How it goes up. How it goes down: A bit of history.

In 2007, after six or seven years of writing my little heart
out, I found a publisher for my sixth novel – MEAT.

I was overjoyed. Me and Bloody Books in bed together. The
result: a real novel. Solid, with a cover and pages and everything. On a book
shelf. IN A BOOKSHOP – lots of them, actually. And people were going to buy
this book. They were going to read it too. It isn’t pretty watching a man
spontaneously orgasm in public but I did it a lot back then. Then Stephen King
read the ARC and said very complimentary things about it. My publisher texted Mr.
King’s response to me and I nearly orgasmed to death on a remote Austrian
hillside. Fortunately, my wife was there and knew what to do – she’s medically
trained.

And so the romance of being a real writer began. I went on a
couple of national signing tours (took a lot of spare underwear) found myself
interviewed on radio and written about in newspapers and magazines.

That was when the shine began to wear off: giving talks to
audiences of three or five; turning up for signings only to be ignored by
everyone in the shop; having that creeping realisation that you ought to be
writing instead of swanning about like a celebrity when the truth is people
neither know nor care who you are.

I quickly came to understand that what makes you a writer is
the simple fact that you write.

Beautiful/Bloody Books took my second novel – after a
radical rewrite that turned the book into something I’d never intended. If I
hadn’t done the rewrite though (an extra 40,000 words plus changes to many of
the characters) I wouldn’t have got the deal. What choice was there? Garbage
Man wasn’t as successful as MEAT but I was still receiving royalties on both
books up until my last statement in January this year.

I submitted a third novel – what I’d hoped was classic
Eco-Horror – and BB didn’t want it. ‘We don’t see this as the next Joseph
D’Lacey novel’ they said. Oh.

So I wrote another book. And another. Two years later and I
find I still can’t sell anything except the odd short story or novella.

‘Ah,’ you say. ‘No offence, like, but maybe you’re rubbish
at it, mate.’

None taken, twat. But perhaps you’re right. Maybe I am
rubbish. And a smart writer will always keep this in mind. Partly because it
keeps the ego under control (I have a specially made cage for mine) and partly
because it cheers you up – after all, everyone knows it’s only the rubbish
books that get published!

‘Don’t ever try and write anything ‘good’. You won’t stand a
chance out there!’ That’s my advice to the novice these days.

Anyway. Long and short: I’ve risen. I’ve fallen.

What next? Do I go the traditional route again? Keep trying
to break down the commissioning editor’s door for little or no money? Or, now
that I have three and a half dedicated fans, do I self publish and make a
goddamned fortune?

I guess time will tell.

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7 thoughts on “How it goes up. How it goes down: A bit of history.

  1. Well, I think you’re a great writer – and I’m in a good position to know. Lowest-common denominator sells, of course; thing is – do you want to be that? (If you do, I’m afraid you’ve failed.)

    Bear in mind that everything is still a work in progress. Nothing is decided, or finished or over. It’s all still in play…

    • Thanks, Jeremy – I appreciate that very much. And, actually, I agree (about the second para, anyway. I can’t agree with the first in public…).

      Right now there is absolutely everything to play for. As well as being the most precarious moment of my career, it’s also the most exciting and holds the most potential. I don’t wish to be the LCD at all and I’ll never ‘do’ that just to sell something. I love writing too much to screw around with it that way.

      But I thought I’d use this blog to share the ride and let off steam as I go – up or down, who knows?

  2. Wow. That is very humbling to read. I’m a horror writer too but it is very disheartening when you take a look at the horror section of a bookshop in comparison to Sci-fi or even Paranormal Romance (like horror is some weirdo, shunned section of the shop, like your rooting through fucking granny porn or something). I’ve had a flood of rejection letters from agents and publishers alike, although I recently won a short story competition that earned me a publishing deal, but there will be no real promotion other than the stuff I drum up myself, which means I’ll do three hundred copies if I’m lucky.
    Self-publishing does seem to suggest that the work isn’t the same standard as traditional publishing, but I know a few people that have done in excess of a thousand copies from fiercely plugging their own shit. It is becoming increasingly more popular I think; especially if you go directly to Ebook and bang out the book at like £1 per copy. Then your fan base grows (last year some guy did something like 75,000 copies on the kindle over the Christmas period, and now he’s a champ), and at least people can read what you’ve written, which, to any writer I’m sure you’ll agree, is the most important thing.
    I’d love to hear what you do.

    • Hi Sam. I remember you, of course, from when you were interning at BB’s office. Glad to hear you’re winning comps and still writing!

      First off, you’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve already done that. You don’t know how many copies you’ll sell so wait and see. Yes, horror might be a dirty word in bookshops but it isn’t all that bad. I mean if Dean Koontz can do it, why not you or me?

      Personally speaking, I desperately wanted to be ‘published properly’. It meant that I’d been recognised. I think a lot of writers must feel the same way. I’m fortunate in that I got what I wanted. Now, I’ll happily go down the ebook route if it looks like I can make a living. Having fed my ego, I need to feed my body!

      So I’m keeping an open mind and will try to be open about what happens to me over the next little while. I’ll have a rant and weather the highs and lows for all to see.

      Keep writing, Sam. (Actually, what choice do you have? If it’s in you, it’ll never go away!)

  3. Something you can never have taken away from you is a first amazing experience in publishing. I’m pretty sure any horror writer, myself included, would have floated around in a state of bliss to have complements from Mr. King on a debut novel.

    On one hand, the publishers are meant to be the ones we “trust”. They’re the professionals, they supposedly know what will sell, what will work. That said, if you have given your work an objective eye and think it’s as good as your previous books (or better!), and your publisher really does say they don’t see it as your next work… I don’t know, it IS your next work. Sure, horror is a fickle genre, but if you know it’s a good story, there’s not a lot you can do wrong.

    Perhaps that house wasn’t ideally suited for YOU. And all that jazz about one door closing and another opening, that’s pretty true. Maybe this is what you needed to get yourself out there and really embraced by another publisher, a place that likes more of your work, rather than a really small selection. It won’t be easy (what part of writing is?), but I think something awesome will come up in your future.

    ~Ashlee
    http://ashleesch.com
    http://theDragonsHoard.bigcartel.com

    • Thanks for your support, Ashlee, and for taking time to comment. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to get the start I did – and I’m still in bliss knowing SK has even read my work. I have no regrets and I wouldn’t change anything; not even this current uncertainty.

      I suspect BB and I went as far as we could together. When you think about it, at least I’m still ‘trading’. They’re not. I think you’re right – well, I hope you are! – that a positive working relationship is out there somewhere. And I don’t limit myself to horror, so that does give me a little more scope.

      For the moment, it’s almost pleasant (only almost) to sit on the sidelines watching the merry-go-round, trying to understand it better without being on it.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Splinters by Joseph D’Lacey | Brutal As Hell

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