OF COURSE YOU DID
Another Breathless Update
The end result is always deflating. This is it? Where is the elation? But a quiet sense of satisfaction is okay, I guess.
After my first novel was published in 2003, I mainly felt relief. Two literary agents had sniffed before wiping their noses, the manuscript was good, but could I change the setting from Calgary to a generic American city or at least Toronto? I refused and both agents refused me. My publisher suggested I rewrite the story and incorporate a rose as a symbol throughout because the reader demographic for contemporary fiction skews female and a rose on the jacket would do wonders for sales. I refused.
What about its title? Could I at least change it to something other than Taking Stock? I argued that the plot revolved around an ad man desperately trying to balance his home life with his career while failing at both. Anyway, the usage of stock photography is a staple in the ad business. The connection was obvious to me. Hungry for publication, I caved. I’d dubbed the fictitious ad agency Murder Incorporated because my industry was cutthroat, even in the same shop, and I loved the Bruce Springsteen song (still do). Okay, what about that? Subsequently Murder Incorporated was marketed as a mystery-slash-thriller. Like my seven misled readers I could only throw up my hands. Still, I’d set out to accomplish something I wasn’t confident about accomplishing, something I’d maybe left a little too late in life, and I’d done it.
The last time I saw my university chum Robin Brunet was in a Vancouver back alley just off Granville Street. He’d dropped me off at my hotel after we’d spent a day together sipping whiskey, smoking cigars and scraping away at that epidermal layer of grime that is life with other people. He is a successful journalist and author on the coast, a talented and reliable writer covering the Lower Mainland and its environs. Our styles are very different. He says I’m dense. Robin gave me a hug, we embraced beside a dumpster. He said, “Don’t worry, it’s downtown Vancouver, no one will even notice.”
We had a conversation a couple of years ago. I’d just self-published The Garage Sailor. I told Robin I’d learned a lot of things I never cared to know. That quibble aside, I surely appreciated complete creative control. He said he’d just fired his agent. I replied no agent ever cared about me unless they hawked real estate. Robin said his publishing contract had expired and he was wary about re-upping. He said if he had to deal with any more shit and shovel it too, he’d rather be wearing rubber boots and knee-deep in it in his horse Razado’s barn stall. He was seeking a third way – he’d no interest in going my route and fair enough, 40 years of freelance grinding had burnished his reputation.
The publishing industry as we understand it today is a century-old business model. There was a time when bookshops not only sold their wares, but printed them too. Every publication is privately funded, it’s just a matter of how. The mass market novel as a primary form of leisure distraction began to fade not with the advent of radio so much as the proliferation of television sets. Analogous is the impact (albeit accelerated) of streaming on the recording industry, network and cable television, and even the Hollywood studio system. The publishing industry is something like a borrowed library book, long overdue for a disruptive correction.
I filed the copyright for Of Course You Did last January. Robin asked me, “Now what?” I admitted I had no clue. I believe my books are good, but they don’t sell; years of work for nothing except for a few inches of shelf space in Canada’s National Archives and I’ll take that dusty legacy over a tombstone any day. Robin said he’d found another way: complete creative control augmented by sound editorial advice and all backed by an extensive network of promotion, distribution and sales. Perhaps I should investigate. Of course, he is paid to write stories very different from mine whereas I merely dream of payment for writing stories very different from his (I’ve made more money writing advertising copy than I have from writing fiction).
I took Robin's counsel. And so, here I go again. Have a browse, have a look, buy a book.
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of self-promotion since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is out now. If you read just one book in 2021, well, you’ve got a problem. Bookmark this blog for more breathless updates.