Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Inside a Writer's Head

Ooh, I have an idea. Where are the Post-It Notes? Fuck it. I’ll remember it. Dammit. I already forgot it.

This laptop is so slow. Can I buy a new one? I’ve had this one for eight months. I can write it off. It’s like 50 percent writing, 50 percent RedTube. So I can write off half, I guess. Do I even owe taxes? I made thirty-eight dollars from writing last year. I’m not reporting it.

I’ll check my e-mail. Maybe someone made an offer on the book. I better call my agent. It’s been two weeks since we talked. That’s a good non-stalkery time to wait. Saying “my agent” is weird. It sounds uppity. I find myself saying, “the woman who submits my work to publishers.” Really rolls off the tongue.

I should do some outlining. Why bother. Writing sucks. The Onion makes fun of writers a lot. I can’t remember the last book I read. I should just pants it. That’s what geniuses do. I should've gone to law school. Wait. I did go to law school. I SHOULDN'T have gone to law school. 

I have a funny observation. I’ll post it to Facebook. I got 21 Likes for that Facebook joke! I’m good at Facebook. Please kill me.

I’ve seen this episode of Beachfront Bargains. Twice. So much for making a Best Writer Under Forty list. It’s not me, it’s the editors. Hahaha. Seriously, it’s probably me. Or my book. It’s trite. It’s tired. It’s clich├ęd. I’m terrible. How did my agent even like this? Maybe she didn’t read it. Are my beta readers brain damaged? Why did I write a 620-page book?

Lunchtime. Tuna fish is healthy. But this cheeseburger is delicious.

My characters don’t talk to me. How did this even become a thing? I don’t cry when I kill a character. They’re not real. Maybe I’m a sociopath. More likely a shitty writer whose characters have no life.

I’m so happy about the foreign deal. Did the publisher read it? They probably didn’t even read it. If they read it, they wouldn’t have bought it. I love my foreign publisher. They're the best. 

Good thing I self-published it. Should I self-publish again? I should probably self-publish again. I should never self-publish again. You can wait longer. Don’t be stupid. No one cares where the book comes from. Well some people do. Fuck them. You could be sitting on a gold mine. You could be sitting on a time bomb.

That was a good song.

Can I mention the name of a song in this book? A guy kills another guy for the lyrics to a song. That’s a good idea for a book. Wait. It’s probably been done. I’m too dumb to craft a mystery novel. All the clues.

First plot point. Goes right here. 

I’m on page fifty of this book. The one about the murderous singer sounds better. That guy in Star Wars keeps yelling “stay on target.” I should stay on target.

This book is horrible. 

Game of Thrones is on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mailing List

Over there on the right side, you'll see a new widget. 

This gives you an option to subscribe to my newsletter, which I will only send out when something really momentous happens. 

In my case, momentous will mean only one thing - the publication of a new book or story that was written by me. 

Given that this hasn't happened since May 2011, you can rest assured you won't be spammed by this newsletter. 

But if you would like to stay up to date on my new work, please subscribe. 

I will NEVER sell, distribute or otherwise disseminate your e-mail address to anyone. Period. 

Thanks!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My First Book Deal (With Surprise Twist Ending)

In January 2012, with my self-publishing venture lying in ruins, I enrolled my book, The Jackpot, in Amazon's KDP Select Program.

As you may recall, and as I documented here, this proved to be one of the smartest things I ever did for my writing career. 

Because the book had finally done well, my agent Ann and I decided to see if there were any foreign publishers that would be interested in the book. So in February 2012, Ann submitted the book to a number of overseas publishers. She warned me that foreign deals were hard to get, and that they could take a long time. 

The book toddled off to faraway lands, and we went on with our lives. The Jackpot's time in the sun came and went, and its carriage finally turned back into a pumpkin. 

That spring, I finished the manuscript I'd been working on only to realize far too late that the book was a total disaster and would have to be re-written, almost entirely from scratch. I documented that experience here.

I floundered about for a while. Then in November 2012, I returned to a manuscript that I had started but had not finished. I loved this manuscript, but had abandoned it, thinking it would not be marketable. Eff it, I thought. I loved writing it.

I worked on that book for the next year and sent it to Ann last fall. She loved it. We spent the last part of 2013 and early 2014 whipping it into shape, and it went out on submission about a month ago. 

There were a number of interested editors, but, as it turns out, I'm not the special quick-sale flower I was certain I'd be, and these submissions do really take time for all but the luckiest of authors. So we wait. And we wait.  

Then on Tuesday, March 25, I got an e-mail from Ann's co-agent and my fellow Wahoo, Penn, with this subject header: 

FW: THE JACKPOT by David Kazzie/ Bulgarian offer

As writers tend to do when they get e-mails like this, I looked at the words all out of order. Offer? The? Kazzie? FW? And I was like, what? 

I opened the e-mail to discover that one of the leading Bulgarian publishers had made an offer for the Bulgarian language rights to THE JACKPOT. 

A real, actual book contract. For a book whose heyday I thought had long since come and gone. More than two years after the book was submitted.

So here we are. My little self-published e-book, which I finished writing years ago, which I often worried should never have been self-published, is going to be a real book. The book that I'm most proud of is out there fighting for its publishing life right now, while its ancestor, The Jackpot, becomes the first one to kick down the traditional publishing door. A publisher is buying my work. My words. And hopefully, this bodes well for my new book. Hopefully, The Jackpot, old and wise like Mr. Miyagi, is establishing a beachhead for all my work to follow. 

Chuck Wendig recently wrote (I'm paraphrasing a bit here) that every writer tunnels his own way through this business and then detonates the tunnel behind him. I couldn't agree more. Everything about my career has been weird and nothing at all as I had envisioned it when I was a rookie writer. I've been at this a long time. I've had some bizarre experiences, some terrible heartbreak, and some weird successes. Nothing compared to the moment that I saw that e-mail. Life is weird. 

I'm beyond excited about seeing a print version, seeing a new cover (I'm guessing), seeing my words translated into a language I cannot read, and especially reaching a new audience that I wouldn't be able to on my own.

I'll post updates about how things go as THE JACKPOT marches along to publication in the next year.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Hugh Howey Is Wrong. Sort Of.

Like many other writers, I've been watching with interest the fallout from the publishing dirty bomb that Hugh Howey detonated this week with his Author Earnings website.

This is not a post about that site. 

It is a post, however, about something Hugh wrote today in a post titled "Luck and Lottery."

First off, I like Hugh a lot. I loved WOOL, and I'm now reading SHIFT, which I might like better than WOOL. I respect his work and his usually spot-on analysis about what is going on in traditional and self-publishing. 

Although I agree with much of what he wrote in "Luck and Lottery," there were a few points that I really took issue with, enough that I decided to write this blog post when I should really be asleep. 

He wrote that "[m]ost people will be happier getting their works out in the wild and moving on to the next project than they will reading rejection letters. We don’t see these stories."

 When I self-published The Jackpot, I was ready to become a professional writer. I had an agent. I'd had half a dozen short animated films go viral. I had more regular Internet exposure than the vast majority of writers (at the time, those videos were drawing 3,000-4,000 hits per day). I wasn't doing this just to get my work out into the wild. I was doing it to get my work in front of a lot of readers and to start making money. 

So the reason that I argue that Hugh's contention is wrong is simple, and it is this: there is one thing I've done in self-publishing that Hugh really hasn't. 

And that is fail spectacularly. 

Now hang on: I'm not saying Hugh hasn't struggled as a writer and doesn't understand the work and sacrifice it takes to become a good writer. His pre-WOOL work proves that he's been in the trenches and that he has seen his work not sell like he'd hoped.

But I'm talking specifically about self-publishing here. 

The Jackpot entered the world in the late spring of 2011 ... and crashed with a gigantic thud. It sold less than 300 copies in eight months (a good chunk of which went to friends and family). Believe me, no one was clamoring for more fiction from me.

Hugh further writes that: "...[Y]ou can self-publish, have the pride of having done so, hold a copy of a physical book you wrote in your hands, see your e-book up on Amazon, get a sale or two, hear from a reader, and want to write more."
I didn't feel pride. I felt fucking heartbreak. I felt sick. Seeing my book on Amazon ranked at #237,135 didn't make me feel very good at all. All my work. All my sweat. All for nothing. It was as painful as any rejection letter I'd ever received from an agent. Except it went on for eight miserable months. And I didn't want to write more. I wanted to take my Kindle out back and take a baseball bat to it, Office-Space style. 

Yes, The Jackpot ultimately did find great success thanks to Amazon's KDP Select program, but that was pure luck (a factor that Hugh is totally correct about and doesn't brush under the rug). Moreover, it came via a marketing strategy that no longer works, one that's as dead as the dinosaurs. Don't get me wrong, the day my book hit No. 1 in Legal Thrillers and the Top 100 overall was one of the great days of my life. But it was as much of a lucky strike as bestsellerdom via traditional publishing would've been. So, while I realize that without self-publishing, The Jackpot had a zero percent chance of becoming the No. 1 legal thriller on Amazon, it's tough to get unduly excited about a platform that gives it a 0.00000001 percent chance of that same success. 

It's like that line from Dumb and Dumber, where Jim Carrey's character says to his romantic interest: "So you're telling me there's a chance!" 

And I've never forgotten the misery of watching my book wither away on the vine. Without KDP Select, the book would have vanished. I mean, if I hadn't been able to draw readers when I had a huge audience for my videos, what hope would I have one or two or five years later? Virtually zero. The memory burns brightly as I pursue a traditional deal for my current book. 

So just remember that when you think about self-publishing. I think this is particularly applicable to those of you who can't manage the high-volume production that it seems to take to succeed self-publishing, those of you who are thinking about writing "merely" a book a year. 

Toward the end of his post, Hugh writes: "And what’s mind-blowingly-brilliant about this data is that it has already moved self-publishing into a position of equality (emphasis in original)." 

I agree, Hugh. Self-publishing is just as legitimate a way to succeed as a writer as traditional publishing. And it's just as legitimate a way to fail.