Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A to B - The Next Horrifying Step

"So the question is, what makes this special?"

I got on the phone today with a classmate of mine from art school who works at a small publishing house in New York City.  It was humbling and helpful all at once.  It got me thinking about all the different things that I need to be doing to help promote my writing, and the list is long.  It's not just a little bit of schmoozing here and lip service there.  Apparently it's an uphill battle.  Of course, he doesn't know that an uphill battle for me is anything remotely difficult.  This sounded like it was a little closer to climbing Everest than it did Potrero Hill.

I've read over and over about writers who have put in proposal after proposal only to be rejected.  I know there are really good books that never make the author any money, and really bad books that make an author tons of money.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, except what appeals to the marketplace at a given time.  Some authors die poor and starving waiting for someone to give them their due. A hundred years later, everyone rants and raves about their incredible art, long after any copyright has expired.  There is this sinking feeling I have in my gut that I will end up this way - alone, putting down a handle of Scotch daily, eating Top Ramen, and forgetting personal hygiene.  That's my big fear - that my failure will be so spectacular that I am incapable of rising again.

I doubt that I will be that bad off.  But the anxiety I have of ending up that way is so real to me, that it is paralyzing. Then I turn around and laugh at myself. It's ridiculous!  Other people have done these things!  They have.  There are plenty of people who have been successful authors with first novels, second novels, and novels made into movies.  They get on talk shows with Oprah and Ellen and get interviewed on the Today Show.  It happens.  It does.  Some of them even get to do Ted Talks.  That could be me.  I could do that.  I have everything I need to do that if I wanted to... I know the core is there.  This perpetual problem I have is affirmation.  I totally need it.  And the publishing world is not set up for people who need affirmation.  It's set up for the overly confident who are so strong they can take multiple rejections and still pursue.

Okay.  Actually I lied.  If a person has faith in their project, a few rejection letters wouldn't daunt them.  They would pursue. 

I say all these things, yet I haven't gotten a proposal letter written to a publisher or an agent.  One friend of a friend read a couple chapters of Phoenix Rising and said to pitch it to small publishers.  Another said I have so many ideas, I really should get an agent who can handle cross-genre authors.  Eek.  How many of those are there? Well, San Francisco is a veritable gold mine of agents and publishers.  Small publishers don't give very good advances, but big publishers won't look at you unless you're working through an agent.  And a good agent will get you to a big publisher.  How do you find a good agent? You look at the books you like, young authors writing in your genre who acknowledge their support systems. You find their agents.  You write them proposal letters.  You find the one editor in the Bay Area who is from Arizona, left because they hated it and will resonate with Phoenix Rising. You find the one person who when they went to high school felt like there was a whole other world on the fringes and have a love of mythology and folklore - then you pitch The Brothers.

And that my friends, is how its done.  So what is the next step? Research.  Reading lit mags to see what other authors are doing. Finding stories like mine so I can scoop up an agent that hopefully lives in San Francisco and not New York.  Then I start honing my proposal letter. Someone will bite.  It happens to people all the time.  I know it is waiting for me.  I just have to get over my bizarre starving drunken author fear and do it... right after I finish this bottle of Beckman Syrah.

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