Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Off The Grid: The Dirty Dash

Last weekend a group of co-workers and I ran, climbed, slithered, jumped and sorta-swam The Dirty Dash in Riverside State Park in Spokane. Ironically, our team name was “Off The Grid,” the title of my unpublished manuscript. I’m not sure if one of my teammates suggested that team name because they knew it was the title, or if it was just a coincidence. Considering we’re a bunch of electric utility employees, it fits either way. Needless to say, it was pretty cool having Off The Grid be our team name.

The Dirty Dash is also pretty fitting for how the whole publishing process works. The Dirty Dash is a 10k trail race where you wade through mud pits, climb (over or under) six-foot walls, dive down a massive slip-n-slide, climb through tunnels, cross narrow balance beams and end the race with a nice mud bath with your teammates. Like I said, it’s just like the publishing process – there are lots of scary obstacles in your way that you somehow have to navigate through.

The slideshow above is comprised of photos my wife took of the team finishing the race. A lot of them are of me, but that’s what you get when you have a personal photographer! Enjoy the pictures, and make sure to clean you computer screen after viewing them – they are dirty. But not that kind of dirty . . .

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Let the submissions begin

I made myself a promise not to make any decisions about how I wanted to publish my book, Off The Grid, until after I attended the PNWA Writer’s Conference last weekend. Now that I’m one week removed from attending, I’ve cemented the decision that I’d really made all along – I’m going to try to get an agent. For those who aren’t experienced in the publishing process (count me in), it’s not easy to get an agent, or at least get a decent one.

If I learned one thing at the conference, it’s that you need to be selective because not every agent is going to be a fit for you. The very nice agent who I had an appointment with was not interested in my novel – too commercial for what she represents. No problem. The very nice editor I had an appointment with didn’t buy thrillers. No problem. They were good folks, who were just looking for something else. I enjoyed talking with them once the pressure was off and I knew our professional relationship wasn’t going anywhere. It’s weird how that works.

I did make some good connections at the conference. I shoved my fear of rejection deep down inside me and gathered up the courage to pitch my novel to an agent in person after one of the panel sessions. She was an agent I’d hoped to meet with anyway so it worked out. She said she was interested to see some of the work and requested I send the first 50 pages of it. You have no idea how great it felt to have her request to see the novel. I’m realistic and know the odds of this agent saying yes are slim, not because I have no confidence in my work, but because it’s a competitive business. Fingers crossed.

I also lucked out and had dinner with a table full of publishing house editors. The editor who I eventually pitched was sitting next to me. His house does thrillers, so I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I got a chance to talk with the editors (and listen to them talk to each other) over dinner and that was an invaluable experience. I hope the editor I pitched is interested in the book, but even if he passes, I will have learned something about the way the industry works.

I won’t recap the conference sessions other than to say at 13 hours per day, I learned a lot about the business of writing and publishing. It got me excited to work on publishing my finished book and get going on book number two. I started sending out agent query submissions last week and will continue to do so until feel like it just not going to work out. When (or if) that happens, I’m ready to publish the book on my own. The conference speakers, plus the many authors I met, gave me some great ideas on that process.

My biggest frustration now is time. The traditional publishing industry moves pretty slow and I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. Of course, I’m thinking about my next project, but I’m not ready to commit the appropriate amount of time to it until some decisions are made about my first book. When I get started on book two, I will certainly have a fresh perspective on outlining, story arcs, writing, characters, publishing, e-publishing and marketing myself as a writer.  But for now, I’m in limbo.