It occurred to me that, before the old site goes away, I should peruse it and see if there's anything there I'd like to preserve for posterity HERE. I'll be moving a few things over, and I'll start with this piece I wrote as the introduction to the other site. It's a little dated, but I kinda have a soft spot for it. It deals with marketing and the need for an author to get his or her name out there, to get "over" in wrestling parlance, and the true motivation behind most people who put pen to paper. Or, more accurately, fingertip to keyboard. Just for the heck of it.
(Hey, that's not bad as a preamble. Maybe I'll make that the title my autobiography someday. "Just for the heck of it.")
A few years ago, my father got it into his head to build, during the dog days of one of the hottest summers on record, a lean-to storage shed connecting to his garage, for which he enlisted my help. Because my Dad knows as little about construction as I do, which is to say he don’ know nothin’, he also hired a retired carpenter, Mr. Gilbert, a crusty, salt-of-the-earth type known to all (more or less affectionately) as “Gibby.” It was bad enough for me having to toil alongside Gibby, what with him being twice my age and working circles around me, whistling and hammering away while I sweated and gasped for breath; but to further add to my sense of masculine inferiority, during one of the (too few and far-between) breaks we took that day, while making casual conversation, Gibby asked me what I did for a living.
No problem, I remember thinking. I got this.
I had, at this point in my life, been working for a couple of years as an acquisitions editor for a literary agency. When I told this to Gibby, I was anticipating his response of: “What’s that?” This latter constituting the typical response of, well, everybody upon hearing my spiffy-sounding job title, I had, I thought, by this time in the game, gotten pretty good at explaining exactly what an “acquisitions editor” was and did, breaking down into layman’s terms the inner workings of the publishing world.
“It’s like this, Gibby. When you go into a bookstore, all those books on the shelves, they were published by one of a handful of publishing companies. Let’s say you have written a book, Gibby, a book about carpentry. You couldn’t just send a copy of it to one of those publishers.”
“Because they only look at works that are submitted to them from literary agencies. It’s because there are so many other people out there who have also written books. You wouldn’t believe how many there are. And the publishers don’t have time to read through all those books, or samples from all those books, to see which, if any, they might be interested in putting into print. Thus they use the literary agencies as a sort of filter. They know that any work submitted to them by an agency has to be good, at least good enough to have captured the attention of the literary agent in question.”
I was on a roll at that point, determined to make my not-glamorous-at-all job sound as fancy as possible.
“But the literary agencies don’t have that kind of time ether,” I continued, “to read through all those potential manuscripts. They get dozens, maybe even hundreds of proposals in the mail every day. That’s why they hire people like me, “slush monkeys” in the jargon of the business, to search through the reams of possible projects and determine if any of them are worthy of the agent’s time and attention.” Taking a breath, I concluded: “And that’s what I do.”
Gibby took a moment, stared at me, blinking, before responding: “Yeah . . . but what’s the point of it?”
I didn’t know what to say to him. What’s the point? The point of what, Gibby, hiring editors? Oh, of writing in general, you mean. Why, isn’t it obvious, Gibby? The point is, uh . . .
Hmm. What is the point, anyway?
To see one’s name in print, in the credits of a magazine or on the spine of a book? To have one’s work read by the masses (a mass or two, at least)? To impart information, to entertain, to communicate? No. That’s not the primary reason. Secondary, maybe. Otherwise they’d just put their stuff on the Internet for free, or go to a “vanity press.” (Vanity presses differ from standard publishing companies. A standard publisher will pay you for the rights to publish your work. A vanity press will publish as many copies of your work as you’d like, but you have to pay them.) Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what a person wants. But all those hordes of people submitting those reams of projects to literary agencies aren’t just looking to see their words in print. So what’s the point, then? The primary point?
To make money.
A writer wants to sell his product, to put it out there for the world to read and enjoy and be financially compensated for it. That’s the point, Gibby. That’s the point.
And the point of all this, my friends, is to explain to you the “point” of this website.
It gets harder day by day for a writer to “make it” in the publishing world. Even a good writer. I learned from my time as a slush monkey, and learned all to well, that every aspiring author believes himself or herself to be good enough for publication, only a scant percentage actually are. What’s the ratio? I’d say 99% to 1%, with the minority being the ones with some degree of talent and ability (and I’m probably being generous, there). Acquisition editors quickly become jaded, numbed by the constant bombardment of flat-out lousy writing. The agents themselves become jaded. The editors at the publishing houses become jaded. It’s hard, really hard, to find that proverbial diamond in the rough when it’s buried in an even rougher trash heap. This is the burned-out, jaded slush monkey in me talking, here.
Even if a writer manages to get noticed amidst all the flotsam, it’s still a hard climb. No publisher is going to invest much money on an unknown commodity. (Those books on the tables at the big bookstores, set out where they’re bound to get noticed by the foot traffic? The publishers pay to have those books put on that table. And if it’s a choice between Stephen King’s latest or the debut book by you, John. Q. Nobody, who do you think they’re going to drop the money on?) How then can a new writer, an “unknown,” even if he actually is good, hope to make his mark, to stand out?
You have to be your own publicist. Drive yourself all over creation to do book signings for no guaranteed compensation, just to get your name out there. Enter your work in various contests; try to win some awards, just to get your name out there.
Or create a website. Put a sample of your work—just a sample, mind you— online, available for free, and try to get people to visit the site, to read your work. Just to get your name out there.
And that, Gibby, is the point. End of preamble.
With that, welcome, friends, to [...] It’s been a long time coming and I’m mighty proud to have you here. Can I offer you a little something to make it worth your while? There’s some good stuff here on this site. Totally free. Because I have the audacity to believe I am a part of that 1% mentioned earlier, that my work actually is worth the time it will take you to read it, and I aim to prove it. It’s like drugs, man. The pusher gives you some for free because he believes you’ll like it and come back for more. Only my work is far more benign than drugs. But, I hope, no less addictive. Heh heh heh.
Right, then. What can I interest you in today? Proceed to our menu, mon friends. Order when you’re ready.
(By the way, you all are going to want to drop by this site not infrequently, as I intend to add new content fairly often. I figure I’ll keep a blog of sorts, containing all my sacred and profane ramblings about anything and everything. I’ll update you on my latest theatrical productions. I also might put some more free stuff on here, sooner or later. You never can tell with me.)