Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Bit About Failing and Signing a Book Deal

M a n o r M i n o r P r e s s

While I have been hard at work—or play, depending on your definition—writing Scarlet and the Barrier's Fall, the wonderful folks at Manor Minor Press have offered me a four book deal to publish the Scarlet Hopewell Series.  I am thrilled at this new opportunity, and am incredibly excited that the series now has a publisher.  While self-publishing has been an educational and rewarding experience, I readily welcome the luxuries in life that come with having editors, book set designers, illustrators, and marketing.  I can't say I ever really got good at any of those things anyway, but it is a great relief to now put all my concentrated efforts into writing.

"Many of life's failures are people who didn't realize how close they were to success when they gave up." -Thomas Edison 

So, I thought I would take this opportunity to share a story of a more personal nature in the hopes that those who may be discouraged by the "business" of writing may find a bit of inspiration.  I think sometimes a story like this has more impact when success is still in its infant stage than it does coming from a best selling icon.  Also, I can always use a bit of encouragement myself—hence the quotes between my paragraphs. 

“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” - Bill Gates

Like many authors, I imagine, my love of books and writing goes back to quite a young age.  I've been writing little books and stories from the age of about six (as a side note, I'm quite pleased to say that my daughters seem to be following in my footsteps in that regard).  At the wise old age of seventeen, having all the answers, no clue what failure even meant, and quite ready to conquer the world, I wrote my first novel on a dare.  A former friend told me, during a marathon session of the computer game Pirates, and while lamenting how terrible the pirate movie that we had recently watched had been (this was well before Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), that it just wasn't possible to write a good pirate story anymore.  Challenge accepted.  I began William the next day.  Now, whether or not I succeeded is not for me to say, everyone seemed to enjoy the book, but everyone didn't include the New York Times or anyone I didn't know personally for that matter.  What did matter was that I was hooked.  I knew what I wanted to be, and soon, I would be the youngest, best selling novelist of all time.

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

I wrote another book, finished during my freshman year at William and Mary, and promptly sent it off to agents.  I don't recall now where I got the names of these "agents", but I got a reply from a number of them—mostly admonishing me for not following their submission guidelines—but one, who told me that I reminded her of a young Harper Lee, took me on as a client.  I, of course, was not surprised.  I was eighteen and fantastic in every possible way.  That agent, turned out to be a fraud.  After spending 500 dollars to get her to edit my manuscript (your agent is not your editor: lesson 1), and waiting for over a year for something to happen, I let the contract with her expire, and sadly to say, let discouragement be my guide.  The business of getting books published was not for me.  When I met my future wife the next year, I showed her my book, and when she didn't instantly exalt my genius, the vicious circle of self doubt was complete.  I stopped writing for nearly three years (Don't do that: lesson number 2.  Everything written is worth something.  Even if it's a learning experience).

"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can't accept not trying." -Michael Jordan

To say that I quit writing does not mean the stories stopped coming.  They did.  My imagination was full of them, my restless mental wanderings just no longer had a healthy outlet.  Eventually though, sometime towards the end of my senior year and my service in the army, the keyboard came calling again.  Mimic the Devil was the result, and I will proudly say, it is a great book.  Dark, violent, and full of anger, descending madness and redemption, this book was destined for the best seller list.  Query letters followed, this time to agents vetted by the Writer's Market.  Rejection letters followed in the weeks and months after that, most, form letters that seemed to say, "I didn't actually bother to read your letter, but since you enclosed a self addressed stamped envelope, here's some meaningless prater to ensure you realize how much you've wasted my time."  I still have quite the collection of these beauties, even a handful with actual responses from well meaning real human beings.  This time around though, my wife was kinda impressed, I felt like I had written a great book, and I only let the discouragement of the form letter avalanche keep me from resubmitting, not from writing all together.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

More books followed.  More agent rejection letters followed.  Then came Scarlet Hopewell and my wife was very impressed.  I'm talking, eyes wide, holy cow, this is incredible, impressed.  This time, I decided I was done with agents and went straight to the publishers.  The problem with this strategy was that Scarlet and the Keepers of Light was unpolished and not professionally edited.  Scholastic showed genuine interest, but Scarlet wasn't ready for the big time quite yet.

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” - J.K. Rowling

And then came Amazon.  At 34 years old, my dreams of being a professional author, while still present, took a back burner to my desire to share my stories.  Amazon gave me that outlet.  I self-published and people started reading.  I didn't have professional editing, cover art, or book design, but at least people where reading and saying good things about what they read.  I would be lying if I said that this brought about total satisfaction, but it was a start.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill

Enter my fantastic, brilliant, and detail oriented editor.  I found out about her through a friend, who found her by looking up who had edited for Daniel Silva.  Without the same desperation for success I experienced in my youth, I wrote to her.  She accepted me as a client and within a matter of six months, Scarlet and the Keepers of Light became a polished, fantastic novel (nothing can replace a great professional editor: lesson number 3).

 “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy

And so this stage of my writing career ends as I began the post, with a publishing contract for the Scarlet Hopewell Series.  Does the next stage include world wide fame?  Well, you never know— a bit of the seventeen year old kid in me still.  The point of sharing my story was just to show, as many other authors and artists have, that what matters more than almost anything when trying to accomplish a dream is perseverance.  You will be discouraged.  You will inevitably fail.  Learn from the mistakes of others and most of all, from these failures you experience.  Don't give up.  Keep writing.  Keep painting.  Keep singing, acting, and sculpting.  Everyone has a story to tell.  If you are one of those who has more than one, you owe it to yourself to keep sharing them with world.  I'll leave you with the wise words of Stephen King, who I think puts it better than I can:       

“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” -Stephen King



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