Web Site: Author Barbara Boyer
Part III of a III part Series of an author chasing a dream.
This is the property of Barbara Boyer. No portion herein can be copied, duplicated or used without the permission of the author.
I love artists. All types of artists. In general the imaginations and creativity of a group of artists can bring you to the speckle of a grain of sand or a vaporized airy blanket around the world, and one needn't leave their seat to experience either and everything in between. Artists have a passionate energy that flows from them, whether it is pleasure or pain, that one cannot help but be one with. Their emotions, raw, deep, intense exposed to the very tips of their fingers, through the wisp of their lips. And that folks is the reason why I chose to be a screenwriter.
During the time I was doing my research on what I wanted to do with my newfound freedom known as my life, the reason I chose screen writing verses any other medium was because the thought of all the artists involved to complete a project, well, it was almost orgasmic to me. Through all the books I read and studied I found the screenwriter to be the mustard seed planter, the script merely the seed. In order to get it to flourish to the final cut it needed so much more creativity… more artists; the director, producer, actors, gaps, sound, edit, the list goes on. So for the same reason I loved artists I came to love the idea of being a screenwriter. I wanted to surround my life with that eclectic group in Oz and Wonderland.
On that lonely dark evening, when I sat in the movie house by myself, annoyed and distracted by the teens, and watched what I believed to be my movie played out before my eyes, all that mustard seed crap was flushed down the stool at the rest stop of this girl's road trip. For several weeks, possibly months even, afterward I found my head in my hands asking, "Now what?" My heart burned with what felt like betrayal. Even though I was blessed to have my wish of seeing, what I thought to be, my movie on the big screen. I was left out of the process that attracted me to the profession to begin with, working with all the artists. Now granted, I could forgive the individual who I thought had my script rewritten to his liking and failing to put cash in my pocket. Yet could I truly forgive him for the other—raping me from the process? A question I still seek to resolve. And that folks is the reason why I chose to be a novelist.
My screenplay had parts that worked and parts that did not work. I was given the gift of an objective eye. I now needed to utilize that and make some changes. So what did I do you ask? I did what any long term single parent learned to do; plan b.
I went back to the libraries and bookstores. I read and read and read about how to write a good novel . . . all the while thinking about Angela, Jackson, Jimi, Culann, Bird, Sammy, Leo, Martha, and Lizzy (all the wonderful characters that were going to tell my story--make my point.) I swear, people around me must have believed me crazy because there were times walking or driving in my car I would be having mumbling conversations with my characters. My head and heart became consumed with their everyday lives… who these people were; what they did in their spare time; what type of music they listened to; where they lived and what they owned; who were their friends; where did they go grocery shopping; what bad habits did they have; if they watched tv and what they watched—many details that would never find their way into the book, yet they still found their way on the page. As a result of that compulsion, the characters began to speak to me again in this world they created within me. They actually began to retell me their story, yet this time, in detail.
After about six months of this kind of thinking and conversing I was ready. I left California for Georgia to write Courage of Fear, the novel. After about two weeks of working from 9am to 5pm, the beginning, middle, and end had been put to the pages. I literally lived in sweats and t-shirts. Like a good Sheryl Crow song, caffeine and nicotine were the fuel of my obsession. The story was down yet far from complete. I took a few weeks away from it. Back to the library, book stores I went. I read more on editing, character, description, plot, and conflict. I read other greats, like Wolfe, Twain, London, and Hemingway. I read today's best-sellers like Sparks, Roberts, Patterson. I didn't read these authors for enjoyment. I read them to find their mistakes and their strengths as i had learned in the books. Unlike in screen writing a pen for detail was a must with novel writing and so therefore a precise discipline not to be taken lightly if i wanted to succeed. In screen writing your work has a director and actors who brings details to the table. A novelist is alone with their audience, so therefore has full responsibility for the story.
After a few weeks, out came the sweats, t-shirts, caffeine and nicotine, and back to the beginning I went… yet now with an eye of an editor. Ten months later (that includes the month I took fighting with Angela, my protagonist, about her fate—she won, btw) I believed the story was done, and with no time to spare. God, what a grueling insolated life the life of a writer. I forced myself to join a writer's group to not only get solid feedback on my genius, yet also to integrate my then antisocial ass back into society. Oh, I learned a lot from that group (Harriet Austin's Writer's Group in Athens GA). Most importantly I learned that the bloody edits were far from done (at one point Ms. Austin who so graciously agreed to work with me one-on-one asked, who is your favorite author. I said Virginia Wolfe. She said, well you are not her so stop trying to be her. Be yourself.) … yet I had to get back home, back to California.
After I had settled back in San Diego, back to the internet, libraries, and bookstores I went to research top notch editors.
During the next year and a half of correspondence and corrections with my editor I began to research publishing. I researched everything from agents, publishers, to self-publishing. I researched exactly what agents, publishers and self-publishing did and didn't do for new writers. I researched and analyzed numbers that went along with being a new writer, from revenues to sales. How many copies does it take to be on a best seller list and which best seller list did what?
When the final edits for Courage of Fear were done I decided it was time to let the public give me their feedback. At that time the book was given to about 25 people requesting open honest comments returned to the author. Some of these people I knew and others I did not. The reactions were amazing.
The next step was the competitions. (During the time Courage of Fear was in the competitions I queried about 26 agents and publishers and received about six requests for reads, and one publisher requested to take on the project.) In the competitions I was again equally surprised how well Courage of Fear did. Courage made it through a few rounds in a Gather "First Chapters" competition with some wonderful feedback. It made it from over 7000 entrants in the Amazon "Breakthrough Novel" down to the last 100. All-on-all these processes took about another year and a half.
During all those releases I kept analyzing data so by the time the critics had their way with Courage of Fear I had decided on its destiny. As much as I had looked down (another lesson hard learned though humble pie) on fiction self-published authors, that was the route I chose for Courage of Fear. My reasoning for that was the amount of return on my investment and the amount of time getting the word out.
From what I could gather most new writers published through traditional publishers sell tops 100 books per year. Then because they are not making revenue for the publishers they are pulled from the shelves. This told me agents and publishers do little for new writers… and after all is said and done, the author going through traditional methods makes approximately 6% from book sales. If and when a new author went beyond those statistics it was because the new author took the initiative in marketing their book for themselves. If a new author went the traditional way through a publisher any and all marketing would also have to be approved by the publishing house.
To me, (the long time single parent always with a plan b and who beat the odds in the hardest possible area in life—raising a productive member of society) it just made good business sense to finish what I started. So, the girl with the big fat belly was to try to complete this task with as much commitment as she completes single-parenthood and everything that goes with it; and with as much enthusiasm, passion, and determination to boot. After all, I could sell my grandmother to a complete stranger, why not a book to a friend I had not met yet? It was decided, in order to gain as much capital as I could—to make up for the lost revenues of the nine years prior chasing this bloody dream, I would do the project myself, hence publish and market my own book. Outsourcing was never my thing and lack of control was never my problem. I had entrusted my screenplays to complete strangers and as a result went hungry and indeed homeless on more than one occasion. Yet I continued to stay determined. I continued to educate myself. I stayed on the path of the dream-chaser. It wasn't like I had gone into this thing half-cocked and naïve.
If anyone thinks publishers and agents don't make their money. Think again. Putting a book to print sounds easy enough, but I am here to tell you folks it is freaking difficult. All aspects of publishing a book falls on your lap and could mean your success or your failure, no matter how good your story. If the header is properly formatted, the italic title on one side, the author name on the other; the page numbers only beginning on page two of the actual read; the copyright properly competed; the rights properly obtained and paid for; every minute detail in the text properly corrected with a keen, fresh, meticulous eye; and ending just so on the page to be appealing to the eye and consistent; a proper format for the copyright page; even a well thought-out acknowledgement page (praying you don't say to much to possibly make that persons life hell when the book sells like crazy, yet saying enough to let them know how much all of their support means to you during your times of isolation and struggles… cause lets face it folks, those folks on that page pay as heavy a price as the writer themselves), did you mention everyone—leave anyone out; which page you begin writing, which page you place a title page; and the list goes on.
None of this is done without knowledge. No sir. More learning. More planning. More failures. More successes. During the few months passing while you get the copy-edits completed the bids return for the front cover art (not text folks, art). The bids you requested at 2 in the morning from your laptop. These bids run from $1000 to $2500. If you have any balls at all as a starving artist you pray for mercy and possibly pro bono. After all, you know of your own giving spirit you just know someone out there has to have compassion for what you are trying to accomplish, right? You even give up your pride and beg. When that fails you learn a new software program, another do-it-yourself er. Another few months pass and you believe the cover is professional (sorry to some of you guys who got that version of the cover—send me a note and I will send you the real one), only to pay some preview company hard earned starving artist money to tell you it looks like the flippin amateur that you are. So back to the drawing board you go with smiles of gratitude on their well-earned honesty.
All the while the publisher also has to incorporate its marketing plan. Again, you do not do this without knowledge so when you are finished with working the desk-top and cannot bear any longer that you cannot feel your ass anymore, you move to the laptop and begin to research marketing on the web from your bed till your eyes fail to cooperate. There are press releases, press kits, website design (again putting away your pride, begging; and when that fails learning a new software program—and trust me to do that right, there is a hell of a lot more to it then you would think), marketing avenues (all again that you must teach yourself the publisher) like myspace, facebook, other websites that will list you, the starving artist for free; gathering local rags and finding out who does what; strategizing what is the best way you can market yourself to get the press, get a buzz going; finding out who is who in reviews and getting and sometimes paying big bucks to possibly have them tell you how much your story or writing sucks (thank god, all the reviewers have loved my story and my story-telling, cause if they hadn't we wouldn't be talking about this here and now); gathering all the resources possible to get your books in the store or at least get people requesting them in the stores… and trust me folks, I won't bore you with the many facets of marketing. It is a plethora of endless mind-boggling chaos and information. Let me just say the list goes on and on and on and on and on with more life than the pink bunny. And all of this and you haven't even approved your book for distribution yet. Indeed, publishers and agents don't get paid enough.
For every meal I have missed . . . for every night I spent in my car or in my tent . . . for all the things I have done without . . . for all the disappointments to myself and those that love me . . . for all the free hand-outs that were given and that I had to humbly accept . . . for all the money I have had to borrow . . . for all the debts I have had to pay down . . . for all the sacrifices I have had to make . . . for all the people I have disappointed and who thought me crazy. . .In addition my travels from coast to coast to give my daughter away to the most incredible man alive at her wedding; see her do the walk to get her law degree; cheered her husband through his thesis; witness the births of two incredible miraculous, beautiful grand babies; met new friends; healed old wounds; loved a man more than I thought was possible; reacquainted with past friends, and even mourned the loss of loved ones--If I were given a re-do, I would like to think I would do it exactly the same.
Folks, Courage of Fear is told with all the emotion of a starving artist and through a writer's dream caught by the hopes, and the hoospa, of a starry-eyed story teller. Buy your copy today. Then the story that was so freely given to me, the one i worked so hard to bring to you, can also be shared with the story of the little runaway who thought she could. Much love and gratitude to all who share my vision and my determination . . . and if anyone knows Oprah, I am available.
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