Floundering in the sea of modern publishing

You’ve heard of shotgun weddings. Well, this is a shotgun blog post.

It has been some time since I posted new material on my website, I know. I put humor writing on hold for the most part this past year to focus on my dramatic works.

After nearly 20 years of practice, maybe 15 of those serious, I find my path as a writer at a most difficult stage. (This piece was written probably sometime in 2015)

I feel like I’ve worked my craft enough to try for an agent while I continue to read and write, learn and improve.

After all, I’ve penned three novels, two humor essay collections, a book on religion and philosophy, a 110-000-word memoir no one will ever see, a couple hundred poems, stacks of journals, and at least 3,000 news stories in addition to I-don’t-know-how-many editorials, anecdotes, and pieces I’m not really sure how to classify. (Not to mention a few dirty stories about naughty stewardesses.)

Thing is, now that I’ve actually begun submitting my work—something I have avoided out of sheer terror these decades—I see more and more agents and publishers demanding a writer have a robust “author platform” consisting of scads of Facebook and Twitter followers, as well as a highly trafficked blog.

I don’t have any of those things. For whatever reason, as witty (go ahead, roll your eyes—I am) as I think I am, I’ve had real trouble with engagement.

It can’t be my sparkling personality, can it? Well, answer me you bastard!

When people like celebrities with zero writing ability are able to land big book deals, it’s obvious just how important the platform is.

To make matters worse, I impatiently went ahead and self-published a few books in recent years.

It was lazy.

It was stupid.

And it is forever … since Amazon will not let you take a book off its listings no matter how much you beg or swear.

To make matters worse, I read not too long ago that it can be difficult to get a book deal if you have self-published stinkers hanging around on the internet. Call me “Skunk Boy.” (Melville would be proud.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve perused the articles of tips on how to build the author platform, which on paper looks surprisingly like an old English gallows.

I think I understand the science (?) of it: Dancing bear + Drunk uncle over Video = Likes squared [DB+DU/V=L2]

I even stooped to sitting in on a few webinars and purchasing some e-books from “authors” who said they could help turn me into a star, just as long as I paid the extra $99 for the undercoating.

Their answers all turned out to be sales pitches to buy more webinars and e-books.

I get it. I’m supposed to generate fans so that, when I get a book deal, I’ll have a preexisting customer base. But, first I need to give people a reason to become fans.

Sounds simple enough.

That might work if I was a teen mom with a sassy catchphrase, or a sexy single lady looking for love from a gaggle of rich bachelors, or even a drunk idiot from New Jersey with big hair and a spray-tan.

But, I’m not.

I’m just a middle-aged hypochondriac with bad teeth and a spoiled dog.

I don’t see anyone making a reality TV show around that.

I don’t have a dancing cat or a llama who does long-division or even a parrot who sings heavy metal.

So, what can I do?

I hired a couple beta reader services to critique two of my novels, the ones I finished over the last year.

I’m about to do another round of revisions on the historical novel based off their (betas’) insights.

This past week, I submitted a short story, three poems, and an essay to three separate literary magazines.

I also sent a copy of one of my humor essay collections as an ice-breaker to a literary agent I think would be a good match for my work. Not the proper way to do business, I know. But, I’m impatient and dumb, remember?

I’m not about to give up but there are several times each week when I ask myself, and my poor patient wife, if this quest of mine isn’t an insurmountable one.

Then I sigh, eat a peanut butter and orange marmalade sandwich, read a chapter of a good book, and go back to writing and revising.

I’ve also decided to start blogging about my journey because the experts say this will make you love me.

I don’t know if that’s true.

I mean, I love burritos but I don’t follow them on Facebook. (Although, I did dedicate a book to Taco Bell—no foolin.)

I follow Joe Scarborough on Twitter but I’m not about to buy any of his books.

Anyways, if you do end up loving me, maybe you will buy my books when that one agent in New York stops laughing at my hilarious collection of humor essays and calls to say he’ll take me on even though he’s not currently accepting new clients.

And maybe we can get a burrito together. You know, before I become too famous. I mean, we’ll each get our own burrito but at the same time.

That’s all for now.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the kitchen sighing and making a PB&M sandwich.

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