Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Road to Publication -- and the bodies I left piled in my wake

Today's guest blogger is Jason Cordova. Jason's first book, Corruptor, has just been published. You can find an excerpt here. You can find out more about Jason by visiting his site. Now let's give him an MGC greeting -- No, Dave, put down the coconut. Jason might just toss it back at you, with love and respect of course! ;-P

It's funny, really, when I tell people I'm an honest-to-goodness published writer. Their reactions are almost identical. The look of initial disbelief, followed by the tentative congratulatory smile. Then they usually say something which seems uncomfortable for them, like “Oh” or “That’s nice”. Then first thing they inevitably follow with is "How did you manage it?"

I'll tell them that my way is not the usual way. Publishers generally don't buy your book six days after you submit it. You're lucky if it's in the six month range. I got really, really lucky.

There are a lot of variables which helped along the way though. Fearlessness was one of my biggest assets early on. The utter, incomprehensible lack of fear when it came to submitting novels, query letters, and talking to publishers really helped. It's not that I lack fear in general, but I don't fear any form of rejection. Tell me no? Fine, I'm going to come back later with a better proposal. Don't think it's for you? That's cool, there are literally hundreds of publishers out there who are looking for my genre. Or better still, I'll tweak the proposal letter to fit your requirements. Like most people, I don't take being told no well. However, I deal with it much better than the average person. I figured out that I'm either extremely persistent, or the literary equivalent of a stalker. Since I seem to be lacking in restraining orders, I'm going to go with persistent.

Sarah Hoyt told me once, a long time ago, that she wished she hadn't waited for so long to submit her work. It struck me as ridiculous, since her books are brilliant. But it made me realize that the fearless thing came in handy. I sold my first novel (no ghost writing) at 27. I like to think that the fearless handicap helped. I also am firmly convinced that most people no longer fear anything once they hit a certain age, which can explain the age gap between when a writer first starts their craft and the time they actually become published. Just a theory I have...

Another plus in my favor was that I made friends with other authors. I resisted (mostly) the urge to ask them to "read my book" and tell me what I've done wrong. Instead I've read their various works, studied their styling and pacing, and developed my own voice with their help. Sarah helped initially, unwittingly guiding my baby steps into the realm of urban fantasy. Dr. Monkey showed me how humor can be injected into the worst of situations and not seem out of place in the most serious of science fiction books. These authors, along with others, became a sort of "guiding light" for me. I still read their books, though I'm more comfortable with my voice than I was four years ago. But they helped, and I learned what I liked and what I didn't like.

But in the end, the number one thing that allowed me to become published was listening. I listened to advice I received from various authors, listened to them when they warned me from doing things that could end up making me look bad. Listened to editors tell me what I'm doing wrong in my work and how to fix it, despite my utter conviction that I knew everything already.

So tell me... how rocky or smooth has your own path been? What pitfalls have you run into, or better still, created for yourself?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congrats to you for your first book! Exciting times...

I do get discouraged sometimes, but for the most part, I view my writing as a product, to be manufactured and sold. I love my stories (or I wouldn't write them), but I take a fairly objective squint at the actual writing. I'm sure there's all kinds of crap I could be doing differently to be selling more.

I've always tried to take the advice to write what you love and someone else out there will love it, too. That's not particularly true, but one has to live by some sort of writing code, and that's the one I've adopted. It's more fun.

Linda

docswordbox said...

Sorry for not having any real commentary on how rocky or smooth the path to published has been, I've not had anything published _yet_ but that's for lack of time, not fear. Heck, fighting accredited accountants and lawyers in the finance field means I've gotten used to "not this way" "not right now" "you've done it wrong" Etc, etc...

But oddly enough the first freelance or contract offer I replied to was a call for scripts for video games, odd, but they snatched what I offered the first time out and asked if I could produce that consistently. So... well... yeah...

Ok, back to point. I actually started the comment simply to say thanks for a much needed re-focusing today. Your comments really got me thinking and lifted my spirits out of the slums they've been hiding in.

Cheers

Dan Casey.

twittertales said...

Constant rejection since I was 12 (short stories), never scared me. Now I'm 28, and have averaged a book a year since I was 17 - all unpublished. Almost half I've since thrown away. I write and edit for twenty hours a week, and have done so since 2006. I read hundreds of books each year. One of my books got to an aquisitions meeting for the first time three years ago at Allen & Unwin - no joy, obviously. I'm currently waiting on another large publisher who's had a book of mine for over a year and a half. I always listen to criticism, and make the book better as a result. Still not good enough, though, clearly. The thrill of being ALMOST published wore off a while ago. Kill me.

Jason Cordova said...

Linda: I've had interesting theories about the "write about what you love" idea. The only problem with that is that you don't always have a market for it.

Then again, you don't want to write to a market... narrow line to walk there.

Jason Cordova said...

Dan: Glad it helped. I've had random bits come out there and help me focus when I least expected it.

Jason Cordova said...

Twittertales: well, sometimes you just haven't found the right publisher yet. I'm glad to see you're still putting it out there despite the lack of luck.

MataPam said...

The first short story sale was easy - with the start up of Baen Universe, I was in the right place at the right time.

This was followed by several rejections of novels and shorts to various publishers. The recent blossoming of E-publishers has enabled more sales. Now I get to wait and find out if I can attract readers.

Dave Freer said...

Twittertales - Jason's 6 days is unusual. Eric and I both waited 2 years. I had 74 rejection slips before I made a single sale. Take heart, and keep beating at the door.

Jason, glad I made you laugh, and congratulations.

twittertales said...

I know 6 days is unusual. 12 years is at the other end of the bell curve. But, whatever. I've tried and failed to quit, so I'm doomed to keep writing no matter what. At some stage, that will probably magically turn into a good thing and a great story.