Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Real Hard Business Noggin.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

After reading L.J. Sellers' 'Spinetingler' guest post of February 18, ‘Joining the Indie Revolution,’ I have to admit my guts were churning.

What used to be vanity publishing is now a very tough call. Monday morning I received a rejection slip for a full-length book manuscript. That was the only book submission that I had out there. I haven’t been sending them out. I had a long list of excuses.

For all anyone knows, that might have been the last manuscript submission I will ever make.

As usual, it hurt. Big, bad, Lou’s feelings were hurt. A couple of hours went by and maybe it makes sense after all. If that publisher did send me a contract, it would have been a far different contract than anything they would have offered two years ago.

My story is similar to LJ’s. Her courage blows me away. She had to do some hard thinking. Back in 2009, I signed three contracts. I knew nothing, and everyone said, ‘Don’t even think about! Just sign!’

I’m used to poverty, and I had nothing to lose. I signed them. It was only later when I asked myself, ‘Why?’

Why send me contracts at all? Did my work have some value that was unknown to the writer? What could it possibly be? I was just some guy who thought he was a writer.

I had more than my fair share of questions, but then all writers seem to struggle with doubts. (At least the unsuccessful ones.)

Your family members or your best friends know nothing about this industry. Neither did I, but as a former journalist I at least have some idea of how to do the research. I know enough to ask questions…now.

I didn’t talk to an agent or a lawyer. I signed the things, and sent them back, and then I started to worry.

When I began to hear about problems in the industry, and the small publisher I had signed with wasn’t returning my calls, and not answering my e-mails, what the heck was I supposed to think?

We were all looking for the big advance. We were all looking for an agent, one who would take us out to lunch at the Four Seasons and surprise us with a million-buck publishing contract.

We were all looking for editors, publishers, distribution, buzz, and hype; and professional promotional efforts on our behalf. We were looking for validation and someone to take us under their wing.

The odds of an author who has never been in print with an acceptable mainstream, ‘big box’ publisher getting a contract of any kind are out the window.

Industry analysts have predicted major problems in mid-2012, and others have predicted the problems will actually arise in mid-to-early 2011.

I wish I could report anything like LJ’s numbers, but she has been doing this longer than I have, and she has certainly earned her success.

Our personal circumstances are different. When anyone mentions paying for formatting, professional book design, copy editing, that’s not an attack on me; in spite of my own occasional doubts and misgivings. In this case, necessity is the mother of virtue. I will simply learn it on my own.

This is a full-time job. The competition just got a whole lot stiffer, judging by the number of former journalists, book editors, and other industry pros looking for work right now.

Many of them will turn to writing books and stories themselves. They know everybody and have all the advantages in terms of networking. The odds of placing a story in a professional magazine just got a whole lot tougher. I haven’t placed a short story in two months! But, when I do, it will be right beside the greats in my genre. (That will be fine.)

What a marvelous opportunity this marketplace presents to anyone with the guts and the brains to take advantage of the situation.

The key thing is to listen well and learn everything we can about the craft of writing and its important corollary, selling books, without a whole lot of help from a system in shambles.

I had a contract offered back in November. It was hard…they didn’t seem willing to negotiate on an advance and they weren’t answering the most basic of questions. The book, my fifth novel, entitled, ‘The Shape-shifters,’ would have come out in November 2011.

I did not sign the contract. But then, I actually read the thing.

I’m not the brightest light in the firmament, but all I can say is, ‘No guts—no glory.’


So far 'Heaven Is Too Far Away,' my parody of the hunt for the Red Baron is my best selling title and especially so in the U.K. Second is a tie between 'The Case of The Curious Killers,' and 'The Paranoid Cat and other tales.' The first is a comedy SF space opera-parody, and the second a collection of speculative fiction. Someone bought a Kindle edition of 'The Handbag's Tale' within hours of its publication, which shows the value of my shameless self-promotional efforts/campaign.

Predictably enough, with the skull of a dead rat on the cover, 'Core Values' is the dog of the pack, and still in the number five slot. The title scares 'em more than anything.

At least that's my impression. That one was free all month on Lulu.com, but I'm thinking of extending that for another month.

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