Blast from the Past #1: My So-Called Life in Publishing

About six years ago, Pikes Peak Writers was launching a new website and looking for bloggers. I volunteered, having just gotten an agent. I felt pretty darn confident that my little book was going to find a home and my career was going to start taking off.

This is my post from December 14th, 2007:

I do not have poop in my hair. Any more. I have not been peed on in at least three hours, and there is no spit-up on my shirt. I am proud of these things, but wait, there’s more.

My two-year-old is no longer screaming that she’s not tired, but is instead sleeping soundly. My newborn is peacefully blowing bubbles, recumbent in her grandmother’s arms, and my wife is watching Tivo’d Oprah with something approaching spiritual bliss. To top it off, I am only about a week behind at work (instead of three) and I have complete confidence I won’t be fired today (in that my boss is out for the weekend). So…life is undeniably good. What better time to think about publishing and the grand, slow-motion train derailment that is my future?

Five months ago, a bona fide New York agent at a very respectable agency chose to represent my first novel. Flush with the thrill of accomplishment, I happily agreed to write this blog. I pictured myself proudly recounting my bold climb up the publishing mountain, victorious at last after twenty-some years of working on and fantasizing about being a writer. I have always loved tales from writers who’ve made it. While I found Stephen King’s On Writing to be a wonderful and insightful book, I have to say the image that will forever stay in my mind is that of a young father handing his wife a hair dryer in the kitchen of their crappy apartment and telling her their lives have just changed forever. I figured that by the time the Pikes Peak website was up and running, I would be in the midst of handing my wife her own hair dryer and telling her about my own nice (if not King-sized) advance. This would make you, my readers, both hate me as I have hated the successful before me, and appreciate that I had something worthwhile to write about. After all, I would have loved to read a blog about the process of getting a first novel into print.


My agent tells me that my rejections are some of the friendliest she’s seen. I appreciate this. I appreciate it the way a drowning man appreciates a water-proof iPod. Nice, but not really what I was hoping for. Still, I prepared myself for it, didn’t I? Indeed, I’ve been preparing for rejection for the twenty-four-and-three-quarters years I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. After all, as any-person-you-ever-meet-anywhere-who-ever-finds-out-you-want-to-be-a-writer-and-who-doesn’t-mind-sharing-with-you-just-how-foolish-that-is knows, the publishing business is tricky and even the most successful writers typically had to deal with rejections at some point. And yet…in the last five months as the news came in that certain editors or even publishers were very enthusiastically reading my book, followed by the news that they were passing on my book, I’ve found the rejections weren’t charming little stumbling blocks on my inevitable path to glory, but rather, massive snarling chasms of death. The trouble is, not only do all the successful writers get rejections, but so do the other 99.97% of writers. I read on the Internet once (so you know it’s true) that .03% of all manuscripts submitted get published. That’s 3 in 10,000. The odds of winning something in Powerball are 1 in 37. What the heck am I doing–particularly when Powerball costs a buck while writing costs several hundred thousand hours of labor, frustration, isolation, and heartbreak?

Of course, the real problem is not the rejections. It’s certainly not the editors and publishers who do the rejecting. They have all seemed very kind and smart so far. It’s me. I have a condition. It’s called “stupid.”

I have an agent. I’ve had several editors seriously consider buying my book. Soon enough, there will be a routine in my house again and I will, free of newborn bodily emissions and the screams of a toddler scorned, be able to write again. Even if book #1 doesn’t hit the bestseller list before it’s published, book #2 requires only a few more weeks of editing before it can start pounding the proverbial pavement. And then there’s always #3…and #4…and #796…

In the meantime, I can only hope that those of you (yes, both of you) who read my blog, will forgive me for not having made it big quite yet. I can at least offer you this: in these entries, I will do my best to consolidate as much wisdom as I can about the publishing world. Even if I haven’t gotten the golden advance check yet, I’ve read plenty about those who have and I’m perfectly happy to plagiarize their happiness.

Welp…gotta go…the little one is peeking out of her bedroom door trying to convince me that she really is asleep and downstairs there’s been a small diaper explosion. More to come.

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