The Road to Publication: One Novel’s Bumpy Ride

Today’s post is the story of a novel’s journey from inception to publication. 

This is an excerpt from my new ebook, “The Inner Life of Deadly Faux,” which I introduced (and offered… for FREE) in the post just prior to this one.  (You can get it here: PDF DF Inner Life.)

If you’ve published a novel, you’ll relate to this harrowing, nail-pulling tale.  If you haven’t, but want to… this is what it’s like for most of us.

This chapter is only one small part of a 114 page ebook that was written for the purpose of decontructing the underlying novel.  In other words, as a tool.

So if you read it and want to opt in to the free Ebook, you can just skip this and dive right into the workshop portion, which is in-depth and reflective of the Six Core Competencies and Six Realms of Story Physics models (without seeking to reintroduce or define them, that material resides in my two writing books, Story Engineering and Story Physics.)

If you’d like the free ebook, and you missed the link earlier, click here: PDF DF Inner Life.

Hope you enjoy this little rocky ride down one writer’s memory lane.

Deadly Faux: The Road to Publication

Deadly Faux, the novel, is a sequel.  As such, that defines its starting point: the return of the protagonist from the earlier novel in a subsequent story, resulting in what is now officially a series (because there is a sequel).

The book was written – little known factoid here – in 2006, on the heels of the critical (certainly not commercial) success of the preceding novel, Bait and Switch (2004).  Bait had been the second of a two book contract with Signet (the first was Serpent’s Dance; that contract was my second two-book contract with Penguin-Putnam)), and for reasons that are complex (see the next few paragraphs), the book didn’t “sell through.”  Which means, it didn’t earn its advance back (the drawback of a healthy advance; you’re judged on that particular metric, even if you sell tens of thousands and still come up short… which was the case here).  I got to keep the money, but the downside is they didn’t want to opt-in for a new contract.

Which means, the publisher said “no” to a sequel to Bait and Switch… the novel that is now entitled Deadly Faux. 

The original title was Schmitt Happens, which everyone involved seemed to like in the beginning, and then a few years later when I took the book back to market, some seemed appalled by it.  (My new agent didn’t like the Deadly Faux title all that much, either; she didn’t think people would understand the double meaning of the word “faux,” but the new publisher didn’t agree.)

The no-go on a new contract occurred six months prior to the release of Bait and Switch.  Not good.  Because it meant that the publisher would do next to nothing in the way of promotion, which turned out to be accurate.  While they’d taken out a quarter page add in USA Today for my last novel at the time, Serpent’s Dance, there was no advertising budget for Bait.  They had bought premium shelf space in the bookstores for all three ealier novels, they didn’t for Bait. 

All of which meant that when the rep for Penguin sat down with the buyer for Barnes & Noble and Borders, the size of the orders for Bait was only a fraction of the prior books.

That’s the whole ballgame at the brick and mortar retail level: the size of the order.  Which defines the visibility of the book in the store.  Paperback originals do not get major (or any) review coverage, so there is no pull in that regard, you could write a Pulitzer Prize winner and it wouldn’t sell until it actually won the award. 

Shelf real estate is everything.  And it totally depends on the size of the order, the fame of the author, and the commitment of the publisher to pimp the thing in the market.

Then something really cool happened.  Bait and Switch came out to stellar reviews.  Publishers Weekly in particular flipped for it, gave it a starred review, named it their lead Editors Choice (July, 2004) ahead of other nods to, among several others, Jeffrey Deaver and Walter Mosley, and at year-end named it to two lists: Best Novels of 2004 (mass market), and Best Overlooked Books of 2004 (the only paperback so-named).

Penguin remained unmoved.  Not an extra dime was thrown at it after those critical notices, because I was already dead to them. 

The book had its quick run and then it went away.

My agents at the time, alarmed at suddenly having an author with the didn’t-sell-through stigma, dumped me like a worn out shoe (loved me, they said, but they didn’t like the book enough to believe it could latch on with this black cloud over my name… funny, they liked it just fine before Penguin passed on it).

Several years of personal writing hell ensued.

I wrote a novel entitled Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, which a very small press picked up.  Again, without major reviews and no bookstore visibility (because bookstores hardly ever – and this is still the case – pay any attention at all to small POD presses, even when they are legit business enterprises), the book didn’t make a dent.  It did win the Thriller category in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Awards, which, while rewarding, did absolutely nothing for the book’s visibility.

The people who knew me at Penguin were now history (the company was purchased by an off-shore entity, who brought in new management; they told my agents they were moving toward “chick lit” rather than thrillers, something that was true for about a month), but my editor there (Dan Slater, who had, after being on the wrong end of that transition, caught on at Amazon as a major project development pro)  was willing to help me find a new agent.  Using the significant industry clout of his name, I received invitations to submit Schmitt Happens to 11 major New York based literary agents, most of whom you’ve heard from.

I went zero-for-11. 

Of those, several wrote a note saying, in effect, that both books (Schmitt Happens and Whisper of the Seventh Thunder) were solid, and would likely end up being published (they were right)… but the sales track record, particularly of Bait and Switch, despite its critical claim, had basically made me a pariah in the business.  Wouldn’t touch me with surgical gloves.

This is why so many writers become alcoholics.  I somehow avoided that… but I understand.

I should add here that I did hook up with a New York agent who really liked Schmitt Happens, and over the next year he leveraged personal contacts to submit the novel to a handful of major houses.   No takers, same story.  Then the submissions suddenly stopped… he told me we needed to wait this out for a year or so, and/or start writing under a pen name.  So I decided to cut those ties (nice guy, he tried) and seek new representation for both my writing craft books (this was in 2010) and the corpse of Wolfgang Schmitt, who was in a coma somewhere on my hard drive.

Meanwhile I ghost-wrote a novel and a screenplay based on it… long story there.  I have no idea what happened to them, only that they will never bear my name.  Great client, nice paycheck, no upside. 

I launched Storyfix.com in 2009.  It took off nicely, and using that platform I was able to publish Story Engineering in 2011, and Story Physics in 2013.  Both writing books sold pretty well, at least within the limits of such a narrow niche, and suddenly I had reinvented myself as a writing teacher/mentor/guru type, leveraging my 25 years of teaching writing workshops and generally trying to figure this whole thing out. 

I now had a platform, a key word for anyone seeking to publish non-fiction…  and virtually meaningless for a new writer seeking to publish fiction.

Nonetheless, Wolf wouldn’t let me alone.

I began reaching out to regional agents (which means, they don’t live in New York) with a national client base.  Using a personal connection (absolutely the best way to find an agent, bar none), I aligned with my current agent, who jumped aboard with rewarding enthusiasm, both for the new Wolfgang Schmitt novel and Story Physics (Story Engineering was already out there… this made all the difference in this new push for both an agent and a new publisher for Schmitt, because it was somewhat well known).

It took her only a few weeks to land a publisher for Deadly Faux. 

My new agent joined a chorus who really didn’t like the Schmitt Happens title.  And so I went on the hunt for a new title, landing on Deadly Faux at about the same time she succeeded in placing the book with Turner Publishing, who would also republish my entire backlist (the rights to which had reverted back to me from Signet).

It was seven years from completed manuscript to the release of the book.

And now, as I write, this, all four of the Penguin books are out there under the Turner imprint, with The Seventh Thunder (we shortened the title) set for release in December 2014.

All we really have control over is the manuscript, and the quality of our efforts once it’s done. 

The only sure outcome is quitting.

****

Wanted to share this news, just in: the new edition (May/June) of Writers Digest Magazine announces their annual 101 Best Websites for Writers list.  For the third year in a row, Storyfix.com is included, under the “Writing Advice” category (which has 21 sites so-named).

Thanks to all who have been with me on this journey, and welcome to all of you who are new to this community.

 

25 Comments

Filed under Deconstructing Deadly Faux

25 Responses to The Road to Publication: One Novel’s Bumpy Ride

  1. John V

    Excellent post on what you went through. It reminded me of The Hero’s Journey. Great lessons to be learned about what can come of passion, dedication, and perseverance. And the final sentence sums up the journey the best to me: “The only sure outcome is quitting.”

  2. Thank you for sharing your voyage with us. I admire your courage and dedication.

  3. olga Oliver

    Larry, your post plus this dark rainy day in deep Texas makes me want to cuss, not those lightly colored cuss words, but – you know – those cuss words high on proteins and stuff. Damnation! maybe the thing to do is simply write, write, write and if a few words sell just bow and give thanks. And give thanks that one can continue learning and trying. Thanks for letting us know you’re well acquainted with your big box of courage.

  4. @Larry, as always, you tell it the way it is. Thanks.

    @Olga, I’m from TX. When you say “… in deep Texas…” do you mean the Big Thicket in East TX? If you are, throwing a rainy day on top of the gray shadows of those tall pines can work on a body. Pine trees keep South Ga in constant twilight.

  5. Robert Jones

    An amazing journey…not to mention one that’s very worthy of being written about. There are a lot of stories concerning the struggles toward publication, but you seldom hear about the struggles that can occur afterward. And those I have heard have been because I either knew, or worked with the people that ended up on the wrong side of things. Generally these things happen for no good reason, and mostly when they happen it is for the same reason: MONEY!

    Or, to be more accurate, the stamp placed next to your name/project concerning the corporate opinion of your ability to turn a profit for them yesterday. Skill mean nothing to these folks. If rock & roll can be sold down the river in favor of “boy bands,” anything can happen–and it usually does. The end result for the consumer is lower quality, inferior product.

    Some pretty great talent gets sucked down the drain with this bathwater in every area of the arts and entertainment world. And when it happens, few climb back up through the pipes and grab the industry by the ass. It takes time, dedication, and a love of craft to fight those tides. It can take a large willingness to prove the world wrong too…but that fact alone can’t help if you’re poverty-stricken in terms of craft skills.

    All the more reason to cheer for Larry. Who not only kept at his craft with determination, but found a way to take craft to a new level in his books and on his website. He offered the world visible proof of his skills and viability and helped more than a few budding authors along the way. I believe there are two kinds of success stories: The one gained by stepping on the heads of everyone who gets in your way, and the one gained by assisting others as you climb.

    There are few success stories more worthy than that of Mr. Brooks.

    Hi Olga!

  6. @Robert — thanks for these very kind words, Robert.

  7. Wow! I’m so glad you wrote this. I think we too often think that those who are published are somehow the lucky ones who never have disappointment. Though we’ve never met, you have had a great impact on my writing. Thank you for persevering!

  8. Kerry Boytzun

    Been off planet for months–but will make a comment.

    Larry, hat’s off to you for sharing your personal story! You reinvented yourself via StoryFix.com and that was a wise move. Seems like making money via fiction writing is a real crapshoot anymore. What a painful road you’ve had to walk (writing your novels only to have “politics” get in the way of your success). Makes me want to hit the bottle myself.

    So other than commiserating with you, the only thing of value I can add is to channel your experience–the good, bad, and ugly of it–into the character in your next story. Your life experience is like Larry vs. the Publishers and their system. It’s Man vs. the System again. Write about that and make it personal…all the bullship that you’ve run into with that…make us feel your pain through your character’s pain. And his eventual joy through success.

    Myself, I fight against the System best I can by exposing its operations at a psychological level, and how we are unwittingly its accomplices–we allow things to get worse and worse on Earth because we aren’t equipped to notice it, let alone come up with alternatives. For example, the USA has LOST over 51k manufacturing sites (that’s not just jobs, but places that create jobs)–since 2001. This puts a big DENT in anyone purchasing novels to read, services to help them write, and everything else. Most people say they don’t “do politics” but they sure hate being unemployed or barely making any money. All this is very relevant to my passion and an example of channeling it. My story that I am working on is all about organizations that control politicians and orgs like they’re puppets–for their own purposes. It’s an outlet for my pain and an attempt to expose the reader to alternatives to living in fear and bankruptcy.

    Too many writers out there are trying to write something “cool” or something “in demand”–instead of writing about their pain and mission in life. The Hunger Games is an example of writing about the pain of how people are treated on Earth…so is The Help.

    The pain can also lead to Joy! Larry’s story, hopefully, will lead to him writing more novels that go viral and all that good stuff. He’s already a big success as a writing coach–no small feat there.

    People tell me they don’t want to write about anything “heavy”. Is The Help too heavy? Ask most people in regards to what has taken center stage: TV series or Movies? It will be TV series hands down! Why? Because most movies just SUCK. Another spiderman, superman, complex special effect zero emotional dumbo show? Gag! One of the hugest TV series out there is Masters of Sex, and it isn’t because the sex–it’s because of the emotional pain and growth the characters are having to make via their choices in their lives. It’s awesome, intelligent theater at its best. It’s not Transformers or Pacific Rim (mindless special effects…yay).

    Depth, meaning in your story–comes from your soul, your pain, and what is meaningful in your life. We learn through loss in life the most, and somewhat through gain. I personally know many people who struck it big and then lost it all. They tell me they didn’t learn much from being at the top, but the fall sure made them learn what is really important in life. Death of others reminds us of this learning through loss. Denial won’t get you a pass.

    While I’m rambling, I want to see if I can articulate what is the difference between the first Jason Bourne movie that made it a thrill vs. many wanna be movies that nothing but chase scenes. Jason Bourne (first movie) was running for his life as an answer to figure out what he had lost and thus trying to heal the pain of the moment–that he didn’t know who he was and ultimately why he was even alive. Thus the running, the antagonists–all of that really mattered because if Bourne lost–he would never know. He would always BE lost.

    Bourne was searching for his self (who am I really? Why do I exist?). We are trying to learn from our lives, our own story. What is your life really? Is it just a repetition of working for money at an unfulfilling job to pay for the food to stay biologically alive–to do it all over again the next day? Is that your life? It’s most people’s lives, I guarantee you that! If people could quit their current job to do something they’d actually like–99% would quit immediately. What does that say about the meaning of life? And what we are willing to accept–to stay biologically alive. THIS is why people want to ESCAPE via story and read about someone that beats this setup! (But it’s not about the money…you only learn that through LOSS).

    We get older and eventually die. If we have time to contemplate our life before we die, are we going to wish we spent more days at the office, that we destroyed our personal meaning in life in order to allow some organization to profit? That we looked the other way when what we were doing was making someone else’s life less bearable? Or maybe I’m expecting too much from people. Maybe they are as shallow as the Hollywood Zombieland Saturday Night Live crowd wants us to believe. Maybe it’s all E-Hollywood to the very end, and destory your own soul in the pursuit of the newest shiny smartphone because–you look cool.

    Funny, but that’s not a story I want to see (dumb and dumber). I want to care about something. I want to see someone do something meaningful that we all can learn from, and maybe make the future better for those coming to it.

    I wanna know what happens to Larry NEXT, as he continues to pursue the writing craft, whether it be novels or coaching. I wanna know, because Larry shared enough of his personal story that I care about him and now give a crap.

    It was real.

    The rest of you…man, please go and write something real and meaningful…that’s painful and show me the joy that comes from overcoming it all. Otherwise it’s all been said before and just…doesn’t matter.

    I’m going off planet again.

  9. Robert Jones

    @Kerry–Hope to see you “on planet” more often. We’re all political, like it or not…especially us creative folks. Some of us try hard not to be, but that’s because we have such strong opinions against what passes for the status quo. So we become political by our very nature.

    The system is certainly set up to make it difficult when embarking on any quest that doesn’t serve the “Zombie Mother-Brain-From-Dimention G.” Some may call it “Dimension C,” but G and C are symbiotic.

    My personal hope is that Larry hits the world between the eyes with another novel and just keeps moving forward. Because I think you can only gain momentum with forward movement. And let’s face it, there’s a lot of authors who aren’t as good as Larry that have had the publishers push behind them. People buy them because their names are familiar, they’ve taken up that prime shelf space in the book stores. And good for them. I’m not trying to down anyone here. But we also know it’s tough to get folks to open their eyes and look around. Quality doesn’t seem to matter as much as all the “in your face” material. Big effects, big noise, big table space. How does one compete?

    I believe Kerry has mentioned this in the past, as have I…and that’s the fact that we are all part of a community. A community, I might add, that has grown tremendously in recent years. There are millions of folks publishing on Amazon and many more right behind them, biding their time, learning, preparing themselves to take their own plunge. What happens then? Do you sit in your corner and say nothing, hoping your words will be devoured by a ravenous public? Or do you shout it from the rooftops that your work is out there and hope people will be responsive and supportive?

    If you’re smart, you’ll do the latter. But then you’re faced with having to break down the walls of that community–the same one you were asked to participate in previously, but for some reason you didn’t.

    How do I know you didn’t participate?

    Because I’ve seen a lot of people over the past 16 months or so since I’ve discovered SF. People who have come to learn–and I suspect have learned, provided they’ve read through the posts, asked a few questions…which Larry has gladly answered. Then I look at the number of Amazon reviews for “Deadly Faux,” and I wonder…where did everyone go? Is this the kind of support they hope for when they come up to bat?

    I’ll probably make a few enemies by saying that. But man, I would totally spread the word for anyone here who had their work published, or self published. And I would hope that feeling is mutual. But I would have to say, the evidence looks like my hopes would be in vain.

    Read “DF”, it’s good. Support it with your reviews. And if you don’t think it’s good, support it anyway as one writer to another, or because you learned something here and just want to pay it forward. Wake up a few zombies and get them to look beyond the carnival barkers who are constantly in their face selling the same old tricks with less and less bang for your buck. We could really all make a huge difference for one another. If we wanted to. If we pulled together. If we could all get our hard work into people’s hands? Dont’cha think?

    So when do you think it would be a good time to stop being iffy and start making a little nose? Who knows better than us how hard it is to put a novel together? How much of ourselves goes into our words, our stories, the entire craft package?

    Because IF we aren’t willing to do it for each other, who will?

  10. MikeR

    Face it – *anyone* can write a feel-good book about writing, and plenty of authors who had the good fortune to “make it big” in the publishing world have done so. I don’t know if @Larry would have produced two nearly-so-good books as he did, if he had, at that time, already been among their number.

    But I do know that this is the sort of pragmatic, boots-on-the-ground counsel that any (aspiring, or not) writer of fiction needs to hear. You need to pursue your dreams with your eyes wide open about the selling of fiction, and you also need to fully understand how to craft a book … efficiently.

    I’d like to see this deconstruction e-book expanded to a new and more-complete title, which I’d like to see as the third or fourth installment of @Larry’s writing-books series. Seeing a book systematically presented as a case-study by the fellow who wrote and sold it is … well, I don’t rightly recall having ever seen a book like that before. Hearing about the publishing industry from someone who hasn’t (yet …) heard the seraphic singing of “marketing angels bearing baskets of gold” is also the most useful. We don’t need another book that just blows sunshine up our 😉 about what it actually takes to build(!) a marketable fiction product and then to sell it. We do need ones that are frank, hard-hitting, and practical … just like real readers are.

  11. Thank you for sharing this illuminating and inspiring journey (although I’m sure it didn’t feel that way at the time). I think your story will mean a lot to a lot of writers. (And congratulations on the triple nomination from WD!)

  12. Robert Jones

    @MikeR–There’s certainly truth in that. Show me a writer worth his/her salt and you almost always have hardships and struggles. For the writer, suffering can be it’s own reward. We never quite see it that way at the time. However, we are our experiences, and our experiences shape our stories and craft the voice in which we write them.

    Writer Natalie Goldberg said that our minds are like a giant compost pile that we just keeping heaping our experiences into until something begins to bloom.

    I would also say that experience gets sifted through our personal filters, and only those brave enough to see it, accept, for what it is, gets to be a writer. I’ve known a lot of people who colorized their lives with a semblance of fiction to make themselves more appealing. That’s an “Outside-in” mentality that buries the truth because it’s either perceived as not being good enough, or it’s too embarrassing, or painful, to show the world what’s really inside. The writer, on the other hand, works those painful and embarrassing truths into a billboard and then signs their name across the top.

    I’ve heard a lot of creative people’s stories. And some of the best creators were often told to give it up when they first began showing their work around. So there’s definitely truth in whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Adversity has two uses then: to crush you, or to make you fight harder. And we all love a good tale of triumph over adversity.

  13. MikeR

    @Robert – “hey, nevermind adversity, this is Commerce!” 🙂

    Therefore: “Goody, goody for @StephenKing and all of that” – luved the “On Writing” book, by the way, but – let’s frankly talk about products and about markets and about marketing. Let’s ALSO frankly talk about the fact that the entire(!) world of publishing today bears very little resemblance to the former world which, by virtue of a single six-figure advance on an as-yet unsold book, teleported “Steve and Tabitha” out of their wretched little apartment.

    On the one hand, “the market” is totally changed.

    On the other hand, “books,” and the fantastical relationship between The Gentle Reader and The Gentle Writer, have not. Not one iota.

    As writers and as spinners of stories, we still have a fantastic amount of Work to do. Even before we figure out how to sell our stuff in the Internet Age.

  14. Jim

    Larry, thank you so much for candidly sharing your journey with us. Should be required reading for all aspiring novelists.

    – Jim

    P.S. For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly agree with both title changes!

  15. Robert Jones

    @Mike–I don’t have a lot of time here this morning, but we can sure get into those changes more later. For now, here’s a did-bit to think about…or check out in your free time. Possibly the most important thing that i see people doing wrong.

    We all (hopefully) know the basic drill for guerrilla marketing–blogging, Facebook, twitter…the whole route of social media. The real question is: is it enough for some folks? Or better still, why does it work so well for some while others barely get a nibble?

    If I come across an author’s book, or blog, on my journey, I’ll usually check it out. I’m always looking for common denominators, or ways to make improvements. We won’t even deal with the poorly written blogs and books that are self-pubbed. That’s pretty self explanatory. However, I’ve seen several nicely written, even informative blogs, that receive zero comments…or maybe one or two occasionally. The same level of writing for one person won’t cut the same mustard as the next person–who is either just as informative, or less so.

    Common denominator for those getting more hits is one thing, always: passion. The author evokes a strong emotion.

    You can be as informative as the next person, pointing out this part of craft applies to this, connect the foot bone to the ankle bone, blah,blah,blah…and nothing. The next guy, even if he can’t write as well might have vulgarity all over the place and be getting more hits. What does this say? They may not even be as informative, they can’t even curse as creatively as Stephen King, but they are still evoking some sort of emotion in the people who find their blogs.

    I’m not suggesting creative cursing. What I am saying is that writing is writing, and it all has to evoke some type of feeling. It has to be entertaining while it’s being informative. No matter what you’re writing, the words have to do it. Some of these writers have passion in their books, but they can’t get their books into people’s hands because their blogs are boring. Hello–it all becomes a representation of your work.

    If all you can think to do is in order to sound passionate is curse creatively paragraph after paragraph, then maybe that doesn’t speak very well for the longevity of your writing career. But if those creative cursers are getting more attention than your blog, you still have some work to do. And it begins by digging in there and finding the passion for whatever your writing about and infusing your blogs, tweets, Facebook accounts…let you social media skills sing!

    No passion, no interest. Nothing + Nothing = Nothing.

  16. MikeR

    @Robert – comments vary, sometimes vary widely. For example, on my own blog I moderate them and rarely accept them. To me, the operative word is not so much “passion” or “emotion,” but how well the material that is presented connects in a very-useful way to me … to what I am doing … to what is the reason for my being there. Sometimes, public comments add to these goals; sometimes, they do not.

    And this – this pragmatic, tough-love approach – is what makes @Larry’s two (so far?) books really stand out: they cut straight to the point and provide information by which you can judge your work and save your time. Yes, @Larry’s tone-of-voice and style is hard-hitting, but that’s because this is what is needed. You want to write a book efficiently and you want to sell that book. You need to know what is expected. Commerce is not kind. (Neither are readers: if a book sucks, I’m pissed.) So, this style -works.- A teacher has to find a way to connect with students, and when the teacher will never see most of the people whom he is teaching (from the pages of a mass-market book …), it’s that much harder. This style works, and @Larry’s passion as an instructor shines through.

    This blog’s comment feature is also directly-connected to the educational purposes of the book: you learn a LOT from listening to other participants, particularly you. Therefore, the comments add content and value to the site. I’m sure that they also contribute to sales of the primary products: books, evaluations, consulting.

    The ability, and yes the willingness, to publish things like the last two blogs and the free e-book, is also rather astonishing. Most people would keep up a public-face for fear of being honest about how brutal the publishing industry is. Gobs of feel-good books have been written and I’ve read most of them. But ==nothing== has come anywhere close to an actual author sitting down and laying-out a play-by-play of (of course, you are expected to buy a copy …) his own book. Putting out a complete example in concrete detail.

    As I have said, I’d love to see this become another trade-published book set, say with DF in the first half and the deconstruction, further elaborated-upon, in the second. (Consider a “flip-it-over book” with two covers and reversed pages.) Add specific place-markers in the DF text which are specifically referenced in the deconstruct. Include liberal and specific references to both Story Engineering and Story Physics, shooting for a trifecta sale. I would consider this to be a very viable business proposition, possibly even achievable by Christmas season next.

    It doesn’t really matter to me how many copies of these books have (so far!) sold. Business will always be what business will be, and it usually will be disappointing. But these fiction titles haven’t run out of traction, and SE/SP probably will gain traction because they are very unique and well-crafted books. The three titles as described would be a powerful and unique offering in the writer’s market.

  17. Nice blog!

    found you through a BBT comment you made.. would love to hear more about your goals online. hit me up sometime at @robmcnelis

    Rob 🙂

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  19. Dan Phalen

    Larry,
    You deserve better, both for the effort you put forth in this blog and your books Story Engineering and Story Physics, but also for your talent for writing really compelling thrillers.

    That said, in reading around, I’m convinced the publishing industry is undergoing severe change pains right now. The biggest change is the influence of web publishing and the successes of numerous (I don’t know the exact number) of indy ebook novelists. Hugh Howey’s WOOL comes to mind up front, especially the way his book deal went where he got both electronic rights and paperback with a major house.

    What Howey doesn’t always reveal is the amount of effort thrown into ebook hype post-publish. You go social media, and you blog 2-3 times a week, and you answer commentary, etc. To do it right, you almost have to set aside your next book while you tout this one–and hope the thing takes off. If you can approach a big agent with a phenomenal sales record, she might go to bat for you with a major house, but then there’s time and effort spent negotiating that one.

    Still, I believe the publishing establishment, including agents, is struggling to respond in the time frames expected by the online world. Like, get it done tomorrow or die. They’re feeling the pain, which is good, but I’m unsure what it means for established midlist writers and others trying to resurrect their careers when you’re still expected to wait months for each step of the submission-publication cycle.

    Probably I’m saying nothing you don’t already know, but I’m thinking if I were in your shoes I would still prefer established route to expending all the energy sucked up by online self-publishing and self-promotion with the same odds of success. Howie disagrees, but he’s a hyper-energetic, prolific writing dynamo, which few of us are.

    Larry, I’m one of your dedicated aficionados. You helped me turn the corner on a lifetime of half-finished books. You deserve a big success, and I hope somebody out there wakes up and decides the same.

    Dan

  20. Robert Jones

    @Mike–I haven’t read your blog, but based on you comments here, I would think it’s potentially interesting.

    Hard-hitting, pragmatic, tough love…all the things you’ve mentioned can work. I think it’s about finding the right voice for you. Just like writing each novel includes a search for the right narrative, or unique voice for your main character, I think one’s social media skills requires the same type of effort. Don’t allow yourself to fall short, or to settle for whatever you feel your normal conversational voice should sound like. If you’re inclined to make people listen when you speak normally, if they show a keen interest in your words alone, then by all means use that style for your blog. On the other hand, some people have a certain charm, personally, charisma, or maybe even good looks if they’re blessed with them. Once seated at their computer, however, those things might not come into play as they do in a personal setting. So the search for capturing that attitude in their words is off and running the moment you start typing.

    You mentioned Stephen King’s writing book. Putting aside the fact that King has a huge following, his style has a way of pulling you into his world. And for a book on craft, there were a good number of snapshots based on his personal history that evoke all kinds of emotional responses. The needle in the ear-drum bit certainly had me verbalizing emotional gasps of vicarious pain. So the book is as much about the life that created the writer as it is the writer’s views on craft. And again, it’s a life that had more than a few struggles. I believe it would be hard for most writers to separate the two, or to decide which is more responsible for finding that unique voice that finds its way to the page. If asked if it was a masterful understanding of craft, or their attempts at mastering life, most would likely call it a fusion of both. All the craft knowledge in the world isn’t going to make an unimaginative person line up one best seller, much less an entire string of them. And a person born into the most incredible of circumstances, or the worst set of tear-jerking struggles on the planet, isn’t going to get very far without some education on how to shape those events on paper. If it were simply a matter of passing along information, every poor and uneducated person might have a potential best seller hidden within the worst of their struggles. Everyone may well have a story to tell, but not everyone has (or seeks) the right voice in which to tell it.

    Dan mentioned Hugh Howey. Which brings to mind some other common denominators I’ve seen. Howey’s blog isn’t especially hard hitting in his singular use of words, but he hits very hard at innovative topics and suggestions concerning the industry. So that’s another way to approach social media. Hit people with something interesting, or different, or even the obvious if it’s being ignored by the publishing industry. In other words, subject matter can be as hard hitting, or interesting, as a strong voice–or even in lieu of it.

    Another ploy that people have used in almost every avenue of the entertainment world is audacity. I’ve seen people build entire careers on disagreeing, or challenging, everything that comes their way. Get on your soap-box, ask why, and pick every topic that drifts down the gutter to shreds.

    This isn’t my favorite approach. But if you can read between the lines of all the corporate clap-trap, the world offers the writer a constant stream of BS to dissect and make noise about. And since this is right in line with what most people are used to getting from the news media, you can capture the attention of an audience by catching the BS in one hand and slinging it right back out there with a reverse spin on it.

    In the end, it becomes much as Dan described. Once you have your book complete, or nearly complete, you have to work your social media like it’s your day job. Maybe a night job too. You pull out all the stops for 2-3 months prior to releasing the book, then for several months after the fact. And guess what? There’s still no guarantee. You stockpile as much knowledge and information about these things as you can beforehand, maybe even work at some blog entrees beforehand, making sure you launch as strong as possible.

    A writer once said that email was making us a generation of first draft launchers. Meaning, what we write every day on the Internet is not very well thought out. And technology has made it all too easy for that to become a habit. I do it myself when posting comments…especially if I don’t have a lot of time. If I get blabby and don’t have time to proofread because I need to be somewhere in the next 20 minutes, I’ll frequently hit the “Submit” button and allow errors to slip in. For blogging, however, and for those of us not Stephen King, it might just require a little more effort than first draft, slap-dash, Internet publishing. Consider it like writing an article for a newspaper, or magazine. And give it as much consideration as your fiction. Make sure the words and/or content has some power behind them. How does what you are about to publish differ from everyone else…even if you are tackling the same subject that’s been written about hundreds of times before? Do you share a passion with your words? Do the words carry their own personality, their own charisma once they pass from you to the page…or computer screen? And possibly the simplest, but not the least important of questions a writer should ask when blogging about craft: Is it thought provoking? A good test for this might be to ask if the questions you are raising are making you think, or feel, deeply. If not, why should you expect them to make others think or feel deeply? It may be true that some folks reading your words are just starting out and are struggling with the very beginnings of craft. But what’s in it for the established writer?

    Good writers love to read about craft as well, so I think we have to weigh the beginners and the experienced writers and dish up something that strikes a balance for both. Then put it out there, as Stephen King said, without a lot of fluffy BS–and a healthy dose of encouragement on the side doesn’t hurt. There’s a balance to be stricken there as well. Because I’ve read plenty that were heavy on encouragement and too light on craft.

  21. Schmitt Happens is funny as a line in the books. Deadly Faux is a much better title. I’m sure you were just waiting for all of us to approve the choice 😉

    I continue to be encouraged by how positive you manage to sound about the free-falling-fear aspects of writing.

  22. Thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing your writing story here. What a miserable, if not uncommon, experience. Good for you for persisting. Thank you for sharing the brutal truth about this industry .

  23. Pingback: Deconstructing Novels & Guilty Pleasures | Literary Liaisons

  24. Just popped over after a three year cyber-hibernation and am so, so impressed! Always knew you had the guts, heart and talent to make it big.;)

  25. Larry, I really enjoyed Deadly Faux, and am currently reading Bait and Switch, concurrently with the PDF analyzing DF. I appreciate you making this available. Your writing books are so helpful to me. Thank you for all you do for writers!