Friday, September 2, 2011

The Traditional Route

Midway through writing my first horror novel it hit me that I had something really special on my hands.  I know it is easy to think your own writing is great, but I felt an enormous sense of confidence that my work had some merit.  It was dark and creepy, yet fresh and original.
Writing had just been a hobby of mine over the years - writing, cartooning and drawing had always been creative pursuits that I found a lot of self-satisfaction with.  But after printing out half a ream of copy paper and exhausting an inkjet cartridge on my first novel, I really felt like I had climbed a mountain.  
And at some unknown date, my hobby went from writing stories with lots of twists and turns, to researching how to publish a book.  It was not enough to be able to string together words to make an interesting story.  The real challenge seemed to be in finding someone who would help share my manuscript with the masses.  Writing seemed to be the easy part, and finding an agent seemed to be the real mountain to climb.
It was a lot of fun at first to research and study how to publish a book and how to find an agent.  I went to bookstores in search of information, I researched on the web, and I even joined the local writing group.  I came up with a sharp synopsis, a very personable cover letter, and had lists of agents to sent my query letters to.
The local writing group was very useful in that I had joined just in time to attend the annual writer’s conference.  I volunteered to help with the judging for the main writing contest, and that gave me the opportunity to read the first ten pages of manuscripts submitted by other writers.  It was an educational experience to see how my writing stacked up against everyone else, as I had submitted my own manuscript and was excited at the opportunity to get some professional critiquing.  
My story was immediately disqualified from the contest for the unforgiving sin of double-spacing, instead of single-spacing.  Ouch.  I will not say that I am bitter about that experience, but I will say that I do single-space to this day.  I was unable to get the feedback I wanted with the contest, so I moved on to mingling with the various agents and attending writing classes and seminars.
Standing in line for half an hour to meet a New York literary agent appeared to be my big break.  She was well-known in the book world and incredibly kind and patient to meet with me.  She listened intently to my well-rehearsed pitch and was interested enough to give me her address and ask me to send her the first 50 pages of my manuscript.  Everything after that was a blur.
Wanting to make the most of my opportunity, I massaged and edited the manuscript til I had the best 50 pages possible.  I ended up taking out an entire chapter, because I felt that without the chapter the 50th page ended with a bang, instead of a whimper.  
I was realistic in my expectations, so the resulting rejection letter found company with all the other rejection letters in my appropriately-colored black three-ring binder.  She said that the market for horror was not good and that I should wait for the market to return.  Whatever year that might be.  
I will not say I gave up, but it was a long time before finding an agent crossed my mind again.
Then one day the most interesting thing happened.  During the course of my job one day, I interviewed a professional young man who told me he had written a book.  He said that his father had passed away and his way of dealing with the grief was to write poetry.  He had compiled the poetry in to a book and published it as an ebook on Amazon.
The old school way of self-publishing your own book was to drive around with a trunk full of books and sell them one at a time to people you met or bookstores you visited.  But selling an ebook on the internet was a completely new way of doing business.
And suddenly I developed a new hobby - how to publish an ebook.

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