I am not Charles Dickens. I wish I were. I want to be a writer of wry humor, social commentary, and have an effect on the soul of the world I live in. The way he was. Heck, Dickens invented Christmas the way we do it now (with considerable help from department stores like Macy’s) by writing A Christmas Carol. But the chances for that are growing ever dimmer.
The small publisher with which I was associated, and who gave me a contract to publish Snow Babies, has died. The business folded while my novel was still in the editorial phase. PDMI Publishing was a worthy group of writers and entrepreneurs who in a different time might’ve gone far. I know by reading some of their works that they had talent. But between the ferocious grip of the mega publishers and the waves upon waves of self-published stuff on Amazon, real writers with talent are drowning in a sea of mediocrity and media indifference. Writers who succeed are the ones with the most luck or the most direct connections to the gate keepers. Profit is far more important than literary merit. You don’t really have to have talent any more. You don’t have to know what a split infinitive is or how to compose a compound sentence properly or how to spell. Shoot, you barely have to know how to write. Just write about sparkly teenage vampires falling in love with high school girls or sexual perverts who are into torture devices, and you can be a millionaire… if you can somehow luck out over the millions of wannabes writing the same exact crap.
There was a time when writing teachers and published authors were telling me that sooner or later good writing gets published. It was supposed to be inevitable. But that was a different time than now. Different rules for the game. I will have two published books with two different publishers. I-Universe published Catch a Falling Star. And Page Publishing will publish Magical Miss Morgan. But I paid both of those publishers to turn my books into published paper books with ISBN numbers and access to customers of Barnes and Noble and other outlets. But I don’t expect to earn the money back that I invested. Not while I’m still alive at least.
My I-Universe publishing experience was worth it. I spent a lot of money to get Catch a Falling Star published, but I got to work with real editors and advisers who had experience working for Knopf and Random House. They gave me a real evaluation of my work and taught me how the business of promoting the book was supposed to work. And the help that they gave me ended there. No advertising budget beyond what I could afford myself. I learned a lot for my money. But I had to come to terms with the fact that marketing was going to take more time and effort than I was physically capable of doing. I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor after all.
Page Publishing was a mistake. They were cheaper than I-Universe, but I am not getting anywhere near the value for my money. Instead of real editors reading and suggesting and modifying my work, I get nit-picky grammar Nazis who don’t even know as much about grammar as I do. They are only copy editing. And the last rewrite was me spending time changing all the incorrect changes they made back to the original text. They did not even tell me the name of the editor making the changes. I talked to the I-Universe editors over the phone and discussed changes in detail. Page gives me email copies to read over and fume about silently. They are no better than the vanity presses of old who were really no more than a re-typing and printing service.
So, from here on, I will only do the self-publishing options available through Amazon. I have no more money or energy to spend on the black hole of literary dreams.
I can’t help but be a writer, though. That part is genetic. I will continue to write and tell stories that I need to tell. I can’t help it. Not to do so will cause me to shrivel and die almost instantly. And I am only exaggerating just a little bit. Well, maybe a lot. But it is still true.
Whatever promises the future holds, I am not depending on them for my feelings of success, closure, and self-worth. The world as I have come to know it will always be a ridiculous stew-pot of ideas and ego and cow poop, and I am not so much giving up as stepping out of the stew. I wish to tell stories for the story’s sake. I have no delusions of becoming as wealthy as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I will never be Charles Dickens. And I am okay with that.