OCTOBER 6, 2017
I don’t really do opinion pieces. But every now and then I’m motivated – usually through an unpleasant experience – to open my keyboard mouth and yammer in 12-point font about something or other.
This is for all the Strugglers out there. You know who you are.
Quickly, a personal history (it’s relevant, I swear):
In the late 90’s, I received a few hundred rejections for a literary novel called THE EGOTIST. Most of those (this is the late 90’s) were pre-printed postcard-sized rejections (less postage than a letter).
After a couple years of denial and roadblocks, I started my own publishing company called Equator Books, hired a professional editor and book designer, launched an LLC, learned everything I could about publishing and marketing books, and released THE EGOTIST myself.
Mind you, this is a time when there was no print-on-demand. You had to invest in the work. Something most independent publishers don’t have to worry about today (sometimes to the detriment of a title – one is far more motivated to market a book when you have 1,500 pre-paid copies in a warehouse, believe me).
Within months I was being sold through Borders (R.I.P.), Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and distributed by Ingram / Baker & Taylor. I sold out of my 1,000 copy print run in about two years and didn’t invest in a second run – the money went into the publishing company.
I published 6 titles (none of them written by me) over about a 5-year span. In 2004, at a crossroads of my life, after leaving my job as a music executive, I pooled everything I had and raised enough additional capital to open a brick-and-mortar 3.400 sq. ft. bookstore / art gallery in Venice Beach, from which the publishing company was also run.
The bookstore, also called Equator Books, was written about in everything from The New York Times (Top 5 Creative Destinations in Los Angeles), to Rolling Stone and countless international tour guides and magazines.
After about 7 years, the economy tanked and the whole thing collapsed. During this period, however, I kept writing. I wrote hundreds of short stories and two more novels (none of which will likely ever see the light of day).
Around 2011, broke and bankrupt (literally) and thinking literary prose was a dead-end, I decided to try my hand at screenwriting.
So I read books about screenwriting, downloaded a bunch of screenplays, and started writing scripts while working as an overnight security guard. One of these scripts was distributed by Disney, and I ghost-wrote another six for them, along with a constant flow of script-doctoring and work-for-hire writing for other producers. A couple years later, I sold a spec thriller that was produced and distributed by Lifetime Television. I’m still writing scripts and look forward to my future projects.
In 2015, I decided to try fiction again. This time genre fiction. I wrote a story called MOTHER, met a few authors online, got some good advice about writing and publishing in the current market, and eventually sent the extensively-rewritten story to Dunhams Manor Press, who accepted it. This was almost exactly 2 years ago.
Since then, I’ve published about a dozen stories, two novellas and a collection. I was fortunate enough to land an agent who is currently shopping my first genre novel, and lucky enough to have The New York Times review my collection (somewhat favorably) along with one of my novellas. I write every day while also working a day job, and hope to keep the genre-fiction ball rolling.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because although there was a lot of help along the way, there were also a lot of setbacks. A lot of rejections. A lot of people ignoring me. Telling me to Pay My Dues. A lot of people telling me to stop.
Look, I get rejections every day. Not just story rejections. Little rejections. Personal rejections. The kind of rejections you can’t tally, that don’t come on cheap postcards. And this is my point:
Not everyone is going to be helpful. Not everyone is going to care about you, about your work, about your agenda, about your hopes or talents or goals. Frankly, most people will not deem you worthy of the equivalent of that cheap postcard. And it will sting.
You’ll feel unimportant. Unwanted. Rejected.
What I’m telling you is this: Get Used To It and Move On.
The world’s a hard, cold, cruel place. People who have found success generally do not like to help others, for multiple reasons, but mostly because they Don’t Have To. They’ll ignore you or, worse yet, they’ll respond with animosity, with cruelty, with jest or sarcasm. They’ll deride you or belittle you because of your naiveté, your ignorance, your newness.
They don’t know how hard you’ve worked to get here. They don’t care about your struggles, your early successes, your past failures.
And they shouldn’t.
Because they’re not YOU.
Do the work. Ignore the haters. Ignore the ones who make you feel less than yourself, who boil your blood or darken your hopes or dampen your spirit. Move On to the next thing, the next rung in the ladder, the next handhold in the climb up the cliffside.
Be better than those who would see you fail.
There are a lot of amazing resources and a lot of amazing people out there willing to help, willing to read and listen and offer support. Offer real advice. Move past the haters, find the mentors. They’re out there.
But remember that no one is ever going to care about you more than you.
And when you get that good advice? When someone is willing to invest in You? You better listen. Because if you don’t, than you’re the hater, you’re your own worst enemy. And the failure is yours, and yours alone.
So toss out the crappy postcards and get to work. I’ll help get you started:
I believe in you.
You can do this.