So you can read my books

Friday, May 25, 2012


The cure for discouragement.

No. Sorry to disappoint you. I don't have it. Discouragement. That I have. In abundance.

I shouldn't. I walked into becoming a published author with my eyes wide open.

And even if I didn't, I had a crash course in it every time someone asked what I was writing.

"A writer? Oh, wow. That's neat. Where can I buy your books?"

The look in their eyes when I tell them I only have ebooks out says it all. Dreamer. Wanna be. No talent.

I bet you had the same exchange with friends and relatives. What did Mark Twain write? "Everyone is a crackpot until he succeeds."

Let's face it. When you set out to be published, you've guaranteed yourself a lot of pain.

But is that any different from an Olympic hopeful, a want-to-be NBA player? Success is promised no one. Failure if we do not try is certain. And a gnawing, forever doubt will haunt us all our days if we turn our backs on our dreams.

We are creative. It is who we are. We have to write. Period. The end.

We are not defined by our failures. We are defined by what we have learned from them. Janet Reid, the literary agent, has a great blog :

Periodically she posts tallies of her replies to incoming queries. On the last day of last year, she posted an array of statistics that hopeful authors could torture themselves with :

She started keeping notes sometime this summer. Between that date and today, she requested 124 full novels.

Here's what happened:

Just plain not good enough: 21 (a novel needs to be in the 99th percentile-these were closer to 90%--not bad, but not good enough)

Good premise, but the rest of the novel didn't hold up: 11

Not compelling or vivid, or focused; no plot/tension: 10

Slow start or the pace was too slow: 9

I didn't believe the narrative voice: 5

Structural problems with the novel: 8

Interesting premise, but not a fresh or new take on familiar plots/tropes: 7

Had caricatures rather than characters: 2
Boring: 3
Grossed me out: 2
Major plot problems: 2

Needed more polish and editorial input than I wanted to do: 2

Good books but I couldn't figure out where to sell them: 7

Got offer elsewhere; I withdrew from scrum: 2

Great writing, just not right for me: 2

Not right for me, refer to other agents: 9

Not quite there/send me the next one: 1

Sent back for revisions with editorial suggestions and I expect to see them again in 2013: 9

Getting second read at FPLM: 1

Got offer from me: 2

(the rest fall into the miscellaneous category of problems too specific to list here)
How do you fight discouragement? With truth. And what is the truth we can find in Janet Reid's statistics?

It's not you. It's not that you are not cut out for this writing business. It's not your inability to get it.

It's just a problem to be solved. You have a head. You have intelligence. You have perseverance {or you wouldn't have stuck with me this long.} Your query or your novel simply has a writing problem to be fixed.

Look at Janet's list above and study your novel, holding her reasons for rejections next to your manuscript. Every carpenter needs a level. Use Janet's list as your level. You'll spot something in your creation that needs a bit of fixing.

Roll up your sleeves and start fixing. The cure for discouragement is getting back up and fixing that flat on your manuscript vehicle. It won't fix itself. But you have creativity and a dream. You can do this.

Difficulties are there to spark creativity not defeat.

You want the formula for success?

It's quite simple really. Double your rate of failure. Hold on. Stay with me here.

You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. It is its tutor.

You can be defeated by failure or learn from it. Go ahead. Make mistakes.

Make lots of them. Each one is a lesson learned. And success? It's waiting for you at the graduation ceremony.

I had a friend with useless legs and a near useless left arm. He went about in a motorized wheelchair. And I cringed going out with him. Not because of his handicap -

- but because of his optimism.

He would literally ask any girl we met out. Waitress. Nurse. Pretty blonde in the same elevator. Any girl. It drove me crazy.

"Steve!," I finally moaned, after the flustered waitress left our table, having been asked out by a total stranger in a wheelchair. "Why do you ask out every girl we meet?"

"Roland, it's statistics."


He looked at me with sad wonder at my inability to understand what was so obvious to him.

"Statistics. I've counted. You have to ask out 10 girls before one agrees. Well, look at me.

The odds go up to one in a hundred. So I mow through those hundred just as fast as I can. Oh, look! Here she comes back. I know she'll say yes."

And you know what? She did. She liked his spirit and sense of humor. And guess what else? He went out more times than I did.

Learn from Steve. Learn from Janet's statistics. Attack reality with intelligence, courage, drive, and humor. You will grow into a better writer, into a better human being.

"A problem is a chance for you to do your best."
Duke Ellington

And as the Lakota elders would say, "Learn from the eagle."


  1. Nice post, Roland! Personally I don't get discouraged by those sorts of statistics, because really, all those reasons Janet Reid gave were legitimate reasons. Seeing stats like that gives us more to work on with our own novels, in getting them up to scratch.

    It's easy for me to say I'm not discouraged, though, since I haven't even got into the querying game yet!

  2. It only becomes discouragement if you linger in that spot for two long.
    Interesting that she sent requests for 124 and only made an offer on two. Only TWO.

  3. Trisha:
    I thought the same thing. The reasons for her refusal of a novel are great guidelines in where to look in our own work for spots that may need polishing or major overhaul.

    Querying is a challenge all its own. Sigh.

    Yes, only TWO out of 124! It is disheartening if you focus on that, isn't it? So you are right in that we cannot let our thoughts linger on that statistic!

  4. Wow how sad, but on a brighter note congrats on the You Rock Award!

  5. Rejections are hard for me. I received another short story back this week. EVERYTIME I do, I vow to never write again. Ha. Thankfully, I don't listen to myself.

    Great post.


  6. Are you feeling down, Roland? You are an inspiration to all of us. I prefer ebooks to paper anyway so maybe I don't get it. And I like teasing Janet Reid on twitter, but I'd never submit anything to her.

  7. It's a tough business, and yes we all face the 'oh, I'm sorry look' when they hear you are not available at the corner store.

    Here is something funny that happened recently, though. Someone asked me if they could go to Barnes and Nobel to get my book. I said, "oh is that where you normally get your books." He responded, "no, I usually order them through Amazon Prime." I said, "Great, yep you can get my books there." I walked away. LOL Sometimes people just have to know what and where you are published. I say, let them know they can get your books where they shop. :)

  8. Michael:
    You're a braver man than I am to tease Janet -- even on Twitter. Thanks for the nice words. I've sold all of 4 books of END OF DAYS. I need Olivia Wilde or Scarlet Johansson to market my book!

    Thank you for the support and thought that I need to be more aggessive and reader-minded in my relations in marketing. You made my weary evening much, much better, Roland

  9. Hi Roland .. you're so right in your thoughts - and as Steve says - it's a numbers game .. there's billions of us out here-there ... it's just spreading that net ... but stopping is not an option - keeping opening doors is a definite.

    With many thoughts - but discouragement is just a thought in the mind - not for consideration .. you're doing what you want ... well perhaps not all! Happy weekend and I do hope life is somewhat easier .. cheers Hilary

  10. Thanks, Hilary:
    You and Steve are right: what we tell ourselves is so very important. Focus on living each breath to the fullest, reaching out and drawing in. Have a lovely weekend, Roland

  11. Great post and story Roland. Sometimes we get in our own way, that's for sure.

    I never made it to the NBA myself. Was I a failure? Depends on how I want to look at it. I got cut from my high school team, was never recruited by a college, yet became a starter on a college team and played semi-pro ball.

    I was thrilled that I even wrote a book. It was some silly thing I said when I got sober. "I'm gonna write a book". Yeah right. 20 years later I did it. Now, in four months I've sold an entire 8 ebook copies on amazon.

    I'm a success!

  12. Michael:
    As long as we do not give up, as long as we give each day our best, and have the backs of our friends, we are a success.

    I'm proud of you for putting yourself out there, for daring to believe in yourself enough to epublish.

    Oh, and now, you've sold 9 copies. And I posted your book on Facebook, saying what I felt of the pages I've read.

    Have a happy Memorial Day Weekend! Roland