Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ideas Are Free: Some Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing.

Louis Shalako

Some nice young guy opened up the chat box, which is often a dead giveaway. Just some nice young fella from Africa. After a while, he mentioned giving me a book idea to develop. In a thousand words or less, I only use my own ideas. Like Robert J. Sawyer has said, I can't even look or listen to your idea, as maybe some people come back, years later, and hit you with a lawsuit claiming that you stole their idea and made a lot of money with it. Their deposition will state when and where they first told you about it, perhaps a convention somewhere—or the chat-box on Facebook, and you won’t even remember speaking to them. You don’t recall the name or the title or the big idea. Pretty hard case to defend, especially if there are resemblances between their alleged book and yours.

You don't have $35,000 to pay me to write a book for you. If you can't write it yourself, you are not suitable writer material. Your first book, ghost-written by me, is unlikely to be a bestseller. I know that from experience, in fact I've never had one myself.

If you can't pay me up front, or at least make a substantial first installment, why would I ever write an unsuccessful book for you, when I can keep working on my own unsuccessful books?

Here’s the thing about first books.

It will not lift you up out of poverty, nor will it get you out of whatever stinking shit-hole of a country you are in.

Ideas are free. My time is precious.

Books are hard to sell.

End of story.

What it Takes.

Here’s what it took for me to get this far, and up to this level of skill.

At the age of 25, I quit a pretty good job as a carpenter. That involved some risks, and I can honestly say that father was not pleased although mother might have been. Everyone else thought I was nuts. I went to Lambton College, where I completed the first semester of the Radio, Television and Journalism Arts course. Running out of money, I was gone by February, 1984—that would be 33 years ago. I worked for eight months at the Delhi News Record as sports editor. After that, I did a few media projects, including a training film for the Lambton Industrial Training Something-or-Other. The contract was for $1,500.00. One day I got a letter from their lawyer. Not happy with the progress or the outcome, and having paid me $1,000.00 already, the contract was terminated. A bit of a learning experience as you might agree. I also got some training as a portrait photographer, but then Dow called and I ended up working there for about $14.00 per hour in the construction/labour pool.

For years I fucked around with writing, and yes, submitting stories which were universally rejected. I thought they were good stories, maybe they were, maybe they weren't. When I finally got on the internet in about 2009, I had six completed manuscripts. 

They weren’t very good, but they were at least complete. I know that, because it said ‘The End’ on the last page. On New Year’s Day, 2010, I announced to the world, (and my few hundred Facebook friends) that I was editing the first two manuscripts, which took about ten months, doing two books at once and quite frankly, not knowing a damned thing about it.

I had also been offered contracts, three of them, by someone I now think was a kind of vanity publisher. I managed to weasel out of that. And I took some heat on Facebook, from traditionally-published authors who thought I was the worst thing to come along in quite some time…some of them, one lady in particular I sort of remember, was a real prickish sort of a person, and I eventually figured out she was talking to me…

Some of those people are now self-publishing, having been mid-list authors who were dropped due to low sales. And I read everything I could find on writing, publishing, storytelling, for about the next six or seven years.

I don’t even look at that shit now—not very often, anyways. If I have a specific question, I Google it.

I’ve never had a bestselling book. In fact the sales numbers are quite low, so low that I took part-time work just to feed myself on this miserable little Ontario Disability Support Program pension.

And now, I have twenty-one novels, nineteen under the Louis Shalako brand and a couple of others out there as well.

I don’t do ghostwriting, but I reckon that sort of contract would be pretty airtight in terms of who owns the work. I would never be able to say that I wrote it, and would receive nothing other than the initial payment for writing a book for you.

Quite frankly, I can’t be bothered.

If you want to be a writer, and you may be starting off with a lot more natural talent than I did, what you want do is to write a story of any length—start off with short stories. Submit them to the magazines and websites that at least promise feedback or critiques.

Put the years in, work your ass off, and maybe someday you will be able to call yourself a writer.

Incidentally, this blog post was my idea, and mine alone.

Not yours.

It’s nothing personal, okay? But I’ve done the work, and, at least to some extent, I have paid my dues. This is something none of us can escape from.

Anyways, good luck to you, and maybe you’ll find some joy elsewhere.


Louis has books and stories available from Google Play. Some of them are presently free.

Thank you for reading.

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