Things I've Learned as a Modern Author
Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 05:38AM
J Starr Welty in Writing, career, writing

   Coming into writing as a youngling, I had many preconceived notions.  Some of those are very common.  For one, I thought I would become a renouned besteseller after submitting one query to a publisher.  I believed my words would inspire the downtrodden, and weary consumerist driven individual to exclaim, "Holy crap!  I have never seen such words strewn forth upon a page!  Why! This shall be greater than Tolkien!  This will be greater than everything!".  Who hasn't had such dreams?  Needless to say these were just that: dreams. 

    I began my journey to publication at the age of twenty-one.  I had just finished my first novel, a fantasy entitled (and, yes, I am using the word entitled despite some embittered agent's recommendation that I not use it because "it makes it seems like one is entitled to something in return"...sheesh!) "Zurigan's Child".  Summoning every ounce of courage I had (which wasn't much at the time), I wrote and re-wrote query after query, synopses after synopses to present at conference after conference.  Alas, to no avail.  Most often I was told, "What an interesting story, but it's not what we're looking for right now.", or "We don't buy fantasy, only science fiction." even though they were agents listed as scifi/fantasy agents in the catalogue.  Many a time I was even openly mocked in front of agents I paid to have time in front of.  Such is the life of a young, aspiring author. 

    I turned then to the "Writer's Market Guide" book, and spent the better part of two years writing short stories and fine tuning my queries to suit the markets wherein, all the while continuing the saga of Caroline in the Assaudian War series.  Again, no avail.  I amassed a great deal of "We love your story, but it doesn't fit our market right now" rejection letters (what the heck does that mean anyway?!), and found myself doubting my talent.  This happened for a long, long while.  It wasn't even a matter of the feedback being negative because it wasn't.  It wasn't as though the editors and publishers were saying, "Hey, your work sucks and there is nothing we can do with it." or, "Get yourself a copyeditor." or, "Get a day job.".  They had positive things to say.  The worst they said was, "It's not what we're looking for."  So vague.  It was like they expected me to read their minds, or be part of their club, or screw their publicists for tips.  I didn't get it.  I still don't.  I felt like an idiot.  It was like I was missing this one mystical key that would open the door to everything, and no matter how hard I tried over the years, I just did not get it.  Over and over, I did not get it. 

      So I stopped submitting.  I said, "Screw it.".  I couldn't figure it out, and it was tormenting me beyond belief to the point where I was doubting my abilities as a writer (which was one of the things that made me truly happy), so for years I submitted absolutely nothing and focused instead on writing more of the novels for the Assaudian War series, a stand alone novel entitled (there's that word again!) "The Scourge of the Bone Cages", one called "Kraysh" which is one of two, and a bunch of shorts...oh!  Plus I made a movie because I got sick of the book bs and decided to try my hand at the movie biz.  I hooked up with an old friend of mine, Billy Garberina, via an old writer author of mine, Bob Vardeman, and got in touch with local indie film guru Scott Phillips.  From that, "Black" was born.

      I am currently self-publishing via Amazon, Lightning Source, and Kindle, and am finally getting my works out for the public to see.  My faith in the old method of submitting to agents is no more.  With more and more of the publishing houses merging together and fewer and fewer of them publishing new authors, the chances of new authors seeing print through them is so slim it's ridiculous.  The chances of seeing a regular income is even more ridiculous. 

      My initial goal was just to see my books in print so people could read my work.  I didn't care if they thought it was like so-and-so's work.  I didn't care if they thought it was too wordy, or too...whatever.  It was mine.  I wasn't trying to cater to a market, or to anyone's tastes, or to inject it with a literary botox.  I was writing to make a statement and express what I wanted.  I believe the same now, and I'm glad that I still can.        

      Much has changed since ten years ago, but not that much.  Publishers are still looking for the next bestseller.  They want who they can tag as "the next so-and-so".  Whoever sells the most is whoever is marketed the most.  Sometimes there is a "runaway", but it is rare, and it is nothing to count on.  It is definitely nothing to bet your career on, and even then, the career is probably fleeting.  Don't sacrifice what you don't have to.  I really don't think it's necessary anymore.     

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