Friday, April 22, 2005
How I Got Here, Part 40
Oh, my. We are up to the big 4-O. Who'd a thought?
I am traveling at the moment. Flew back to KY to visit my mom and family and to attend Ichthus, the annual Christian rock festival. Ichthus has been going since I was 14 years old--I attended the very first one. At ages 16 and 17 I volunteered at the festival, finding housing for the performers, picking them up at the airport, etc. I can still remember picking up Andre Crouch, and him remarking that it was "great to be inPennsylvania." Guy was traveling so much, he didn't know where he was.
Today about 18,000 or so attend Ichthus each year. Amazing for the tiny town of Wilmore, KY. Lots of bands are here, but the bigger names are Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, Toby Mac and Michael W. Smith.
I'm 48 years old and proud of it. Which means I grew up on good ol' rock 'n' roll. I still love listening to rock--loud, of course. (That's the only way it can be played.) Last night the Newsboys performed. I worked my way little by little down into the vast crowd (standing, of course) until I was not too far from front and center. Then up came the Newsboys, and I rocked my little heart out. Christian rock music is the best--I can cut loose, and the words are all about Christ's salvation. Wonderful spirit in the crowd.
I pictured Jesus up there smiling and rockin' out Himself. You know He loves praise of all kinds.
Anyhoo, I want major kudos for loyally posting my blog while traveling. Yesterday's blog was written at 3 a.m. This one was written at midnight.
So. Back to NES. In case you haven't noticed, by 2001 I was really on a roll. Well, sort of. I managed to write Dread Champion and turn it in on time in the fall. Then in September my second novel, Eyes of Elisha, was set to be published.
The sort of had to do with the sales of Cast a Road Before Me. Remember--my first novel? The one that was gonna earn me millions and make me famous? The one that I first laid eyes on as violins played and cymbals crashed in the background?
It didn't sell all that well.
Why should it? Novels are sold through name recognition, and I was an unknown. And the house did little to market it. Basically just stuck it on the shelves and hoped for the best. Might be a good story, but who's gonna know to pick it up?
Disappointing after 11 years? Oh, yeah. Terribly, terribly disappointing. I worked 11 years--for this? And here's the kicker. If you finally sell your work to a publisher, then have a book or two sell poorly, you can end up in worse shape than if you'd never been published. Because now you have a bad track record.
So there I was, waiting to see the first copy of Eyes of Elisha. The book I'd learned to write fiction on. I'd started writing that book in January 1990--almost 12 years before. Such a long time to wait for that book to come to fruition. Such a very long time.
Now I had to establish good sales more than ever. But what kind of reaction was I going to get with this "vision stuff?" Would readers denounce me as writing about "psychics" and never read me again?
And--what would the reviews say? Especially that Big, Bad one--PW ( Publisher's Weekly)?
Here's the thing. When you start being published in fiction, you leave behind the editor rejections, that's true. But now you're open target to be criticized in reviews. And guess what--reviews aren't private. They're not a letter or e-mail opened in the sanctity of your own office, where you can wail and kick cabinets. Oh, no. They're published in national magazines. They're posted on amazon.com, front and center, for everyone to read before they buy your book. And after they read it, they just might not buy your book. On top of all this, you got your reader reviews.
Add to all this a fact of reality--you're not gonna please everybody.
Eyes of Elisha. Over 11 years from a kernel of an idea in my brain to the bookshelves. Rejected again and again in the secular market. Put in a drawer when I began to write Christian fiction because then it was a story about a psychic. Rescued out of that drawer by God--and rewritten with His leading. Rejected again and again in the Christian market. A book that scared pub boards who didn't wanna "go there." A book that finally passed a pub board only to have the CEO of the house step in at the least moment and nix it. A book that Zondervan had decided to take a chance on. Eyes of Elisha would be my first publication with Zondervan. I was contracted for three more with that house at the time, and I sure didn't want those contracts jeopardized. Bottom line, the book had to sell well. But look at all I had going against me.
One thing I thought I had. I believed Eyes of Elisha was a great story. I still think it is. Second thing it had. A way cool cover (which went on to win 2 awards). The kind of cover that you just couldn't pass in a bookstore without picking up the book.
Well. That's how I saw things anyway.
We all know I wasn't kicked out of the Christian fiction market. After all, I am writin' this here blog today. But I'd gone through a lot to get published, and now that I was being published, something told me things wouldn't necessarily be all violets and roses.
And so, in the context of all this, I waited for the approach of September 2001.
Read Part 41