May 242014

Hello, all. I finished The Border about a month ago, but I wanted to wait to announce that until the book was out on the marketplace. I think it’s pretty good, and it’s certainly different from anything I’ve ever written. Hunter has read it and says he thinks it will appeal to fans of Swan Song and Stinger, so that sounds good to me.

I was asked recently about how long it takes to write a book and how long it takes for the book to be published. I replied that it takes me about nine months to write the book, but it can take another year for the publisher to put it into print. They have to do the cover, the marketing plan and all that, and “fit it” into the schedule. Then something unforeseen might happen and the book might be pushed back into a later pub slot, so it can appear that “I” am not working, but believe me, I am.

I have recently been involved in a legal situation with a past publisher (not TOR, who published The Five, nor Subterranean Press). This has gone on for nine months. It’s amazing how much time something like this takes, and how much of a drain on a person’s resources—financial, time, and mental. Just when I think the situation has been resolved, something else crops up and there you go again, back in the murky soup.

Someday further down the line I may write about my experiences in the publishing business. Most of you would not believe what has happened these past twenty years. Every writer I’ve told my situation to has the same response: “That is the worst story I’ve ever heard.” Honestly, every writer says that to me. But I keep soldiering on, even though it’s been sometimes (often) very difficult. Two things actually keep me going: your readership, and the fact that I have many more books I want to read, and the only way I can read them is to write them.

The publishing business is in a strange place right now. Dealing with the people there, you get the sense that some are in shock and sleepwalking due to abrupt changes in the business, yet their egos are swollen to the extent that they can’t see the forest due to the little bitty bugs on all the leaves. I keep up pretty much with the business, and it always fascinates me to see a book promoted and touted before it’s published…and yet as soon as it hits the shelves, it disappears with no fanfare. I have gone out looking for books that received great attention before its pub date, only to find that the book is gone or that the book was never even delivered to my local Barnes & Noble. I spent a whole summer two years ago looking for a book that was supposed to be published in June and part of a “Lord Of The Rings”-type trilogy, and I found one copy of it on a remainder table in October. There were no further additions to the “series”.

More true than ever is the experience of Vernon Thaxter from Boy’s Life. If you don’t know what I mean, read that section where Vernon is explaining to Cory about writing his book Moon Town. ‘Nuff said about that.

Some other writer has said that writing is one of the most brutal professions. Well…think of it. You are on your own. Everything comes from your mind. All the experiences that you’d had through your life color your work. There is no one to help you get through a scene, or make sense of a situation, or guide the work to a successful conclusion. You are on your own, kid. Think about the day-to-day pressure of that, because not only does the work have to be “good”, it has to be “extra-special” good, yet it can’t be too off-the-wall or too “daring”. In my experience, some publishers look for your work to follow a model of success that some other writer has created. I grew up with the idea that you should push yourself to create something that hasn’t existed before, to take chances, and in that way grow as a writer.

Well, I was wrong.

Wrong not in my belief, which I still think is right, but wrong in my idea that the publishing world would rush to embrace a new and different idea. That may have been so in the 1940s and 1950s, when there were primarily literary people in charge of the publishing world…less so in the 1960s and 1970s, when more business people began to come in…less so again the following two decades, and now I find that the business people are fully in charge, the stockholders are breathing down their necks, and any decision to take a chance on a book has to go through a committee, with the punishment of losing your job if you have backed an “under-performing” book. Yet book publishers still struggle to figure out how to promote a book, and most are thrown against the wall to see what sticks. In that kind of climate, very few are successful.

(And maybe I’m talking about the first two books of the Matthew Corbett series, and maybe not.)

Of course it all comes down to individual preference and what experiences have colored the life of any individual editor. The first Harry Potter book was turned down by a ridiculously large number of publishers…and I always thought it was funny, that if you went looking for the actual people who turned down books that later became extremely popular and successful, you would wind up with a handful of air.

Generally speaking, in my experience I have found that some professional people run from responsibility, would die—or kill—rather than admit a fault, and build stone walls to keep there from being any honest or constructive conversation. A publisher can scorn you and treat you like dirt, but any attempt on your part to fix a problem, or at least come to some deeper understanding, is rejected. Truly, you are supposed to become a mute slave, keep on working, and keep on taking any indignity that is pushed upon you. Any “backtalk” resigns you to the gutter.

Why do I stay in this kitchen, if it’s so hot and miasmic?

Because, as I say, I have your readership, your appreciation, and my desire to read books that only I can write. And this is not strictly an oversized ego speaking, but the awareness that to keep going in this business, you have to believe first and foremost in yourself, that you think only you can write this, that no one else can do it better, and by writing this you will be delivering what will hopefully mean something positive to someone and maybe cool off the particularly hot kitchen they might find themselves in. So…it’s for you, and it’s for me, and who else is there?

Moving ahead.

Next up is the second part of I Travel by Night, followed by the next Matthew book. After that will be a book I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, set in New Orleans during the Great Depression. It will be different, I promise that.

Thank you for your readership, your support, and your comments. Without those, where would I be? I shudder to think.

I hope you enjoy The River of Souls, which puts Matthew in quite a few dangerous situations and one at the end that is pretty much a cliff-hanger.

And as I say…moving ahead.

Robert McCammon


  20 Responses to “News from The Border (and other places)”

  1. Thanks for the update, I’m looking forward to reading The River of Souls. Saving it for my holiday read in the summer!

    I’ve enjoyed all your books and will continue to pick up just about everything you write…. I have been following you work since Hunter’s Lights Out website was the place to go for all things Mccammon 🙂

    I understand that most of your work is. Ow published by by a smaller independent publisher, but that has meant cost for your books have always been at a premium. I want to read ‘It Travels By Night’, but at £18 for a 150 page book, I can’t bring myself to buy it..

    You hear a lot of people self publishing on Amazon and getting there books out to a wider audience. Is this something you have ever considered?

    Looking forward to the Border!!

    All the best


  2. I will continue to purchase and read your words. I also notice your books are being printed by specialty printers and the prices are well deserving of the art they produce. Please keep turning out tales. I have said it and posted many times, I would love to see Swan Song reissued in an illustrated anniversary edition. Is there any way you could have Pocketbooks release their rights? Also, James’s reply about self publishing sounds like it would be the way to go.

  3. So sorry bout the “hot kitchen” i know and understand your frustration.keep on keeping on.I am so proud of you.

  4. I have been with you almost from the beginning ( I started with Swan Song) and love everything you have written. You are one of the few authors whose work I will read no matter what it is about. It is your writing and your voice that I love, the way that you tell a tale. That is what I believe makes a great writer. I have introduced you to my book club with Gone South, one of my favorites. I hope you will always continue to tell your tales, with your voice and never listen to what the business people tell you. Real readers will always find your voice.

  5. Rick,

    I have been reading your work since the 80s when we got an ARC of Baal at the bookstore for which I worked. I would read the back of a cereal box if you wrote it!

    If you want to do some research in NOLA come on down I’d love to give you a tour and share some history with you.

  6. So The Border will appeal to fans of Swan Song and Stinger? In other words it will appeal to ALL your fans! Always look forward to anything you write, and please come on out to Los Angeles for a book signing.

  7. Robert,

    As a guy growing up reading your work, I’d say…. publish it yourself.

    I’d say fulfill whatever contracts you might have with your publishers, but the next idea you have, write it, and put it out there without any of them. It’s not costly. It’s not difficult. The hardest part is the writing itself, which I think you have under control. The marketing, with your name recognition, will take care of itself. And with Amazon and Kobo, the royalty is 70%.

    70%… and you’re your own chief. Your own grand pooh-bah. And you won’t ever have to deal with the suits again. Unless you want to deal with the suits.

    …Two cents.

  8. Definitely worth at least looking into self publishing. No reason you can’t try both (going hybrid), unless you’re locked into a non-compete situation.

    A few places to start follow… Probably best to go back and read the posts/blogs, etc. forward from a couple of years ago to get the sense of when/how things changed. On the chance that links or multiple links aren’t allowed, I’m just going to reference them narratively… not hard to find via any decent search engine…

    Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.
    Joe’s one of the original pioneers/firebrands. Many disbelievers, but the years have proved him right and them wrong.

    Writers Cafe forum on Kboards, previously known as KindleBoards. A civil non-toxic place. Dig back a couple of years and read forward for the meaty stuff. The experienced heavyweights posted some really solid stuff there, but have since pulled back a bit, presumably as they’ve offered the advice they had to offer and are busy with their own affairs. Best forum I’ve found so far. Not saying there aren’t other good ones.

    Author Earnings, by Hugh Howey and “data guy”. Probably the only solid numbers for the complete overall picture (i.e. both trad AND self/indie pub) of publishing. Derived from deep drilling/analysis of Amazon best seller lists, groundchecked/verified by informatio voluntarily supplied by authors. Drop the space, add dot com to the end.

    The Passive Voice. Someone with experience in contract law offers coverage and snark of the ongoing bouts of denial and Amazone Derangement Syndrome that the trad media and trad press keep going through. One gets the feeling that he’s seen a lot of bad pubishing contracts over the years.

    • I love Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey. I think their success guarantees that no matter how you publish, readers will find you if you are good.

  9. I am so glad you continued on and have continued to bless us with your gift. Adapt and overcome.

  10. 49yr old man who has been a faithful reader of Mccammon books for many, many yrs now. Haven’t wanted to take all of them to bed , but have snuggled up with almost all of his work.

  11. Whoa, waitaminute. You’re Robert R. McCammon. You’re the guy who wrote “Eat Me”, which I read in the Book of the Dead. You wrote “Nightcrawlers”, one of the best horror shorts of the 20th Century. You’re “Swan Song” McCammon, “Stinger”-“Boy’s Life” McCammon, the guy behind Matthew Corbett.

    Every reader who has ever “tripped the Dark Fantastique” knows your work. No ghoul would ever consider his crypt complete without a few of your titles on the mouldering shelves. We know your work, man. We love what you do and what you create.

    Don’t let the death throes of a temporary and outdated industry hold you down. Get out of that scene. Own your future works, write the new and unique. Ignore the demands of those businessmen, Rob. They’re dying off. I wanna know what the hell is really squirming around in that skull of yours. I want to read it. I want to see you have that freedom. I want to see you profit by it. Your imagery still colors my imagination decades after reading it, and you’re only getting better.

    Self-publish, Mr. McCammon. We, your fans and readers, will follow you.

  12. Thanks so much for fighting this war so we can continue to be enthralled with your stories. I am always waiting anxiously for the next McCammon book to be out! Received my River of Souls the other day and am ready to dive in.

    With gratitude, prayers and love,
    Judy Graehling

  13. I’m going to weigh in with some of the other posters and say, “Self-publish!” There’s no stigma to it anymore, just a writer running his own business. I beat my head against the tradpub wall for 12 to 15 years, and now that I find out what other writers go through, I thank my lucky stars I never broke in. Like any form of self-employment, self publishing has its own set of challenges and demands, but I think overall you’ll find it far better for your mental health than dealing with people who treat you like dirt (or as Laura Resnick says, “like a diseased hooker”) or a slave. You are NOT a slave. You are the reason they have a job at all. You, and the reader. Those swollen egos are only middlemen between the two, middlemen growing less relevant every day.

    I’ll also add my vote for reading The Passive Voice, Author Earnings and the blogs of JA Konrath, Hugh Howey and Dean Wesley Smith. They’re all invaluable sources of information on indie publishing. If you want to connect with anyone who self-publishes, most of us are more than happy to help other writers.

    Good luck!

  14. I know many authors who have been traditionally published balk at the idea of self-publishing, but as a fan Mr. McCammon, I would love for you to self-publish your more “daring” ideas that your publisher won’t let us have.

  15. Dear Mr. McCammon ,

    Let me start by saying that I don’t want to make you feel old but the first time I read one of your books I was fourteen.

    Baal was the start of my teen love-affair-bordering-on-mild-obsession with your writing. I was a voracious reader and you could not produce books fast enough for me, which meant I read the ones I owned until the covers fell off. As I recall, I wrote a book report on The Night Boat, which remains one of my all-time favorites. Back in junior high, I didn’t know your writing was trudging, cliché, repetitive, or lowbrow, I just loved how you wrote about characters I felt I knew and kept me turning pages at the speed of light. There’s something to be said about ignorance and bliss, isn’t there?

    I arrived at university with the goal of becoming a high school teacher and, perhaps one day, a famous novelist just like you! It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I wanted to be taken seriously among my peers in my English courses your name should never pass my lips. (Unless it was followed by the words trudging, cliché, repetitive, or lowbrow). I studied Chekov, Atwood, Shakespeare, and other “real” writers. I liked some of their stories, though I pretended to like them far more than I really did. I pretended to understand the symbolism of the bureau in The Cherry Orchard. I tried to emulate the styles of “real” writers in my own work. I was bored and frustrated. I eventually dropped out – conveniently, at the same time the university suggested I should leave.

    I’ve read Swan Song, Blue World, and Mine. Yes I just used an Oxford comma there! I worked a crappy, early morning shift at a fitness club for awhile and snuck in pages of Boy’s Life during those long, dark, spells when there was nothing to do but stare at the two elderly men strip down to their tighty whities while they hopped on the treadmill at 5:30am. Right now I work on boilers. So if you need any boiler work done in Alabama, give me a call. Perhaps I can give you my card when I see you at the book signing.

    My mom died of cancer when I was 28. It was the first time I’d ever seen a dead body and it made me remember the scene in “Baal”, the one where those kids found the young boy who’d been struck and killed by a train or was it a collapse building. Ah, what does it matter right Mr. McCammon?

    I almost gave up books and writing entirely for awhile, even yours. In one of those weird took the road less traveled by moments, I decided to become a stuntman. The gym was my new home. When I wasn’t at the gym, I was on set, or doing some other kind of stunt training, or eating carrots and Hydroxycut pills so I could double anorexic actresses. It was a pretty exciting job, (far more fun than trying to understand the symbolism of bureaus). Maybe I can crash headfirst into a bookshelf at the bookstore where you’ll be signing your new book. Don’t worry, I won’t get hurt. I always wear a helmet no matter where I go. Indoors, outdoors, it doesn’t matter.

    My wife was a stuntwoman, too. She doesn’t read much fiction, and I don’t think she’s ever understood why I do, but she’s never made me feel bad about admiring your work. This says a lot about the kind of woman she is and why I’ve always known we would be lifers. My God, she completes me. You complete me too Mr. McCammon, but strictly in a literary way. I’ll explain it more when I meet you.

    After going walkabout in 2003, I returned to my once-voracious reading habits and now I had a laptop to write on. (Wow, I wish we’d had those when I was fourteen.) I started writing in earnest. A year later, I announced that I was going to try and make a living at this writing thing, at long last. I was terrified, mostly that someone would figure out what a huge fraud I was. After all, I didn’t have a college or university degree, I still didn’t know what the bureau in The Cherry Orchard meant, and I had a box full of Robert McCammon novels hidden away. How could anyone take me seriously?

    I don’t have a lot of heroes but you’re one of them, Mr. McCammon. If for no other reason than because you do what you love no matter what anyone else thinks of it. Oh, did I mention I indie published my first novel? Well, I and my writing partner, Josh, indie published our first novel. We followed the traditional route first—got a good agent, watched the manuscript go out to all the big publishers, read the very complimentary rejection letters. After that, we decided to do it ourselves. I like to think we did it right but there’s still that giant stigma around self publishing that hovers over my shoulder. You, of all people. You! You can be accused of many things, Mr. McCammon, but the need for vanity press publishing is not among them.

    Can’t wait to meet you in Alabama at your book signings. By the way, I’ll be dressing my nine year old son like Baal. I’ll be wearing my Robert McCammon specialty helmet just for you! You won’t be able to miss us.

    Thanks for everything and please don’t stop writing.

    Your #1 fan,

    David “Peaches” Baker

  16. I picked up Blue World back in 1988 or so and read the stories to my kids. We still talk about PIN and Yellow Jacket Summer to this day. My kids grew up and recommend your books to their friends now. I have recommended my other fave’s to all the avid readers I know…MINE and Gone South, Boys Life…the Matthew Corbett books, THE FIVE…the list goes on..there was a long dry spell, when I checked the bookshelves for something new from you every week…and I was so happy when you reappeared on the book scene again.

    Your readers appreciate what you go through to get your amazing books out to us. The hours my family and friends and I have spent reading and re-reading your books …it’s more than entertainment, you have become a close friend, like that one kid at sleep-away camp who always knows the best stories to tell round the campfire.

    Please keep it up and let your fans know what we can do to help.

  17. Keep up the great work Rick. I’ll always read what you write regardless of where it is published. Loving The River of Souls!

  18. I hope some day you are in a position to share your experiences in the publishing industry in a frank and open manner. You highlight how writers are largely at the mercy of the suits and bean counters at larger publishing houses. I’m also mindful of how the relationship between the author and his or her readers is co-opted and subverted by the publishing houses. You are one of my top 5 favourite authors and I would love to support your work in any realistic fashion – buying your books, sharing reviews, turning others on to your work. It’s frustrating that, as a reader, I wind up being at odds with your publishers because of their byzantine methods in determining what gets published, when and where (don’t get me started on the frustration in not being able to get River of Souls as an ebook because I am in Canada). Have you ever considered self-publishing like many successful authors are now doing via Amazon so as to be able to follow your muse more fully? I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts on self-publishing. I ask this from a very self-serving place: I just want to read your works when you decide they are ready to be released. All the best, Robert!

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