Sunday, February 17, 2019

Publish traditionally, or indie, or with smaller publishers?

There are proponents of traditional publishing (Big Five) and proponents of Indie publishing and proponents of small publishers.

I rarely read the views of any writer who hasn't taken a side.

As both a bookstore owner and a writer, and as someone who has been traditionally published and published by small publishers and published Indie (that is, by myself), I've been open to all possibilities, without closing the door on any of them. I've now been published by 8 different publishers (!)

2 publishers were/are traditional, and 6 were/are smaller, independent publishers.

But the data is starting to accumulate and I think I can come to some conclusions.

First of all, there is no doubt that smaller publishers are better for me than having no publishers at all, despite the fact I have to share the revenues. I'm not great at self-promotion. I never will be--because I have no intention of doing that. So a small publisher garners better results than anything I can do by myself. The smaller publishers have been responsible for getting some of my books in audio form, as well as in manuscript form. I've gotten a Bookbub out of it. I've gotten editing and covers without me having to pay for it.

Secondly, I still publish occasionally by myself--short stories, especially--and I may someday put out some books under a penname that don't quite fit the "Duncan McGeary" moniker.

I would very much encourage anyone who wants to write a book to take self-publishing seriously. It's not like the old vanity press. Ebooks cost nothing at all, if you can do the cover and editing. Even physical books only cost the paper and ink for however many copies you want to do. I highly recommend it.

But since I've already embarked down the road with small publishers, that's the direction I'll continue to pursue.

Third: That leaves traditional publishers. Almost any imprint you can think of is owned by five different corporations--or if not owned, they distribute.

I kinda still wanted that to happen. So when one of them approached me, I spent a few years trying to write a book he might like. He finally took one, but as a ghostwritten book. That is, my manuscript would come out under another writer's name. This author inhabits the Top Ten bestseller lists almost every week I check. The advance was pretty good.

But that's not why I sold the book. The editor more or less implied that if I wrote a good book in the thriller genre he would publish it under my own name.

I sent him 3 different books and never got so much as an answer.

The first was "Deadfall Ridge," which I rather thought passed muster. The second book was one I haven't released yet--"Takeover." The third book was "Shadows over Summer House" (which admittedly turned a little supernatural halfway through as I realized that the editor wasn't serious about publishing me.)

Meanwhile, the ghostwritten book sits there year after year with nothing happening.

So that's it. No more attempts at traditional publishing. No attempts at an agent (pretty much a prerequisite if you want to be traditionally published.)

Now there are tons of reasons I could talk about--the lack of timeliness, the lack of control, the giving the rights away forever...all that--but I'll give you the main reason.

At a minimum, a little bit of communication would have been nice. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Anvil on the head. Bong!

 Like Wiley Coyote, I'm still here. But unlike Wiley Coyote I'm introspective about it. So I'm still trying to take it in.

I always wondered what would happen if I had a wake-up call like this. Would I respond by suddenly becoming motivated to get everything done?

The opposite seems to have happened--at least so far. I'm totally enervated. No motivation at all. Wasting away the hours and days. Doing nothing.

I've always been prone to that. I spent my youth with my Mom goosing me to go outside, to do something, to joins clubs, to make friends, to do SOMETHING! If I was left alone long enough, I sat and read and watched old movies and daydreamed the day away.

So, for the moment, I'm allowing myself that.

I've always hated the concept of the Bucket List. It seems empty to me. Pointless.

One thing about the empty time is that it gives me time to be creative. But this time off has made me wonder what I should do with that creativity.

Keep on doing what I was doing? Do something else?

I've just decided to let myself molder this time, at least for awhile.

It was a pretty big anvil.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Post Anvil-on-the head thoughts.

How did I get so lucky?

My wife, Linda, is the nicest person I've ever met. I used to joke that I was waiting for the "dark side" to emerge. It never has. Instead she has only deepened and matured in my eyes.

When my Mom was sick, Linda was hired by my family to take care of her. One particularly trying day, I walked in ahead of Linda and my Mom sat up and said, "Where's Linda? I want Linda! Linda is an angel!"

Now I tell this story because I completely and totally understood what Mom was saying and in fact often have the exact same reaction.

Linda is, in fact, an angel. She glows kindness and caring. All I have to do is think of her and I feel comforted.

When I met her she wasn't in any way what I'd had in mind. But I knew instantly that she was what I wanted and needed and I was going to be everything I could be to keep her with me forever. That feeling has never changed. There has never been a moment's doubt that she was the right one for me.

I didn't know then just how steadfast and funny and interesting and solid-to-the-core she was too.

I'm utterly amazed that I ended up with her. And that she still loves me after 35 years.

This is much sappier than I generally allow myself to say.

But it's what I've always felt.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Anvil on my head.

Sorry I haven't written anything in a few days. Kind of had a big life event that has thrown me for a loop. After much pondering, I've decided that it is a black swan event and not something I want to distract from the way I'm living my life. Suffice to say, I'm fine, my wife and kids are fine, the store is fine. Everything is fine.

So after 45 days, "Deadfall Ridge" is starting to turn back into a pumpkin. That is, I think it won't be long before it is selling at more or less the same pace as my other books.

My most recent review is a pretty good summation of how it works:

"A Very Pleasant Surprise. Didn’t know the author, never heard of the book but took a chance. It was an excellent story and hard to put down."

See, that's just it. "Didn't know the author"--and who does? "Took a chance"--and who does? Then the actual reaction to the book itself...

I don't know if there is any way around that. People need reassurance--so they gravitate to the authors they know, or at least authors they've heard good things about. I'm not sure that will ever change.

BookBook is an equalizer for sure, but it's pretty hard to get accepted. 

It was fun to watch.

Meanwhile, I've decided to forego my pride and try to get the major publisher to do something with the book I sold them. I've offered to buy it back. I've offered it under my own name at a much smaller advance. I've offered it to them to do whatever changes they choose.

The sticking point is at this point in my life I don't want to get bogged down in doing major rewrites of a book I finished 3 or 4 years ago.

But it doesn't seem to matter. I get no answer, even though they've paid me a significant chunk of money at the first advance. To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they're ultra busy, or maybe they've had an "anvil on their head" too. Heh. 

My writing has definitely slowed down. I knew it had to happen eventually. I was at a fever pitch for two years, then very steady for another year, then diligent for the next two years. Without diligence, I too turn into a pumpkin. 

But Oh My, I really got a lot done there for awhile.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Day One.

I didn't write yesterday. Instead went into town and worked at the store a little.

Today I'm determined to write on "Ruby Red and the Robot," no matter what. I'm going to sequester myself in my room and not come out until I've done at least 1500 words. No excuses.

There is nothing ahead of me for the next few months so I can concentrate on writing, writing, writing.


Well, I did try. I spent about six hours in my room struggling with it, trying to latch into the story. I believe I have found the trigger--it's more a love story than anything else. That plus turning it into a novella and I'm determined to finish it. 

I'm satisfied with my effort. But it may take me awhile to get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Back to writing.

It doesn't get much better than this. 60 degrees, sun shining, no one about. Just me and the lava rocks and Juniper trees. It is half the battle. Being a writer means being housebound unless you take steps to overcome that. For me, just going out and walking an hour in the woods everyday takes care of the problem. If I can write along the way, so much the better.

Starting up writing again tomorrow. I'm going to finish off "Ruby Red and the Robot" first, then turn to my new Virginia Reed novel. While I'm finishing the novella, I'm going to take part of each day assembling the ingredients I need for the VR book. I don't do outlines, but I do try to have at least a hazy grasp of what terrain I'm going to use, what supernatural element is, what characters, what theme, a little bit of plot. I have to make sure I have enough paint to cover the walls.

Ruby Red was a good example of when I just start writing a story without a real idea of where it is going. Sometimes that works--"Eden's Return" is a good example, but sometimes I come up short.

So it's back to my usual schedule. 1500 to 2000 words a day. Try to finish the VR book by the end of March, set it aside for a month, come back to it in May and try to have it done by the end of that month.

While I'm taking the month away from it, rewrite "Eden's Return" and have that ready by May.

So I'm hoping.

I drank two beers on Monday, and two beers on Wednesday, and I felt even that much. Didn't sleep well, indigestion, feeling bloated. Plus my jaws are sore so I must having been clenching my teeth. I simply can't afford to grind my teeth anymore.

Damn, I just can't drink. Not because I don't want to, but because the physical cost is just too high for me. Besides, I've been losing weight simply by only eating when I'm hungry, and alcohol is empty calories.

My new walking spot is saving me at least a couple bucks a day. Instead of having to fill the tank every couple of weeks, I'm having to do it only once a month. It's weird, but the traffic benefits of Redmond are significant, as I'm reminded every time I drive into Bend. It's just quieter, slower paced.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and the starving artist.

Linda and I went to see "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" the best movie I've seen this year. Certainly Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant deserve the recognition they're getting.

You should especially see this if you are involved in the arts, professionally or just for fun, but especially if you're trying to forge a career.

I often wonder what would have happened if I'd continued my earlier "career" in writing. I wrote 7 books over about 5 years, the first 3 of which were published for small advances and the 6th that was nearly accepted by the biggest editors at major publishing houses. I certainly intended to keep writing.

As it happened, I was working as a landscaper--more a glorified lawn mower; this at a time when there weren't all that many "landscapers" in Bend. I found the time to write when I was doing that job.

At the same time, I was working part-time at the Pegasus Books.

Now the truth is, I was already slowing way down on my writing. I'd married Linda, took on two stepsons, and was trying hard to earn money. When the opportunity came up to buy Pegasus Books, I went ahead. I naively thought that working in a bookstore would give me time to write.


It goes to show how iffy I thought writing was that I thought owning a small business was less risky. But being an owner meant I had more control over my fate. It had objective measures of success or failure--either I made the money to pay my bills or I didn't.

With writing, who knows? Who decides? Not necessarily the writer.

So what would have happened if I'd just kept the lawn mowing jobs and kept writing?

I already had some really pernicious habits, which were only getting worse. I was also terribly naive for the age. I was 32 years old, but I'd spent all of my twenties in the limbo of taking medication for my depression. It was as if 10 years had been taken out of my life; I certainly had less real-life experiences than most people my age.

The writing I'd done up to the time had revived me, given me hope, and led me to Linda, Pegasus Books, and all the rest. But I wasn't very mature about it. I would always send stuff out before it was ready, always with the thought that it was "good enough."

So who knows? Maybe I could have gotten a career out of it.

But what if I hadn't? What's interesting about the real person behind the Melissa McCarthy character in the movie is that she'd been relatively successful earlier on, with a best selling biography on her resume. But her third book was a flop and that seemed to pretty much end her career. (Her personality didn't help--but I can draw a parallel to my own personality at the time; I would have had an equally hard time fitting in.)

From all I hear, this "What have you done lately" demand is even more omnipresent in today's publishing world.

In the movie, the writer is 51 years old and broke, completely demoralized. So she starts forging letters of famous literary figures.

So here's the thing. At the age of 32, I'd already projected myself into the future as a "writer" and it was a pretty intimidating thing. I knew professional writers well into their careers who were barely getting by. I knew that I wasn't going to be playing the game, that I was going to be depending on the books selling themselves (as ever, a dubious proposition.)

We always hear about the big successes. How often do we hear about those who went all in and came up short?

I have a theory that many artists hit that point somewhere in their late twenties and early thirties. Time to get serious about making a living.

I'm glad I didn't try. Not because I don't think I could have succeeded --that would have been a crapshoot but I am damned persistent, so maybe.

But owning the store gave me confidence in other directions, and most importantly exposed me to other people on a regular basis, which for a loner like me was a godsend. I hate to think how isolated I might have become if I was sitting at home writing every day.

Even now, that's a little bit of a problem. I need ways to get out there among people, and fortunately, I still own my store.

I'm also free of the need to make a living to make my "art." Time isn't really a problem. I dove in with renewed creative energy and will have at least 20 published books in the same time it took me to write 7 books the first time.

I have a lot of respect for those artists who keep on trying. It's a hell of a gamble.