So you can read my books

Thursday, December 5, 2013


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 last summer. Between that date and when she posted her results, 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 2014: 9

Getting second read: 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



  1. Great encouragement - I'll remember Steve's story ;) Yup, the fear of a "gnawing, forever doubt" is probably what keeps me coming back.

  2. "A problem is a chance for you to do your best."
    Duke Ellington
    (my #1 big band guy, Basie next, then Cab C.)

    I have a stubborn streak that sees me through. It comes as a result of battling my father as I grew. (He had a disdain for women who 'think they can think'. . .)
    I learned from that. (diplomacy and setting goals)

    And, positivity is a good thing if it's sincere. OTT won't get it.

    Everyone can't have the best book there is. . .where is the quality found then? Janet's stats are depressing, but she's not a agent suitable for my work anyway. . .

    We encourage each other, which is a good thing. It's why I hang around writing blogs. . .I will write anyway, but the journey is much more enjoyable with others who share the same love for the words.

  3. Jenna:
    Congratulations all those newspaper articles you have written and had published. Way to go. :-)

    I really like that Duke Ellington quote -- he's in FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE along with Louis Armstrong and others who play the tune for the last dance of Samuel and Meilori.

    Even faked positive attitude lightens your mood. But the real thing will get you through some dark times.

    Janet Reid can be caustic at times. The ghost of Mark Twain threatens to haunt her -- but knowing him, he would probably only flirt!

    I always smile when I see your name in the comments, for I know I am going to hear from a friend. :-)

  4. When approaching a woman, count to three, and say she has pretty hair.

  5. Walter:
    I tried that with Medusa -- didn't work out well. :-)

  6. She only accepted two? Not very good odds.

  7. I've felt a little discouraged lately in one of my published books but I keep telling myself well the others are doing to keep going.

  8. Oh I love the seagull and that quote. Also love the Duke Ellington quote. Excellent.

  9. 'We are not defined by our failures. We are defined by what we have learned from them.' So very true.

    Keep beating that drum. And to hell with the neighbours :)

  10. Discouragement is too easy. That's how you know it's the wrong way to go.

  11. Amazing post!! Janet Reid's statistics were interesting and thank you for telling us about your friend Steve. Failure, while it hurts when it first happens to us, makes us strive for more and do better. But I gotta say that having only published eBooks is not something to feel discouraged by. You're published! Be proud of that! I just published my first eBook and I am looking forward to my second. :D

  12. Alex:
    Disheartening statistics, right?

    To do well with one book is great. Perhaps your others need to build momentum.

    Isn't that seagull photo and saying great?

    Right. Failures hurt too bad not to get something positive from them!

    We must sing our own song, hoping it will eventually catch on! :-)

    J E:
    Resistance - whether weight or stress is how we build muscles - both physical and emotional. :-)

    I wish you the best of sales with your ebook! Thanks for the kind words about my post.

  13. Beautiful post, Roland. Both inspiring and brutally honest.

    Not to add to the discouragement, but those two authors who received offers from Janet? There's nothing to guarantee they will ever see publication. Securing an agent is no guarantee, so the odds are even more disheartening than they appear at first glance.

    VR Barkowski

  14. Ouch!

    A good checklist to keep in mind. On the other hand, literature, like any art, cannot be really measured. Apart from grammar errors and a few other things, what someone finds boring, somebody else finds interesting...

    I loved the story about your friend and its moral. Thank you! :-)

  15. VR:
    Yes, I thought about adding that depressing thought, but I thought I would show mercy! :-)

    Even if your book is picked up by a publisher, if it does poorly in sales, your new agent may promptly drop you. John Steinbeck's stuck with him -- and he never forgot it, staying with them though courted by other more prominent agents when his work was popular.

    I am so glad you liked my post.

    Art cannot be truly judged, but it always is. We can only strive to be our best in each paragraph.

    I lost track of Steve over the years with his pioneer spirit driving him across the country in search of new challenges. He is still a part of me though -- and I hope I am still a part of him.

    If a man in a wheelchair starts to flirt with you in an elevator, it may be Steve! Or it may not -- so be careful! :-)