In Which Mr Smith Is No Longer Confused...
Preamble: I found the following piece in my drafts folder from the September of 2015. I'm not sure why I never hit the publish button on it but I've read it twice and it reads just fine. It's even still relevant which shows that we have all moved on not one inch in all those days...
Hello September. How did that happen? One minute I was wondering how to keep Hector cool throughout the summer months, the next it’s proving impossible to get your clothes dry between one dog walk and the next. This is not a complaint. Give me (us) rain, thunder and dark skies over a baking sun any day. We are able to function much better using these rules of nature, thank you for asking!
One of the odd things about going about making a name for yourself as a writer in 2015, or any other year you care to pick as we edge forwards is, just like every other industry out there, somebody set fire to the rule book. Not only that, but information is so thick and fast that if you keep your ear to the ground, you'll find all the sides of any argument are represented by people who are talking sense.
The end-game of which means if you listen to all of them, you may as well listen to none of them - or vice versa even. There’s so much advice available to you, that none of it is helpful in the slightest.
This week, I read an article by Stephen King in the New York Times in which he talks about how being prolific more or less means your work is not 'literary' in the world and therefore will be ignored by 'the critics'. Who are these critics? Does anybody care? It’s the readers who need to be satisfied not those who make a living out of discussing such things, surely?
It strikes me that this is what it's like being a Kiss fan–or if you wish to point a different gun at yourself, a Star Wars fan, a Marvel fan–there are dozens of examples to choose from when it comes to the love of culture the masses have latched onto. You could be forgiven for thinking there's something wrong with it, but there's not. Loving whatever culture we've latched onto makes us feel good. I don't want to feel educated after hearing Slade on the radio. I want to look in the mirror and see my happy face. Nor do I want to feel mentally elevated above the rest of the human race after watching Rocky for the 60th time. I want to feel emotional–and I do, it gets me every time. This doesn't mean I don't get a kick out of Richard Ford, Lydia Davis or Don DeLillo, I do, but it's just not the same kick. One is a beer buzz, the other is a Jack Daniels kick and it depends what night it is as to who wins.
As an aside here, in that same piece, King also suggests the work of John Creasey should not be taken too seriously–but I read a lot of his books when I was growing up, they were always lying around the place and as I was not in the habit of reading critical appraisals of them, thought they were fine and dandy. Certainly no different to the work of Leslie Charteris or Mickey Spillane that I also chewed up. Surely if he was that bad they would rename/remove this CWA award category that many people are more than happy to receive?
Later that same day, I also read a great interview with Henry Rollins in which he makes the statement (in passing) that he knows exactly who he is, knows exactly how he writes and who his audience most likely is. This is a damn fine thing to know about yourself. I’ve been reading Henry for around twenty years now and I came to the party a little late, so this knowledge of his is no overnight revelation. It's hard won too.
The sum of knowledge from these two pieces with a) somebody who has written and published good/bad books and has a great relationship with his audience and b) somebody who has written and self published good/bad books and has a great relationship with his audience, has become pretty valuable.
I have learned that nobody cares. Nobody cares who publishes King’s books anymore so long as they can get a hold of them when they want them. It may have counted once but most people probably couldn’t even name his publishing company in 2015 let alone be bothered who it is. Exactly the same thing applies to Rollins–except those of us who read his books know exactly the name of his publishing company but still, nobody cares one way or the other so long as we can get hold of his books when we want them.
So here I sit, beating myself about the head with a foam hammer waiting on a bunch of agents to get back to me. It's tough you know because when I'm done waiting on an agent, I'll move on to stage two: Waiting on a Publisher. Then there will no doubt be stage three: Waiting to see if anybody gives a crap about your book in the media, which will then dictate stage four: How many books your publisher will print and where it will be distributed. There is likely b) and c) stages to each of these followed also by stage five, six and seven, etc.
It makes you wonder huh. It makes me wonder why I am sitting here waiting for somebody to say they believe in my writing enough to spend some time shopping it around some other people who have money and might want to do something with it or, I could look to those who have already bought the books I've put out and take their word for it that doing it myself is the right thing and try to grow my audience as best I can–now.
I guess when you sell enough books, have made enough noise and look like you're going somewhere, there will be a knock at the door regardless.
I have come to realise as Hank did, that I don't much care who publishes my work–me or somebody else–so long as they are out there for people to read. So this is a good time to say a genuinely heartfelt thanks to those who talked me into chasing an agent and a deal, it's a grand idea...but that's maybe all it is you know.
I learned today that life can be an awful lot shorter than you think. We should all–every single one of us–be pushing buttons, making things happen now and not when somebody else is ready to take a shot with you.
The cream and/or the popular will rise eventually, and the rest will either float in the middle or sink to the bottom. Where I (or any creator) belongs in the scheme of things, is not for me/any creator to decide, but nobody gets to decide on anything if it all hinges on waiting for somebody else to come back from a shopping trip or a football game and get you out of a drawer.
So you know what, I'm just going to get along and do my thing...