The Joy of Failure and The Agony of Success
edited: Thursday, November 21, 2002
By Dennis P Michels
Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2002
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It was the 9th of April 2002. Just over two years since I had finished writing Cavalry Scout.
Like most aspiring literary champions I sought to see my work published. To accomplish this goal I choose the route of attaining an agent. My thinking was, "since it is statistically unlikely an editor will pick up and accept my unsolicited manuscript, perhaps an agent will find a reason to pitch it to their contacts in the industry." After sending out innumerable query letters and sample chapters as requested, I finally got a bite. Ironically that bite, was a true bite, learning a very important lesson that cost me a few hundred dollars, I sought a legitimate agent.
While I continued my query letter submission process, I began and completed writing another novel, Beyond The Rift. When that was ready I began submitting query letters for both novels. And one of my targeted submissions gained some interest among a member agent of the Writers Guild of America. The happy ending is that this agent took my work on, and in the process suggested I pursue a path of self-publishing to gain a marketable following and some name recognition. The wisdom at the time seemed to be, if you are out there then someone will notice you and pick you up. This philosophy brings into question the purpose for an agent, why would a writer need one at all if his hopes of being picked up by a "big house" remains the domain of devine providence. This being the case, a writer could simply publish themselves and wait for an editor to pull thier title off the shelf, hire a lawyer for the contracts and live happily ever after.
As it turns out Cavalry Scout has had moderate success where I have been able market and promote it. And when I haven't been able to actively market and promote it, sales have remained slow but steady. Beyond The Rift will be available late in December 2002, and because it appeals to a broader audience I have hopes it will do well.
Now, while this seems like a success story, it isn't. As it turns out that agent was not interested in promoting my work for sale, beyond sending samples to editors with which she hadn't build and wasn't interested in building relationships with. And as is the case with all self-published authors it is my sole burden to promote, market, advertise, and have my work reviewed. Along with all the stress and roadblocks that come with self-publishing.
So I look back and wonder, "If I had accepted the rejections from the agents and publishers and considered my efforts failed, would I be happier?" The answer isn't as black and white as I believed it would be. In truth my ambition and desire to succeed has led me down a very painful path. And I must like the pain, you know, the gut-wrenching emotional pain of having self-proclaimed demagogues determine your professional (and often personal) worth without having read your work or met you personally.
So, perhaps like an Olympic athlete, I can not quit. I can not give up on this dream. Not because I think I am great or better than those who came before me, but because until those folks out there that want to read, reject me, I have not failed.
In my final analysis it really doesn't matter what a publisher or agent says or doesn't say. The only true measure of success is if the readers I put my faith and respect in enjoy my work. Yet to get to that point is to walk through the ego crushing flames of jealousy and criticism spewing forth from the opinions of the literarily impotent.
Now, Cavalry Scout and Beyond The Rift are published works. Complete with an ISBN, a price, and available online anywhere books are sold and available to special order through almost any bookstore. It is up to me to bring my titles to those readers I put so much faith and respect in. And if they reject me, I will write again in the hope that I can give them what they want. And in the end, if I never receive an award or industry acclaim, I will have succeeded to the handful of readers who show up at my appearances because they liked what I wrote for them.
I have never accepted the mantra of "write to your audience". Because as a reader I don't feel like an audience, I feel like a reader, and I see readers as real people, friends and family to one another and often to the writer. And as their writer I want to tell them a story, not sell them a line.
Web Site: Left2Write
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|Reviewed by Regina Pounds
|Dennis, a wonderful and candid article, but at the heart of it all remains one fact: you are a talented writer and must not let anything deter you from the happiness you derive from the writing itself. All else may or may not happen...it won't happen if you quit.
I look forward to watching you develop that talent. Write on!
|Reviewed by Debbie Edmiaston
|Wonderful article, Dennis! I am so sorry that I haven't gotten back to you sooner but I haven't been on AD for quite a while now. I really enjoyed Cavalry Scout and when I have more time I'll write more. It's a wonderful book. You have great talent!
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|enjoyed the read..... please come visit my den, tell me what you think, ...... ;0), m|