Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dreams within reach

Yesterday I spent the majority of my day at a bookfest sponsored and held by the Military Writers Society of America. The event was extraordinary. I don't mean that in the sense that it was an amazing spectacle of lights and wonder. It wasn't. The bookfest was simple. A roomful of authors, the public was welcome but I don't think many people appeared, seated at tables with their love affairs bound within printed pages sat and networked, and laughed, and cried, and got to know each other. Speakers were present. Marketing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, writing habits, how to network, and a long list of other various topics were addressed. Writers spoke about their books, told their history, embraced the room.

It was a day well spent.

One speaker made a statement that set me back. He is a writer's consultant, and to be honest, and this is probably foolish on my part, but I don't recall his name. Anyhow, his shocking statement was, "The query is dead."

The query has been my friend (or enemy depending upon how you look at it) for many years. Granted, it hasn't worked yet, but then again, J. A. Konrath was discovered through the query after hundreds and hundreds of rejections, and look at him now. But, listening to this gentleman, I did realize that he was correct to a point. The business of becoming a published author is more difficult than it has ever been before. The big five houses don't want to take a chance on unproven talent, and the readers don't read like they used to. Readership is down, publications are down, and the number of creative writers is up. What's a writer to do?

I don't believe the query is dead. It is, however, limping and hobbling. Some success stories still rise from the ashes of the query method. Fewer now than before, but they are still there. Self-publishing puts out a few success stories as well. Just look at Christopher Paolini and his book Eragon. He self-published, marketed the heck out of it, got lucky, landed a traditional house, and now has a major motion picture coming out this holiday season based on that novel.

Two key factors in every success story, however, is this. First, they market the heck out of it; and second, they got lucky.

Perhaps I need to hit the small press first. Perhaps I'll catch an agent and hook on to a larger house. Maybe I need to self-publish. Regardless of how I get there, I need to be lucky, and market the heck out of it. That's all fine and dandy, but how am I going to get there?

Todd Uebele, a fellow writer, said to me that for him the key was networking. Networking. Wow, why didn't I think of that? Thankfully, I have this habit of going to book signings. I search them out. I talk to the writers, getting to know them. You may ask, "What good it that? Writers don't get you published. Publishers and agents do." True. But knowing writers gets your name in the loop, and you just never know what will pop up for you.

I am a veteran of the United States Navy. I served proudly. No, I did not see any wartime. I suppose you can call me a peacetime veteran, or at least that's how Veteran's Affairs categorizes me. Still, as one marine so graciously told me once in a comment on my Political Pistachio site, it doesn't matter what was going on at that time. The fact is, I was in the military willing and ready to serve my country if needed. At the last book signing I went to, where I went to meet Gary W. Moore who is the author of Playing with the Enemy, and Jeff Edwards, who is the author of Torpedo, an unexpected opportunity arose. Jeff's wife is vice president of the Military Writers Society of America. They took to me, liked me, and asked me to join. I was flattered, and recognized it for what it was: A huge opportunity to network.

And now, at this bookfest yesterday, I have one writer who volunteered to read my manuscript and give me some editing tips regarding it, a publisher who claimed that she does not publish the type of book I write but pointed me in a direction toward a publisher that does (recommendations are huge, by the way), and a number of writers that gave me their cards and said to me, "If you have any questions, or need any help, let me know."

Wow! And this is just a little book fest! I am going to a conference next weekend!

However, this is huge. I am now treating my writing like it is a business, I am creating a database of friends and associates, and I am receiving help and advice from published writers.

The query isn't dead, my friend. A little CPR from networking, however, will get you in.

I told my wife that now, after years of darkness, I can feel my dreams within reach.

I know that the odds are against me, all writers know that, but the dream is what keeps them writing. Failure is only the prelude to success for those that keep pushing, keep writing, and keep networking. I want to be like Stephen King and his wife Tabitha, standing in their living room in each others arms, crying after that first phone call that told them that Carrie was going to be published, and with a good sized advance.

My wife disagrees. She wants us to be like us, standing in our living room, arms around each other, crying, because that first book finally made it.

See you on the other side, my friends.

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