Song of Myself
I spent ten years writing my first novel, Waking Up at Rembrandt’s. I say that like I did nothing but sit in a room for ten years and write this novel. That isn’t true, of course. I have a day job, a penchant for travel, a drinking habit, an epicurean addiction, and when I’m not suffering a bout of espresso-induced insomnia, a love of sleep, each of which takes up a lot of time.
Still, anyone who has ever finished a novel–and all those many more who have not been able to–will tell you that the writing and re-writing and tearing apart and starting over and writing some more, not to mention the drinking caused by all this, takes up a fair bit of time. So when it was finally over I breathed a naive sigh of relief, thinking that the hard part was behind me.
Unlike almost everyone else who writes their first novel, a literary agent was dropped in my lap almost the minute I finished the book. A friend made the introduction, I mailed the novel, she loved it, I drove to San Francisco to sign the papers. Over the span of more than a year, there were two rounds of submissions to a dozen or so editors at big publishing houses. A few nibbles, no bites. And frustratingly little communication in between. I understand how hard it is to sell fiction to a major publishing house from an unproven author. Everyone wants the next hot thing, but it seems not bad enough to take the chance. Ask J.K. Rowling.
I began researching other options. I knew the publishing world was being turned on its head, just like the music industry before it, by changes caused by electronic media. I studied copyright law and read everything I could about self-publishing options. In a fit of sobriety, I wrote (and re-wrote and edited) a letter to my agent ending our relationship. And I struck out on my own.
That was almost two years ago. In the meantime, I self-published through a print on demand service, built a website and a blog, became fully engaged in the surreal world of social networking by building profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and more, organized a successful book release party — complete with a local band, hired a public relations assistant, participated in several more book signings, have been awarded readers’ choice awards two years in a row, sponsored an independent book store on local radio, and did a month-long giveaway promotion to encourage people to keep reading books (and not just twitter messages).
Of course I want to sell books, which is half the reason for all the efforts described. But I also want to pull a Christopher Paolini. He’s the guy who wrote Eragon, was self-published with the help of his parents, and caught the attention of an editor who decided to republish his book (and several others now). So, would I go with traditional publishing if given the chance? Um, yes. As it is, I am waking the tightrope between information wants to be free and information wants to be expensive, hoping I won’t lose my footing before someone takes notice. And I’m working up the courage to finish my second novel. Because I know what comes after.
Purchase Waking Up at Rembrandt's from Amazon