So I’ve been crazed the last week or so. I’ve continued to send the agent work, and she’s reading, trying to decide what she thinks, how to proceed, whether she wants to work with me or not. Then, last week, I got the news that I knew I would get—they accepted the novel. And everything got very complicated, very fast. News Rivers Press holds a yearly sort of contest for e-books. They started this contest last year, and this year they chose my book for publication, which I heard about last week. So I am in a pickle. I talked to the agent on Monday. I talked to New Rivers on Tuesday. New Rivers wants a decision by Monday. The agent is reading my work today. I worked furiously to breathe life into my other novel, but I have no way of knowing what it is at this point. It’s probably still shit. But I did all I could do without going crazy. I sent her a hundred pages. And she has most of my stories and essays.
The agent, taking a chance, what are the odds? New Rivers is a sure thing, and they are an old, university, highly-respected press. The real question is, what do I really want? I have a “real” book now, and barely any copies have sold. But it is also a Kindle book, and no copies have sold. If I went with the agent and she did get a book deal for me, that doesn’t mean that I would be read, that any books would sell—hell a “book deal” doesn’t even mean the novel would be published. It just means that someone, a house in New York, might, MIGHT publish my strange, lyrical novel. I love it, some of my friends love it, but not all. Would the public ever warm to such a dark, strange book?
And how important is an actual book? When I was young and dreaming of my fame, my sure-thing fame as a writer, I didn’t dream of e-books. There were no e-books. We, I, did not foresee this future. It was on Star Trek—Roddenberry foresaw it and I’m sure so many other Sci-Fi writers did. But I didn’t read those books. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t even think about the next century rolling over. It was so far away. So far.
It’s an academic thing really. Language and how it is delivered has changed over time—oral, etched, scribed, moveable type—on and on. And you know how I like my books? DIGITAL. I love reading on my Kindle. They haven’t quite worked out the formatting yet. There’s the frustrating lack of pages or heft to see where you are, only percentages. Digital is not good for poetry or essays with odd formatting, and for poetry I think I just prefer a book. But on the whole, I love my Kindle. I love the digital, the e-book. So.
But how does one promote an e-book? That part is blurry to me. I am going to crawl around today and figure that stuff out. There’s so much I don’t know.
And damnit, I am so, SO stupid. All this should and could have happened a long, long time ago. I get to the point that Alice Quinn, poetry editor at The New Yorker (back then) sent me a hand-written letter, and asked to see more poems. But I didn’t. I got mad and I gave up. My first poetry manuscript was a semi-finalist in a major contest. They sent me a note, Alice James sent me a note and asked me to submit the next year. But I didn’t. Some fucking poet at some fucking conference told me that if I was just a semi-finalist, the manuscript probably wasn’t ready. I listened to her. I gave up. I went for the chapbook instead, and it’s beautiful, I am proud of it, but. I sent a chapbook of fiction to a contest, to a good press, and was a finalist. I didn’t send it anywhere else. I gave up. I sent Squeeze to agents and didn’t get one. I sent Squeeze to contests and presses, got good feedback, and gave up. I’ve published most of the essays in the book, but I still haven’t sent it out again. I sent out my book of poems and it was a finalist in a great contest, but I didn’t send it to any more contests. I sent it to a small press and, wonder of wonder, it was accepted.
I have quite a track record of getting excited, getting angry, and giving up. And yet, I’ve written and written and written, and I’ve published and published and published. But I haven’t worked enough, pushed enough. Submitting is hard, time-consuming. I should have hired a submission service as soon as I could afford it. But I didn’t. And here I am.
I hope the agent will get back to me tomorrow or Saturday. Then I can move forward, if I just will. But in this case, something good is happening, either way. Send me some good energy.