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?
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.