Monday, June 18, 2012

Orphaned at Seventy-Six

No, I’m not referring to the trauma of losing family. I can think of nothing as frightening, as distressing, as tragic as children being left without loving parents.
The orphaning of which I speak is part of the sometimes confusing lexicon employed by the writing community, whether fiction or non-fiction. Everyday I learn words I never knew existed. Dystopian! You ever hear of it? A dystopia is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian.



Break the word into syllables, and you can see how the meaning evolved.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about literary orphaning.
Basically, what it means is that the editor with whom a writer has been working and selling has moved on either to another imprint or employment, leaving the author high and dry. The unfortunate writer must start all over in meeting the perceptions of the new editor.
Well maybe not all over. The author is known within the house, so any new editor will pick up from his and her coworkers various details about each particular author.
After fifteen years with Avalon Books, I broke into the western paperback with Leisure Books, an imprint of Dorchester. I felt okay. I had two publishers. Life was good.
At Leisure, I was the new kid on the block, I managed one book a year with them, but after a few years, I started working on two novels a year.
And then it happened. Leisure cut staff including several editors, mine among them. Overnight, I was all alone. I sat like a dummy staring at two completed westerns and a third within three weeks of completion.
Some of the better known writers were able to jump to other houses, but many of us were left searching for an editor in another house who would read our manuscripts. Unlike romantic westerns, historical western fiction is hard to sell for the demand for that genre has declined precipitously in the last few decades. The houses shy away from unknowns, content for the most part to stay with the  well known, Zane Grey, Max Brand, and others such as those two have fans who come back and back and back.
I hadn’t been in traditional westerns long enough to garner such a following.
Now, there are other westerns in demand, the adult western, for example, which is a racy story set in the west. Unlike traditional westerns where just about the only kiss our hero gets is from his horse, the adult western is more erotic within the storyline. (and when I say more, I mean more)
Erotic romance is a sizzling seller. Of course, romance itself is a great seller. The magnificent ladies in my Avalon group can testify to that.
Leisure going under was shock enough, but then just recently we learned that Avalon Books had been sold to Amazon, all of us, who probably number in the hundreds, are working to make the transition.
Avalon has been a fine publisher. I’ve been with them twenty-one years. They offered my kind of family type hardbacks, and their primary customers were libraries, some 3,500 around the country I’ve been told.
I don’t know any details, but I guess they got caught up in the change sweeping through publishing today. I’d been with them since 1991.
From what we Avalon authors have heard, we can submit new manuscripts to Amazon. It might work out; it might not. My colleagues of romance have a much better shot than my traditional westerns or cozy mysteries, the two types of novels I’ve published.
So here I am, having been published for the last twenty-one years, and now I find myself standing on a precipice. Do I step off or grow wings and fly?
I’m growing wings. I’m not ready to quit. I’ve submitted a horror to one of my ex-editors who had moved to another house. I did the same with a western to another ex-editor, and a cozy mystery to an ex-editor who is now an agent.
It’s like starting over except now I have an idea how to play the game. And with the explosion of ebooks, there seems to be a new game in town.
Besides most of my writer colleagues write because they can’t ‘not write’. I’m the same. There comes a satisfaction in finding the right word, forming the expression, describing the perfect picture. Real writers understand what I’m saying.
That little piece of philosophy having been said, the pay sure helps too.
The only way you discover what lies beyond the hill is keep walking. One of my goals in life is to reach a 100. That gives me 24 years to get back into the game.
Wish me luck.

5 comments:

Joyce Lansky said...

I imagine that would be beyond frustrating. I've written five novels but have yet to find that one agent or editor willing to put their chances on me. How awful it must be to get your hopes up and then crushed.

http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

Gina/Katherine said...

One of the most important things you need to reach any goal is drive. You've got it in spades, dear friend! I have no doubt you'll survive this latest turn of events and rise on the upswing!

Beate Boeker said...

We're in this together, Kent! And I'm sure we'll all grow the necessary wings in time! Hang in there - and 24 years is a generous time-frame! :-)

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

Kent, this is a wonderful post. You've put into words what so many of us are feeling and thinking. As a recent convert to westerns, I'm surprised that they are a 'hard sell'. I adore reading the traditional, male-oriented westerns - bring back "Rawhide"!

I've only been with Avalon for a year and a few days, but the community of authors here is top of the class.

Everything you say about writers and writing is true for me. I can't not. Just try to stop me writing, you'll have a fight on your hands.

Sensationalism regarding westerns, romance, mystery is part of the great malaise of our society. We are not much different from other societies that became bored with decency.

everwriting.wordpress.com

PS: I'm aiming for 105!

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

Kent, this is a wonderful post. You've put into words what so many of us are feeling and thinking. As a recent convert to westerns, I'm surprised that they are a 'hard sell'. I adore reading the traditional, male-oriented westerns - bring back "Rawhide"!

I've only been with Avalon for a year and a few days, but the community of authors here is top of the class.

Everything you say about writers and writing is true for me. I can't not. Just try to stop me writing, you'll have a fight on your hands.

Sensationalism regarding westerns, romance, mystery is part of the great malaise of our society. We are not much different from other societies that became bored with decency.

everwriting.wordpress.com

PS: I'm aiming for 105!