by WLP Guest Author Robert W. Walker
For some occupations, most in fact, not knowin’ where you’re goin’ from the outset of a project is the kiss of death, or in other words a death knell. Organize, outline, plan, storyboard it…all necessary for many forms of writing as well, but a novel? Not entirely true, no, and in fact even now, writing these words, I don’t where I’m going until I get there.
An old saying in writing puts it this way: “I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.” With at least 50 percent of us writers, and perhaps writers in general, I suspect that ‘we don’t know jack’ about what we think or where we’re heading on paper. At least not until we see what we say and arrive at our destination. Is this true for you and your writing? If so, nothing to be ashamed of; many a great story has been told by an author who had no idea how it would end until it ended!
Another thing about writers, as with any artistic types, there’s constant self-analysis and self-criticisms of our work; if reviewers only knew. They don’t have to tear us down; we do a fine job of doing that number on ourselves. Like many an actor, many writers fear someone will unmask them as frauds…as our brains so often tell us that we are just that—frauds! Somehow we have to quash that ugly screaming meme in our heads but it takes years of writing experience to kill it entirely, and for some even successful authors, the demon in the brain is never wholly conquered or killed. Learn to live with it or destroy it and become arrogant in the most positive sense in order to survive one’s own critic from within.
Another issue about writers is the notion that for money, even fast money without any hope of returns on that money, as in pay for hire, we will never say no. In general, I subscribe to the never say no to a writing job or an editing job or any job that pays you for putting words on paper, or helping someone else to do so as in ghost writing or editing jobs. But there are limits after all. The term pay for hire is a circumstance wherein an editor or publisher wishes to pay you a flat fee to write it and go away. You write it and turn your baby over to others; you write as a surrogate or ghost writer. Good up front money, but no percentage of the whole. Just know what you are getting yourself into before signing off.
Let us say one or two thousand for a writing job and you are never to darken their door again. You have no rights to the work. You were hired to write it for another. Yet it is to be a book on shelves in bookstores. It may or may not have your name on it. Most of the Idiot Books, those reference works like The Fool’s Guide to whatever are done as pay per hire. I say if you really need the money, go for it, but as a general rule, try to avoid such deals.
When you are hired to do a ghost writing job, it’s about take the money and don’t expect or pursue any additional funds. When you edit someone else’s work, it remains their work, not yours, and you should expect no more funds accruing to you unless you have worked out a contract that stipulates this down to the percentages. Else all you can expect—if that—is a mention in the acknowledgments.
Now getting down to when an editor gives you a green light on a spec manuscript: If you are given a go-ahead based on a spec script (speculation), the nature of the beast is no money changes hands until which time spec becomes contracted script. If you are lucky enough to have a correspondence or any sort of relationship with an editor, and you are talking about ideas with said editor, you don’t own ideas, and anyone can take up that idea and run with it, so you want to do your best to convince an editor that this idea is not only great but that you are the perfect person to write it. When an editor in a publishing house asks you if you can write such and such a book, then by all means, you do not know the word NO. I go by the rule: you never say no to an editor. Rule One. Besides, I LOVE a challenge.
Once way back in early 80s, I was turned down by an editor I had worked with on a previous couple of books. I was amazed at the rejection of this work. I believed in the story. So I got on the phone and got Jane, and I pushed her on giving me some real reasons as to why it was rejected, something other than the vague generalities in the letter. She said, “It’s too short; we’ve moved from doing 60 thousand words to 80 thousand, and we’re up to our eyeballs in mysteries. We are in need of horror.”
I shot back without hesitation, “Give me a contract and I’ll add a monster and 20,000 words!”
Jane said, over the phone, “Yes, okay, I’ll put the contract in the mail. Go to work!”
That agreement was the exception—getting a green light over the phone, but I have also had editors contact me to ask if I could run with an idea the house was kicking over for a series. After two or three sentences on the idea, I stop listening and say, “I can do it, sure!” My four-book Decoy Series came of that. My Instinct Series came about the opposite way—I proposed it as a series idea to an editor who fell in love with the concept. Same with my Ransom series.
Nowadays, however, I do not get rejected ever because I am my own independent publisher, and I have not once said NO to any of my own projects! Fancy that…a major perk of being an Indie Author publishing Kindle Original titles and reprints of out of print titles.
Now my last Kindle title which no editor would touch at 150,000 words, was Annie’s War – Love Amid the Ruins of the John Brown attack on Harpers Ferry in 1859. My traditional publishers wanted me to remain a crime novelist only, but I enjoy writing historical thrillers ripped from the pages of history books, so this means Kindle Original work. My Titanic 2012 and Bismarck 2013 were both in the neighborhood of 160,000 words, which next to no publisher would touch for the length alone, but each title is actually two-books entwined. Kindle publishing allows me to defy categorization or pigeon-holing. Thus far, I have 55 titles on Kindle. A little something for every taste. One of my other completed novels is Children of Salem – Love Amid the Witch Trials and again a title traditional publishers and agents would not touch.
In addition, Kindle has allowed me to bring about multiple resurrections of otherwise dead characters, that is out of print heroes and heroines, several of whom, I have revisited by creating Original to Kindle stories and novels. For a prolific author, these are exciting times. If one wishes to pursue Indie Authorship and Publishing visit www.kdp.amazon.com and get started. Amazon has streamlined the process greatly since I began doing Indie Kindle titles in 2010. In four years, I have published 15 Original to Kindle titles.
Enjoy these times! They favor the author as never before as there are more avenues to publishing than ever. The marketing aspect then becomes the true challenge, and that challenge requires a great deal of effort and creativity and imagination. Marketing one’s Kindle titles, audio books on audible.com, and POD titles with CreateSpace requires time and energy as well. To go into any detail about that requires more space than I have here but feel free to ask me anything.
Robert W. Walker – www.robertwalkerbooks.com
Also at Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Plaxo, LinkedIn, DL, MMA, and kdp community threads.
Robert’s story, “M is for Mara: Mythological Being of Nightmare,” appears in the Western Legends anthology The Bestiarum Vocabulum.