Archive for Attempting

Promises at the Conference

I stopped by the writer’s conference for a beer. I had decided not to attend the conference this year, clinic as I am not really in a good position to pitch this year. I’ve decided that I’m probably going to rewrite FAILUR. I think I can make it a lot tighter. Now matter what I do to it, drug it is going to be an odd beast. I had a beer with Doug and talked to some other writers. As usual the conference was a mass of tension as writers agonized over getting and keeping agents attention. I saw Jennifer briefly. She had won an award for her newer novel, remedy and was getting some attention from agents. With any luck she’ll break through soon.

I made a promise to myself while at the conference, that I would be pitching my new novel at next year’s conference (if not well before). I also decided that I would rewrite FAILUR and create some podcast – though I stopped short of promising myself on a date.

The Winter Campaign and Beyond

I have determined that from a marketing perspective FAILUR is a hybrid freak. My werewolves go to dinner. They argue about whose turn it is to do the dishes. My monsters wish they had better jobs. There is suspense in the story, healing but it is not primarily an action/adventure – in a sense the story is about the protagonist’s quest to find suspense.

Early on, I stressed the exotic and adventurous part of the story to agents (the serial killer, the ghost, the doomsday prophecy). I got some interest. But the agents who read a portion of it said it “didn’t develop fast enough” or something else indicating it was slow. I’d set the wrong expectation. They were expecting a fast paced, hard-boiled, urban fantasy.

Last time I told you that I changed my strategy for how I present the novel to agents. For one thing, changed the name for the novel from “FAILUR: A Werewolf Love Story” to just “FAILUR.” I’ve also changed my query. I think the new query more accurately reflects the contents and tone of the novel. I like it because it is storytelling as much as it is a sales pitch. The risk is that some agents will think this is gimmicky.

Please consider representing my story FAILUR. Though it has been a while since my fifteen minutes of fame, you may recall my role in stopping the “Harbinger” serial murderer. The mainstream media’s version of the event was sensationalized and manipulated by politicians and special interests. FAILUR will be the first time real story is told.

FAILUR is about my life leading up to the events at ‘the Altar’ on the so called Night of the Penultimate Motion. I hadn’t planned to become a werewolf. No one does. At first, I did what was expected. I went to the support groups. I medicated and quarantined myself. It was killing me. I’m not sure how I would have stilled the electricity in my limbs or the spinning wheels in my mind, had I not met Amanda Cross.

Amanda was not as she had been portrayed in the media. She was a creative free-spirit who loved to laugh (admittedly, she did have a bit of an edge). We were malcontents. Our lives were not going as planned. We were sick of the fake choices others offered us. When the prophecy seemed to come true, and the world started falling apart around us, we thought that we had just as much right as anyone to do something about it. We really didn’t know what we were doing. At first we were just wandering. We were reckless. We didn’t really mean to find trouble.

FAILUR is not just a book for werewolves. It will appeal to anyone who knows what it’s like to feel a little lost when their life plans have been derailed. It’s a story for anyone who has had trouble finding their own way.

I have included the first pages of the manuscript. The complete manuscript is 109,000 words and it is available upon request.

NOTE: While I am willing to work with editors to emphasize parts of the story they feel are of public interest, I will not comment on Ms. Cross’s present status (for reasons that are made clear in the narrative). I hope this is not a deal breaker.

I’ve used this pitch for two batches of queries. While I did not get agent representation from the first batch, I feel like I got better rejections. I can’t prove this. It is a subjective observation. I still got more form rejections than anything else. But I did get a few people wanting to read some pages, and some of the rejections seemed better thought out. My query even prompted at least one agent to go to my website.

I sent out another batch of 20+ queries recently. I’ve already received a number of form rejections. Most haven’t responded yet and maybe never will. Two agents liked the query, they read a few pages and they wanted to read more. It is normal for it to take agents between 4-8 weeks to read a manuscript. I’ve keep you posted.

A Report on the State of Publishing

When researching agents recently, buy I found an agent who had a note which said: “Due to conditions in the publishing market, this agent no longer accepts queries from authors who have not been previously published by a bona fide publisher.” The few people I’ve mentioned this too, thought it sounded harsh. The truth is that I like the simple directness of it. Really many of the agents express the same thing in their form rejection letters, just not as clearly.

The publishing industry sucks now. Fewer and fewer people buy/read books. Fewer and few large corporations own publishing and they are institutionally incapable or unwilling to champion books that do not fit in their marketing templates. The agents are very careful with their time. You’ve got a few seconds to convince them that they are going to be able to sell you to the publisher. It helps if your book happens to fit their particular passion, but it’s not necessarily enough.

I would almost feel sorry for them, but I have my own problems.

I rarely worry about whether my writing is good. I assume it is good. At least it pleases me in some way. I could always make the writing better. But at some point I have to decide to stop. I rarely worry about whether my writing is good. The question is, what is it good for.

Some of you would enjoy my novel. Some of you would not. You might think it is bad, or it may just be a story that does not interest you. It does not bother me that some people will not like my novel. Success is not counted by the ration readers who like or dislike the story. It’s not measured in the number of readers. I know this, and yet I am still too reliant on this big publishing industry to get out my book.

What I need to do is to work on alternate distribution channels. I talk about this all of the time. I need to work on online publishing, podcasts, or printing on demand. I need to find the online community of people who would be interested in this story. One of the reasons I haven’t done this is laziness (well, not entirely laziness, I have recently been obsessed with completing the 30,000 work “outline” for my next story). But part of me is still stuck on the idea, I want my book to sitting on a shelf a Barnes and Noble.

A Break from the BIG Story

I’m feeling rushed. This is nothing new. I always feel rushed.

I promised myself that I would write something here once a week. It was my way to keep myself in balance. Otherwise I become too anxious about the BIG STORY. I want it done now. I can never do enough on the BIG STORY until it is done. In my heart I still chase the BIG dream of the BIG novel, that turns into a BIG film, and launches the BIG writing career.

I keep chasing the fantasy.

Doug, at work, keeps saying that the Internet is the future. He is looking at pod casts. I believe he is right. The internet, new media, is the way to go. It is still open enough that you can carve out a niche without being beholden to big dinosaur industries. I need to spend a little more time, looking into it, but I’m too busy chasing the BIG dream.

I don’t have a title yet for the new BIG story. I’ll tentatively call it Lennon 45. While I’m unhappy about the speed of progress (I’m never happy with the speed of progress), I’m pretty happy with the story so far. The “outline” will be about 25,000 words. I think to myself, that all I will have to do is to add 2 words for every word in the outline and I will have another novel. Of course this isn’t exactly true. I’m going to have to put an awful lot of characterization and style into those two words.

The new BIG story follow a young reporter in 1970, who gets into a mess of trouble when an ex-girlfriend – now a Weather Underground like radical – comes back into his life. It’s wrong place at the wrong time story consciously channeling Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Three Days of the Condor, but with a light Science Fiction edge. I am having some problems with the B-story, which follow an FBI agent (I’m probably changing this to a Police Detective). The B-story is still a little too functional. Both the reporter and FBI agent/detective are archetypes from old movies and television, but their world will be much more subversive.

Well, I’ve better get back to it. I’ve only got a little time to work on the BIG story, before I’ve got to do something else.

1001 Tips for Creating an Irresistible Query Letter

  1. Ignore advice from people who have not been successful. What do they know? All they can give you is conjecture and rehashed conventional wisdom they read from what was probably a better source.
  2. Be famous already. Agents and publishers love working with authors who have a wide following before their book is even released. This reduces their risk. If you are not famous already, ailment remember in this case ‘infamous’ is almost as good as regular famous. Go out their and sleep with a celebrity or politician. Keep in mind that there are laws that prevent convicts from profiting from their crimes, so you will have to find a legal way to get public attention.
  3. Nepotism!
  4. Find opportunities to discuss your project with your literary friends. Invite some agents to your place in the Hamptoms. Play racket ball with your old Yale buddy that’s now at Penguin.
  5. Join the Writer’s Digest Book Club, and get a book about formatting and submitting your novel and three other books for “FREE” when you agree to purchase another Writer’s Digest Book Club selection at the regular club price. About every three weeks you will receive in the mail the Writer’s Digest Book Club catalog of books with a featured “Book of the Month” which you will be sent automatically if you do not return the order form indicating you do not want it. After a few months you will forget to send the order form back in time and receive the featured book. It will probably be about making you memoir a spiritual. You will think about returning it, but decide it is easier to keep it. (Note: This description my not accurately represent any actual Writer’s Digest Book Club plan or offer. The Writer’s Digest Book Club is not associated with this site.)
  6. Go to the store and find a book that is something like yours. (What? No other books like yours? Congratulations! You just wrote a book that has no market). Read the book. Find out who the author’s agent is. If you are lucky that author will have thanked the agent in the acknowledgement section. You may also be able to find the agent through a search online. If you cannot find out who the agent is, start over. Go back to the book store and buy another book. Now look up that agent at the agent’s website or in a guide to agents and find out what they are looking for. Read reviews of other books the agent has sold. Find out if the agent is currently accepting unsolicited queries from new authors. If not, start over. Right a one page query letter to the agent explaining how your book fits the agent’s list. Describe the premise of your story, what makes it stand out from other books, and why someone would want to read it. Send the query by email if the agent accepts is that way. Now one of three things happens: a) you get a return email within 24-hour explaining how you should keep trying even though they didn’t think the book was quit right for them; b) you never get a response from the agent; or c) the agent asks you to send the first fifty pages
  7. Add pictures or artwork with your query. If it is really cool, maybe it will catch the agent’s eye. Or if you are not an artist, attach something to the query letter that is meaningful to your story – a black feather from that mysterious crow that follow around your protagonist; or a tiger-striped dotted just like the one you main character wears. Even though all the article and book about writing to agents tell you that this will be perceived as gimmicky or unprofessional by the agent, maybe, just maybe, the agent will understand what you are trying to do. Perhaps they will keep your query letter long enough to really think about it. And if they really think about it, they will realize that it is a good idea. And if they will just read a few pages then they will see your writing and then they will understand your story and everything you put into it and they will know that they can get others to enjoy your story and then you will be published because it doesn’t matter if most agents think your picture, feather or button is stupid, you just have to get one to understand.
  8. Indiscriminately send a query letter to every agent you can find. Fuck it, it’s not like most of them are going to read it anyway. You might as well just get over with. If none of them can recognize a good story then screw them.
  9. Go into a deep depression for a while.
  10. Consider self-publishing.
  11. Go into a deep depression for a while.
  12. Take up painting, yoga, or online gaming.
  13. Go into a deep depression for a while.
  14. Consider self-publishing.
  15. Go to the store and find a book that is something like yours. Read the book. Find out who the author’s agent is. Send them a query.

Winter Campaign – Update

I have had one response to the 10 queries I sent out so far. An agent who I sent a sample chapter and synopsis wanted 100 pages. It’s a good thing, but too early to declare the Winter Campaign a success. I promise to tell ou more about the Winter Campaign soon. Really I want to tell you about it before it is clearly a success or failure. If I tell you about it after it’s failed, then the stupidity of it will be too aparent. If I wait until it is successful, I will seem that I did not have enough confidence to tell you about it until it was proven. My plan is to post it with my next newsletter. 

The Winter Campaign

Last week I sent another 10 queries to agents – snail mail this time. I’ve adopted a new tactic. A good query does two things. It sets the proper expectations about the manuscript and keeps the agent’s attention long enough to so that they will think about it before rejecting it. I’m hoping that they will see it as clever and original. The risk, though of going something different is that they will think it is gimmicky and that it gives them an excuse to move on the next one. I’ll tell you about the new tactic soon, at the moment I have some other things on my mind.

Gear and Loafing in America

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I don’t want to do that.”
  – Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), Say Anything

“You pretend to be more eccentric than you actually are because you fear you are an interchangeable cog.”
  – Douglas Coupland

I sold buttons with my roommates (Michael, Shannon, and MK) when I lived in Eugene, Oregon in semi-optional poverty. We’d scraped together $100 to mail order the button materials and we’d borrowed the button press from MK’s brother Charles, who sold tie-dye stuff at Dead concerts (which would make Charles feel entitled to steal from us later).

The button designs were mostly conventional: symbols (like ankhs, yin yang, and peace signs), quotes from Freud, Einstein, Gloria Steinem, and Marx, and political statements (Free Tibet!), smiley faces, and character (the Grinch and “Bill” from School House Rock). We came up with some original slogans and designs, like “Follow me, I’m Jesus” and “Fuck off! I’m Meditating.” Don't Be A Cog Button

I used Michael’s Apple to create the gears that now appear as the header of my website and newsletter for a button that said, “Don’t be a Cog.” This wasn’t just another slogan to me. At the time, this directive had resonance and urgency. I’d rejected the big industrial-commercial machine. I saw that civilization was a giant Ponzi scheme, borrowing from the environment and the poor to finance temporary gain. I wanted as little to do with it as possible. I was going to use my time doing something worthwhile, or at least something creative and fun. And if I couldn’t do either, I wanted to do as little as possible.

Yin Yang Fish I had mixed success at doing little. I was a part time shift supervisor at a skating rink in nearby Springfield. I got off early enough in the evenings that I could go to a bar or a night diner. There was no alarm clock. When I decided to get up, I would bicycle along the Willamette River, stopping to practice Tai Chi or to pick blackberries when they were in season. I often went hiking or hung out at Buffalo Gals (a coffee shop where I was known). And sometimes I wrote stories or worked on schemes with my roommates. Only frequent misery kept it from being perfect.

Despite the schemes, it was stagnant. I was restless and impatient. My roommates were my best friends, but we had lived together a little too long in a too too crowded apartment. Increasingly we all looked for ways out. I didn’t date and had sex even less. And my poverty was only partially voluntary. Unless someone wanted me to direct a short film, I had no marketable skills. I was at the end of my middle twenties, and I’d failed at (or turned my back on) my first two ambitions. I was running out of ideas.

Sunflower Botton In many ways, my life is better now. I’m married and I have a smart and silly five year old. I know many interesting people, some of which I can call friends. I have a fairly good job, a house, and I put money away for the future. Perhaps, I’m a wage slave, but I’m just as much a slave to my writing. I have less free time, I don’t know if I would have ever had the discipline to write a novel with my loose schedule I’d had in Oregon.

In most way things are much better now than they were when I created the gears artwork, but I am definitely a COG.

Most of my waking hours are spent in routine, work, chores, feeding. My job can be interesting, but it is all about saving money for a large multinational corporation. I may free time it is difficult not to want to crash by the TV or play a stupid game on the computer. I look for ways out of the machine. But I know that even if I become a successful novelist, it is no guarantee I will escape (it could, in fact pull me in deeper). Dead Smiley

Though long gone, that guy that created the gears artwork is my harshest and most interested critics. He wouldn’t necessarily been opposed to my job (to him all non-personal job were the same: janitors, offices temp, project manager, etc.) He would not approve of my working overtime (without time and a half!) He would have frowned when I took the job home with me or when I lost sleep over it. He would have expected me to spend more time with some political or community cause. Mostly, he would have hated that I ever allowed routine to make me forget what is important: Action! Creativity! Connection! He would have been pleased that I was trying to get my novel published, even if it took me forever.

I’m not sure if my former self would have approved of my life now. But then again, he didn’t know everything.

Gear Art

The intermediate art between the button and the header.

Stuck at the Horse Latitudes

Day after day, viagra order day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

- Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

When the still sea conspires an armor
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters,
True sailing is dead.

- The Doors, Horse Latitudes

The winds at the Horse Latitudes are variable and unpredictable, making the seas alternately choppy, and calm. Colonial ships, their sails stilled, could be stuck in the hot humid waters of the Horse Latitudes for weeks. Precipitation is uncommon. Sometimes, to conserve water and lighten their loads, sailors would pitch horses overboard and drown them in these treacherous seas. It is for this that these latitudes (30-35 degrees north and south of the Equator) get their name. (Actually they may be named for the Persian general and navigator, Sataspes, but this explanation is not as interesting.)

Now, at the end of 2007 my story is adrift. I was a good enough navigator to know it was coming, but not a good enough captain to avoid it. A few days ago I’d received a rejection from the last agent that took any interest in my story. I haven’t sent any queries out for a while, mostly because I have been focused on my outline of my next story (and my website). My problem at the moment is not how to get my novel published, however. Right now, I’m thinking about how I continue writing these posts from still waters.

When I started writing these posts there was movement. I announced that I had completed the novel and that there was some immediate interest by agents. I knew that it would not last. Even with “quick” success in publishing could take two years before the book was in print. More likely it would five years or more, and it might be the second or third book that finally sold. Foolishly perhaps, I began writing this story, knowing that I would likely become stuck along the way with little apparent movement.

But it is lazy to view life as a lot of waiting between destinations (and depressing I think). As a writer, it interests me to show the stillness between the big actions – to show that it is not really stillness at all. The real reason I write this, however, is because as long as I have a story to tell, then my pursuit has not failed. The real failure is running out of story, and I am far from running out of story. Of course I would like a wide audience, but it doesn’t matter it my story goes out like a lonely message in a bottle bobbing the waves that my never find it shore. As long as I’ve got story, I have something.

Still I want to keep my story interesting. I don’t want to be like the Ancient Mariner spending eternity accosting wedding with his albatross killing story. So while I end 2007 stuck in my own Horse Latitudes, wondering what I might have to jettison to propel my story onward, I’ll leave you with a preview of directions the story might take.

I will try new ways to sell my story to agents. I may decide to make significant rewrites to the manuscript. This will be ugly, but it may be the best path. I will continue the work on the next novel, which could overtake FAILUR. Meanwhile I intend to explore new ways to get my stories out their and to make connections with other writers. I shall tell you a little something of the demons that follow me on this journey, alternately blowing me off course and pushing me forward. Perhaps in 2008 I will reach my destination, or maybe like Columbus I will find some different land not on my charts.

Happy New Year friends. May the winds be at your backs and may you have a star to guide your journey.

I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

- Styx, Come Sail Away

All’s Quiet

I still haven’t heard back from the agent reading the first chapters of my story. Lately I’ve been focused on the next story or on this site, but It’s been a while since I’ve sent queries. I need to send out some more.

Red Planet and the Revolution

Remember, sales remember the Fifth of November, treat
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot, ask
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot

Traditional Guy Fawkes Night Rhyme

Monday night Pam and I went to the launch party for Red Planet Audio Books. Toby, the president of the company is a neighbor of ours. It was Guy Fawkes Night , and Red Planet used the day to invoke a sense of revolution. “The traditional publishing model,” says their brochure, “is a big ol’ dinosaur, too old and slow and short-sighted to realize that the world has passed it by.” They provide audio book print-on-demand audio book services that allow independent authors to by-pass the conventional publishing industry.

From what I know of Toby, he spent some time receiving rejection letters from conventional media for his work. But he seems to have given up on rejection to do his own thing. He has his own radio theater company, the Violet Crown Radio Players, and does a weekly podcast, Chicken Fried Radio.

Red Planet’s view on publishing is not unique. Even at the agent and editor conference, which is heavily invested in the conventional publishing industry, people saw that it is in trouble. It is increasing run by a few mega corporations trying to produce “sure-things” with minimal OpEx (operating expenses), catering to a shrinking book buying market. With services like Red Planet or more conventional paper print-on-demand companies author can produce small runs and even single copies of their book at relatively affordable rates. With the Internet it is increasingly possible for authors to find their niche and find their audience. It is, however, difficult for all but the most marketing savvy or lucky writers to make money at it (if that is their goal).

As for myself, I have reasons for doing what I am doing right now (laziness, bestseller fantasies, ideas that I could make enough money to allow write full time, and hidden-agendas-that-I-haven’t-revealed-yet-but-which-should-be-apparent-if-you-think-about-it), but I like the DIY ethic, and I’m keeping an eye on the options.

If I said you had a beautiful body…

You’re giving me the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine? I invented “it’s not you, it’s me”! Nobody tells me it’s them not me, if it’s anybody it’s me!
George – Seinfeld

If you read my last journal, you may recall, that I left you with a cliffhanger. An agent had read my first few chapters, and had liked them enough to request the full manuscript (420 pages). After a month or so with the full story, she decided that it was not for her.

“Oh well, it’s a drag, but there are a lot more agents. They say it can take years to get an agent. I’ve got to keep trying.”

Meanwhile, I’ve send query letters to another 20 or so agents. So far, one of these though the story sounded “interesting,” and has requested to read the first few chapters. Her reading time is running 6-8 weeks. So I have more suspense (I told you).

I haven’t heard from most of the others, and I probably never will. I have received a number of rejections.  Here’s one:

Dear Mr. Wittenbrook,
Thank you for your letter.  We appreciate your giving us the opportunity to consider your work for possible representation, but we are afraid we have decided to pass.  Of course this is only one response, and tastes vary widely among agents.  We wish you the best of luck finding the right home for your work.

And another:

Thanks so much for sending me your query. Unfortunately, your book isn’t right for my list. However, as you know, this business is very subjective and someone else may feel very differently. Best of luck.

Yet another:

Thank you for your recent letter.  I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work. However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.


Thanks for writing, but this isn’t for me.

I don’t blame the agents for their short impersonal responses. They have to sort through hundreds of queries and submissions and make snap judgments about which meet their taste and which they think they can sell to an increasingly crappy fiction market. Nevertheless, it does feel a little like the kind of clumsy brush off you might get (or give) after a third date. I can’t help but feeling slightly sullied by their perfunctory attempts to let me down gently.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid I must decline on this project right now, but I do want to encourage you to continue submitting. Just because a project isn’t quite right for me doesn’t mean the right agent isn’t just around the corner.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, babe, but you’ve got a lot going for you. There are more fish in the sea. You’ll find someone else. You deserve someone who will really want you for you.”

I know it is difficult to receive a rejection, but this certainly doesn’t mean your work is without merit–it just doesn’t match our needs at this time.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

In dating, if you haven’t been successful in a while, it is easy to become desperate and start thinking that you want ANY relationship. I have an odd, quirky book, but it is also entertaining and I believe there is an audience that will identify with it. I don’t mind that I am collecting rejections. The problem is that I don’t really learn anything from them. They make me feel like my queries are crude pickup lines (“What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place line this?” or “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”) My next challenge is to become more sophisticated about the business, and to think about my other options. Because in this, as in dating, desperation is worse than failure (in fact, desperation is also worse than success).

“Oh well, it’s a drag, but there are a lot more agents. They say it can take years to get an agent. I’ve got to keep trying.”

At least for now.


It should be obvious that a journal called FAILUR (or, prescription for that matter, pharm a novel called FAILUR), prescription is not about success. The first newsletter may have set the wrong tone with its announcement that I had finished the novel and sent it to the first agent. But I never intended for this to be a record of accomplishment. 

What then, you might wonder, is this supposed to be about? Am I expecting to fail? Am I writing there journals to document my painfully slow defeat? And in writing these, am I just jerking my audience around?

That is not my intent. True, this journal was not meant to be about success, but a journal called FAILUR (or, for that matter, a novel called “FAILUR”), is not necessarily about failure either. This is about suspense.

What do I mean by suspense? I mean it is about not knowing what is going to happen next. And more importantly about what you do with yourself while you are suspended.

My novel is currently “being considered” at a major New York literary agency. This phrase doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The phrase “being considered” was given to me by Dan (husband of Melanie, my Hollywood roommate, circa 1990-1991). When I spoke to Dan, it was Melanie’s birthday. I had just recently sent the novel to the first agent. It’s always good to be able to go to a party and to tell people that you are working on something. It’s even better when you can tell people that you have just finished something. But the problem is that “just finished something” is cool for a while, but it expires. You can say that you “just finished something” for a few weeks, maybe a month. Success is temporary.

Dan is a musician. He understood. He suggested the phrase, “being considered.” The good the thing about “being considered” is that is can go on indefinitely. Technically my novel has been at one or more agent offices (and therefore “under consideration”) almost the entire time that it has been complete.

While this phrase, “being considered” doesn’t have to mean much, It turns out that right now (as I write this) it actually means a little. I sent my first fifty pages to an agent I’d met at the conference. About a month later I got the response that she would like to read the complete manuscript (420 pages!).

You might think I would open with this information: “Good News! An agent read the first few chapters and now she wants to read the whole thing!” The truth is that I would never open a journal like this, even if I were writing a journal about success. If I were a journal about success I wouldn’t tell about this at all. If I were writing about success I would wait another month until I heard back form the agent and say: “Good News! I’ve got an Agent!!!” If the agent decided to pass, I might not write at all.

As it happens, I’m writing a journal about suspense. I chose to write the journal now, because I don’t know what will happen.

Next time I write, this will be resolved: 

Of course, she wanted to represent me. The story is great. Why did I ever doubt? I was just being cautious.

Oh well, it’s a drag, but there are a lot more agents. They say it can take years to get an agent. I’ve got to keep trying.

But neither outcome will conclusive. Suspense will be followed by suspense. And again the important question is what to do in the meantime.

Fool’s Paradise Lost

I’m not sure why it took eight weeks to get my first rejection. The agent’s response suggested that she misplaced my pages, price but it may have been a problem with my email. I’m not sure why, don’t really care.

The smart thing to do would have been to start sending queries to other agents. At least I should have sent a prompting email to the first agent sooner. But I was enjoying the wait. I had worked on the novel for so long. It was good to have a break. It was good not to worry about it for a little while. And most of all for a few weeks I allowed myself to imagine that it could be easy.

A fool’s paradise? Sure, but still paradise, right?

I knew eight weeks was too long to wait even for the notoriously slow publishing business. But the chance to live this fantasy would not come again. Most fantasies cannot survive without some effort. You can’t pretend that you are going to win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. But this time all I had to do was watch television and drink beer.

In truth, I was getting edgy by the fifth or sixth week. Finally I wrote back to the agent, re-sent the beginning of the book, and received the agent’s friendly rejection. It freed me from the illusion. Rejection sucks. But it was also a nudge; it was time to get back to work.

Even before I got the agent’s response, I was beginning to question the way I was positioning my quirky novel. The agent wanted more to happen in the first few pages. Maybe she is right. If it turns out the beginning is slow, I can fix it. The bigger problem is setting the right expectation. If readers are looking for the Dresden Files or Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, they’ll be frustrated.  Despite the werewolves, the haunting, the serial killer, and looming apocalypse, it is really a story about a couple of romantic malcontents looking for something/anything worthwhile to do with their time, going a little overboard, and finding trouble.

Beer and Reality at the Sheraton

A couple of weeks ago I went to Agent and Editor’s Conference hosted by the Writer’s League of Texas. Maybe you’ve never been to an Agent conference, but you’ve probably seen video of the stock exchange floor. It’s a massive throng of hypertension. The agents wear yellow badges. They are mostly women. They are not slick sophisticates. Most are friendly and patient, even when mobbed by hopeful writers (though some remove their badges and try to sneak away). Most of the them want to find that brilliant literary novel that they will fall in love with, a future classic they can be proud of, but they know that their next sale is more likely to be a formula mystery, a compendium of had-been rock stars of the 90s, or a tome of cute cat pictures.

There are 350 of us. The shyer writers stand off to the sides watching. The rest of us weave in an out of the crowd looking for yellow badges, and try to match faces to the agent profiles on the conference website. We try to remember if that agent was at all interested in our genre. We wait in the receiving line readying our pitches, listening for useful information from the agent’s current conversation, or talking among ourselves. When it is our turn, we attempt small talk. It is not strictly necessary; we all know what we are there for. We give our pitch, and if it remotely fits the agent’s list they give us their business cards and we walk away feeling like we are at least a baby step closer to being published. They need us, or they need some of us. They need material. They need a fresh face they can promote. They know they will reject most of us. We know they reject a hundred of us, maybe a thousand for everyone they choose.

When I wasn’t pitching to agents or in one of the conference’s largely dull workshops, I mostly hung out with Jennifer and Doug. Jennifer is a literary author I met at last year’s conference when I was still finishing up my novel. Doug is a co-worker, who has written drafts of three suspense/horror novels since November. Even though they need rewrites I find this extremely impressive. Because his novels are not complete, he was more there to learn than to sell. Because of that I think he had more fun than any of us.

We spend some time at the hotel bar commiserating and comparing notes. When Elise, came to the bar to the bar to get a drink, we spoke to her about the business. Elise is a junior agent from California, who had already rejected my novel because it didn’t fit her list. You don’t mind that sort of rejection, every agents has a limited range of interest.

We talked to Elise about the state of the publishing business from her side of the business. Elise liked her job, but her picture of the publishing industry was grim. Faced with a shrinking audience for books (particularly fiction) the publishers are in trouble. The small publishing houses are being bought out or driven out of business. The remaining large corporations push product out with a minimum of investment or publicity, hoping for a few hits. Because of this non-fiction writers pretty much have to be famous before their book can get published. Fiction writers can be obscure when they start, but they cannot count on the publisher to promote them. They need to promote themselves however they can. If they are lucky, they will get a little buzz because they are a “fresh new author,” however if the first book does not exceed expectations, they will have a very difficult time selling a second book.

This might have been sobering, fortunately writing the novel had never really been a strictly rational decision. I left the conference with what I came for, a handful of agent contacts that could lead to representation. More than that, I came away with a revised plan for positioning my novel, and building my platform. Again I have something to do. Thee truth is that I’m more comfortable having a plan for dealing with publishing hell, than waiting around in inactive bliss.


I have completed the rewrite of my novel: FAILUR: A Werewolf Love Story. Thanks to everyone who supported or inspired me, viagra or provided input. When I consider writing acknowledgements, viagra the task seems truly daunting.

I started the writing when Seth was about 6-8 months old. The original draft was 140, drugs 000 words and took about 3 years. I cut 25% in the rewrite, which took about a year. After copyediting, I’ll start sending it to agents. This will probably involve research, lots of waiting, and a fair amount of rejection.

This is the first of a semi-regular newsletter chronicling my adventures trying to get published. The newsletter will become more formal over time, but this one is mostly for friends and family. I’m also starting to work on a website. The main goal of the site will partly be to promote my writing, but also after 4+ years working on one project, I am looking forward to working on some short writings, images, and possibly videos, which I can post on the site.