The Rejection Window Part III: Toxic Positivity

One of the big reasons why I stayed in fiction writing as long as I did was the encouragement from my fellow creatives. Little did I know back in the early 2010’s that enthusiasm for my creations amongst fellow authors would not necessarily correlate to same-level enthusiasm among general public readers. If it had, “Vampire Syndrome” would have made it to the multiplexes, or at least Netflix.

From beginning to end, I had always received strong encouragement from my fellow creatives to keep writing. Even if I never made a dime from the books, and failed to get any reviews ever from general public “non-author” readers for years on end, there was a uniform, unwavering chorus of “keep writing”.
And I was asking myself why they keep doing this.

I found the answer on my Facebook wall. An author friend of mine complained that she had tallied up over six hundred rejections, and wanted to quit.
Of course, she received several hundred comments all following the standard “creatives’ party line” to the effect of “keep on querying, don’t give up.”
Why? So she can hit the lofty “thousand rejections” milestone? Or press on even further for an eventual Guinness book world record? 😈

(Highly relevant blockquote from my previous post):

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

Naturally, I had to step in and give my two cents:
Obviously, the Big Five do not want what you’re writing. This in no way impunes you or the quality of your work, this is just the reality that your work does not meet the Big Five’s narrow formulae for what books they think will be “successful”. Keep on self-publishing and don’t waste any more time with further querying, or you will soon literally run out of people to reject your work. The phrase ‘beating a dead horse’ entered the cultural lexicon for a reason, and it’s fitting here.”

People who actually care about you will not give you sugar-coated advice when they know better otherwise. They will tell the truth as they see it, even when it seems blunt and/or harsh, because their wishes for you to be your best, and do your best, are sincere.

So why would a couple hundred other authors keep encouraging her to query, even after six hundred rejections, when I’m certain they’re all aware of the harsh realities of the publishing industry?

Toxic Positivity.

Also known as “avoidance coping”.

Relentless focus on positivity isn’t just ineffective.
Research has shown that it’s actually harmful.

Such as encouraging someone already frustrated over six hundred rejections to accumulate a few hundred more rejections “for her collection.”

Encouragement is normally a wonderful thing, but there are times when we all better off when we buckle down, ask the difficult questions, deal with the difficult answers, and let the deceased horses rest in peace.

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Scary Musings on the Future

Ah, the 2010’s, the decade where it all fell apart. 😈

As this nightmare decade draws to a close, I sit back on the sidelines and contemplate where the creative world is now, how it became that way, and what will be in the future.
We all know damn well that “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” would not get published now, in fact they almost weren’t published back in the day.
Twilight Was Rejected Fourteen Times Before Being Accepted

How Many Times Was Harry Potter Rejected By Publishers?
The Answer:

Twelve times or twenty-two times, but this doesn’t help you understand the present-day publishing climate.

The internet and the self-publishing industry have changed since the mid-1990s when Harry Potter was published. Rowling sent her submissions in as hardcopy and you would need to multiply twenty-two by at least a factor of four to get a reasonable comparison.

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

“The Hunger Games” might still make it to print today, but it sure as hell would not be a movie trilogy in this Marvel day and age.

So now that the “movie-from-book” Golden Goose is cooked, what happens when the Marvel movie arcs runs their course, as is eventually inevitable?

Not my circus, not my white elephants… 😈

Skeleton Writer

How Indie Bookstores are killing Indie Books

The last sacred cow of the book world is planting the seeds of its own irrelevance. The untouchable, most holy of institutions, hailed as the prime literary taste-maker and engine of new discoveries, no longer holds its touted powers, yet none dare voice out loud that the ‘Emperor’ is no longer wearing their clothes.

Until now.

Once upon a time, in the blissful days of the pre-Internet literary world, local independent bookstores played a crucial role in discovering and publicizing new books. Great books on small presses could win the attention of literary agents and major publishers, and the then-Big-Six’s ‘hidden gems’ could find the accolades they deserved.

For the last fifteen years, the Web has been usurping the indie bookstores’ ‘power of influence’. Countless literary review sites and blogs, and book retailers’ online reviews, have, for the most part, taken over the role of “taste-maker and engine of discovery”. Yet, everyone in the literary world still treats the local indie stores as the most sacred of cows.

They shouldn’t.

indie-bookstore-meme

Yes, one of their biggest issues can be summed up nicely in a meme. Yet, the problems here go much deeper than that. Indies are backing away en-masse from “local author” programs and even stocking any books released by small presses. With the Big Five’s ever-increasing risk aversion, and honing of commercial formulas, how much “literary discovery” can the local indie stores really do, when they restrict themselves to carrying only major-publisher books?

Soon, the indie bookstores will be forced to recommend books by “James Patterson” his hired writers, because they’ll be the only titles left on their shelves.

james-patterson

A slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

Due to the aforementioned risk aversion, increasing numbers of excellent books will never be published by the Big Five. And those books have to go somewhere.

Over the last five years, many have headed for self-publishing. The preponderance of best-selling self-published books has long since proven that the Big Five’s commercial formulae are missing many #1 New York Times (e-book) best-sellers, and even “The Martian”, a novel that served as the genesis of a hit movie. No indie bookstore could have discovered or championed “The Martian”, because it was never on their shelves in the first place.

And the indies’ lack of shelf diversity is creating an even bigger problem for themselves.

Given the relative ease of self-publishing, it is safe to say that any author who signed to an independent publisher after, say, the year 2010, was an author who was committed to having print versions of their books available for sale at bookstores.

With the local stores turning a blind eye to small press books, in the process they also shelf-block the authors who committed themselves to the more difficult path of traditional publishing, just to have print versions of their books, that the typical indie bookstore will now no longer stock. In other words, the indies won’t stock the books by the authors who gave up full creative control and self-publishing’s higher royalty rates, just to get print editions for stores that will no longer carry them.

Not a great way to make friends of those authors. Or, for that matter, their independent publishers.

In the face of this trend, some great small presses have had to shut down (R.I.P. Booktrope). Others, like my own publisher PDMI Publishing, LLC, have moved on to targeting large book retailers. For the last several years, PDMI has been holding its author signings at major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, which have proven to be more receptive to the small press, its authors and its books than the typical local indie bookstore.

Other small presses still vainly holding out hope for the indie shelves will probably go the way of Booktrope, sad to say. And once all of their authors realize the “local indie Emperor” is no longer wearing their shiny book-championing armor, they’ll be free to move on.

Once again, their books will have to go somewhere.

“Yes, self-publishing,” you say, “but what about print? Print isn’t dead.”

Which is precisely why Amazon is venturing into brick-and-mortar book retailing. If the indie bookstores thought CreateSpace was bad, “they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Once Amazon’s brick-and-mortar infrastructure is in place, any “Kindle” that catches fire can be on Amazon’s bookshelves in a couple of weeks. Are the Big Five and their self-appointed ‘indie’ taste-makers ready for a world where books that bypass them entirely can become #1 New York Times PRINT best-sellers?

Another hypothetical question: What would happen if more independent publishers followed the path of PDMI and focused on large retailers? Unlike the Big Five, smaller publishers could sign exclusive deals with large retailers, in return for print book shelf space. A “Barnes & Noble Exclusive” title could easily reach #1 NYT best-seller status, if carried in enough stores.

And, given the local stores’ current exclusionary climate, would any of the publisher’s authors really object if their publisher went “Barnes & Noble Exclusive”, especially if it meant their book got shelf space at B&N’s across the U.S.?

One thing is sure to continue. Once Amazon entries are regularly populating several places of the Top Ten New York Times print best-seller list, the indie stores will whine and complain about it. Yet much of the ‘blame’ will rest with themselves, for turning a blind eye to the smaller publishers and their authors, all parties involved who had dedicated themselves to the difficult task of producing print books, only to be rebuffed at virtually every turn. Killing off some of the geese that laid the golden eggs, but those eggs have to go somewhere.

Straight to Amazon’s waiting nest. 😈

UPDATE 9/08/16: A quote from this excellent Observer article The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists :

“(For the N.Y.T. list) a hardcover copy of your book purchased on Amazon.com is counted differently than the same hardcover book purchased at indie bookstore X.”
Here may be a more valid reason why people are still treating indie stores like sacred cows.
Yet, if you could sell a million books at Wal-Mart alone, you may not make the N.Y.T. list, and you definitely wouldn’t make the W.S.J. list, as Wall Street Journal doesn’t even tally Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club sales, which is a ‘hole’ big enough to drive literal semi-trailers full of books through….

UPDATE Aug. 2017: Alas, PDMI Publishing, LLC also fell victim to the realities of the book-retailing climate, but their later focus on major retailers was the correct thing to at least attempt to do, even if it didn’t save the company.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hi everyone, I just wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year!
Onward and upward for 2016 we go 🙂98_062712

Different, Not Weaker – Guest Post by Cindy Koepp

One of the main points I make in my Vampire Syndrome Saga is that ‘different’ does not equate to ‘weaker’. My friend and fellow PDMI Author Cindy Koepp shows us the same piece of wisdom in her upcoming novel, “Like Herding The Wind”. 🙂

“Different, Not Weaker” by Cindy Koepp

Too often, we perceive things that are different from our idea of “normal” as weaker or deficient. Sometimes, that is the case, but more often, different is just different. The things that make us unique are not weaknesses but can become our greatest strengths. The perception of strength and weakness is.

In “Like Herding the Wind: An Urushalon Novel,” soon to be released by PDMI Publishing, an Eshuvani generation ship crash-landed in a farmer’s field in Germany. Unable to find the resources on Earth to fix their ship, the Eshuvani built enclaves and tried to let the humans develop without interference. Three hundred fifty years later, Eshuvani criminals start a crime wave in the Texas coastal town of Las Palomas. With police officers being injured and killed in the efforts to stop them, Sergeant Ed Osborn attempts to use his ties to the Eshuvani community to get help for his men, but the local leadership wants nothing to do with humans. Ed contacts his urushalon, Amaya Ulonya, the Eshuvani mother he adopted when he was a boy, and seeks her help.

After the death of her partner, Amaya, the captain of a police and rescue team, finds more grief than joy in her current assignment. Amidst controversy, she arranges to spearhead the new Buffer Zone station between Las Palomas and the nearby Eshuvani enclave of Woran Oldue. She hopes the opportunity to help Ed train his people will help her bury the past. The indifference of the local administration leaves her with Ill-functioning equipment and inexperienced staff. It only gets worse when the attacks of an Eshuvani criminal grow personal. Amaya must get control of her grief to help Las Palomas or risk losing someone even more dear to her than her last partner.

As far as humans are concerned, Eshuvani are superhuman. They’re fast, seeming to react at blur speeds; and they’re strong enough to pick up an adult human male and throw him against the wall with considerable force. That strength and speed make the Eshuvani criminal element such a hazard among the human police. Without proper training, the humans don’t know how to overcome their attackers.

From the perspective of the Eshuvani, humans have incredible endurance and a remarkable resilience particularly in the face of psychological trauma. Eshuvani admire the humans’ ability to keep going both physically and mentally even after the most persistent of their own people has run out of steam.

At the same time, members of each race find the other intolerable in some ways. Eshuvani find humans too aloof and detached, while humans consider Eshuvani emotionally unstable and secretive.

Into this quagmire of misunderstanding, Amaya arrives to help her urushalon train his people to use their differences to overcome the threat.

***

“Like Herding the Wind”, releasing January 15, 2016, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Cindy Like Herding The Wind Cover Small

Five-Star Review from TV/Film Producer Joel Eisenberg

“Vampire Syndrome” just received a five-star review from Hollywood TV/Film producer Joel Eisenberg. 😀


After Reading “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome,” I Felt As Though I Had Never Read a Vampire Novel Before.
By Joel Eisenberg, Author of The Chronicles of Ara on October 17, 2015

Really, how many variations of the vampire theme can there possibly be? Surely, this genre is well-worn; what can possibly be done to rejuvenate it?

Welcome, “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome.” I promise, you have never read a vampire book like this one.

Let’s begin this way: Jack Wendell, a Special Olympics champion with Down Syndrome, is turned into a vampire (hence the Vampire Syndrome in the title). That enough? Then how’s this: Jack strives for acceptance within his new community and is immediately ordered to be killed. Read Daven’s synopsis on this site. It’s all there. He’s not joking about “space alien Pure vampires” either.

Somehow, Daven Anderson makes it all work. The story is metaphoric for sure, but man is this work compelling. There’s a good deal of tongue in cheek here but not once did I feel the author or his story pandered. This is a compelling work.

Jack Wendell is a character unique to modern fiction. Characters with Down Syndrome have been used frequently in media, see the television shows “Life Goes On” or “American Horror Story.” Autistic protagonists too have been used widely in literature over the past 25 years, but in lit circles fully drawn characters with Down Syndrome have been rare.

Here though is something different and I hope I express this as I mean to: Jack is ‘cool.’ Do I feel sorry for him as he runs from his death sentence? Of course. Am I curious about his budding friendship with Lilith, who will attempt to save him? Yes. But more than this, I lose track of any disabilities on the part of the main character, and root for him as I would for anyone. And then it comes back to me that I’m reading a tale about a boy – a vampire – with Down Syndrome and I’m compelled to credit the author all the more.

This is a special novel and certain to be a special series. Daven is clearly a unique author. He is also a special educator and knows this world well. Jack is a real person to me, in an extraordinary circumstance.

The conflicts inherent therein make for the best of fiction. This is one of my very favorite novels that I’ve read all year.

Kudos Mr. Anderson. A remarkable, fun work.

Joel Amazon Review - Screengrab

Drawing Dead: An Interview with Brian McKinley

Interview with Brian McKinley

BM: Drawing Dead is about Faolan O’Connor, who is a NY gangster in the 30s that gets recruited into a society of vampires called The Order. During the course of several years, as he fights his way up the ranks, he reawakens a basic humanity within himself. Naturally, this new consciousness isn’t necessarily a benefit in a ruthless battle for control.

***

CPR: How long has it taken you to write this novel?

BM: I started work on this novel back in 2005. It’s gone through a number of iterations and, to be fair, there have been several years in there when I wasn’t working on it at all. But it’s been a good several years in the writing. I finished it and got it accepted by PDMI in early 2013, which is a little lesson in how long real publishing can take.

***

CPR: Do you think writers today need an agent to represent their work?

BM: Sadly, my experience has been that it’s harder to get an agent than it is to get a publisher. It’s become so exclusive that I recommend that new authors just get their books out there and sell them. If you get big enough, the agents will approach you. Honestly, you don’t tend to need an agent anymore until you’re dealing with a Big 5 publisher.

***

CPR: I have read that you approach writing like a chore, I can empathize with that. How do you get around that? Can you tell me more about your writing practice?

BM: Again, I’m not really sure that I have found a way around it. I still don’t write as often as I should. Mostly, I just have to find a day that I have time and decide that I’m going to get some writing done that day. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Facebook has cost me many a day’s work, I can tell you that!

Order your copy of “Drawing Dead” here:
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1GDEELS
Luxe Premium Edition Mass Market Paperback: http://amzn.to/1NsBd0w