to the west coast. Business carried him there, but his real mission was to gain the experience of driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, reflect a bit on his life, ponder the passing of his father just a few months ago, and work on a longer piece of fiction that he’s been sketching out for the last year or so. While he was out there, he was immersed in experience, removed from his rather provincial lifestyle on the east coast, where a lifetime of Baltimore sunrises and sunsets has made life pretty predictable.

He stepped out of his element and gained some rather rich experiences; now he has the rightful joy of doing something productive with them.

That’s the prize for writers who go after those experiences. They have a frame, a story — they have a place for all of those analogies, metaphors, and pent-up emotions that have been rattling around in their minds and scattered recklessly on the countless pages of their daybooks.

Some of these experiences we don’t ask for — the death of a loved one, a health crisis we face (or a loved one faces), or sudden situations where we are forced to make a critical decision. Did you lose your job, a victim of this horrible economy? Did your spouse leave you, letting the world know by making it “Facebook Official” and posting it in his or her latest status update? These are the experiences that no one really wants to write about. Yet, they are so genuine, so compelling, that we, as writers, feel it our duty to write. Our readers, equally compelled, simply can’t put down a good true story.

Writers, though, can’t wait for the inevitables to happen for good material. I’ve written ad-nauseum about the deaths of my father and mother, but they were such rich experiences that I had to do it. The problem is, for a long time, that’s all that I did write about. Most of the stories that we have “in” us deal with the loss of a loved one. Again — there’s nothing wrong with writing about these things. I not only support writing toward healing, I think it is a powerful community for those grieving when they can read the words of somebody else who is struggling with, working through, or emerging from the death of a loved one. And — let’s be honest. It’s one of the few things most, if not all, of us are going to face in our lifetimes. Everybody can relate on one level or another.

Some of the greatest works that have been written in the last fifty years have been personal accounts about tragedies — the Holocaust, Viet Nam, 9/11, the Persian Gulf Wars, domestic terrorism, and the list goes on. There is, sadly, no shortage of individuals who have lived through these horrific events. They need to tell their stories, not only for themselves, but for the ever-woven fabric of our country’s history. Their words are contributions to the evolving refinement of the definition of America. They cannot go unwritten, for it is another tragedy when such personal histories find a permanent, silent home six feet underground.

The experience that my friend had riding that west-coast highway was not inevitable. He took the initiative to create a new experience, a new story to carry those metaphors and emotions. This is a trend that I am seeing with younger individuals, beginning when they enter college. Many 4-year colleges and universities are requiring students to spend at least one semester abroad. If nothing else, these experiences are breaking the travel taboo that we can’t leave our borders, especially in this post-9/11 society. More young adults seem to be traveling to Europe, the UK, South America, and Africa long after that obligatory semester abroad has been fulfilled. The experiences they are obtaining are rich and should be shared, documented, woven into our American history books.

I find that it is harder for middle-agers to do this. We find that, for the most part, our lives are guided by the overbooked lives of our children or the needs of our elders. If we are not rushing to soccer fields, swim meets, and gymnastics competitions, we are fighting for our parents’ rights to receive certain medical treatments that will provide a certain quality of life that, otherwise, would be impossible. We are working two, sometimes three jobs, to make ends meet now. Our experiences, hardly tragic, are still being governed by other forces that are seemingly out of our control.

Writers, I think, need to push themselves to get out and gain those experiences, find those stories that are lurking around more corners than the trendy cafes we rush to write in. Though they do provide a better setting and a block of time to write (has a hot cup of coffee replaced the trusty 15-minute smoke break?), there’s littleĀ  or no experience you get out of it.

We need to get away from our laptops, our iPads, our Droids, our desktops and meet new people, face-to-face, and hear their stories. We need to resume asking “What If?” instead of pondering “Why Me?” We need to put ourselves in places where life is breathing stories. There needs to be Intent. Direction. Purpose.

In other words, the writer’s mantra of “butt in chair” no longer means a damn thing if he doesn’t get butt out of chair and live an intended life.

Don’t wait for the experiences to come to you. Get up, get out, and find them. Then, be sure to let us all know — every last detail. We need it now, and our readers of tomorrow are depending on it.

Don’t Teach Me; Thrill Me

One of the things that divides me as a writer (hence, the title of this blog) is how much–if at all–I “teach” my readers any valuable lessons. Much of my past writing in this blog has been didactic in nature, asking you semi-philosophic questions about how we live our lives. The response has been great, and I appreciate that.

There’s a place and time for that, too. I wouldn’t change anything about the blog entries I’ve posted.

Where I am now, though, with Cold Rock, is exactly the opposite of where I started this story a few years ago. The first draft was filled with teach-mes, and the climax was supposed to be some kind of self-applicable, reader-relevant lesson about coming to Christ, religion, and/or the spiritual side.

What I’ve come to realize is that Cold Rock needs to be about none of these things. In fact, it needs to be much more thrill, and much less teach.

I was working on one of the later chapters yesterday, at the pool, and I could hear my inner censor pointing out to me that I was heading back toward that dreaded teach-me-a-lesson zone. I could feel the pull of the teach-me writer within, followed by the thrill-me writer shouting warnings of what will happen if I go too far down that teachable road.

Fortunately, thrill-me won, and I got back on track. But I’m not going to lie to you. It’s in (half) my nature to write like this. I am a generally positive person who wants others to be happy.Ā  I’d be a liar if I said anything differently. I want to teach you something. It’s why I’m a teacher (I guess, right?).

One of the main reasons why I decided to Thrill instead of Teach is because of feedback I received, oddly enough, about a Miley Cyrus song called, “The Climb.” I found it on YouTube by accident, and I loved it. I loved the lyrics, the melody, the video. Everything. I asked my 14-year-old daughter what she thought, fully expecting her to say something like, “I love the song, but it’s annoying that you like it. So I guess I hate it now.”

She said nearly all of that: “I [hate] the song, [and] it’s annoying that you like it. I hate it [even more] now.”

Or something like that. I remember a lot of annoyings and hates. I certainly got the message.

I went to school the next day and asked some of the kids who were just a little older–15 – 17. What did they think of “The Climb”?

Hate. Annoying. Yeah.

Same thing. So I went further. I dared to ask the ultimate follow-up question: Why?

More Annoyings. More Hates. And then this:

“I don’t want a message. I want good music that thrills me.”

Back to the Thrill Ride.

So that’s where I am now, with Cold Rock.

Did I tell you that I’ve been reading these Patricia Cornwell novels? The Kay Scarpetta series? I’m on Book Four now, Cruel and Unusual. Love them. Devour them. Don’t remember much about them a week after I finish them.

A sign of good fiction? A good thrill without the teach? I’m not sure. But I do know that I am thrilled enough to buy the next book, and the next, and the next.

Exactly what I want to do for my readers. Thrill. Entertain. Make them want to come back for more. Not to be told how to live their lives or be better people. But for the thrill ride.

I’ll end with this: I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, and I’ll state it here again. My good friend Brad gave me some great advice: If it’s not a how-to book, don’t instruct.


Productive Day

I feel….well, I feel like I have a connection with you, Constant e-Reader. And so I just wanted to let you know that I had a productive day today.

I am back on Twitter and establishing some good correspondence with other writers, and I spent a great deal of time researching the realities of publishing.

My press, Ravenwater, is working hard to get the word out about our first release, I’m Still Trying To Figure It All Out Myself… by Larry Cohen. We are developing a digital copy of his book, which will be available for the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, and all other portable reading devices. We’re working hard to get his book distributed nationally through Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

The truth is, it’s just damn hard to get your book picked up and circulating beyond your circle of friends, colleagues, and close community members.

Yet, I wonder, is that bad?

The small press and self-publishing boom has afforded writers opportunities to see their stories in print when, in all likelihood, they would be thrown into the slush pile of those larger publishing houses. It’s not a reflection on the quality of writing. It’s just that national agents and publishers are looking for that one book that fits all of their needs–primarily financial ones–that they are willing to take a risk on. SO many variables to consider: history (and future) of writer, predicted appeal for the story in a year’s time (following predicted trends), multimedia spinoffs (to bring in additional income), and international appeal.

Most of us wouldn’t score too well with those variables. And, even if we did, it’s still a crap shoot about whether you will be the “chosen one” that the publisher wants to take the chance on.

This is why I believe in the small presses. We need to be realistic about our publishing successes. But it does mean that we are published, and we have shared our words with the people in our community (and perhaps a little beyond).

I’m skeptical of any other definitions of success. To me, this is about as good as it gets.

So go ahead and write that story. Chances are good there’s a small press out there that’s wanting to help you share your words. . . .