W. P. Johnson

The Road to Publication Part IV, Or How I Wasted Three Years Of My Life

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2016 at 10:02 am

A Song For John has been effectively cut into a “stand alone with series potential”, which is vomit inducing publisher lingo for having written a book that is intended to be a series but could just as well be published alone just in case it tanks sales-wise. Wouldn’t want Random House to take any chances I guess, and who could blame them? There are literally thousands of books being published every week (hell, with kindle, probably every day).

The change was suggested by the last agent I had pitched it to when I first started sending out queries almost an entire year ago. Well, not so much suggested as a prerequisite, informing me that she wouldn’t even look at the damn thing if it wasn’t under 100k. How dare she! I thought. This novel is a work of genius and it can’t possibly be cut down to under 100k! She should be arrested for even suggesting such a thing.

But the idea was planted. That is, the reality that no agent with any brains would ever look at a 150k epic fantasy about a punk rock girrrl vs a death god. On the other hand: two agents did look at it, and this is what told me I had something special, that it was worth salvaging. After all, who could scrap something they spent almost two years putting together? So I asked myself- how would this work exactly? How could I trim the book down and introduce a resolution to the conflict before the 100k mark?

Without going into all the plot details, I managed to take a subplot and make it the main conflict of the novel without losing any of the other plot points and ideas. The book ends, all is well, our hero saves the day. Then there’s that moment where the dead hand twitches and we realize the bad guy isn’t really quite finished yet, not to mention all the peripheral details that sets the stage for books two and three. Whether or not we get to see a second or third book has yet to be seen, as I don’t think I can invest any more time in this until there’s an actual deal on the table now that the first book is finished (and a tidy 97k at that).

With about 60 agents queried and one full out to the agent that originally suggested I trim the book, I find myself with that great empty feeling I felt the first time I finished and sent out all my pitches. The journey is over and there’s nothing else left to say about these characters (for now at least). The idea that it will not get picked up by an agent and, following that, a publisher, stings even more than it did before now that I’ve done the extra work and made it more “marketable”. Every rejection (fifteen so far, but who’s counting?) feels like a chisel scraping away the very fiber of my being, making me feel like I’m disappearing. Worst still, no longer can I excuse the rejections due to the length. Instead I must accept that my work will be judged fairly based on the content and my talent as a writer. In the end, I must take it in good faith that the sample pages were actually read and that the word count had nothing to do with the “dear author” form letter.

I digress. I’m working on new material, short stories, a script, and thinking of that next novel. I have a collection of work coming out next year by a small indie publisher (waiting for the contract before making it official). Yes, I do feel depressed, stubborn, and even, at times, angry. Another rejection? Fuck you. A year from now, I’ll pitch you another book and you’ll see. Then another, and another. Maybe, I think, I’m the chisel wearing them down. But I know its just how it is, that most writers finish 5 or 6 books before finally selling one (this is my fifth attempt for those keeping score). Even my wife says to me, “So what if they all say no? Write another book.” One would think it is her believing in me or being encouraging (maybe it is a little of both). But I think the truth is, she knows it’s what I’ll do, that no matter how many rejections I get, I won’t stop.

How could I? When you spend nearly fifteen years trying something and getting close, how do you stop just because someone writes you, “Dear Author…” In truth, many writers before and many after have weathered worse than me. I doubt I have yet to earn their sympathy. I sure as hell don’t have any for those just starting out, asking the world, “why not me?” when they get their tenth rejection.

Dude… get back to me after you’ve gotten a thousand.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

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