Writer’s Stampede

The Writer’s Stampede
            Where did all these writers come from?  It seems that everyone has a book to promote and is searching for an agent, thinking about self-publishing, attending workshops and jumping through endless hoops to garner attention with a book project.
            Literary agents report receiving from four hundred to a thousand query letters each week.  Agents have become something like gods, they have the power to bestow bliss, rapture and burning hope in the hearts of writers.
            All this is happening in an age when it is thought that no one reads books any more, that video games and other distractions have turned our children into withdrawn illiterates.
            Then along came J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter and the world changed.
            Ask any agent or publisher what the odds are of selling a book.  Conventional wisdom holds that selling a book to a publisher is impossible.  The odds are astronomical.  Self publishing is one way of getting a book to the public but the writer must SELL the book.  It’s one thing to place a work in the digital marketplace, get an ISBN number and register the book with Amazon.  It’s another thing to SELL the book.  The effort required to promote a book is staggering.
It requires spending twenty eight hours a day on Twitter, Facebook, Bonghook, Bookface,
Yourspace, Myspace, Crawlspace plus traveling to at least ten writing seminars a month.
            Certain genres have congealed as dominant in this scurry towards publication.  YA, or Young Adult, is by far the big market.  Add Vampires, horror,
the supernatural and you have the Infinite Candy Mountain of book projects.
            Park your dragon in the rear and get your ticket validated.
            I’m a writer.  Just another writer.  I’ve made a few sales.  I generate a little income but I haven’t sold any of my book-length projects.
            I’ve queried agents hundreds of times since I began writing fiction in the late seventies.  I signed to a major agent for two years after selling my first story to Playboy Magazine.  Then I proceeded to screw up, to write poorly, and my window of opportunity passed. 
            I continued to write and got better.  I devoted thousands of hours to my novels and they got better, and better, and still better.
            I’m still querying agents by the hundreds and receiving form letter rejections. “Not what we’re looking for.”  “Good luck with your writing career.” “Burn your manuscripts and take up knitting.”  Stuff like that.
            I believe in my writing with passionate intensity. 
            I feel as if I’ve just walked into Disneyland on a day when a major publisher has announced that it will chose one writer in the park, at random, and offer a three book contract with a half million dollar advance.
The crowd is suffocating, stifling.
            I feel lost, overwhelmed.
            I don’t have a vampire in any of my books.  I have really REALLY good writing.  It is muscular, powerful, original, funny and compelling.
            `All I can do is continue writing and querying agents, entering contests, hanging around internet writer’s blogs and endlessly revising the books t hat I love as I love my own children.

My Blood Is In Every Word

Ten years ago I bought a digital keyboard. I was embarking on a studio venture, making a CD of my songs. I grew up as a drummer but took to the piano as a means of composing material. The day I brought the keyboard home I had injured my hand. As I explored my new instrument I began to bleed on the keys. This is appropriate, I t hought, I’m anointing my instrument with my own blood. It makes a nice metaphor regarding my writing passion. I’ve been writing since I was fifteen, when I penned my firsst e.e. cummings-style poem to please a girlfriend. I was born to be a writer. Here I am, not a youngster any more, engaged in the ridiculously grim and absurd business of finding an agent for two novels and a travel/adventure non fiction book. “Not right for us”, “not quite what we’re looking for”, “good luck in your writing career”, etc. You’ve heard them all. Will I stop querying? No! Will I stop writing? Of course not. I’ve gotten more pleasure from the process of writing than almost anything I can think of besides my family relationships.
I love my books as if they are my children. I’m proud of them. I think they’re great! I want them to do well. Does it break my heart that they are continually rejected? Of course it does. Music broke my heart, too. My last gig was a killer. After spending weeks in promotion, pinning up posters, getting promises from friends who would ABSOLUTELY be there, I dragged my heavy equipment into the place, set it up, went through the usual stage fright and waited for the audience to appear. I had learned to calculate my audience in negative numbers. I count the people who are there when I arrive. I add the people who show up during the performance. I tally all those who showed up and I subtract the people who walked out, those who were already there eating, drinking, whatever…I also subtract the number of friends who promised to be there but weren’t. At this particular gig there were five people already at the bar when I arrived. Not one of my fourteen promised friends showed up. All five people at the bar left as soon as I began playing. BTW, in all modesty I’m a good performer, very entertaining. No one else came. My total audience was
minus nineteen. That was my last musical gig. I came near to tears but managed to
keep them back until I was in my car driving home. Okay, so what? Creating art is
a thankless task. It doesn’t matter whether one is great or a mediocrity. The effort and dedication are the same. All of us writers work our tails off. I won’t stop, I can’t stop and I will never give up. The music ended because I was physically unable to continue without some kind of payoff. It cost money to produce, I was aging and developing a chronic pain in my feet. Carrying a seventy pound keyboard or two hundred pounds of drums had become unsustainable. Writing is a good solitary occupation that requires a different form of stamina. I will be writing until what’s left of my mind disintegrates or they put me in my grave clutching the keyboard that they could not take out of my determined fingers.

Best to all writers!

Art