The Write Purpose

I get asked by arguably too-kind people from time to time, “Why aren’t you with some publisher to get your books more widely distributed? Your stories are as good as some of the stuff that I pick up off the shelves.”

(I love to hear that, by the way, so don’t hesitate to say so if you feel that way. Insecurity is a hallmark of creativity.)

The answer is: Because it’s a numbers game.

Realistically, to get placed on bookstore shelves nationwide, a writer needs an agent. So I have to impress an agent. And I’ve tried. But those folks get thousand of queries every year, and it takes a query that jumps out at them to get them to jump back to you. In a Twittering world, it’s hard to get a book that builds stories and characters in a paced fashion to ambush the agent’s attention.

So my query (and, oh, by the way – I hate writing query letters) is one of a gazillion that will land in their Inbox this year. Or even this week. So it’s no surprise that I get a “no thanks” or no response at all. (And that’s not to mention that there are a gazillion agents knocking at publishers’ doors, and those publishers all have to do the same type of sorting at their own level.)

So here comes self-publishing, and Amazon features print-on-demand, which is stunning and revolutionary in the publishing world. Self-publishers no longer have to pay a wad of money to a small publishing house, or buy up a bunch of books for themselves to go shill. They can upload their book with a cover design, and with a little lizard tongue, worm eye, and flounder fin, abracadabra, it’s ready to go.

That also does open the market up to really hack writing, Lot of dreck out there, since it’s so easy to publish. But for someone like me, hoping that I rise above the hack level (remember what I said about insecurity?), it’s an opportunity to get my stories out there where they never otherwise would be if I had to rely on an agent or fork out some thousands of dollars to publish them myself.

Or since we’re talking numbers, let’s put it this way. If I have a 1% chance of landing an agent that would work to get me 100% exposure to my potential readership, or if I have a 100% chance of being published but only a !% exposure to potential readers, I’ll go with the 100% certainty of being published and available for sale. At least unless and until that 1% agent chance actually happens.

See, I already have a good job that pays the mortgage, keeps the lights on, lets me have a decent spice drawer, and allows for disposable income to have a blog. I am extraordinarily fortunate. No doubt, if I could replace that income with equivalent book sales income, I’d write stories full-time. But until that  might happen, I’m charging for being a solution for my customers and letting the writing take care of itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do for work. And I love writing stories. The difference is that I don’t look to thrash on my workload in my off time. But I do write every chance I get, at night, over the weekends, on a plane, during vacations.

So if you’re one of those who really do enjoy my stories at a “hey, he’s pretty good” level and are wondering why you don’t see them at Barnes & Noble, that’s why. I haven’t impressed the right people. Maybe I never will. But even so, I’ll keep churning the stories out, long as I can, even if no one but my family and Number One Fan Donna reads them.

I think it’s what I’m supposed to do. It feels that way.

Gratuitous link. Click here to see my offerings.

— Grandpa


  1. Donna Kanabay says:

    Don’t ever stop, my friend; don’t EVER stop!

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