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Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Fifteen: The Writer’s Obligation?

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

So, I had a great email exchange with a reader this week. It was one of those exchanges that helped me explain a little about my process. I have been granted permission to post the exchange, so I will. Then I’ll talk a little more about what it all means to me. I hope you all join in the discussion in the comments section. Keep it real and civil. No haters, yo!

From reader:

“I finished reading your book Z Burbia. I enjoyed it and the humor in it. Bought your second book. I hope you will be open minded when I say using insults in your book such as “fat fuck”, “fat cow” continue to bring a perception that fat people are lazy, ugly, and worth less than others who are not fat. Just to put it out front, yes I am myself overweight. The cause doesn’t matter. Fat people are fighting a perception battle that impacts their lives and families. This perception negatively effects their relationships, jobs and how society treats them as a whole. You,  I’m sure wouldn’t use derogatory wording with ethnic groups or physically or mentally disabled but people feel free to insult fat people for the sole crime of being over weight. I hope you understand my intent and that this isn’t a personal assault on you or your character. As an author you have the ability to shape our society. Thank you for taking the time to read this email. May you have success in all of your endeavors.
Sincerely, REDACTED”

My response:

“Thank you for reaching out and for this thoughtful email.

As a man that has yo-yo’ed my entire life, I personally get where you are coming from 100%. At my largest I was 265 (I’m 6 feet). I have a body type where I have to pay attention to what I eat or it goes straight to my gut. I get it, trust me. However, I am not my characters. In other novels I have characters that actually do put down ethnic/cultural groups and mentally disabled folk by calling them “nigger”, “spic”, “wetback”, “redneck”, “retard” and “faggot”. Yet I would never, ever use those words myself and would probably smack the shit out of someone that said them in my presence. But, as an author, I let my characters say what they say. They are “people” and people are flawed. I can’t have every character be perfect and golden or they wouldn’t be real. I hope you understand. And, let’s face it, my novels have murder, rape, cannibalism, religious cults, totalitarian regimes, serial killers, and some seriously disturbing imagery. I’m never going for huggy-feely with my words.

With that said, I don’t want you to feel like I’m blowing you off because I’m not. I write YA and middle grade novels also (soon to be released by Permuted Platinum) and those novels do not have any of that in there. Well, one does, but as a learning lesson and the offender is chastised brutally by his peers. For kids, I set an example, for adults I let them handle life on their own. My wife and I are very aware of what we say to our children so they grow up with healthy ideas on body image. Where I shape society, and the future, is with my kids and how I act in real life.


Again, thank you for the email and please know that I am very aware of the impact every single word I use can have. Sometimes, I go for the negative impact because that’s where I want the gut punch to hit. And because I like to face my own personal demons head on!

Thank you for reading!”

 

The reader’s response to my response was very nice and we ended it on a great note.

I think some authors would get upset about this type of email. If it was a different subject, I may have also. But like I said in my response, I totally understand the weight thing. I get it. Took me a long time to come to turns with my own body image issues.

Yet…

I don’t think authors should ever try to shape society with their writing. I just don’t. I think that compromises the work. Try too hard and it all sounds false.

But this is coming from a writer that currently specializes in pulp horror/scifi/adventure/thrillers. I’m here to entertain, not educate.

Ah, but if I offend, have I failed as an entertainer? That’s a question to ponder. If part of my audience doesn’t like something I’ve written because it hurts them on a personal level then am I doing my job?

Yes. Because you can’t please everyone all the time. It goes back to last week’s post. Read Rule 4 and 5. You’ll see what I’m getting at. As a writer, I have to know that some readers will not like my work, for whatever their reasons are. Dem’s da breaks.

One last thing I want to share is a quote from the reader’s response to my response. Here it goes: “I also thank you for changing how I will be reacting to fat remarks in books in the future.”

As readers, people have the power to change how they perceive novels and entertainment. Instead of getting all up in arms because their specific hangups/pet peeves/worries/phobias/fears/sacred cows have been mentioned/defamed/killed/cooked on the grill with a delicious vinegar based BBQ sauce, people should use these types of situations to start a dialogue and open discussions with others that don’t feel the same way.

That is how we change society, by taking our experiences and sharing them with others. If we are honest with ourselves then it is easier to be honest with others. And let’s face it folks, we could use a lot more honesty in this world, don’t ya think?

So sound off! Do you think authors have an obligation to reflect positive change in their novels? How about if the novel is more about the negatives of society and not the positives? Where does an author draw the line between appropriate and not appropriate?

If you have been reading my series of posts then you know I am not a fan of rules being imposed on writers. Or on anyone, for that matter. Not that I’m an anarchist, but, well…

Come on, folks! Tell me what gets to you. Tell me what you think writers are obligated to do. Or not.

Discuss!

Cheers!

 

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Fourteen: Fight The Fear!

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, mateys!

Do you smell that on the wind? Do you? It’s the smell of FEAR!

And a particular kind of fear- Writer Fear! Muwahahahahahahaha!

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The social networks be drenched in it. Every insecure writer out there just puking their neuroses into every post they make. Then the other writers hop on and perpetuate the fear, keepin’ it rollin’. Soon they are all whipped into a frenzy of fear and if anyone even dares to add something positive or, God forbid!, question the fear, then lookout! Here comes the lynch mob!

So let me spell this out in simple terms: knock it the fuck off.

Sure, writers, as with all artists, can be an insecure lot, filled with neurosis, psychosis, and coffee halitosis. I’m not arguing that. What I have a problem with is the writers that jump onto the fear bandwagon and add fuel to that lame fire. Those guys all want others to be as afraid as they are. Don’t buy into it, man. Walk away. Below I have a list (not comprehensive in any way) of ten fears I see writers vomiting into their Facebook posts daily. Have a read.

To the examples and metaphors!

1. The Self-Publishing Fear Train- I know I’ll catch a lot of flak for this, but in my opinion, the self-publishing movement is fueled by fear, not by independence. I honestly believe the majority of writers that decide to self-publish are not doing it for the artistic freedom or for the chance at riches. I believe they are doing it out of fear that they will miss out on said riches. That’s the number one argument I see shouted by self-pubbers when anyone presents their case that they want to go a more traditional route- “Why lose out on all that money? Why give away 75% of your royalties?”.

It’s a stupid argument based on absolutely nothing. If this argument is why you are self-publishing then you are doing it wrong. A fear of the possible? Are you shitting me? Sure, maybe you’ll be in the .1% of self-pubbers that hits pay dirt, but more than likely you’ll be selling three books a month. Why? Because there are a million others out there like you all trying to be seen/heard/smelled. You think you can rise above that pile? Maybe. But, I’m thinking maybe not.

If you’d rather not put in all the immense amount of work it takes to self-publish a quality product then don’t. Get your ass out there and submit to agents and publishers. Don’t be afraid of losing money that hasn’t even been made yet. Get some experience in the industry then self-publish once you know the ropes. Or don’t. Stick with publishers if that’s your gig. Trust me, you aren’t losing a dime if you do.

2. Rejection- Ignore it and move on. Everyone gets rejected. We’ve all heard the stories of famous manuscripts rejected ten, twenty, thirty, fifty times. Just keep going. Rejection is part of the process. If you fear rejection then you fear the process itself and should probably not be a writer. Which brings me to…

3. Reviews- Ignore those too. Sure, read them if you want, but ignore them once you are done. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, writing is not a community endeavor. So someone didn’t like your novel. Whoopty shit. Who cares? Not everyone is going to like what you write. That’s why there are fifty bajillion genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres.

And get this, people that leave reviews have an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with you or the work. Say what? Yep. Think of the last time you wrote a review of something or left feedback or sent an email to a manufacturer or whatever. Was your agenda to leave an honest review or give honest feedback in the hopes it would make the world better? No. You left that review, filled out that comment card, sent that email because you wanted someone to listen to you. Sure, you may have had a shitty dinner or really hated that book, but you could have just sucked it up and walked away. Yet, you didn’t. For good or bad, you wanted someone to listen at that moment.

Now, I’m not saying reviews are bad. Not saying that at all. I’m saying, as a writer, there is no need to fear them. They aren’t about you. They’re about the reviewer. Let them say what they want and move on. Don’t worry about whether or not the 1-star review will kill sales. It won’t. Personally, I am suspicious of books without any bad reviews. But that’s me.

4. The Rules- Whatever the rules are. They change week to week. And who makes these rules? Fuck if I know. So I ignore them. Don’t tell me when, where, and what I can post. Don’t tell me how to act on my Facebook page or not to market the shit out of my latest novel. Don’t tell me I’m supposed to act this way, like this shit, hate this other shit, write in first person subjective narrative BLECH FUCKETY FUCK FUCK.

Do not tell me what to do or how to act or how to write or anything. And if anyone tells you what to do or how to write or how to act then just walk away. Don’t even engage. Just. Walk. Away. Rules are for rule followers. You’re a writer, which is a type of artist, and artists don’t follow rules . That’s kinda the whole thing about being an artist. You get to fuck the rules.

“But, but, but…”

Shut up. Just shut up. Rules are shit. Ignore them. I don’t even subscribe to the “learn the rules so you can break them” mantra. Why learn a bad habit? Waste of time and energy. Just fucking write. Just act. Just do. Just whatever the fuck you want. It’ll all sort itself out in the end.

5. Content- This sorta goes hand in hand with reviews and with The Rules. If anyone tells you that “X” novels must/must not contain “Y” then punch them in the dick/taint/anus. If that were true then we’d still be reading Greek literature. Writing changes and writing styles evolve. Why? Because someone has the guts to ignore everything they have ever been told about “content”. Don’t use the F-word more than three times? Fuck that fuckety fuck shit, fucker. Don’t write in first person past-tense? “Fuck that,” I said. No sex in YA? Really? Yeah, because teenagers don’t fuck. Right…

You get what I’m saying? It’s your story, your novel. You get to put whatever the hell you want to in it. Writing is not a community endeavor! Say it with me! WRITING IS NOT A COMMUNITY ENDEAVOR!

6. Not Being Worthy- This goes out to all the newbie writers. It’s all good, mans and womans. You don’t have to say “aspiring” every time you introduce yourself. We’re all aspiring to something. Don’t worry about being a rookie. Just don’t worry. Are you writing? Then you are a writer. Have you gotten paid for any of your writing? Then you are a professional writer. You may not have experience, but own that, don’t fear it. Ask questions. Learn. Don’t be afraid, the veterans won’t bite. Not the good ones, at least. All writers have gone through what you newbies have gone through. We survived, and you’ll be surprised to find out, we are happy to help you survive too. Ask any question you want. As long as it isn’t fear-based. That gets annoying. ;)

7. Marketing/Promoting- So many writers are afraid they aren’t doing enough to market their work. If you are thinking about marketing for more than five minutes a day then you are doing it wrong. Why? Because you aren’t writing when you are thinking of marketing! There is a saying that the best way to market a novel is by writing the next one. Since I am writing a novel a month right now, I have to agree. Just keep writing. Get your work out there. Build up a backlist. The only way books become successful is by word of mouth anyway, so unless you plan on talking with EVERYONE then you are wasting your time.

With that said, yes I market and promote my work, but only when it is convenient and within my comfort zone. And doesn’t get in the way of the writing of my next novel. I post to Twitter and Facebook. I don’t post in Goodreads or hang out in forums. I don’t hunt down reviewers or bloggers. Not my thing. And guess what? My novels still sell. Don’t waste time worrying about something you don’t want to do.

Just write.

8. Getting Screwed- Guess what? At some point in your writing career you will get royally screwed over. It’s going to happen. Just deal with it. But don’t let the fear of getting screwed paralyze you. Don’t pass up an opportunity because you have been handed a contract that has the potential to screw you over.

I’m not saying sign a bad contract. Don’t do that. Consult with a professional before signing anything, of course. No, what I am saying is that if the contract wants rights to your novel for six years, don’t walk away because you only want to give four years. Sure, try to negotiate, but don’t make something like that a deal breaker. Read the contract thoroughly, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get all anal retentive over every little detail. You’re a writer, so sign that bitch and move on so you can write.

If the publisher does screw you then tell the world and go about your way. If you have done what you were supposed to, which is consult a professional before signing, then the screwing you get will be minor. Not the end of the world.

9. Failure- Yeah, let that go. Either write or don’t. Is it possible you could fail? Yes. Is it possible you could be wildly successful? Yes. Where do you want to put your energy? I know where mine is going.

10. Not Measuring Up- One of the worst things a writer can do is to compare him/herself to other writers. Sure, you may not be freakin’ Tolstoy, but do you really want to be? Tolstoy had problems. Do you want to be Hemingway? One final shotgun incident may change your mind. Patterson? King? Koontz? Asimov? Rowling? WHY? If you want to be a writer other than the writer you are then I might suggest you only write fan fic. You are your own writer with your own process.

I write a 75k word novel a month. Is that something to live up to? I don’t know, I don’t care. It’s how I work. If that isn’t how you work then don’t feel bad about that. You aren’t me. And I’m not King. Not really an issue for me, that not being King thing. He’s got the King market cornered. Won’t be another like him. And there won’t be another like you.

To sum up: Kick fear in the ass. It’s stupid. You don’t need it. It’s not productive. And has zero basis in reality. Ignore the naysayers. Taint punch the critics. Don’t get caught up in the fear that people insist on throwing at you. Just write your ass off.

Or not.

It’s your call. And only your call. So, unless you fear yourself, which I can’t do anything about, then you have absolutely nothing to fear! FUCK THAT FEAR SHIT, YO!

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).

 

 

 

 

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Twelve: Cooking A Novel!

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today I am going to talk about how I cook, or uh, write a novel.

Personally, I see a lot of correlations between cooking and writing. And you’d be surprised how easy it is to compare the publishing industry to the food service industry.

This past weekend I was on a road trip with the Fam to a wedding. A quick drive there on Friday, wedding on Saturday, drive back on Sunday. It was a 10 hour drive each way, so there was lots of time to think about my writing process. And write. I did some writing too. Good thing I don’t get car sick.

For those that don’t know, I have contracts with Severed Press and Permuted Press through June 2015. I will basically be writing a novel a month for a good while. Now, some may shriek at the idea, freak out over the lack of time that gives me, worry that I won’t put my all into the novels. Don’t fret, folks, don’t fret.

Why? Because I write fast. If I had a year to write a novel I’d still write it in a month. That’s just what I do.

Some may try to argue that a year would give me time to polish the novel, make it the best it can be. I say that I would end up watching Netflix for eleven months. I don’t need a year to write a 75k novel. That’s the writer guy I am.

And let me tell you why a month works for me.

You see, I write like how I cook. I used to be a professional cook. Did it for a living for ten years. So, I have a system. I am organized, I have ideas and tastes in my head before I turn the stove on. Same with my writing.

The first draft is my mis en place. It’s my prep, my getting everything ready so it is there at hand. I know the story I want to write and in my first draft I get everything out of the fridge and pantry, chop it, slice it, dice it, parboil it, what have you. All the components for the novel are laid out in front of me, ready to do their thing. The first draft is raw; edible, but not palatable. It needs to be fully cooked.

That’s the second part of my process- the cooking. You’d think that would be the first part, but it’s not. A first draft is just prep for the real magic. When I go back over my first draft that’s when I apply the heat, add the seasoning, let the book simmer a bit to break down the tough bits and bring out the flavor. I watch the book and make sure it doesn’t boil over and scorch. I do all of this by just going over my novel, looking at it on my computer monitor, fixing the typos, reworking sentences, exapnding description, merging characters, cutting/adding scenes. I’m sauteing, broiling, roasting, grilling, whatever.

The last part is when I actually print out the manuscript and grab my trusty red pen. This is the final adjustment and tweak part. It’s just like tasting a dish and adding more salt, a touch of pepper, maybe a smidgen of honey to cut that bitterness. The third part is where the meal really comes together for me. I’ve prepped, done the major cooking, now all I have to do is make sure the finished product is the best it can be.

Bam!

Then the novel is sent off for proofreading. I think of this as plating before the dish is served. Make it look all pretty like.

And just like all meals, once it’s done it’s time to start again. Month by month this is my process. Prep, cook, tweak.

Many writers like to state that the first draft is shit. I think of it more as raw. It’s not ready, but that doesn’t mean it sucks. Not every writing process, just like cooking style and/or palate, is the same. Each writer must find their own way in the literary kitchen. Again just like cooking, it’s easier for some, harder for others, but it is always the end result that matters.

I don’t worry how long it takes me to write a novel, I just make sure it’s done when I serve it. If it needs more time then I take more time. If it only needs a quick sear then I take that bitch off the grill and get it to a plate! The novel is done when the novel is done and I’m totally cool with that.

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).

 

Friday Night Drabble Party!

Another Friday! Another Drabble! Another Party!

And there’s a night in there somewhere too.

Last week I gave you my “form” post. That was fun. What? Yes, it was. Don’t argue.

This week I will go straight to the drabble. Right after this message from our sponsor!

DeadTeamAlpha-EcoverDo you like zombies? How about guns and guts and lots of swearing? Are you sure, because when I say lots of swearing I’m talking about the f-bomb being dropped 455 times in one novel? Can you handle it? CAN YOU?

Of course you can, which is why you are going to read Dead Team Alpha! Look at the cover! That’s some awesome waiting to jam into your eyeholes and make sweet, sweet love to your grey matter!

Dead Team Alpha: If the zombies don’t get you then the intense amount of cursing will!

Now to the drabble!

Enjoy!

***

Ash Man

By

Jake Bible

 

“Four, five, six,” the man says, slapping the bills into my palm.

 

“The deal was for 1200,” I frown, knowing the missing cash will come out of my ass if I walk into Scotty’s with only this.

 

“The deal was for pure ash,” the man says, grabbing up a bag of grey powder from the table. “This ain’t pure.”

 

“Sure it is,” I smile.

 

Right,” the man says. “You think I’m a fool? I know cat ash.”

 

He cuts into the bag with a knife and snorts a small pile directly from the blade.

 

“Cat,” he says. “Not human. Cat.”

 

***

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Eight: The Working Writer!

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today we will be talking about how I, as Captain, gets the booty! No, I don’t mean how I sweet talk Mrs. Captain into dropping her pantaloons. That’ll have to wait for Episode Twenty, at least.

Nope, today I will chat about what it means to be a working writer. And getting paid to do it.

Do I need to define working writer? Yeah, probably.

By my definition, a working writer is someone that solely makes their living from their writing. In previous posts I have explained that a professional writer is someone that gets paid for their writing, whether $1 or $1 million. But the majority of professional writers do not earn enough to live off of. It’s a sad fact, but very true. However, a working writer can live off of what they make with their words. Writing is the income and vocation. Bam!

Why talk about this? Because there are a lot of attacks and nose-snobbery aimed at being a working writer. “Write for money? Not for art’s sake? How very droll.” That kinda crap.

I am specifically going to talk about fiction writing, since that is what I know. Write what you know, eh, eh?

I started making money as a writer back on 2009. Slowly, but surely. Then I was lucky enough to be part of that Wild West frontier known as the eBook Gold Rush that happened a few years ago. For about eight months I was making more money than I could imagine. It was great!

I was this close (I’m holding my fingers really close together) to quitting my day job and diving into full-time writing. Good thing I didn’t. Because then the rules were changed by Amazon and other ebook retailers and that shit-volcano that Chuck Wendig speaks of started to erupt. Kindle Select meant every nimrod on the planet could put there work out there for free. Only for about five days, sure, but multiply that by a million self-published authors, and add in the fact that self-publishing blogs were talking about how “selling for free” gets your novel up the charts and you can’t lose and there’s exponential room for growth and blah blah blah. No one wanted to buy ebooks when they could get ebooks for free.

The pyramid scheme crumbled. Well, it wasn’t exactly like a pyramid scheme, but it felt like it. My sales plummeted. Dropped to 10% almost overnight. Good thing I didn’t quit my job, right?

Fast forward a few years and I’m still getting royalties off those ebooks, but at a fraction of what I was before. There was no end game in sight and I honestly expected to keep working full-time and writing part-time for a good long while.

But I was laid off. Fired. Sent packing. Given the boot. Handed a pink slip. Shown the door. I was unemployed.

Not good.

What could I do? Get another customer service job? Nope, they don’t pay what I was making. Go back into sales and spend weeks away from the family? That’s not the husband and father I am. Return to food service and cook again? Makes even less than customer service.

In short, I was fucked.

Except I have an amazing wife that has faith in me and she decided I should make a go of writing full-time. She asked, and I quote, “If you write full-time can you get our income back to where it was?” I said, “Yes.”

Another bam!

Except I didn’t have the time to write (or finish) a manuscript, submit to my agent, and sit and wait months for responses from publishers. I needed income right away! So I emailed my publisher, Severed Press, to see if they had any work for hire jobs or anthologies that might pay. The answer, while being “no”, was better than I could expect.

No work for hire, but they were looking for someone to write a zombie series that was Romero-esque. They would pay an advance and I would have some money coming in. I didn’t come up with the idea, it was given to me. But, being a collaborative type of personality, I brainstormed and came up with a a novel that would be true to the Romero style zombies (no gimmicks or fast ones or viruses) while also still being all Jake Bible.

I look on that email as a writing prompt. As if someone said, “You have to use classic slow zombies, but also have a military element, scavenging, and survivors trying to deal with the apocalypse.” I looked back at Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead movies and remembered the social satire and commentary those possess.What if I applied that to my novel? What could I comment on?

Oh, right, the suburban silliness I deal with every single day.

Z-Burbia was born.

And the rest is history!

But not quite. Why? Because small press advances do not an income make. I needed more. MORE!

So I asked Severed if they needed anything else. They did. I looked over their ideas, sent them some of mine, and we went with what they thought they could sell. Let me say that again, because this is important, they went with what they thought they could sell.

This is how publishing works, folks. If you think it is about “art” you are way the fuck off. It’s about commerce. I don’t care what publisher it is, they do not buy properties they don’t think they can sell. It’s that simple. Your novel may be genius, but if a publisher doesn’t know how to market or sell it then it will never see the light of day.

Makes you wonder why there  are five million self-published books that no one has even heard of, huh? Oh, right, because there is no market for them! Publishing is not a “write it and they will come” business. It’s a “they want to read it, so we better find it, or have someone write it, so they will come” type of business. If you can’t handle that reality then do not try to hack it as a working writer. Do not even try.

Which brings me to my next step.

I also noticed that Permuted Press was picking up a ton of authors, many self-published, and that they were looking for YA and Teen horror. I had my YA zombie novel, Little Dead Man, just languishing in self-pub hell, hidden with all the other fifty million self-published works that Amazon’s algorithms made sure weren’t the first on their search results. (Don’t think they do that? Puh-leeeze.) I also had a finished Teen horror novel manuscript that needed a home. I sent an email, got a response, and we went from there.

Oh, but let me backtrack a bit.

During the talks with Severed, I came up with a pitch for a middle grade horror series called ScareScapes. It’s Goosebumps in space, basically, but with the Jake Bible twist. There’re cyborgs and shit. Severed passed since it wasn’t something they thought they could market well. See what I’m talking about? A successful publisher knows what works for them and what doesn’t. Severed Press doesn’t really do YA or Teen horror, Not because they don’t like it, or want to, but because it doesn’t sell for them.

Are you catching on yet?

The reason I wanted to do a middle grade horror series in the first place was for two reasons: the first being we have a lot of friends with younger children that asked if Z-Burbia was appropriate for elementary or middle school kids. It is not. Also, my daughter is eleven and she wanted to read my novels. But that wasn’t happening. Not yet.

I came to the conclusion, after some market research, that the middle grade horror market was ripe for the picking! I knew one fellow author that was diving into it and I figured I could too. [side note: R.L. Stine has announced that he will be bringing his series, Fear Street, back. This is good for middle grade horror.] I reworked the pitch and sent it to Permuted and they said yes. Suh-weet!

This meant I had contracts with Severed Press and Permuted Press. But, both being small presses, the advances weren’t going to get me a house in the Bahamas. So still had that good ol’  financial uncertainty looming  in just a couple of months.

My novels for Severed were doing well and I was building a relationship with Permuted. These were things I could capitalize on. Because you strike while the iron is hot in publishing!

Negotiations (and love songs?) ensued, numbers were thrown back and forth,and after it is all said and done, I will be writing novels from now through June 2015. One a month, to be exact. While being financially secure enough not to freak out every time I fill up my Jeep at the gas station.

Triple bam!

Why say all of this? Because I read and hear a lot of writers talk about the “art” of writing and how “real” writing can’t include “compromise”. I have also read where writers slam others for being prolific. “You can’t write a good novel in a month!” I have also had writers say certain POVs (first person) are shit writing. “It’s the lazy way to write!”

Well, fuck and you, thank you very much.

That’s just justification bullshit. That’s what writers say when they don’t have any self-confidence. That’s what writers say when they look for excuses as to why they aren’t doing what others are or don’t have what others have. It’s jealousy and it’s lame.

I have confidence. Did I come up with some brilliant inspiration out of the blue? Was there a eureka moment? No. I had to have financial motivation. I had to be handed ideas that my publishers thought would fill the market and could sell. Then I took those ideas, those 100% market driven ideas, and made those bitches mine!

Quadruple bam!

Okay, okay, I’m done with the bamming. I want you to know I’m not trying to rub anyone’s face in success, simply because until I can take a breather and slow down to writing a novel a quarter, instead of every month, I don’t consider myself a success. What I’m trying to say is that writing is writing and if you want to make a living at it, a full-time living, then you have to be willing to play the game. You have to be willing to listen to those that watch the charts, study the numbers, talk to distributors, interact with readers, etc. You have to be willing, more than ever, to look at writing as a job.

It’s a pretty fucking cool job, but it is still a job. You sit your ass down and you get the writing done. You don’t phone it in. You don’t sit on the couch watching Netflix for “inspiration”. You plop in front of your PC and/or Mac and you put in your time. Then you hand in your manuscript and do it all again.

You never wait, you just do.

So, in closing, my mateys, if you want to be a working writer and make a living at it then you have to not only look at the word “writing” you must also look at the word “working”. And if work was all fun and art and inspiration and glorious champagne parties and book releases and all that shit then it wouldn’t be called work, would it? To be a working writer you must be willing to go where the work is. Like I said before, and will say a billion times more, you have to look atwriting as a job. It’s that simple.

Get your head out of the clouds, stop making excuses, reach out to people, talk to your connections, do the time, and get to work!

That’s how you make it as a working writer.

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

A professional writer since 2009, Jake has a proven record of innovation, invention and creativity. Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

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