Before you read this blog you have to accept this premise: I literally have done EVERYTHING to try and make my dream of landing a book deal come true. Click here to see a list .
Also, my intention hear is to "rant", to share my feelings. I am not soliciting any advice! Feel free to rant back to me or share your own feelings about your publishing dreams.
THE ONE thing in my life I truly DO NOT understand, and the ONE THING I really want to kind of be DONE with is this whole mainstream-publisher-picking-up-my-work thing. The only way to be DONE is to say, “Okay, wipe my hands. I am moving on.” Whatever moving on looks like. Self-publishing again, maybe. Of course, the other way to be done is to FRIGGIN’ land a BOOK DEAL. But that’s kind of out of my control at this point.
I really do ask myself a lot of questions about it. Like, what am I doing wrong? I hope that anyone who has read my blog about all this CRAP knows that I really do do a lot of self-examination about this. I often say to myself, okay what else could I be doing here? Am I attending the right conferences? Do I have the right agent? Should I be submitting more on my own verses an agent? Do I have to write something different or in a different style or rewrite all the Maddie books? I do look to myself and say WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO, HANNAH, TO LAND A BOOK DEAL?
I have come to the conclusion that there is NOTHING MORE I CAN DO. Except maybe the MFA, which I am starting next year. I recently was accepted at Pine Manor College's Solstice program.
And, yes, I also have done my research and, yes, I do ask my author friends– who have book deals– for advice. But, frankly, they all say the same things. All the usual advice that a published and successful author gives me, all of that– I hate to say it– is NOT HELPFUL ANY MORE. They say things like: “Have you tried putting your work away and working on something else for awhile? Maybe go back to the Maddie stuff later and revise? “ Or, “Maybe this manuscript isn’t as good as you think.” (This is before they read the Maddie stuff). Or, my favorite piece of advice: “Keep working on your craft and attending conferences and workshops. It will happen when it’s meant to.” (This is after they read it, and realize how good it is and scratch their own heads about why it hasn’t gotten picked up). A few of my author friends who have read both books simply shrug and say, “I don’t get it.”
And I shrug back and say, “Me too.”
Even the feedback from editors is puzzling. All of them say good writing, good character development, good story...and all of them say "but" after those comments. The it's followed by:
It doesn't really come together for me.
It doesn't fit my list.
It isn't sexy enough.
I don't know, it's good but there's something I can't quite put my finger on.
I start to wonder if maybe all the good feedback about Maddie and the books is BULL. Like one BIG PRACTICAL JOKE ON ME….It’s like, am I on candid camera? Have all these years of self-publishing, awards, solicitations from agents, endorsements from schools and readers, positive reviews from professional critics, has all this been one giant PUNKED and Ashton Kutcher is going to come out and say HAHAHAHHAHAHA! You sucker! You thought people really liked your work? HAHAHAHAH! You’ve been PUNKED, LOSER! No one likes your crap.
You know the advice thing cracks me up because I have heard it all and, yes, taken it all. That is not to say that I don’t value what my author friends have advised. I do. It just hasn’t landed me the book deal.
You name it, and, seriously, I have done it, tried it, whatever it.
Tell me, people. NOW FRIGGIN’ WHAT?
Am I just whining and complaining for no good reason? Should I just shut up and be grateful I have an agent and so what if we have been trying for three years and NOTHING!
I just wish, wish, WISH that something would happen, seriously, so I can move on move on from this waiting.
I know, I KNOW what some people reading this are saying: it’s like waiting to lose weight to finally go to the beach or ¬__________ (fill in the blank with whatever you are waiting to do when you are finally thin enough). Diet gurus and eating disorder people would say, ACT AS IF. Do the things YOU want TO DO that you are waiting to do. DO THOSE THINGS NOW.
But see this analogy doesn’t work because here’s what I would do if I had a book deal:
Well, no. That's not quite true. I would probably market myself more. I would recharge back into the world of self-promotion. I would have a new energy because¬– because like it or not and I know some of you won’t like hearing this– I want to have the backing of SOME ONE ELSE besides myself.
Because I have done it alone and I’m TIRED. I want SOME support, even if it’s minor. You need a team to really lean on when you are trying to get a book into as many hands as possible.
Am I venting? Am I justifying? Am I feeling defensive and self-conscious of what readers of this piece/journal entry/blog will say to me when I COMPLAIN about not being landing a book deal, yet?
I do feel self-conscious: To my readers who don’t care how I am published. To my fellow self-published authors who almost feel an “us” verses “them” about mainstream publishing houses. To my fellow writer friends who either have had book deals or are trying to get them.
If I were to let go of the self-consciousness about all this SHIT, what would I say?
I would say Dear God, The Lord, Goddess, WHOMEVER IS FRIGGIN OUT THERE: Dear YOU, pleasepleasepleaseplease FRIGGING’ please help me land a publisher who WANTS me and LOVES my work. I have worked my ASS off, I have worked SOOOO hard, and I have really tried EVERYTHING (except get my MFA which I am going to do shortly). I really and truly deserve a book deal, not only because I am talented but also because I am good person who will PAY IT FORWARD. I will! I will continue to mentor and teach even after the book deal. I will continue to help other people I PROMISE and I MEAN IT and I am not BULLSHIT. If I got a book deal, it wouldn’t be a waste of space and time and energy. I deserve it! I want it! Need it!
Well, that might not be what I would say, actually.
I want to say this: Dear Publisher/Editor, of Random House and all their imprints, Just read all my Maddie books, check out my website, look at the fan mail and reader endorsements as well as the endorsements of other well-established authors, and think beyond your LIST and look at my work for WHAT IT IS and take it on. Just do it. I am not a RISK or a LIABILITY. Take me on and I will WORK MY ASS OFF.
But, again, I can’t make you love me if you don’t. (See this blog entry to know what I mean by this.)
Since I have tried everything so far that one should try when trying to break into publishing, I think the only thing left is the MFA. I am naive enough to tell myself, and actually believe, that it will be the thing that gets me THERE. That may sound crazy and stupid just like I thought conference X and Y would get me there and just like I thought talking to this editor or that one would get me there…
I still have hope. That’s amazing to me, but a lot of us out there writing and trying do have hope. Maybe we are all naive.
It totally makes me think of those moments in high school when you would be sitting in class and the prettiest and most desirable girl would come waltzing in and everyone would talk to her and all the guys would flirt with her and even the teacher loved her and she just had the perfect thing going and then her whole group was sooo cool and there you are, just plain you, and you would wonder, why isn’t that me? Why aren’t I her? Why isn’t who I am as I am desirable? What makes her more desirable than me?
Then you get the answer, but, to me, it never felt enough. Sure, she has perfect hair and face and body, and, sure, she is sweet and wonderful but that can’t be IT.
But maybe that is IT.
Actually that analogy sucks and isn’t right. But I do feel a little like I am trying to be part of a club that doesn’t want me. But it’s far more complicated than that, I guess. It’s like I am sort of in the club, but not really. I don’t know. I definitely get mixed messages from the publishing world. You are a good writer, your books are good, but we won't sign you on.
I really hate feeling sorry for myself, and I don’t intend to make this the new thing or color my whole writing experience. I really have to turn towards what “works” for me and on many levels self-publishing does. I am not writing it off nor am I bitter about having to do it. I accept where I am right now, and if I am burning to share my work with others…than I need to focus on that, that I just want my work out there, who cares how?
But, as I say to my students all the time, two seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time: I can accept my current state of no book deal and relying on self-publishing to get my work out there while still dream and desire and have angst about a book deal.