Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweat Equity and Self-Investment

c2012 (S)

After having book proposals rejected numerous times, and then getting some contracts offered and some interest in my books, I did something you’ll often see in the context of a western novel.

In purely symbolic terms, I went out into the wilderness with my trusty steed and my six-gun, ribs taped up and lips swollen from a pretty good beating, and learned the craft all over again. That is to say, the author put a few bottles up on a stump and blazed away until the wounds healed and the speed and accuracy were what they should have been all along. Then I went back into town, loaded for bear and looking for trouble!

A little background is essential for the reader to understand what I am talking about. I got three contracts with a publisher, and it was only later that I started to think, when that publisher started to have some problems, right in the beginning of the big publishing crisis. At about the same time I concluded that it was a form of vanity publishing. Without offering a whole lot of disrespect to that company, I became aware of certain problems with my writing, and I had to ask myself just how much time they were going to invest in making ‘a better book.’ Why even give me a contract at all? Suffice it to say that I managed to get fired, something not too difficult for the student of human nature.

I also realized that the work represented some monetary value to somebody somewhere. A far more prestigious publisher asked for a ‘partial,’ that’s where you send in the next three chapters, i.e. chapters four to six. That book was eventually rejected, and then somebody briefly considered another novel as an e-book. I didn’t know much about e-books at the time, and I won’t say I was insulted by the possibility. This was also a well-known, reputable publisher.

That one just didn’t happen, for reasons that fall squarely on my own shoulders, and yes I have regrets.

I had some insecurities, about the work, and about myself as a writer. What if I couldn’t do as they asked? What if they wanted me to do something with the book that I wasn’t capable of, or was uncomfortable with? Maybe I wasn’t the right guy for the job.

I published my first two e-books in October 2010 or thereabouts. Just before Christmas 2010, I got another contract offer in the e-mail. I couldn’t sign it. First of all, I didn’t know who they were, and that’s important. Without an advance, it sure looked like a vanity publisher, and due to a reluctance or inability on their part to answer questions, there was just no way.

So. At this point in my alleged career, what I am looking for is a story development editor, and a good one. They must have a minimum of fifteen years experience in acquisitions and ‘writer development.’

They have to be accessible. I can’t stress that enough, if people had answered their e-mails I would be published now with a very good house. That’s besides the point.

Skills like that don’t come cheap, and due to being on a relatively low fixed income, I can’t afford to buy such expertise.

Here’s the deal. I’m willing to sign with a legacy publisher because I need what they have to offer: professional editing, promotion, marketing, exposure and distribution, sales and translations of foreign rights, the whole mix. I’m not willing to sign with a vanity publisher, or a predator, or any sort of flim-flam operation.

This is where all those hours where I didn’t get paid for my time come into play. It’s called ‘sweat equity,’ and it’s another way of looking at investment without using any of my own cash. It’s going to cost you something. Money talks and bullshit walks. Actions speak louder than words.

You get what you can pay for.

I guess the western analogy runs dry at some point, but if it comes to a shootout at the O.K. Corral, I would prefer not to go in there alone. And, if I have to kick in my friend’s doors, they’re not really friends at all, are they?

In no position to offer advice to any other writer, all I can say is this is where I'm at right now.

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