February 10, 2013


Somewhere around thirty years ago, I met Bruce Bethke for the first time – when I responded to an ad in a newspaper for a science fiction writers group seeking new members. I called, then sent in an “audition story” and was invited to join the group at the ORIGINAL, original Loft Literary Center (before grant money started flowing) in Minneapolis. One of THEM reviews books now, the other published a few books and short stories but no longer writes. Bruce doesn’t write much lately except for non-fiction; he is currently executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES, an irregular anthology of new speculative fiction, he mostly works for a super computer company as well as presiding over Rampant Loon Press. These nuggets of wisdom can be found here: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/a-12-step-program-for-writers/. They are used with the author’s permission.
6. We are entirely ready to let someone else take the blame for the way our last book tanked.

This is the book I signed away. When I sent it out to CSS Publishing in 1997, I was inexperienced and naïve. When a contract came back saying they wanted to publish the book – and that they’d give me $100 for all rights (because: “No one is really interested in children’s sermon books and we’re doing God’s Work by publishing it”), I was appalled.

I’m ashamed now that I let this company bully me into the contract, but at that point, I’d had short stories published that had disappeared into oblivion. Having a BOOK seemed to be a chance at “keeping my name out there” and after long discussions with my wife, I signed the contract.

Sixteen years have passed and if CSS had only sold ONE of my books a year, they’d have made back their investment – certainly they made back what they paid me. So my complaint isn’t that the book TANKED, it’s that I sold it for a pittance and the company has continued to sell it (presumably because they made more money selling the book than they paid out printing it). The original contract said that the rights would revert to me when they were done with it, but after querying to silence a few years ago, I gave up and figured I’d let God be the judge on the whole sorry issue.

So – I haven’t had another book published since. I have had numerous stories published, I have appeared in anthologies and contributed to a few collections as well. While I’ve grumbled that several of them haven’t really seemed to take off, I’ve done what I thought was enough to influence my tiny corner of my blogosphere folks to buy them and I promote them at whatever conferences I attend – but aside from buying a stack of them and selling them myself – I haven’t done anything more than that.

In fact, I’m not even SURE what else to do. When I consider self-promotion, the image above is the one that springs to mind. As well, numerous articles in paper and online magazines tell me to WATCH OUT and not saturate my friend lists with pleas to buy this, that or the other book.

So when it comes right down to it, while I’m READY to let someone else take the blame for why my last story didn’t hit the awards lists, the only person who SHOULD receive blame is me; and that blame should be for naiveté...

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