Nobody will publish you AND everybody will publish you.
No, stop with the accolades. I can just hear you out there saying, “Oh, thank you, St. Dave. That makes everything clearer. I was so worried, but you’ve shown me the light!”
Seriously, before you light the torches and make your way to Denver, let me explain. When I was asked, “How do you get published?” I answered, “There are as many ways to get published as there are stories waiting to be published.” I could have gone with the Kevin Costner, “as many ways as there are stars in the sky,” but then I’d have to do my little tatanka dance, and really, no one wants to see that.
Every author I know has been published in a different way than the next. Few actually go through the recommend steps as taught in colleges, on panels and during lectures. They made their own way to publishing, as you will yourself.
Some claim that the only road to true success is to be published through a traditional press. You know, the old guard, the men (and women) in the white towers who pay you an advance, edit your story, turn it into a book, get that book into bookstores, get it reviewed by well-respected critics, and place you on the New York Times Bestseller list. Those people aren’t wrong.
Along with that, however, you have to take pennies for your work, loss of creative control, a token marketing effort and sometimes being lost in the shadow of the authors already making them money. It’s a horrible, frustrating road that involves countless rejection letters and spending money you don’t have to attend conventions, conferences and networking opportunities. It involves putting yourself out there, making them read you, critique you, judge you. And for many of us, in the end, when you walk through that Barnes and Nobles and see your book next to one of your idols, worth every sacrifice. The number of authors who have succeeded this way is about the same as those who didn’t. Your chances are even. This is my current path and, as a brother in the trenches, I salute you!
In the opposite extreme, there are those writers who have embarked on that quest and gave up, or were scared off from it by people like me who told them the truth about it. They have decided to self-publish their work via print-on-demand (POD) publishers or to e-publish, or both. Many once, and currently successful authors will speak on this, and they have more experience than I, but having working in the POD field, I will share what I know.
First, if you do not have the resources to have your manuscript edited by a professional, experienced-in-the-publishing-field editor, don’t go down this route. There is nothing worse than shelling out nearly $20 for a trade paperback book and find five typos in the first chapter. (And don’t get me started on grammar, pacing, POV and the like. The typos were bad enough!) Someone who understands plots, the Hero’s Journey (even if you’re defying it,) and transformation of character. Nothing will turn a reader off to any and all future endeavors you’ll embark upon if you cannot tell a good story.
So why risk this? It’ll be nearly impossible to get it reviewed by legitimate sources. You won’t make Oprah’s book list. You’ll be treated differently by many authors (justified or not.)
Well, after your initial investment, you make all the profit, which sometimes can be substantial. You’ll be in control of your destiny. You can make things happen with your book traditional publishers would never consider. I’ve seen SP authors win major competitions, get their works turned into movies, and sit on panels with Hugo nominees carrying on intelligent conversations. I think some mediums work better for self-publishing than others, such as children’s books, non-fiction and poetry, but I’ve seen someone defy the rules in every genre.
Somewhere between traditional and self-publishing is the uncharted territory of small press. These golden shores offer a publisher for each and every genre known to man and woman. I know a publisher that focuses exclusively in gay pirate stories and does quite well at them. And small press doesn’t mean small by any stretch of the imagination. Independent publishers have won Hugos and Nebulas, and turned series into video games, comics and films. They do get books into stores, though usually not as many, and only after a successful track record. Editors of small presses are more approachable at conventions and the like. They are more willing to take chances on something that otherwise wouldn’t fit the norm. They are tech savvy, as hungry for success as you and have been known to cry when a book they believed in hasn’t taken off. They pay everything from pro rates to only shared royalties. They’ll make you part of their street team, showing you off all over the world.
The only disadvantage is… they’re breeding like horny, little bunnies and not all of them have cleaned the afterbirth from their fur yet. You never know what you might get. I’ve heard horror stories about big name Independents not paying on time, or not accurately, or not at all. Who am I kidding? I’ve been in that horror story. I’m the guy that Jason machetes while watching his sister make it with her boyfriend. And I’d do it all over again. I had a beautiful novel, which sold really well until I pulled it from the publisher for not paying me on time, or accurately. It happens to the best of us.
I deliberately didn’t touch on agents, as I’ve run out of space. Or sleeping with editors to get published (don’t do it. Unless they’re hot. Then forget the book and marry the editor.) Or a myriad of other ways writers have become authors. George R. R. Martin suggested finding a patron of the arts to marry, so you can focus all your time on writing. So, as I leave you to go log into SugarMamma.com, I’ll pass along these last words…
If you want to get published, and your writing is sound, you’ll get published. Not tomorrow. Probably not the next day either. You’ll get published your way. And then you’ll know how to answer the question, “How do you get published?” next time you show up for a panel on suspense.
It's good to hear from you again. It's been a while. I understand you've been very busy. What have you been working on?
Thanks for having me aboard! Yes, it’s been far too long. Well, besides conventions, I’ve been working on the follow-up to my first novel, She Murdered Me with Science. It’s going to be called, Murdered in a Mechanical World (and I’m a Mechanical Girl!) Once again, Noel R. Glass, forensics detective in 1955 must wrestle his demons and save the world from destruction. I’ve also sold seven short stories and novellas between 2010-11 (including my first media tie-in based on The Green Hornet T.V. series from the sixties.) In addition, I changed agents, and she has two outlines for novels, one fantasy, one a paranormal police procedural.
What releases do you have coming out in 2012? (ASIDE, would you like them listed on the calendar I have on the website for readers to see what's coming from folks I know and those I've featured?)
The only thing I can say about 2012 is that there are a lot of irons in the fire, from novels, comics and films. Nothing I can speak of yet, save to say I’ve been invited to another anthology based on a different sixties T.V. series, this one a bit sexier than the Hornet.
How many books have you written? Can you give us the titles?
The aforementioned novel is my only completed. Because of the amount of research it takes to write a Noel Glass novel, it takes me years to complete one. I do a lot of research to make sure the fifties I write about is as real as the fifties in our reality. The outlines for the other two novels didn’t take as long, as they didn’t require the same level of research.
If you had to be “stuck in an elevator” with one of your characters for several hours, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Definitely not Wan Lee. He’s been known to stink up a place with his perchance for spicy food. Probably, the assassin Degna Sagese from “Justice is Not Taken By the Storm,” featured in Space Sirens. She’s unconventionally hot, intelligent and willing to take chances. That is, if I’m not on her hit list.
If you could change one of your characters, which one would it be and why?
Noel R. Glass’s transformation took a little longer in the first book than I’d like, but that’s what the story dictated. The reason I wanted to write a second one was to show a whole Noel, at the top of his game. He’s a fully realized man now, which is why I have to screw that up by the end of the second book.
Do you listen to music as you write? If so, which artists? What is your playlist?
I tend to do a lot of Blues when writing noir, but usually, I don’t play music. I love music too much and invest in the songs, pulling me away from my writer’s trance. It’s been harder to get in these days, due to life demanding my attention, so when I get there, I need to focus.
What hobbies do you use to relax? Do you have a day job? If so, doing what?
By the time I get home, or finish writing, I’m wiped, so I tend to zone out on TV. I recently took up watching hockey, after being a “football only” person for many years. I also DVR all the current spec-fic series and try to catch up as I can. I recently left a job as a mailroom supervisor and I’m going back into audio-visual work. It’s what my first and second degrees were based on and I decided to use them again. I’m also working on my third one, English BA, which I hope to have completed in two years. My son also goes to an online school, so I work with him a lot, which is almost like being a part-time teacher.
The business of writing is changing rapidly. Do you find the change scary? Invigorating? How (if at all) have you changed your career plans/path as a result?
I hate that I’ve gotten so close to the golden ring, and may never see it. Hardback books are all but gone unless you have a Martin or King as your last name. I may never have a dust cover book, and that makes me sad. However, there are untapped possibilities for the new medium. We may see the return of hypertext-style stories, or more illustrations and animations. On the agent front, the roles of agents are changing from marketers to accountant-lawyers. We’ll see more of them fighting in the trenches for author rights, than making sales. I’ve had four agents over the years, and not one made a sale for me. Mind you, the first two don’t count, as my writing was really shit back then. I’m just a good salesman.
What is one key bit of advice you would give to a prospective writer?