On Frustration

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm frustrated.

This shouldn't be surprising -- a lot of writers are sharing my frustration recently -- but this is my blog so I figure I should tell you how I'm feeling. I'm cynical by nature and always expect the worse but there's still a small part of me that is always hoping for the best. The part of me that kept writing novel after novel, that eventually signed with an agent, that eventually left that agent and then eventually signed with a new one. That part of me that didn't let the continuous rejections get me down, knowing that each novel was good but just wasn't right for the publishers for various reasons. Always so close until the day the whole Hint Fiction thing happened and I sort of found a secret backdoor into the publishing world. Hell, I wasn't going to say no, so I stepped inside, thinking that this was it, that the next book was definitely going to sell this time.

And, who knows, maybe it will. My agent is currently reading the revision on a new thriller, and he tells me he's liking it. Which means that in the next few weeks, if all goes well, he will be taking it out to publishers. And my feelings toward this? I'm not totally sure. Every day that passes I feel less and less comfortable with the idea of signing all the rights to a novel away. Because before, what was the main thing publishers offered? A way to get into bookstores, to reach readers. But bookstores -- at least the major chains -- are fading away (publishers are even looking elsewhere to try to sell books). And even if they weren't, the average shelf-life of a book is, what, two months? After that the only way readers can find your work is by ordering it from, say, Amazon. And of course they can always buy the e-book version (like from, say, Amazon), which would earn me, by industry standards, only 25% royalties ... and that's not after everyone (like the agent) takes their share.

I've never been opposed to self-publishing; I just didn't see it as a viable option. After all, the main thing -- distribution -- just wasn't there. But now it is.

I've been with two agents who have shopped two novels each -- novels that, in one way or another, received very kind words from editors. One editor at Doubleday said she loved the book ... but just didn't feel it was right for the line. And so on and so forth.

Such is life.

The response from each agent after the novels had made their rounds was always the same: We can always revisit them later once you get a book deal.

But at this point, I figure, why wait? I know the books are good enough. And right now they're doing nothing more than collecting dust on my hard drive, so ... again, why wait?

What's so frustrating is I feel like I've finally made it to the threshold of publishing, right to the place I've always wanted to be ... but it's starting to slip away. The entire business model is shifting right before my eyes. It's a good time and a bad time to be a writer, depending on your point of view. Does this mean I have forsaken traditional publishing? Well, there's a funny story to that.

Last fall I applied to three MFA programs. I only applied to three because the two I really wanted to attend didn't require GREs and I had just assumed -- yes, yes, I know the saying -- that all creative writing MFAs didn't require GREs. Boy how I was wrong. But anyway, I applied and have just been waiting and waiting until today when I received a phone call from one of the schools telling me I have been accepted into the program and that they would like to consider me for a TA position. Next week I interview for the position, and hopefully all will go well. Long story short, if I do continue with a program and eventually graduate with a MFA in creative writing and I want to teach writing at a university, it's in my best interest to be published by a major publisher. Sure, I have the Hint Fiction anthology under my belt, but an actual novel is more ideal. Thing is, though, it's making more and more sense not to publish with a major publisher.

See my frustration?

Am I against possibly selling my work to major publishers? Not completely. I'll let my agent go out with this new book and we'll see what's what. Maybe there will be an incredible jaw-dropping offer. Maybe there will be a small insulting offer. Maybe there will be no offer at all. So for now I'm keeping my cynical fingers crossed and hoping for the best. But I'm also taking charge in a few different ways, like releasing those novels that I've been sitting on for years with the idea of "revisiting them later." I've already released four e-books -- the most recent Spooky Nook in case you didn't know (plus *cough cough* there's a contest) -- and the next one, a full-fledged novel, is soon on its way. In fact, here's the finalized cover.