In the beginning of my writing career I’ll admit to overplaying the right to call myself an “author”—as in no longer just a “writer.” In 1987, when my agent sold my first ms. to Simon & Schuster for a “nice price” and then put together an auction for the paperback and also selling it to Japan, I rather sat back on my laurels, thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m on my way.”

Things had looked promising from the start. A few years earlier I had mass-mailed 85 queries to mostly NY agencies, and a full 15 responded with offers to represent me/the novel. Granted it was an enticing query, and granted as well in the mid-’80s, some editors still nurtured their writers, as mine would do over the next two years. Agents knew that so they were also patronizing and nurturing to new, promising clients. I was on a roll.

Didn’t have to worry about those pesky details of printing, editing, etc., either, like we have to do now to e-publish a saleable book. S&S had a gaggle of Radcliffe/Vassar girls for that. All I had to do was merely approve or not. (Mind you I did put in a dozen years writing that first book, adding, deleting as if slicing off chunks of my heart, this over and over and over...) Seemed like I got important next-day FedEx envelopes a couple times a week. And they did a job on the book itself—Tom Clancy-large and thick with art inside, beautiful font, sewn bound and printed on cream paper. Tops. Soon the pre-reviews began to roll in, not one negative and several starred. Talk about the proverbial sliver spoon. It was mine.

I had this nonchalant attitude and naive concept that the big house would take care of publicity with the promised $10k advertising budget—well, certainly you’ll understand how I let myself get the big head.

But then, with no notice, the curtain fell and it fell hard. Everything died; the paper auction, no review appeared in the NYTimes or any other major and my editor and agent both grew silent. What happened? I begged to learn. “Your book got lost in the abyss,” was Publicity’s response. “Sorry, s--- happens.” That promised advertising was hijacked, most likely for some other promising writer’s novel. My editor, who had first option on the next “great” novel, a few years later rejected the next one, calling it a monstrosity, or such, when the real reason had been that I was now a dreaded “midlister” so they didn’t want to gamble on me again.

My NY agent dropped me too.

But what actually happened to bring things to such a sudden halt? The following is your answer: I held only two local book signings and gave one interview in the LATimes. I turned down the San Diego paper’s interviewer because of a personality difference—just didn’t like the guy’s manners. My bad on that one. So it was my lack of serious participation in the book’s publicity that was the main reason for the novel’s fall from grace.

With a loss of confidence, I wrote only three novels over the next 20 years. During that time I solicited 70-90 agencies with each new novel. Over those decades I gained thick files of rejections, and a few near hooks here and there, which kept me going. Those mss. collected dust.

It took a few more years of self-E-publishing to learn that basic lesson of novel publishing: You cannot count on anyone but yourself to advance it.

It has only been recently that a small publisher took me on—no monetary advance, no free publicity. I didn’t care. I’m just happy to finally get back into print. Now I must sell them, and myself, if they’re to be sold.

So take this cautionary tale to heart if you are newly published, be it e-pub or picked up by a house, and thinking the attention is going to roll in because you finally have a really great novel in print, because you are now an author. It won’t be a winner unless you make it so. You must throw yourself wholeheartedly  under the bus called In-Your-Face Publicity and never take a rest to smell the daisies. You must: blog, keep an active website, online everything such like writers’ groups, as many as you can handle and still offer and gain something from; become your own ad agency and spend money advertising to your market, and on and on. All this info you can find all over the Web ... Go get ’em, tigers.


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