We promised you a post
And then we didn’t deliver.
Apologies; we lost our very good friend and superb author David Dutton in the interim. We ha hoped to publish his new novel (which we read and loved), and a collection of his short stories next year, but he lost his battle with multiple myeloma in early June before we could make any plans for that. Dave and I will greatly miss his kindness, warmth, and excellent writing. And we will really miss sharing his work with our readers.
We still offer his book, One of the Madding Crowd, and it is a great read, and you should read it.
And dead men sell no books.
And I don’t mean that as any disrespect to dear David. It’s just a fact, and a fact we’re aware of acutely as we published and lost another author named David previously, David Sturm, and his book is a wonderful read, and it doesn’t sell.
Some years back at a few writing events, Dave and I did a talk called “Don’t Die with Your Story.” We mean it.
And that harkens back to what I discussed in the first post in this series on sales. YOU sell your book. Oh, sure, if Stephen King went belly-up tomorrow, his books would still sell, and he’s working on keeping himself alive anyway, post-death, by writing books with his son now, so his son can step into his dad’s fanbase. Nice work if you can get it. Are you Stephen King? I know I’m not. Nor am I Emily Dickinson, or William Shakespeare, or Agatha Christie.
YOU, quite literally, sell your books, up until the point you become a sensation, like Christie or King, or etc.
How big is your fanbase? Who will buy your books when you’re dead?
Oh my gosh, what a downer I am being.
And I think it would be even worse to sell people a dream that pops like a soap bubble.
That’s not me. I believe in helping, and I believe in telling the truth, even when it is not what the listener/reader wants the answer to be.
We humans have a marvelous capacity for “bright-side” thinking, and it get’s us through a lot of tough times, and for that, humans should be infinitely grateful. And it’s not a guarantee.
This whole publishing enterprise began as a result of The Milton Workshop, which I began in 2015, and of which dearly departed David was a member, and our workshop, still going strong, has one motto, “Finish Your Damn Novel.” #finishyourdamnnovel. You have to. I have to. And short story authors, poets, you have to too (though it won’t be a novel, but a collection). It worries me, on your behalf, that so many authors now seem content with quick hits, “I won a flash fiction contest!” Hey, great, you can pop a wheelie on your banana seat bike, but that ain’t gonna get you in the Tour De France.
Here’s the thing about those flash fiction contests: they’re a distraction. They are enticing, oh, so enticing, because they present you with a challenge, and a deadline, and a possible big pay-off, like a slot machine. They also give you what you crave the most as a writer, someone who really does read your work, and provides you with feedback, no matter how subjective. But, do they help you #finishyourdamnnovel? Do they help you improve your writing? Are you working in a specific genre/theme that you like/suits you? Or is it romance this week, suspense the next? Are you learning to craft a style, and improve yourself, or are you performing parlor tricks? And, how do you feel, when you don’t get selected for the next round? Is it inspiring? Or demoralizing? We have published many a piece in our anthologies that I suspect was written for one of those contests, but we’re not offering those authors a whole book like we are life-long horror author David Fulcher, who has worked to perfect the art of the scary short story. We were asked to look at a “collection” from one author who we’d published, and it soon became clear that the flash fiction contests had taught this author how to write a short-short story with a twist, and by the third story I was bored silly by it. 1,000 words/suprise! ending. And again: 1,000 words/suprise! ending. A whole collection, 200+ pages of that? That’s about 50 surprise endings. Guess what, the surprise wears off. If you go into a flash fiction contest as fun, and only fun, and you have the time to spare away from your serious writing, enjoy yourself. Who am I to stop you? But if you want to be a great writer, perfect your craft, make it something honestly memorable….
When I began The Milton Workshop, I put an ad in my town’s FB group, and hung a few flyers around the local coffee shops, and I invited total strangers into my house, and I fed them lunch and damn good coffee, and we have been working together ever since, with only a few changes in members, and we’ve produced some amazing books and poems, and, also, it was the catalyst for this publishing endeavor. There is one member of the group who, at least once each year, says to me, “You invited total strangers to your house. I would never do that.” And I teasingly reply,
“I know you wouldn’t.”
But I did, and you can too. A writing group can give you everything a flash fiction contest can, but with substance. Get yourself a group of like-minded individuals who are committed to working on their writing and motivate each other to keep going. You will never get from a flash fiction contest what you will get from a writing group. If you’re not sure how to do it, you can read my old post about how I did it. Trust me, there are people, who live near you, who will want to join. And some of them may not be very good writers, and some of them may be amazing writers, and some will be in-between. (I lucked out… my workshop is full of writing geniuses!) And they will become life-long friends, and people who will visit you when you’re at your worst, celebrate you when you’re at your best, and mourn you when you leave the world behind.
These are my dearest friends:
I owe them my sanity, my experimentation, my social life, and my writing.
And so, this week’s post, on selling, gives you this piece of advice: have something worthwhile to sell. Don’t be a flash-in-the-pan. Make this a commitment and not a parlor trick. Find yourself a tribe to help. Finish your damn novel! And, don’t die with your story.
See you in two weeks for Post 3!