Ups & Downs of Writing Part 1
Since I began writing my crime fiction, I’ve encountered (via cyberspace or telephone, mainly) some interesting types in this enterprise of writing fiction; it’s part-game and part-business, and an often-illogical process, depending on where you are on the sliding scale between creativity and marketing. English teachers call what I’m doing here “hasty generalization” by lumping so many people into categories like this; however, I think it’s a very natural thing to do, and, we all do it because the human brain demands patterns in life or art. These are the ones I have seen in the time since I began publishing in 2011.
First, I’ll deal with the “business” end of publishing from my limited experience. My first efforts—post-writing, that is—were to engage an agent, which was both fortunate and otherwise, as I would discover. I sent my fledgling sample chapters of a crime manuscript off to New York City based on a directory from my local library. Mostly, this amounted to tossing my manuscript over the transom, but eventually resulted in a half-dozen pleasant conversations with a literary agent I’ll call “Myra.” She never sold a ms. for me, and I don’t hold that against her. The Big 5 or 6, whichever number is esteemed in that circle, weren’t impressed. Myra asked me to trim the violence because, she said, many acquisition editors, “being women and privately educated” (I’m paraphrasing from a long-ago conversation) disdain graphic depictions and excessive violence. I spun that ms. through wholesale revisions to no avail. Myra stopped calling, I gave up the effort. I left these full-length manuscripts on my desktop in forgotten files or thumb drives. (I had never had any intention of going the starving artist route. I kept my day job.)
David vs. Goliath
A serendipitous pair of events occurred to change my luck: a computer tech at work was sent round to upgrade our laptops; he called me to ask if he should save the old files. I’d forgotten those first hardboiled fiction efforts until he reminded me. On a whim, I told him to copy them to disk. The other event, more significant, was the explosion of indie publishing with its print-on-demand and digitized formats, which opened the door to me and many others. The brick-and-mortar dominance of New York hadn’t changed, but the reader had a wider selection and more cost-effective choices with their digital readers capable of containing whole libraries. It would be romanticizing a fierce industry to say that the Goliath of NYC publishing had met its David in the success of so many small presses, proliferating like mushrooms (toadstools, if you’re a critic of this phenomenon), but there’s no more doubt the consumer of fiction had far less dependence on the fare the traditional publishing industry offers—namely, its stable of writers and its unfair pressure on bookstores to handle just their products.
This time, I bypassed the whole snipe hunt of seeking an agent to represent me and went straight to these small publishers that Myra never deigned to consider in my behalf. I connected with Grand Mal. Ryan Thomas made room for my cynical, damaged private investigator. Two of those three mss. went up on the Grand Mal masthead website. My series p. i. has evolved through three novels, a collection of short stories, and a reprint of the second book. I’m not bragging—merely stating; my novels together wouldn’t match a single day of Stephen King’s readership.
As I turn to my own publishers/editors, I have no mixed feelings: one and all, they have been great people. I would like to name them; instead, I’ll cite their presses here: Red Giant, Grand Mal, Number Thirteen in the UK, New Pulp, and though it had to be discontinued by the owners for personal reasons, Ravynheart, and, most recently, Class Act Books.
To be continued…
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Robb T. White was born and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio. A lifelong reader of crime fiction, he published his first story featuring Thomas Haftmann, private investigator, in Gary Lovisi’s “Hardboiled” magazine. Since then, he has published several dozen crime stories, a dozen more Haftmann stories, many collected in “Thomas Haftmann, Private Eye: The Short Stories” (2017), a collection of mainstream stories in 2013 and three more Haftmann novels: “Haftmann’s Rules,” “Saraband for a Runaway,” and “Nocturne for Madness.” Two other non-Haftmann crime novels are “When You Run with Wolves” (2013) and “Waiting on a Bridge of Maggots” (2015). An ebook novel, “Special Collections,” won the New Rivers Electronic Book Competition in 2014. Robb T. White’s web site is at: http://bit.ly/2vgtBwQ