I’ve been enjoying a cool email exchange with fellow local struggling author, Colin Wolfe. I know Colin from the Brick Playhouse days, when he was a fellow local struggling playwright. He checked out the three-part post I did a couple of months ago, regarding the perils of self-publishing, and had a few interesting comments to make. I, in turn, responded (like I do) and accidentally wrote a couple of things that approach eloquent. With Colin’s permission, I’d like to share excerpts of our exchange:
“I liked Nick’s blog post about the merits of self-publishing vs holding out for a conventional publisher. And I pretty much agree with you, Nick. For what it’s worth. I’ve been following a third route: it’s called The Filing Cabinet publishing system. Write a novel, tell a few people, maybe even have a few, less than a half dozen, read it. And then file it. Because everything is hopeless.
Now that’s a ridiculous thing to say! But it feels that way. For myself, every route seems too onerous. Oh well. I will “try” again and who knows, right? While it is a longer shot than winning the lottery, someone does win that, right?
Years ago I met an editor at a party when I lived in NY and sent her a chapter of a then-uncompleted novel. She was an editor at Warner books, then a publisher of commercial trade fiction. She liked it and said I should take to a literary imprint like … wow, I’ve forgotten. Washington Square Press was one. And I had her name to use. But the book wasn’t ready and so I didn’t. I have since looked her up online. She went from editing to being an agent and now is retired from that. She blogs that her job was to say “no” — more than 99% of the time.
So the problem is — we don’t live in New York and go to the right parties (anymore.) I’m too old to be of interest now but you guys look good. But who knows! I’m proud of what I’ve written and don’t feel the time wasted. And if I can’t find a publisher, eventually I’ll self-publish.”
“I’m slightly astounded that anybody reads my blog, so thank you for that, Colin.
Is everything hopeless? Perhaps. I wrote a trilogy of books, submitted to a bunch of agents, and attended three conferences to meet even more (including the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC). As I said in my blog, after 42 rejections, I’ve stopped actively selling the books and am focusing my efforts on my next one. Does that mean I failed?
Sort of. I’m reminded of something Michael Hollinger told me a long time ago. He told me to keep all the plays I couldn’t sell in a drawer, because when I finally hit it big with something, everyone would want to know what else I have. So, I guess my advice is, keep your novels in that filing system of yours, but don’t stop pounding the pavement, either.
As a side-benefit, I have the names of maybe five or six agents that showed some interest in my books before turning them down. As in, we exchanged some back-and-forth emails and got a little casual and even a little jokey. So, when my next book is ready, I’ve got some primary targets ready to go. That may not seem like a lot of payoff for all the time, money, and travel I invested in selling the other books, but it ain’t nothing, either.”