Sunday, October 7, 2012
My New Publisher
But, yeah, I am now proud to be a December House writer. Wait a minute, they've upgraded me. I'm an author now! I am now proud to be a December house author. And how I got to be a December House author is a perfect example of the ruling principle of my life: every day is backwards day.
Let's get a little perspective here.
When I started studying writing, there was one type of e-book available, the electronic Bible. E-readers were a prediction, and not a convincing one -- the monitor issue was a long way from being solved.
Then the Kindle hit, and things changed. For better or worse -- I hear good arguments for better, I have good arguments for worse -- e-publication is now part of the publication world, a strange kingdom to itself.
I should say -- the last time I had an argument on e-books? I argued against, my new friend argued for, and we were standing in a bookstore that I had patronized since I was a teenager. The bookstore was closing. This is the world I'm entering as a writer.
Given the relative ease and affordability of the process, an lot of writers have gone to self-published e-books as a major part of their careers, including my pals Samuel T. Crown and Barbara J. Webb. Since I either have or have access to the full range of skills necessary to produce a finished publication, this tempts me.
But I don't trust the world of e-publication. I once had a career as an internet animation writer, and it evaporated overnight when the dotcom crash hit. But I started getting curious. People were claiming they had careers doing this stuff. And then there's the whole, "It's only cowardice that prevents self-publication," argument.
Yeah, cowardice and an interest in bookstore sales and critical recognition. Like it or not, e-publications are at a distance from recognition by the literary community. Right now, I'm seeing bookstores going down, and a digital literary culture forming around the concept of writing fast crap for bargain hunters with specialized tastes, kind of like porno. It's pretty depressing.
And exciting. It is a frontier... and it isn't going away any time soon. The market is real. The market is here.
So while I was sweltering during the last throes of Ghost Rock, I would fantasize about writing fast crap and throwing it out there, pulp-style, just to see what would happen.
The project I had in mind was inspired by some of my favorite books from childhood passing into the public domain, and by my rock alter-ego, Dethro Jethro Peckerwood.
The book was going to be called A Princess of Yuggoth, and it was going to be a white-trash extravaganza meshing A Princess of Mars with The Whisperer in the Darkness. It would open with Dethro Jethro explaining to some Fungi why we no longer call that creepy piece of space trash Yuggoth a planet, and the probable climax would be when Jethro actually gets to grips with Dejah Thoris, to discover, during an act of oral sex, that egg-laying mammals are monotremes.
It was going to be filthy.
Write it in one shot, don't even do spellcheck. Not only would I be doing e-publication, I'd be doing culture of appropriation. Hitting up all my taboos.
Of course, I chickened out. The last thing I want to do is make myself less interesting to the Big Six publishers, and self-publishing willfully incompetent trash seemed a little off.
Then Neil started bugging me. You know Neil Vogler? Writer and musician? An internet pal of mine. Neil had a brilliant plan, which also involved writer P.T. Dilloway. Neil's brilliant plan was appealing to me because it was a perfect example of my leading principle. He found a major event, and figured out how to do the opposite of the approved behavior in order to get attention. (Every day is backwards day.) Neil's brilliant plan involved me doing some writing, and I said no.
A few times.
Neil is both persuasive and tenacious, and if you're willing to work at it, you can pretty much get me to do anything. And one of the reasons I have friends is because they get me into trouble. So I agreed to a semi-commitment. I'd do some, but not all. Just a taste.
Wafer-thin. Just messing around, no big deal, just keeping myself busy between drafts. Nothing to see here.
So I started thinking about what I could do, and I started to get a few ideas percolating, and then Neil went and sold the damned project to an e-publisher. December House, as it happens. And December House had a...
Let me put it this way. December House is not an amateur-night outfit. They are serious. They have real-world experience and tradition-busting approaches. They value the writer. I'll go further. This is the first contract I ever read that felt author-friendly. I might not like the ocean, but this is a hell of a boat. Getting in early with an ambitious crew is not a bad thing at all.
That kind of killed my casual, throwaway attitude. It is now incumbent on me to write a full sequence rather than the half-portion to which I had committed, and to write it well enough to bring credit to my name.
I, being who I am, figured this meant that I was endangering my relationship with the mainstream publishing world, that it might not be good for my reputation, that...
I've got a publisher! This is a career disaster!
(Every day is backwards day.)
Then I remembered my dreams for A Princess of Yuggoth, And my curiosity about the e-market, which despite my preferences has been the dominant force in my writing career thus far. And all of a sudden, my situation stopped screaming faux pas and started murmuring, 'plausible deniability.'
I have no idea where this is going. But the fun has already justified the work. I love that I signed the contract before I even came up with the ideas for most of the stories. It totally pressed my 'Pro from Dover' buttons.
I will provide further details when the security clearance comes through.