Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thinking About Giving Up?

If you're thinking about giving up on your book or writing, consider this letter I wrote to a friend:

"Dear One, I've been close to packing it in myself. And I'm repped! Nothing has come easy for me it seems--a struggle all the way up that hill. I know you've been trying to snag that dream agent, and the odds are just so crazy. I know that POD small press is distasteful to you, as it is with a lot of us. But there are some gems out there that I think you should at least try--give it a shot. (Honest, I think I'm becoming the king of small press lately).

Gawd knows publication with the smaller outfits won't give you that mass-market paperback deal you've been looking for. Dawg knows that you won't get a thread in your favorite writing group, praising you for your accomplishments to the high heavens, nor hundreds of members buying your book. But what it will give you is vindication that somebody, anybody, read your book and loved it--believed in you--believed in that story. It's all about positive reinforcement--that drive to keep you going, pushing for that next step.

Just taking one example: I landed my agent with Planet Janitor, a SF survival tale--kind of a cross between Robison Crusoe on Mars and Starship troopers. Oh, did I have high hopes for that one! We spent months hammering the plot, polishing the prose. After it went through two rounds of agent subs over a year's period without selling, I was totally crushed. I thought this was the end.

Until I sent it out. 

Three editors at one small publisher loved it and requested minor changes. Contract came. I got an advance and a wonderful contract. I thought it was fluke. I kept thinking author mill. It was later that the publisher came under some terrible discrimination. So I voided the contract but kept the advance. I sold it again to a larger e-pub/print publisher. Two editors there said they loved it. When I tried to work the contract in my favor they wouldn't budge. So I pulled the book from them.

My final sale was to a newish pub house that specialized in SF. They praised it up one side down the other. The CEO shared the manuscript with a "name" SF author. Yep, done deal. This was a hot one. They wanted some minor changes--which I made happily.

That was not a fluke.

My point is, eight readers people couldn't be wrong. Nine, including me. The big houses probably cut me off at the knees at the synopsis stage or the first chapter. I was dismissed out-of-hand. But I'll tell you something very important I learned; I knew that my instincts were right all along. I had something very special there, but for whatever reason, those big name houses didn't catch it, couldn't see the potential. Bad timing, bad luck, bad breath, the stars out of alignment, some damn evil force conspired to get me and hold me down.

I think you need to so something similar for YOU. And I have to admit that handing out rejection slips to publishers sure did something for my ego.

I'm reminded of another writer, and the hassle she went through trying to find a publisher. She had a memoir that just had to be told. It seemed like it took her forever, but she finally landed with a respectable publisher and turned the small press on its ear by selling more books than anyone expected. Wonderful reviews, TV and radio spots followed--it all came into place for her. I'm positive that she never regretted that decision. A great story will find its way to the readers, in spite of all the obstacles.

But that means you can't give up on it. Listen to your heart. Screw the establishment."



Planet Janitor: The Moon is not Enough (Engage Science Fiction) (Digital Short)

Planet Janitor: The Moon is not Enough (Engage Science Fiction) (Digital Short) [Kindle Edition]

Chris Stevenson

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