Stop, smell the roses. Then smell them again.

Recently, I had the privilege of being invited to a “Celebration of Life” for a long-standing colleague of mine who has been battling cancer.

I’d never been to anything like this before, and I had no idea of what to expect. I’ll admit to feeling a little trepidation; I had no frame of reference for how to act, how to behave and what to say. The one thing I did have was the invitation that said it was going to be “a focus on the good times, and not the good-byes.” And “no black”.

At the event, held in a bright and airy room on a perfect waning summer’s day, there were stories and tales and memories that had everyone smiling. I learned things about her I had never known – remarkable, jaw dropping things; all those the unspoken lives that our friends have lived before we knew them. She’s always been an impressive person, but with the back-story filled in, she’s even more so.

And at the end of the event, after sharing those few hours with her, and with her husband, her two grown sons, their extended family and friends, I realized that the steady march to the final goal line need not be a maudlin, angst ridden affair. No. It can be uplifting. Hell, even inspiring.

It’s also a great elbow-in-the-ribs where perspective is concerned.

Driving home was quiet and reflective. Work stress, annoyances, (other drivers!), commonplace hassles and all the rest of that day-to-day aggravation of living… after a Celebration of Life with someone who is facing their mortality with such grace and calm, you suddenly realize that it’s all a great privilege: being annoyed by that jerk who doesn’t use his indicators; getting hung up in the line at the grocery store that moves too slowly; that chore waiting for you at home – it’s all part of life, part of living. And getting to do it is an absolute privilege.

So I try to remind myself now of that simple but glaring truth. She said it best, there in the middle of that Celebration of Life: “live every bit of your life.”

So stop for that rose.  And stop often.

Sage advice.


Well… that kind of sucked.

There’s been quite a gulf between my last post and this one, I know.  But I’ve been somewhat preoccupied.

As you may or may not already know, Angry Robot closed a number of their imprints, including Exhibit A – which was the imprint that published my novel The Clearing, and was slated to publish my second book, The Journalist. No imprint means no second book – at least not through Exhibit A.  And yes, that kind of sucks.

But there’s a healthy lesson in there, too: For those of you still chasing your first publication, please hear this: the book business is indeed a business.

Okay, that sounds pretty logical. Pretty self evident. But until you’re actually in that business, it’s easy to see it all as some elegant, wondrous ball you’ll eventually be invited to… and parts of it are pretty wondrous. However, you do need to keep a clear line of sight to the fact that it is a business, and like every other business, the people who populate it are making a living – and making Cdecisions to facilitate that living. Specifically why Angry Robot closed Exhibit A is a question most of will never have answered (although fellow Ex A scribe and author of the excellent novel Courier, Terry Irving, had a pretty damn astute perspective at: http://getmerewrite.me/2014/06/21/a-bit-of-light-in-the-bullsht-storm-over-exhibit-a-and-strange-chemistry/), but it’s a good reminder that publishing is, at its heart, an economic activity.

So am I disappointed that Exhibit A was shuttered?  Yeah. Very. I was really looking forward to getting The Journalist into the market – it’s a book I absolutely believe in.  Is it the end of the world?  Nope.  It’s just the end of that particular road.  But there are others.  And some of them are highways.  Hell, some are speed-limit-free autobahns.  So who knows what’s next.

In the mean time I’m finishing up another edit to The Journalist, and then it’s back into Submission Land with my (rather awesome) agent Carrie Pestritto.  I’ve also finished the sequel to The Clearing, so for those of you who read and enjoyed the original (and thank-you to everyone who did read it, by the way) rest assured the fates of Ma Joop, Augustine, Nate Mason and Smiley have all been decided.  Maybe one day that novel (An Echo in the Clearing) will find itself a home.

But until then I’ll just keep torturing my keyboard.

 

DN

 


Exceptions to the rule.

So here’s a weird thing.

If you’re already published, or if you’re still trying, then you’ve more than likely brushed up against the concept of the “platform.” Traditional publishing houses love a good platform. It makes you easy (easier) to sell. It means your marketing gets a head start. And it doesn’t matter that you don’t know the difference between a verb and a blurb. Nope. Nuh uh. No Sir. If you can hit the golden trifecta of 1) being beautiful, 2) starring on a reality game show, and 3) getting your sex tape leaked on the internet, then dang it, sign this fat literary contract!

But before I go off on that bitter tangent (too late?), let me give you an example of where the rules of platforming seem to have gone awry.

Recently I met the father of one of my son’s friends. We got to chatting. He’d heard about my little book deal, and I found out he’d self published a couple of books himslef – one just recently. That’s pretty cool. I plan to read them – in fact he had a signing event and had I known that was on, I’d have gone down and supported the cause (because anyone who gets a book written and out deserves showing up for). Anyway, a few weeks later I had the chance to meet his lovely wife, and I discovered through her that her husband – agent-less, publisher-less and duke-ing it out in the self pub world (I know that sounds kinda harsh, but I’m cleverly setting it up for the next paragraph, so bear with me) – is probably the closest thing I know to an honest-to-goodness celebrity.  GP

You see, here’s a guy that has just an incredible set of credits to his name as a TV writer. (And there’s the pay off!)  I mean really. He’s worked in the US on shows like MAD TV, here in Canada on numerous staples like This Hour Has 22 Minutes and dozens of others. Hell, you might even call that, well, dang it, a platform – and a legitimate one where writing and writers are concerned. So why, I ask the literary Gods, hasn’t this man been snapped up by an agent? You’d think that with listings in IMDB, TV writer credits galore and the host of celebrities he’s written for, agents and publishers would be drooling.

I don’t get it.  This guy’s an accomplished writer, and one with a real platform; the world has gone off its kilter.

Somewhere, someone in literaryland is asleep at the wheel.

So today’s lesson is this, fellow scribes: I can confirm once again that I know absolutely nothing about how publishing really works.

If you’ve read this far, go check out his site – he’s hilarious, and while I haven’t read his books (yet), it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun. His name, by the way, is Gary Pearson.

Check him out.

http://www.captainpearson.com/


Touching the toes of the Gods

I had an interesting encounter – albeit a very brief one – with a top shelf, class A author last week.reaching

As you know I’ve been struggling with the concept of PR of late, trying to figure out what I can do to help get the word out on The Clearing and give the book a fighting chance in the market. Among the many ideas I had was to just ask for advice. That’s right, just ask. And who better to ask than someone who had been at the lowly rung I’m on now – and had managed to push on upward.

And so, in the spirit of ah-what-the-heck, I shot for the moon.

I won’t tell you the name of the author, because I think that would be an invasion, but I will tell you that I got a personal reply – and within hours – and I was pretty damn thrilled. And we’re talking a top-of-the-game name here.  (And yes, I know it’ll drive you mad trying to guess who it is).  Now, I wish the story could get a little more exciting here, and that I could report back that he and I are now set to meet over a coffee where he would spin yarn after yarn about his own experiences in book promotion in the lean years.

But no – that’s not happening.

His note back was very nice, but contained what you might expect from an A-list author with the world at his feet: he’s asked daily for advice and guidance. His time is pressed to the max (ironically with obligations to his publisher around promoting his books!), and he’s sorry but no, he can’t help. And yes, he wishes me luck.

And I get it. In that success bracket it’s probably maddening to hear from nobody’s like me, and it probably happens three times a day. Every day. But despite that he wrote me back.  His response was genuine, and it was just a really nice note. I appreciate him taking the time to send it – regardless of the answer. So I hold no gripes, no resentment. It’s just another interesting learning point along the way.

But it does illustrate a point about success. At some point in the career of a successful author, the “community” he must engender and link to during the formative years has to be pushed back to arms length; a necessity if that author is to have time to continue being successful. As budding “successes” ourselves, we try to build these communities, eager to engage with folks and chat it up, add value where we can, connect and discuss, or at least be amusing along the way. We’re striving for that two-way communication that proves people know who we are. But if you hit it big – if your book catches fire and shoots into the consciousness of the masses, that “community relationship” will have to pay the price. The connection will still be there, sure, but by the very nature of the business, it has to be a qualified one. And I think that it probably smarts some for the A-listers who have to bridge that reality. I believe most of them would love to help, to give a hand up, but success works against it.

So while I wish I was the benefactor of first hand advice from the top shelf, I’ll settle for the knowledge that, hey, I swapped a couple of emails with an honest to goodness A-lister.


Me vs. Apollo

Okay, so this getting-people-to-read-your-frikkin-book thing is tough. Tougher than I thought – and I went into this thinking it would be tough.  I went into this the way Rocky went in with Apollo – you know, thinking “it’ll be hard, but winnable.” Turns out it was more like Rocky stepping into the ring with Apollo sporting a pair of Uzis. Ouch.

So after doing all the activities that I understood you needed to do as a dang rookie, (blogs, websites, Goodreads, social media of every sort, launches etc.) I’m still left with that sense that the book is out there like the speck in Horton Hears a Who!  A pink dot in a sea of pink dots. spec

But to my credit, I’ve tried a number of inventive approaches as well: I tried crossing my arms and sulking – even while holding my breath – which turned out to be somewhat less effective than I’d hoped. I tried cussing at the book, and even added a quick flip of the bird. Also largely ineffective. And let’s not forget glaring at random people on my daily drive to work. (That didn’t work either, but it kinda felt good).

So, with all that creativity failing to meet the mark, I’m left with one more option: call in the pros.

No. Not hookers. I’m talking about PR people.

I’ve spent some time looking at options in that area, at websites and pitches, but I keep coming back to the same question: as an individual with comparatively shallow pockets (as compared to a corporation with an actual marketing budget), can I really hope to move the needle with a modest investment of cash? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

But I think I have to try.

And I’m open to the wisdom of the masses here: do you/have you invested in PR activities to support your book? Is there a critical mass of cash that can actually shift the needle? Or is that one of those questions like “how long is a piece of string?”

So let me know… I’d love to hear about your own experience.


Sir Richard: Part II, or Why Twitter Can Be Just Amazing

(…further to my last post, below, “Sir Richard”…)

Well, among many outstanding performances, the man played Santa Clause about as convincingly as it can be done.  And it is Christmas, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised… but last night, I had a reply from Lord Richard Attenborough on Twitter.rich

(Quick side note – I think I am wrong with the “Sir” part – I believe the correct title is Lord. And the man earned it in full, so I’ll correct that now.)

Anyway, just thrilled that he responded – and with all the elegance you’d expect from a man like this.

It made my day.

Thank you, Lord Dickie.

Check it out here:

dickie


Sir Richard.

Do you know any honest-to-goodness celebrities?  I’ve had very, very few encounters with that stratospheric set, in fact, almost none.

Almost.

I do have one encounter, and it’s been something I’ve thought about for many years, because I would dearly love to meet this person again and see if they remember me.  I know, that sounds odd and fairly conceited.  After all, why should a celeb remember little ol’ me?  Well, there is a reason…

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The Doubting Writer

A blog by Dan Newman

LITERARY CARRIE

A blog by Dan Newman