Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Time to let go

I love writing.

I hate the business of writing.

I have a really good friend, Gae Polisner (you can read her blog here, and here). She's a fantastic writer. Got a sweet book deal with a world-famous publisher. Her book is getting glowing reviews all over the place. Librarians, teachers, students, critics. She calls it her "quiet little book." She even learned at least one school district is going to be using her book as part of their curriculum next year.

I tell you all this not to sell Gae's book for her, but to show the side of the business that just doesn't work for me.

Gae is still beating the streets trying to get a second book published. How can this be? How can you have a book that gets huge critical success, and not be able to get another deal? It doesn't make sense.

The answer is: Unless you're New York Times Bestseller stuff, you're still nobody.

Gae is a New York attorney with contacts beyond anything this simple boy from Kansas City will ever have. Gae can hop in her car and run to THE city (yes, THE city) and talk to agents, publishers, book critics face-to-face. How am I supposed to compete in a market where I'm so isolated from THE scene (yes, THE scene) that I couldn't talk face-to-face with an agent, publisher, or critic unless it were for the Bovine Monthly Review?

This business isn't designed to reward the author.

Years ago, I used to have a writing partner (Ron Brown) with whom I shared goals, manuscripts, scribbles and scratch. We were chasing the dream. We kept telling each other, "This business is designed to weed out the ones who don't have the heart to keep going. But we're going to make it. We're going to be strong. We WILL persevere."

That was a long time ago. Too many years. And now I have to admit, this business chewed me up and spit me out. It proved I don't have the heart to keep going, to be strong, to persevere.

And, so, I'm not chasing the dream any longer. I love writing. I'll write for me. I'll write for my kids. I'll write because I like to tell stories. But no more chasing.

I hate the business of writing.


  1. I understand how you feel. Really. I stopped trying to get anywhere years ago. I came back. Don't know how long this will last. Still, seeing those words, a little bit of me died.

  2. The truth is, it's just not worth it. There's no pleasure in failure. We tell our kids, "Never give up. Keep going. When you get knocked down, get back up." But eventually our kids are going to learn the truth. Sometimes it's better to walk away. If every time you touch the fence, you get an electric shock . . . STOP TOUCHING THE FENCE!

  3. Maybe the business is not right, but there are other options these days. I'm not fool enough to think kindle and nook are tickets to fame and fortune, but your books are good. Give an audience a chance to find them. If they don't come, what have you lost?

  4. I agree with Mr. Brown, Jeff. What have you got to lose and maybe you will be pleasantly surprised. Just find your right target audience.

    I know now that my book will only be liked by certain people. Even, dear friend that you are, you will not like my book. But there will be some who do and so those are the ones I've written it for. Don't give up, dear. You're too talented to do that.

  5. Jeff Jeff Jeff. You are designing my cover for my next novel which I am self-publishing because I can't get a publisher. I have been blogging about this on The Militant Writer for two years now. This is a watershed time for writers. The future is full of exciting opportunities for all of us because the publishing industry is going down. It's not just you or Gae -- why do you think so many of us are moving into indie publishing. Not only is this not a time to quit, it's the time to get moving. You create covers, I edit. We help people fulfil their dreams. Walk the walk WITH us! I am not a failure, am I?

  6. thanks, everyone. i'm trying to work through a little dark spell right now.

  7. Jeff - my dear man do not lose heart! I love this little blog, and have it featured prominently on my own page. You are a wise and tallented man and yes the business side of this is daunting and exhausting - but so is parenthood. Both take years and both yield mixed results! Keep the faith and keep blogging!