Friday, April 4, 2014

Remember When Writing Was Fun?

Let's face it. There's so many pressures now when it comes to the writing proposition. A writer twenty years ago: a writer. A writer today: a writer, an editor, a marketer, an online technology expert... Through it all, the thing that's easiest to get lost in the shuffle is that you started out writing because it was fun!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Editors

Yes, it's a riff on the famous Shakespeare line about killing all the lawyers, but as a man of non-violence, you knew I was only speaking metaphorically, right?

They say, 'murder your darlings.' I say, 'murder your editors.' Your self editors, your actual editors, any kind of editor, because art is about originality.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writers: Take a longer view of success

Who isn't hurrying to get some traction with their book sales. I know I am. But for me the hustle simply hasn't worked. Something's been missing. I've done all the suggestions from the "how to" books. What's wrong? I think I have an idea.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Experiencing Writing Failure? Milk It For All It's Worth.

Writing failure got you down? No matter how hard you try, you can't sell any books? You're depressed. Thinking of quitting. Getting a real job. (You must be really depressed if you're that low!)

Well, I'll have to say to you is, 'You're in a good place.'

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is going Indie worth it?

That’s a question I’ve often asked myself in the last year or so since I’ve “gone it alone” as an ebook author. My answer (if you want the really short version) is yes.

The longer version follows. Like many of my Indie comrades I started down the traditional path of submitting short stories to magazines. I met with a fair amount of success, even getting published in a highbrow literary magazine like “Washington Square” (with the likes of Billy Collins no less). It was great. I was on my way. I also knew I wanted to write novels though and so rather eagerly abandoned the short story quest and began my first novel.

Well, I could sense that my first novel wasn’t very good and made no effort at attempting to get an agent to represent it. I wrote if off (no pun intended) to being part of the learning curve. My second novel was better, but again, I knew it wasn’t quite there. Same with the third. But my fourth…

My fourth novel was high art (LOL). I was sure the masses were just waiting to devour it. It was so distinctively different, so bold, so moving. (Yes, I’m kidding now, but back then I believed it.) So I fished around for agents and sent out query letters. I met with what I would call a “fair” response. I got a few partial requests, but then a big New York agent requested the complete manuscript.

Really on my way now, right? I remember calling my girlfriend and telling her the news, and she practically sang “Gregg!” into the phone, extending my name, her voice thrilling.

Well. That was four novels ago. And I slugged through the agent-seeking process with all of them. Again, the short version here: no luck.

I have no chip on my shoulder against agents, but it was hard. One agent really liked one of the novels but suggested a point-of-view change, which I made (a lot of work, mind you). When I got the novel back to her she wrote: “Sorry. Not handling fiction any more. Too hard to get it sold.”

Well all right then.

Now Indie. What’s going Indie been like? Short version: shockingly hard.

The longer version follows. Going Indie has been a whole world of things. I remember when I first started checking around for ebook formatters, Book Baby and places like that, they seemed so expensive, and I planned on writing a lot of books so I looked for alternatives. I found that I could format my own ebooks, do my own covers, etc. Hmm. Maybe I could do that, I thought.

My enthusiasm met with a harsh wake-up call when I looked at what was entailed with formatting for Kindle. It was this gigantic step-by-step procedural with different versions (in no particular order), any misstep sending me directly back to square one. I got chest pains looking at it.

But I stayed after it. (No heart attacks, thank you very much.) And even got to enjoy it after a while.

Hey, wait a minute, I thought this guy said it was “shockingly hard”? Oh yeah.

It was and is shockingly hard. I’ve put out four novels as ebooks, designed three of the covers, formatted them all, poured my heart and soul into these books and sold just a handful of them in over a year. And I know that many of my fellow Indie authors are going through the same heartache. Really, it’s not so much about the money. Anybody who goes Indie isn’t in it for the money. If you’re Indie, though, you do want to be read. Desperately.

So yeah, it is shockingly hard to go Indie…but it is also so rewarding. Why? The short version: control.

The longer version follows. As a writer trying to get an agent and a publishing contract you are constantly jumping through somebody’s hoops. It starts out in your writers’ group maybe. Then proceeds to the agent, then the editor, then the marketing team, then the cover maker, then the bookseller, then…

As an Indie, your art is your art. And that means everything to me. Go the mainstream route and when you’re done you look at your book and say, “There’s my book. Well, actually it’s really a conglomeration of people’s ideas. The agent told me I needed to drop a character (that I loved). The editor told me I had to cut ten percent (which ruined the tone of the book, not to mention making the ending make no sense). The cover guy made me use a cover I despise and doesn’t fit my book at all, and they made me change the title. But yeah, here’s my book.”

Go the Indie route and the book is yours.

And I have met so many great people going Indie. I have learned so much about technology. I have come to value all the people who are so generously giving heart and soul to people’s lives via the Internet (all the “open source” free software is just one example). And I am truly proud to be a part of this tribe of independent outsiders called “Indie.”

Maybe I’ll never have my book in a hardcover or in the window of Barnes and Noble, but I have so much, so much more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I'd live differetly if I knew I was going to live 1000 years.

     The time frame of our human existence matters. And since it's so short, I'm living in a way that is in sync with that brevity. In other words, life's shortness has me focusing on what's important NOW.
     They say that one of the most valuable things about having a pet is that they remind us of our mortality. Think of dogs' seven years for every one of ours. We see our beloved dogs so rapidly heading into the end of their lives, their muzzles graying, sleeping longer, their gaits shortening, and it reminds us that the same fate awaits us.
     So yeah, I'm human. I want all kinds of things humans want. Security, success, companionship, esteem of others--these are all things I want. But when I think in terms of my imminent mortality (and by that I mean even if I live another 100 years!), I live differently. I start asking myself the question:  "What's really important?" I say to myself, "If I had a terminal disease, would  I  be doing this or that, or worrying about this or that?"
     Isn't that the truth? You live your  life chasing after all these things that seem so incredibly important, and then you get a test back from your  doctor confirming the worst. Then your life changes on a dime. You have different values. You spend your time differently. You waste no time. You do what has the deepest meaning. You take the chances you were too busy or afraid to take before. You seek out love and friendship. You seek what has meaning and what lasts.
      So as far as I'm concerned, that's the key--live right this moment as if you've got that bad diagnosis. Value what truly has value right now.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Beware of those who KNOW the answers.

     When someone says they know the answer, you can take it to the bank they don't. Saying you know the answer is analogous to saying, "I'm not human." No one can know the answer. Which isn't to say that people can't say, "This is the way it seems to me." Or "I think this is what that is." But "I know." Run from those people like the plague. Why?