Friday, April 19, 2019

The Road to Writing Riches – HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

How often do you step back and take stock of where you are in your writing life and where you want to go? Is this a New Year’s only thing, or do you do it more often?

by Paul D. Marks

My wife, Amy, tells me I’m constantly taking stock of things. Probably more in where I want to go than where I am. Where I want to go is to the top of the New York Times best seller list. Of course, I have no idea how to get there. Unless you have a big publisher who puts a big push behind you there really isn’t a roadmap that seems to work.

I’m always reevaluating where I’m at and where I want to be. Trying to figure out ways to get there. Some people seem to turn out three or even more books a year. I can’t do that. I write fairly slowly after the early drafts, trying to hone everything to the way I want it.

And, as Susan said earlier in the week, there’s really no point comparing yourself to other more successful authors. So it’s best to compete with yourself. Try to make each story/novel better than the one before. Build your readership slowly. You just have to do what you do and do it the best you can. The publishing industry is kinda screwy in some ways. Unlike becoming an accountant or lawyer, there’s no direct path to success. Everyone has to figure out their own road, often by trial and error.

I had an unfortunate experience after my first novel, White Heat, came out. It sold a lot of copies. And it won a Shamus Award. And I got what I thought was a good agent out of it, someone with clients on the NY Times Best Seller lists. And that turned out be a bad situation because she got sick and didn’t really do anything with my next book, Broken Windows, the sequel to White Heat. So it languished with her for a few years. I couldn’t do anything with it and I couldn’t get out of the contract. So it sat, and I did other things, short stories, my novel Vortex. But I was very frustrated not being able to get out Broken Windows on the successful tails of White Heat.

I was finally able to extricate myself from that contract and Broken Windows came out five years after the first book in the series. And I think that was a problem. It had lost the momentum of the readership of White Heat and the Shamus. So in a sense I’m starting over.

In doing that, I’ve tried to get another agent. When people ask who my agent is they’re in disbelief when I tell them I don’t have one, I can’t get one. A couple of them have offered to help me in various ways. And really tried hard to help me land an agent. But nothing worked. I still don’t have one. And I keep trying to figure out why I can’t get one. My writing has won several awards, a story has been included in The Best American Mysteries of 2018 anthology, and I’ve been nominated for a lot of others. So it baffles me that agents won’t even respond to my queries. To bring this full circle, that is definitely something I’m taking stock of or reevaluating.


Luckily Broken Windows found a publisher. As did another stand-alone that’s coming out in 2020, The Blues Don’t Care, a World War II homefront mystery with a very unusual leading character. I really like this book. I really thought this book would open doors for me. I really thought I’d get an agent for it. But it didn’t.

And it frustrates me—and that’s me being nice about it. What I really wanted to say is it pisses me off, but my wife talked me out of that.

And this isn’t an ego thing, or at least not mostly one. If my writing had been universally rejected, if it hadn’t won awards, etc., I would slink back into my cave with my tail between my legs. But it has done all of that. And White Heat sold more copies than a lot of “successful” books. So I don’t get it.

Some people have suggested ideas as to why this might be, and they might be right, though I won’t go into them here. But regardless of the reason/s, it is frustrating. So I guess I should take stock of the agent situation again, though I’ve done that several times and I’m really not sure where to take it now…

What about you? What are you reevaluating in your writing career?


~.~.~
And now for the usual BSP:

My short story House of the Rising Sun and lots of other great stories are in Switchblade - Issue 9, which is scheduled for release on Amazon (Kindle version) on April 19th: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QW5GVZF. The paperback version to follow in May.



The Anthonys. Since Anthony voting is still in progress, I hope you'll consider voting for Broken Windows in the Best Paperback Original Department.



The third story in my Ghosts of Bunker Hill series, Fade Out on Bunker Hill, appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. If you like the movie Sunset Boulevard, I think you'll enjoy this story. It's still available in bookstores and on newstands until April 23rd:



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com

16 comments:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree with you, Paul – just try to make each story better than the one before.

Earl Staggs said...

I wish I knew the answer, Paul. I agree with Dietrich about making each thing we write better than the last, but there are more things involved than how well we write. Luck is a major factor and good luck often means just being in the right place at the right time. The secret to that is to be in a lot of places. Your accolades and awards indicate you've done that. With all that said, I can only say this: if you find the magic formula, please share it with me.

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, it is a kind of cosmic mystery why some people get agents easily, some people get published easily, and why some of those people aren't necessarily the writers we admire for quality. I've heard some logical, albeit abstract answers over the years that suggest it isn't about the writing as much as that's going on with the agents, the publishers, the marketplace. Like Earl said, luck is part of it. Carry on!

Maggie King said...

It's all so frustrating, Paul. I agree with this: "there’s really no point comparing yourself to other more successful authors. So it’s best to compete with yourself." That's where I am.

LC Rooney said...

And this is why self-publishing is a growth industry. 🙄

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Dieter. I think that’s the best thing we can do.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Earl. And if I do find that magic formula I’ll definitely share it with you…for a ten percent cut, of course ;-) .

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Susan. I have to admit I do sometimes marvel at how easily some people get agents. And I’ve had people tell me various reasons they thought I haven’t. And they might be right, or at least some of them. But the bottom line is the same whatever the reason.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Maggie. The problem with comparing ourselves to others is that there will always be someone (many) who have more success, however one defines that, than we do. I’m sure even people at the top look at others who may have something they don’t, so it’s kind of a pointless exercise and best to just do what we’re doing and compete with ourselves.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, LC. You made me laugh :-) .

GBPool said...

What you didn't do, Paul, was sit there and do nothing. You got a publisher for one book, you self-published another. You didn't let the agent who got up on the wrong side of the bed the day she got your query letter and who tossed it in the trash be the deciding factor in your life. You have books out there no matter how they got into print. You didn't give up. And you will keep writing because that is who you are.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Gayle. I just keep truckin'. It's all we can do, right :-) .

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Paul,

I read your blog with real interest because it's so honest. Over the years I've had three different agents, none of whom sold any of my books. Altogether, I've sold eighteen to different publishers, mostly small ones. Some of the books made good money, others did not. Many small publishers do absolutely nothing for writers just like some agents. But you do learn a lot from the experience. Getting one of the top agents is, I believe, necessary these days to reaching one of the big five publishers. It can be done for someone like you who has such a good background in the industry. So don't get discouraged.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline. It sounds like your road and mine have been similar. And I almost didn't put this one out there cause I thought maybe it was too honest, to be honest. As you say, both publishers and agents are a mixed bag. I've had agents before, mostly in Hollywood. And some did good things and others did nothing. I guess it just depends. Same with publishers. As for being discouraged, well, it does get that way sometimes...

Jeff Baker said...

I'd love the money, but I'm trying to write stuff that is good and that will stand the test of time (even if that test is some kid finds a story of mine in an anthology in a bargain bin at, like, Goodwill or something thirty years from now, reads it and likes it.)

Paul D. Marks said...

I agree with you, Jeff. We should write the best we can. That's what I go for, too. Otherwise I could be writing a lot faster and a lot more stuff.