WRITING FOR MYSELF

(Originally featured in Arizona City Independent Edition, January 17, 2007)

In my previous article, "Publish Or . . . ?," above, I explained some reasons for the rejections my books have received, despite the praise for my writing that came with many of those rejections. Writers call that type of response from agents or editors a “positive” rejection.

I’ve collected numerous positive rejections over the years, but they certainly don’t pay for all the paper and stamps it takes to keep submitting manuscripts. While most editors and agents say that what I write doesn’t fit their editorial needs, some suggest other things I might work on. As I explained before, I have to write what I know, as well as what I can work on at that particular time. That, after all, is what writers are supposed to do. But in these days of megacorporations, it’s hard to find editors who respect that tradition.

I do write to be published, but not primarily for the money or the attention. I write because there are things I have to say. For example, in my previous article on the difficulties of getting published, I explained that the topics of a novel I wrote more than 15 years ago weren’t well known until recently. That’s why this might seem like the perfect time to submit Lion's Pride to publishers.

But as I also mentioned, when I explain the need to tailor my publicity for a book according to limits imposed by my disability, I usually get a rejection. Some of those editors and agents suggest that I write about my experience with disability, but they still don’t want my other books.

The range of these reasons for rejection demonstrates three types of discrimination that disabled people often experience. Many people reject us outright, both in business and personally, because of our medical conditions. They simply don’t want to deal with disabled people at all, or at least people with certain types of disability.

The second type of rejection is no better. Many people treat disabled people as if we have no more to offer than our limitations--as if we ARE our disability. Those who suggest I write about my disability and nothing more fall into that group. They fail to understand that everyone is a whole person, with strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and a variety of interests. I do some things very well, including many things that have nothing to do with my being sick. And there are a ton of things I can’t do for reasons that have nothing to do with illness--so, don’t ask!

It’s not that I don’t want to talk about my disability. I can teach people about it, which is one of the reasons I write. But I have a lot more to write about, to teach, than what it’s like to be sick, which is why I wanted to write Lion's Pride and almost everything else first. When the time is right, I’ll finish my autobiography, but not yet.

Then there are those people who reject my work because I can’t publicize my books the way a healthy person can. They belong to that group of people who don’t mind me as a person--in fact they usually like me--as long as I hide my medical condition. But the moment I need to stop and rest or can’t do something they demand of me because I’m too sick for that type of activity, they turn away, in business and on a personal basis.

People are free to do that, of course, but I just leave them to God and go my own way. And since I’ve learned over the years not to waste precious energy on those who don’t accept the whole me, I focus my limited activity on what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. You may say what you will about my attitude, but nobody else can tell me what my purpose is. And my writing is, first and foremost, purposeful.

Since the subjects of my historical mystery are so much in the news lately, other writers are turning out novels, including mysteries, with characters who live in polygamous communities. But when people read Lion's Pride, they might get a clearer understanding of why people stay in abusive religious situations, even when they’re offered a way out. Not many people explain that as I do. That’s why I know Lion's Pride will find a home in its time.

With the internet and satellite radio, the fact that I have to tailor publicity for my books according to my illness is much less of a problem than it was just a few years ago. But advanced technology also means increased competition, and editors prefer someone who can do it all, especially with new writers. Since I wrote my previous published novel, which came out 20 years ago, as part of a team, that credential means nothing in today’s business.

Trying to find the proverbial “needle” in the huge publishing “haystack” is a long and frustrating crap shoot! I could keep trying to find the agent and editor who accept everything about my work and me, or I can go around the roadblocks and establish myself as a writer who can successfully publicize my own books. Then maybe agents and editors will take note and come begging for my work.

As I mentioned in my last article, self-publishing is one way to do that, but that road is as risky as any other in publishing. Many companies represent the worst of what used to be called “vanity” publishing. That term became popular because people who weren’t cut out for the writing profession wanted to see their names in print.

As long as they had the money, anyone could submit a manuscript and get it printed. They could also buy such services as an editor to correct their errors in grammar, spelling, etc., or a professional book doctor, who suggests ways to rewrite a manuscript so it might be worthy of a standard publisher. That level of service was rare, though, as these companies made their money from printing books.

In the days before high-speed computers and the internet, self-published writers had to buy copies of books in huge lots and sell them on their own. Each print run could cost several thousand dollars, with the price per book set according to the size of the order. Then for months, a writer’s garage, spare bedroom, or storage unit would be stacked high with inventory, until they could sell all those books again.

Writers who were unhappy with their publishers often had to wait years for their contracts to expire so they could get back the rights to their own books. Today, with demand publishing and Amazon.com, some things have changed, but as I wrote in my earlier column, problems remain at many of these companies, especially with long-term contracts.

Still, the only way I can prove to editors, and to myself, that I can sell books is to find a reputable self-publishing company that lets me choose the services I want and provides the contacts to publicize my books. I recently learned that Outskirts Press of Parker, CO, publishes the winning contest entries for Writer's Digest Magazine; they belong to the Better Business Bureau and have an excellent service record; they offer a wide range of publishing packages and services; and their contract includes a 30-day, no-questions-asked cancellation provision. When I first wrote this article, I was busy making the decisions so that Lion's Pride could go into publication. As I moved along in the process, I shared more details in the articles reprinted below.

With the freedom of a contract that gives me a quick way out of the self-publishing deal if I choose a different route, I can grab the money when an astute publisher comes along in six months and offers me a multimillion-dollar multibook contract that includes film option with screenwriting credit.

It could happen!

 


Debbie Jordan