There is a story that Johnny Cash used to tell about how Kris Kristofferson landed on his front lawn one Sunday morning with a song that Johnny “Just had to sing”.
The song was Sunday Morning Coming Down.
Sometimes, that’s just how ideas hit you. They’ll land on your front lawn or beat on your door whistle down your chimney pipe.
Other times you have to root for them. You have to turn over stones and hunt through a gravel-floored basement or ramble through a dusty attic dream.
Times like today I am surrounded by ideas. I feel a little like Custer at the Little Big Horn – where the heck did all those ideas come from and which one do I shoot first?
I’ve just finished a third retightening of a manuscript for an upcoming collection – the third in about three weeks. The head editor passed it to me all marked up. I corrected it. Then it was handed to another editor who handed it back all marked up. I corrected that too. Then, two days, I got it back for a third time with a few more marks in it. I corrected those yesterday and this morning and fired it right back.
A lot of you folks out there are already beginning to tap out comments that will read something – “That rotten-eyed horse-wallow of an editor. How dare they criticize your work so much. Don’t they realize what a nice guy you are? Don’t they realize just how hard you work at this gig?”
And then there is some of you folks who want to tell me – “See, that is why you should self-publish everything as an e-book. Get the hell out of traditional publishing, Vernon. Why are you wasting your time and energy writing for somebody other than just yourself?”
And then there’s a few of you who are reading this and thinking to yourself – “I wonder what Lady Gaga is up to right about now?”
The point is, though, I still enjoy writing for the traditional publishing market. My regional books reach out to people who wouldn’t necessarily pick up an e-book – asuming that one can actually pick up something that exists strictly on a digital level.
And I don’t mind all of this extra edit-work. The fact is, this book really needs all of that extra painstaking effort. The book I’m working on isn’t my usual collection of ghost stories. This new book – as some of you already know – is a collection of historical maritime murder mysteries. There is a lot of fact and detail and circumstance that can easily get all futzed up by a careless writer – and I can sometimes be just that.
The fact is, we all can be careless writers. Nobody gets all of the details perfect. Nobody’s grammar is impeccable – it ain’t I tell you. Nobody spels everythin perfectly and typos do happen at the most inconvenient and unexpected occasions!
So I welcome the editor’s inquistion. Tie me to the rack and flail me with a cat o’ nine tails drenched in vinegar and lemon juice. Hold them heated irons to my heels and flay me inch by inch – all the while whispering with garlic, raw onions, sardines and Stilton cheese-riddled breath – “Who’s your daddy, writer-boy?”
I want to give that to you. I want to cut that into the heart of your muse and let her tattoo it in your nostrils so that you breathe that idea into somewhere deep within your essence.
“Do not fear the editor”.
Soak that up, would you? Don’t get all dog-locked on the notion that your words are precious as diamond-encrusted snowflakes.
Fact is, I just revised that last image – changing the initial “diamond-crusted snowflakes” to “diamond-encrusted snowflakes”.
Fact is, we all could use a little revision in our words.
Fact is, your editor and your publisher are your very first clients – and you damn well better know how to keep them happy.
This is business and you got to please the paying customers.
Amen, and gesundheit!
Now, a few words on the great e-book experiment.
Last week’s “free-lease” of my novelette SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME has met with mixed results.
We moved about 500 or so free copies – which sounds like a lot, but in the world of the “free-book” you want to hit numbers in the thousands before you can get yourself up into that fleetingly visible top 100 bestselling zone.
As most of you know, that’s what the whole idea of a giveaway is. You want to give away enough free e-books to bump your Kindle rank up into the top 100. You don’t stay there for very long, but the idea is that you stay long enough so that people notice that your book exists. That’s what it all comes down to. You see, there is a great abundance of e-books out there, with more being released every day.
To sell books you need to make certain that readers know you are there.
Let me take you back to the days of the Depression. The days when workers would line-up at the worksites looking for day labor in the fields or the fruit trucks. The foreman would come down to the edge of the mob of hungry people and choose out a dozen or so workers – however many he needed that day. Those few got work, which meant they got paid, which meant that eventually they would eat.
A lot of times that work went to the big fellows. The tall boys who just plain stood out from the crowd or else could push their way close enough to foreman to be noticed just long enough to be hired.
For that day.
That’s where your average e-book author finds himself. Standing in a crowd behind a line of big tall fellows, trying hard to be noticed.
Fellow needs himself a trampoline or else a pair of stilts.
So, to get back to my original subject – has the “free-lease” of my two e-books – BAD VALENTINES and SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME been a success?
I don’t know yet.
One thing it has done is produced a brief but solid review at the Amazon listing of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME.
A lady from Tennessee who picked up a copy of Sudden Death Overtime had this to say –
“Steve Vernon’s ability to weave a story with a flow that is virtually flawless is a testament to how good a storyteller he is. I loved the characters and their personable dialogue and was able to plant myself easily in Labrador.”
She said more but you’d have to click that cover photo to read the rest over at Amazon. For myself, I feel that if I can transplant a Tennessee resident to the Labrador shore than I have done my storytelling duty.
Reviews – good reviews – can work as a pair of stilts. Or, perhaps more aptly, a good review is the equivalent of having somebody wave a sign with a picture of your novel over the heads of all of them big tall fellows.
Either way – you get enough of those good solid reviews and a few more of those readers can see you over the crowd.
Even less-than-flattering reviews can work for a writer. Take a look at what Amanda McNeil has to say about my horror/historical DEVIL TREE in her WordPress review blog OPINIONS OF A WOLF!
Not everything she says is glowing and wonderful, but she does have a lot of good things to say about the book. She’s painted a fine sign and by posting it on her blog she is doing a reviewer’s duty of waving that sign above the crowd. In turn, I will post notices of that review – which works in a similar fashion. Now I will wave a sign pointing to her blog – which will in turn increase her visibility.
Maybe that is all that the internet is slowly becoming. A bunch of people waving signs saying “Look at me!” or “Look at me looking at him/her!”
All of this talk of sign waving brings me to the Halifax bus strike. We are about a month into this strike and people are beginning to adapt. I had some trouble on Friday morning, walking two and half miles in heavy old winter boots, rather than the walking shoes I have been getting by with – but other than that I am adapting nicely. So is everyone else.
People are being hurt by this situation, however. There is a whole lot less casual shopping these days. People who might normally ride a bus to a mall or a boutique are staying home. People who have cars find themselves spending more on parking and such. The city has stepped up it’s traffic patrol and is handing out more tickets than ever – which makes for a whole lot less expendable income for walkers and drivers alike.
There have been some pretty stupid moves on both sides of the fence. I won’t bother going into all of the bad decisions that Peter Kelly has made for himself – and, even though he isn’t the only one on the management side of things he is the figurehead for the opposition.
On the other hand, the union has made a few bonehead plays as well. Starting with that Valentines Day march with everybody waving and dancing and happy at the thought of third party arbitration. A big display like that is bound to set off alarm bells in anyone you are trying to strike a deal with.
Let’s break it down, shall we? You and I are trying to reach an agreement. I suggest the possibility of arbitration to settle our dispute. Then, while you are standing there and still considering whether or not you are going to agree to my proposal, I start a one-man Snoopy dance of joy and happiness upon your front lawn. Before too long you will start to wonder just why I am so happy and what do I think I am going to get out of this agreement – and if I dance too hard and too happily you are definitely going to reconsider agreeing with arbitration.
That’s what happened, in my opinion. Council looked out and saw all of those happy dancing bus drivers and decided they didn’t want to run the risk of giving them even more reason to celebrate. Basically, the union forgot the principal rule in negotiation – always maintain your poker face. So now they are stuck with those silly heart covered t-shirts and signs – and we are heading towards St. Patrick’s Day and the transit union is still waving Valentines.
Not to mention the decision to announce that they were going to STOP the access-a-bus. Which, in effect, is saying that we are going to picket seniors and the disabled – which is who the access-a-bus serves. Even though the union hastily back-tracked and said that all they meant was they were going to delay the access-a-bus, not stop it – the announcement still, in my opinion, made them look both silly and hard-hearted.
These are all my theories. Doesn’t change a thing about the reality that both of these sides are dog-locked in a perpetual state of disagreement and it doesn’t look like they are going to solve their disagreements any time too soon.
Maybe somebody ought to send for an editor…
yours in storytelling,