Monday, February 22, 2016

Maybe Self-Publishing Is The Way To Go??

Dear Lit Loves,

You know, I just read an article about books whose authors gave up on trying to find a literary agent and just took the bull by the horns and self-published their book.  Heck, Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, said she finally gave up pursuing the traditional route to publishing after she spent a year querying literary agents and only received rejection after rejection.  Wait a cotton-pickin' minute!  Wasn't that the movie for which Julianne Moore won a Best Actress Oscar?!!!  Also, I've just learned that Legally Blonde, which most of us know as the Reese Witherspoon movie, was originally a self-published book by Amanda Brown.  Hmmmm.  Interesting.  E.L. James originally self-published Fifty Shades of Grey before it went on to be traditionally published and also made into a movie.  Mother Mary Help All Us Striving And Starving Unknown Writers!  There might be hope for all of us yet!!  Maybe literary agents really do not know what the public has a hankering for these days??  Also, The Martian by Andy Weir was originally self-published and now it has been made into a movie that just grossed 300 million.  And then more recently, my brother informed me that the book we found quite deep and revealing titled The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield was originally self-published.  In other words, just because a literary agent doesn't recognize what will fly off the shelves doesn't mean you the author don't know your genre well enough to recognize that what you are writing just might be the next big thing. Maybe what you are writing is needed in your genre of choice.  Damn, it really makes you think about the possibilities doesn't it?!!  And last point,  I just want to say that I know many of these writers did not have access to Twitter and Instagram because it wasn't even around when they self-published.  So my question for today is this:  why are the literary agents or literatti as I refer to them, missing so many big publishing hits???  Damn, we unknown writers might have more opportunities than we think we do.  Very telling, isn't it??  Just my nugget of wisdom for today.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Goodbye Traditional Publishing....Hello Self-Publishing

Dear Lit Loves,

Well folks, it's been a long haul.  I've been searching for a literary agent for years now to no avail. And to those that haven't been exposed to the world of traditional publishing, here's the problem:  without a literary agent to represent you as a writer, you really aren't able to get your foot in the door of the "big" publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, etc. etc.  In essence, this makes literary agents the "gatekeepers" of the publishing industry.  You don't get a foot in the door unless they say so, or that is, until now.  These days, if you are unable to lasso a literary agent you have the additional route of what's called "self-publishing".   Now, let me make it abundantly clear that as a well-educated, former English instructor, I tried moving heaven and earth to obtain a literary agent and hold out for a traditional publishing deal.  Then I realized that if I wait to locate a literary agent who's invested in me as a southern writer, identifies with the genre in which I write (memoir), and advocates for me as an author over the long-term, I might just be waiting until I find myself becoming a bag of bones.  So I decided to write on this blog why I am most disappointed with the traditional publishing industry and I think my explanation virtually paints a picture for you of why I am taking my work and finding my own publisher.  I don't even care if I have to hire a graphic artist to do a book cover, get assistance formatting my manuscript to fit an e-reader, or do my own marketing campaign.  This train is leaving the station so get on board or quite frankly, get the hell out of the way.

Reasons I'm Saying Goodbye To Traditional Publishing And Why I Believe More Writers Will Do The Same:

1)  Literary Agents:  There are a handful of literary agents I can vouch for and say they were professional, helpful and truly commit themselves to advocating for the writers they sign.  Most literary agents I've come across as an unpublished memoir writer who focuses on writing in a candid manner about the big issues in life as I've experienced them, will tell me, "Oh God!  This is seriously deep stuff.  Somebody else would be a better fit."  Or they may say, "Well, I really am unable to connect with your voice or the narrative voice of your work."  My response:  Well, fine.  I write for the average Jane or Joe; I'm not writing to go win a prize or be voted the best memoir writer ever.  And also, I just want to say that just because a literary agent is unable to connect with the memoir writer's voice doesn't mean that all readers won't be able to either.  Then, there are the literary agents who just bluntly send you a reply of "You're not famous, you're not an academic, journalist, television host, etc. so you don't have a lot of people who have automatic interest in your work; therefore, he/she can't represent you."  Wow.  I know I had never heard of J.K. Rowling before the first Harry Potter book or Cheryl Strayed before she published her memoir entitled Wild, but hell, both of them found their audiences or at least I think they did.  And many literary agents (not all) that fall under the generation termed "Millennial" appear to be under the illusion that serious life matters or serious women's issues will not happen to them.  Life happens, people.  You can run from the grim reaper, catastrophic illness, parental caregiving, and even death, but eventually life happens to all of us.  Also, let me go on the record saying I think Facebook is a complete waste of time.  I view it as a Brag Book and well, my work and actions speak for themselves.  And I think the whole Facebook concept is a complete waste of time and juvenile.  Twitter is just as insane.  First of all, I can't say anything in 143 characters (ask my professors and former students) and well, who the hell cares what somebody is watching on television or what they think of Superbowl 50 or what they are having for dinner, for crying out loud people!  Get A Life!   And for those agents who would judge a writer by the first ten pages of a manuscript, my question is how would you like it if I judged you as a person based on your high school senior year book photo??!!  Didn't think you would like that too much either.

2)  Editors:  Believe it or not, these are the folks in publishing with whom I get along best probably because I'm a former English teacher and I know what it's like to have to correct someone's 500 errors in a thesis paper.  Editors appear to know how difficult getting a literary agent can be which makes me wonder how happy they are with the ones they know?  Editors, to me, don't want to judge you personally, they want to sincerely help you make your manuscript the best read it can be.  And here is a shout out to all the editors who have connected with me even though I am not represented by a literary agent- I admire them.  They are not afraid to take a risk to find the next in demand writer or manuscript so KUDOS to them! 

3)  Traditionally Published Authors:  I've reached out to a multitude of previously and currently published authors.  I've only received responses or replies from three.  And those three authors have been communicative, supportive and appreciate that I buy their books.  These three authors tend to know the concept:  Do Not Bite The Hand That Feeds You!  The vast majority of published authors do not even bother to respond to their readership.  And if you don't respond to me, I no longer buy your books and I definitely do not endorse them to my book club, students, friends, acquaintances, etc.  And then there's the one major fiction writer who I wrote and she sent the ugliest reply back to me and even implied she didn't think my manuscript sounded like it actually happened!  A very bad decision on her part as I then utilized all her books in my possession as kindling to build my next fire.  Talk about not appreciating or even respecting your readership.... and then there are those authors who write in their books about the readers who write them and that's where they give their replies to these readers which in one case I discovered involved an author mocking the queries she had received via email.  Yep, you guessed it.  I shredded every paperback book I had that was authored by her. 

4) Small & Medium Publishers:  Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say that I gave two of these type of publishers every chance in the world.  There appears to be a backlog of books they need to publish or they've published a book that is very similar to my manuscript; therefore, they must decline.  And then there was one publisher whose chief editor consented to publish a book somewhat similar to mine and when I asked about publishing a book on the medical subject matter from an actual patient's point of view and not a journalist's or bystander's point of view, she had the audacity to tell me that my book didn't fit with their publishing objectives.  What publishing objectives??  The ones for well-known journalists or the ones that don't appear to apply when an undiscovered writer hits on the same subject matter in a better way with first person experience? 

5)  Literary Scouts:  Where in the heck fire have you been?  You found John Grisham's work, were able to get it to a movie producer who wanted to produce it and your efforts assisted Grisham in getting a publishing deal so where have you been when it comes to my work and manuscripts?  Holy Fire, don't even get me started.

So there my literary loves is why I have lost faith in traditional publishing.  You can only slam the door shut in my face so many times.  Maybe you've overlooked one too many an unpublished writer.  It's okay, this southern gal knows how to drop kick down most doors that impede her efforts.  This memoir writer comes from damn good stock.

Till my next update,

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall

Dear Lit Loves,

First, let me say that I think dealing with the traditional publishing industry has virtually pushed me to the point of going rogue.  Thank you, Jesus, I can truthfully say that I have learned the art of dealing with rejection.  There comes a point though when a writer, particularly one like me who writes in the memoir genre and whose name is not Kim Kardashian, has to begin to contemplate if the gatekeepers (literary agents) really have their finger on the pulse of what constitutes a manuscript that is worthy to be published by the big five publishers and to sit on shelves in your local bookstore.  Quite frankly, I'm going to tell you that there are times when I have looked across a table at my husband and said, "I don't think these folks get it."   At which point my husband will usually say, "You know the vast majority of them appear to only be in the literary game for the quick buck and you want someone who is invested in you, respects and sees the potential audience for the serious life-jolting issues you address in your manuscripts, and works to refine what you write, not completely change it to sound like some other famous memoir writer."  I'm beginning to think that might be too much to ask for as a writer these days and that's going to most likely become a sad reality the many facets of traditional publishing will eventually face and realize much too late. 

What does the above paragraph have to do with my review of Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall?  I'm getting there, folks.  The gist of this memoir is that a spoiled, crass and belligerent Millennial writes notes about his experience of having his life turned upside down when his father is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), his mother is undergoing continuous cancer treatment, and he returns home to help care for them.  And he is NOT happy about having to give up his spoiled, rich LA life and his budding relationship with a quite self-involved girlfriend.  And I just want to say that I kept thinking to myself, dude, she's not the one for you.  She's leading you around like a puppy on a leash.  Grow up, go find some semblance of maturity, and get thee back to the ranch to help your parents.  Note to readers:  it gets worse not better with regard to his personal life.  When he does make it home to help, he finds a brother there who has moved in to assist in parental care, one sister who appears to just go on with her life like nothing should stop her world from its positive progress, another sister who appears to immerse herself in school and dance while living in denial, and an additional younger sister who appeared to just want to escape the whole situation even if it meant chucking her entire future by making some foolish choices.  All I have to say as a Generation Xer is this:  God Help Us All If Most Millennials Respond To Family Trauma In The Demented Manner This Author Relates.  I can tell you Mr. Marshall that I've faced more demons and terrible situations than you.  If I had behaved the way you relate in your memoir, my parents would have back-slapped me right on toward my next nine lives.  Comprende?  And your vulgarity, disrespect, and malicious humor reek of a narcissist stench the likes of which I hope to never ever have in my life. 

And here's what is truly worrisome to me, folks.  Someone thought this was book was entertaining.  Someone thought readers needed to give this writer some precious reading time.  Someone actually deemed this manuscript worthy of publication and the writer worthy of literary representation.  The rest of us (memoir writers) have been knocking ourselves out trying to relate to literary agents, research their interests, connect with acquiring editors, write 72 page book proposals, and put forth manuscripts that tackle life issues in a blunt, respectable and teachable fashion.  And then this guy gets his crude memoir published and has enough arrogance to review his book on one internet site and say that it is terrific and the author is a genius.  Are you kidding me??  Here's some advice:  Get A Conscience, Find some humble pie, and If you should ever find yourself diagnosed with a medical issue like glaucoma, stage four colon cancer, Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, leg amputation, etc. Go find a steel boot with spurs and kick yourself in the can for writing such a juvenile, repulsive piece of work.

Don't waste your time with this book, lit loves.  It's selfish, nasty and not worth your time or money.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings! Regarding my efforts to obtain publication for my own manuscript in the memoir genre, the update is that I have three editors wishing to see my work and quite possibly consider acquiring it so it can be published.  On the quest to find a literary agent, I have two literary agents with my book proposal and the full manuscript; however, I can't wait forever on a decision of whether they will represent me as a writer so I'm waiting patiently until a time I've designated where upon whether I am signed by a literary agent or not, I will hit the self-publishing button.

In the meantime, I was eager for my latest read to be released entitled When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  This memoir is about a young neurosurgeon/neuroscientist who is completing his residency when it is discovered he has a stage four cancer.  Honestly, I think he had an inkling that he had cancer before it was confirmed by a CT scan.  Even before this diagnosis though, he had been pondering what makes a virtuous and meaningful life as he often encountered patients who required very complex, microscopic surgery on their brains.  He needed to know what made his patients lives meaningful so he could keep that in mind when advising them on what treatment course to pursue, but often  he kept this in mind during surgery on a patient because depending on what he discovers upon opening the skull, it might come down to whether he knew if a patient could tolerate paralysis, loss of speech, loss of mobility, etc.  Our brains are so closely linked to our identity and what gives our life meaning and function. And thank heavens this doctor not only recognized that, but was thoughtful enough to ask his patients about their lives and what gave their lives meaning and purpose.

I think a great deal of what helped Dr. Kalanithi was that he was an active participant in learning about his type of cancer, what treatments were most successful, and being co-captain of the ship when it came down to what treatments he pursued.  So many people I find often assume, well, that's the doctor's job and he/she's got the degree so I'll just do what they say.  I can't fathom making that kind of assumption and not knowing about my disease, the treatments for it, and actively questioning why my doctor is choosing this medication or surgery over others that are available.  I also think what helped Dr. Kalanithi is that he had a supportive wife who stayed with him throughout the entire journey from diagnosis until the end.  I think she contributed to helping keep him alive and I was impressed that she remained loyal right to the very end of her husband's life.  My father once told me about how when his brother was diagnosed with leukemia in the late 1960s, his brother's wife just left the scene and took their daughter with her.  She couldn't handle the diagnosis, treatments, and prognosis.  My dad always felt like that probably was as much of what caused his brother's death as the leukemia.  Support really does matter and make a difference when it comes to facing serious illness and death.  Or at least that's what I believe.

I think Dr. Kalanithi found his answer as to what makes for a meaningful life because he took the time to examine his life and his priorities.  He knew he loved neurosurgery; he knew he loved helping patients; he knew he loved his wife, family, and friends; he knew how much joy he gained from what he did for a living and how much the people closest to him meant to his life.  And I think he knew how much he loved writing so he also began chronicling his story in the form of a manuscript to leave behind as a gift for his family.  I think it's also a gift to humanity because whether anyone wants to admit it or talk about it, we all only have a finite amount of time on this earth.  As my father who died of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma last year said to me, "The grim reaper always finds you".  And when it comes to cancer, it's more than likely going to be an excruciating battle. 

More than anything I think this book is about a very gifted neurosurgeon whose life came to a close too soon.  He wrestled with that reality, but eventually he decided he was going to die on his own terms staring death right in the eye and taking his last breath peacefully.  And he decided upon diagnosis not to just give up and become a recluse.  Heck, the man even was able for a time to return to neurosurgery, but he knew when his body was telling him it was time to step away from the operating table and find joy in what he could on a day to day basis given the atrocious side effects of the cancer and its treatments.  My dad wasn't a neurosurgeon, but he assumed the same brave stance as Dr. Kalanithi when it came to his cancer.  He "got in the ring" with the beast three different times.  And the best gift he gave me was his example of courage, commitment, love, and he often told me how much joy he had experienced in his life and that when the grim reaper came for him, he had no regrets.  Dad knew he had lived a good life; he told me so.  That doesn't mean I don't miss him terribly each and every day.  I hope one day to get his story published, too. 

I highly recommend this book.  I think it glows with insights into life and what makes it meaningful as well as precarious.  More importantly, I think it will make the reader think about what gives his/her life meaning.  How do you wish to live your last days?  How do you wish to be remembered?  More importantly, do you live to discover and embrace the joy that's present in your life on a daily basis?  Life's a gift and you get to question and discover what's meaningful and purposeful and most important to you during your time here.  So, how will your book read??

Till my next post,