In 2011 I sat in a Manhattan publisher’s office pitching my novel to several editors who were supposedly big deals in the publishing business. Everyone at the conference was trying to tie their novels into Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, or Ready Player One. My novel? Not so much.
"Where does your manuscript fit on the book shelves?" they asked.
"Not next to Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead or Ready Player One," I said. "Its more like Ten Commandments meets The Odyssey." Needless to say, I didn't land a fat publishing contract that week.
I can’t remember her name, but one publisher from that conference stands out in my memory. All the female authors who were pitching their novel to her were warned not to show too much cleavage in her presence. I had no cleavage, so I felt confident going in (though I can’t make that claim today). She listened to my pitch with a dour expression, like she had to pass a kidney stone, and then asked me if my novel (Black Sea Gods) was going to be a series.
“Three or four novels,” I replied. “The first novel is complete, the second well underway.”
“Too ambitious for a new author,” she scoffed, and summarily dismissed me. And thus ended my attempt to get The Chronicles of Fu Xi traditionally published.
Every new word added to the Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book IV’s manuscript is a blow against Anti-Cleavage Lady. Take that, mammary hater! Sometimes that moment in New York drives me onward, just to prove her wrong.
Actually, she was probably right. I should have started my writing career on something a little less ambitious, and a lot more commercially viable. If I wanted a traditional publishing contract, a historical fantasy, set in central Asia, and bordering on literary fiction probably wasn’t the place to start. Not that any of that matters now, I’m committed. The Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book IV is well underway. This story must be told.
I completed 2000 words this weekend and two more chapters in the can. That brings the word count to 22,000. The writing is coming easier now, and it isn’t. When I write, I have Books I-III open on my desktop, plus The Golden Princess, trying to avoid plot holes. It’s a Herculean effort to keep characters straight, events lined up, and everything in sync. I think it’s working. I’m back in the groove. Regardless, it's ambitious, to say the least. Anti-Cleavage Lady's warning echoes in my mind.
One major change came out of this weekend’s efforts…I’ve changed the last novel’s title. It was going to be “The Children of Fu Xi”, but I’ve ditched that. That title was suggested many years ago by an editor, and I kept it in my back pocket. I’m not going to divulge the new title until the publication date approaches. However, it ties the final novel back to the first novel and sounds great.
That’s all I have for today. I’ve got to keep my energy focused on the writing. However, if you haven’t picked up the series, you really should. There are three ways to start:
First, you can get copy of Black Sea Gods, the first installment in the series, Second, you can buy a copy of the prequel, The Golden Princess. If you really want a treat, get the Audible copy of The Golden Princess, narrated by the BBC’s Philip Battley. You will not regret it, he sounds great.
I’ll see you later this week for another installment of Photography Phriday.
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(...or "why it's important to know the difference between a kidney and a spleen)
I've finally started on the road to audiobook for both THE GOLDEN PRINCESS and BLACK SEA GODS. I've been hesitant to do so up to this point for several reasons. First of all, I didn't know how it all worked and I naturally fear change. Second, I didn't have the time to figure it out because I naturally fear work. Third, I knew it was likely to be expensive and I naturally fear spending money.
With the help of government-funded therapy I've licked the first two hurdles. I've made some time to research the process, and asked the opinions of some smart people who have travelled this road ahead of me. I listened carefully to what they said, which was for me to give up writing and remember what it was like to live again. I told them I don't remember the taste of strawberries and they should get bent.
But I digress.
So...I've chosen a production company and narrowed down the list of potential narrators. By the way, I've also chosen a private jet and a villa in the Swiss Alps for, you know, when all the money starts rolling in. I did, however, run some figures and come up with a basic budget for making an audio book. There is only one small problem...how to pay for it all.
Its good to have a budget. Its even better to have money. Scratch the villa and the private jet and focus on the audio book and how to pay for it.
Option 1: Revenue sharing. Brutal truth time - if I were a narrator, I wouldn't agree to revenue sharing on any of my books. In fact, I'd laugh if I asked me to share my revenue on my books. I know that's harsh, but I know a lot of indie authors can sympathize with me (can I get an Amen from the crowd?) While I believe strongly in the caliber of my work (especially when I've been drinking), I just don't sell enough books (yet) to make revenue sharing attractive.
I think, however, I could get a good narrator if I pay upfront. But it still leaves me with the conundrum of where to find the money.
Option 2: Pay with cash from my day job. That money is already budgeted for real-life stuff, like food and kid stuff and air conditioning. Like many authors, I do not have much excess cash to spend on writing. On that note, people often liken writing to having a mistress. I strongly disagree.
Other than being demanding and expensive like a mistress, they have nothing in common. A mistress is (optimally) sexy, and (usually) a secret. A mistress should also make you feel better (at least temporarily).
(BTW, what the hell do you call a male version of mistress? A misteress? If a lesbian has a mistress, is she still a mistress? If a gay man has a mistress, is he a Mister Misteress?)
I digress yet again.
Writing, on he other hand, is just demanding and expensive.
No, writing is less like a mistress and more like an old college buddy who is out of work and staying for "just a few days" until "he can catch a break." Your spouse knows all about him because he lives on her couch and she hates his guts and keeps asking when he is moving out because its time to move on and he is eating all the food and leaves beer cans all over the floor and scratches himself in from of the kids and the toilet won't flush and where the hell is the cat...
Did I do it again? I did, didn't I? Back to the topic.
Option 3: Sell one of my kidneys. I'm not sure either kidney is working at 100% capacity anymore.
Option 4: Sell one of your kidneys. Wanna go grab a drink? Ah, never mind. It's too much of a hassle to keep all that ice in the motel bathtub. Last time I tried it, my Chinese blackmarket connection said I removed the spleen, not the kidney. I didn't get paid and was out like, 40 bucks for all the ice and whiskey. The incident did, however, convince my old college buddy to move out.
Option 5: Crowdfunding. Crowd funding is a great idea for some things, like raising money for legal fees and getting former friends a new spleen. But getting the cash to fund an audio book does not qualify, at least in my mind, as justification to ask people for money, even if I give them something in return, like a slightly used spleen. I make no judgements on others who do so, but for me it feels like begging.
Option 6: Hold a telethon. Unfortunately, no one under 40 knows what the hell a telethon is.
Option 7: Sell a kid or two. Tempting... On one hand, I'd gain a new office, but then I'd lose the tax write-offs. I like those tax write-offs
Option 8: Writing hardcore erotica under a pen name. My doctor said my heart wasn't healthy enough (but he said I have the spleen of a 20 year old. He's right, I do).
Option 9: Lit Funding. Otherwise known as selling enough books to pay for the audio version. With the exception of all the other options I've listed, this the most realistic avenue to funding my audiobook. I've lit funded a cover or two. I've lit funded a lunch or two. But an audio book is another matter.
In order to make this happen I have to do some math. Since I don't like public math, I'm going to pull the curtain...I'll be right back.
(whisper whisper carry the eight whisper whisper seven to the eighth power whisper whisper E equals Eminem squared whisper whisper....)
I'm back. In order to pay for an audio version my latest novel I will have to sell 2,342 ebooks. That's just a teency weency (pinches fingers centimeter apart for effect) bit more books than I usually sell, like a 2430% increase in monthly sales.
Bottom line, one way or another I'll find a way to finance the audio versions of my novels. Its just going to take patience and a reckless disregard for the law. In the meantime, you can help my buying or renting my novels on Amazon. Every little bit helps. If you've already read them, please rate or review them on Amazon. Believe it or not, the number of reviews on Amazon greatly helps in book sales. If you've already bought and reviewed my novels, please spread the word.
If you've already done all this, thank you! I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate it. In fact, we should go out for a drink to celebrate. Say, I'm just curious, do you have both kidneys?
Brian L. Braden is the author of three fantasy novels: THE GOLDEN PRINCESS, BLACK SEA GODS AND TEARS OF THE DEAD.