From 500 rejections to bestsellers

"I'm just a guy trying to make a living. It took me 12 years and over 500 rejections before I was published, and once I landed my first print deal I was determined to learn all I could about the business in order to succeed.

I learned--as most authors have learned--that the publishing industry is fatally flawed. A small number of top-brand authors get the overwhelming majority of the marketing dollars, making it nearly impossible for a midlister to succeed. The practice of returns and remainders is archaic and ridiculous. Books are successful based on the amount of coop they get, and there is little a writer can do to improve their station.

I beleive my goal is one that many writers share: to earn money doing something we love. Prior to my first novel, WHISKEY SOUR, selling to Hyperion in 2002, I'd written nine other novels that failed to find a publisher. In 2009, some fans emailed me, asking if I could make my early, unpublisher work available on Kindle. I went to http://dtp.amazon.com and uploaded my ebooks, which is free.

Now, 14 months later, I've sold 55,000 ebooks, and I'll make over $100,000 this year on books NY publishing rejected." JA Konrath

Geez, and I thought I held a record with the number of rejections to publication ratio.




The US Book Publishing Industry

"The US book publishing industry consists of about 2,600 companies with combined annual revenue of about $25 billion. [COMPARISON: The Motion Picture Industry's annual revenue is approx $55 Billion] The industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies generate about 80 percent of revenue.

Publishers produce books for general reading (adult "trade" books); text, professional, technical, children's, and reference books. Trade books account for 25 percent of the market, textbooks 25 percent, and professional books 20 percent.

About 150,000 new books are published in the US every year; however, most are low-volume products. The number of books produced by major trade publishers and university presses is closer to 40,000."



Why should we read literature?

"It is often asked: what is the difference between imaginative literature and other sorts of intellectual endeavor?  Are there any kinds of knowledge uniquely available, say, from novels and poems? Why do we read them when we could read books in psychology, sociology, moral philosophy--especially if these are illustrated with vivid examples of ethical, psychological, and social experience?  There are many possible answers to such a question, and I want to explore only one of them, the one that has to do with the contrast between the miscellaneous and the integrated."


How to create your own literary style

How to create your own literary style and become one of the most influential writers of the century? If you're Louis-Ferdinand Céline your path to immortality may lie in the free use of ellipses, or three dots, he called them his "fancy three dots":

Just kidding. Céline's "Castle to Castle" is an interesting book, though dotted to a point that it becomes tiring to read.


A better world, on the feet of doves

"two principles were locked in combat for the world: might and right, tyranny and freedom, superstition and knowledge, the law of obduracy and the law of ferment, change and progress.

There was no doubt which of these two forces would gain the victory -- that of enlightenment, or reasoned advancement toward perfection. Because human progress was always gathering up new nations in the course of its brilliant advance. Yet there was much to be done before total victory, and great and noble efforts would have to be made by those to whom the light had been passed on, if that day were ever to come when monarchies and religions would at last collapse.

That day would come, if not on the feet of doves, then on the pinions of eagles, and would burst as the dawn of universal brotherhood under the emblem of reason, science, and justice."

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain


Jury Duty

I suspect that many writers would jump at the call for jury duty. I should too, after all how often does one get a chance to observe so closely a criminal case? It's a civic duty. If only it didn't, always, come at a bad time. What is one to do? It may be time to fill out the questionnaire with Leo Tolstoy's words:

"The usual argument "What is one to do with the evil doers? Surely not let them go unpunished?" no longer confused him. This objection might have a meaning if it were proved that punishment lessened crime, or improved the criminal, but when the contrary was proved, and it was evident that it was not in people's power to correct each other, the only reasonable thing to do is to leave off doing the things which are not only useless, but harmful, immoral and cruel.
For many centuries people who were considered criminals have been tortured. Well, and have they ceased to exist? No; their numbers have been increased not alone by the criminals corrupted by punishment but also by those lawful criminals, the judges, procureurs, magistrates and jailers, who judge and punish men.

Nekhludoff now understood that society and order in general exists not because of these lawful criminals who judge and punish others, but because in spite of men being thus depraved, they still pity and love one another."


15-year old hitman, the next YA bestseller

In 1878 Jules Verne, author of immensely popular YA novels, published a story about a 15 year old captain:

"Dick Sand is a fifteen year old boy serving on the schooner "Pilgrim" as a sailor; he is left in charge of the ship with no experienced sailors to help him."

Fast forward 132 years, and you'll find that YA characters in traditionally adult professions are doing just fine:

"A 15-year-old boy turned himself in to Peruvian police and confessed to killing 10 people, apparently making him Peru’s youngest hitman, local media reported Thursday.

Known by the nickname “Gringacho” and not further identified by authorities, the presumed hitman said that he was recruited by a criminal network in the city of Trujillo, 570 kilometers (353 miles) north of Lima, when he was just 12 years old.

From what he told the police, over the past three years he killed a total of 10 people, among then a young woman who was eight months pregnant." SOURCE


Would you eat insects to save the Earth?

"other countries embraced insects as food long ago, with folks in Latin America and Asia regularly snacking on locusts and even scorpions. And they may be onto something: Bugs are not only high in protein — they're low in fat, carry extremely low carbon footprints, and are cheap to produce. They possess all the traits necessary to become the next sustainable superfood.

Meat's impact on the environment is well-documented, with livestock production creating about 18 percent of the globe's greenhouse gas emissions. Even fruits and veggies typically take a lot of resources — like water, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and mechanized farm equipment — to produce. Bugs are naturally plentiful, and raising them as a food source would only require minimal resources. Plus, some insects like locusts are notorious agricultural pests. Eating them would reduce the need for environmentally degrading chemical pesticides.

Not only do bugs tread lightly (or in some cases, fly lightly), they're a cheap and nutritious food source. Bugs boast high amounts of protein and low amounts of fat. Perhaps America's obesity epidemic wouldn't be at such massive proportions (literally) if more folks took up entomophagy."


Surroundings vs Creativity

"The future poet laureate revealed his private reservations in a series of letters to Olwyn Hughes after moving to Massachusetts with his first wife, the American poet Sylvia Plath, in 1957.

In one letter, penned shortly after the move, he said that he would rather “eat mud” than continue to be exposed to American consumerism.

[...] in one letter to his sister, written in 1957, the poet complained that he felt stifled by being surrounded by fast food chains, stores and branding which he felt were all aimed at the “average man”.

He wrote: “Luxury is stuffed down your throat – a mass-produced luxury – till you feel you’d rather be rolling in the mud and eating that.”


The great UFO conspiracy

"Just about everything that is popularly believed about UFOs has been exploited, shaped, and, at times, generated by people working for the U.S. Air Force and the intelligence community. The idea that UFOs crashed on U.S. soil, that the U.S. government was harboring and hiding UFO technology, that it was denying its citizens the right to know that aliens have come here and visited—all these things have been deliberately seeded into the culture."


How to leave your husband

By making a classy exit, naturally...

"Forgive me and forget me as soon as possible. I am leaving you for ever. Do not look for me, it is useless. I have become a witch from the grief and calamities that have struck me. It's time for me to go. Farewell."

Margarita hung up, and here something in the next room hobbled woodenly and started beating on the door. Margarita flung it open and a sweeping broom, bristles up, flew dancing into the bedroom. It drummed on the floor with its end, kicking and straining towards the window. Margarita squealed with delight and jumped astride the broom. Only now did the thought flash in the rider that amidst all this fracas she had forgotten to get dressed. She galloped over to the bed and grabbed the first thing she found, some light blue shift. Waving it like a banner, she flew out the window."

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita


Morbid Literature

"For to read on needlessly is to risk contamination by a bad purpose of the second kind. The literature forced on high school students (who have long known how to read) inundates them with vulgarity and vice against which their meager adolescent minds can hardly stand. When confronted with the evils so pervasive in fiction, their inevitable response is to accept these values as true and then imitate them. The exposition of these horrors on the psyches of our young people can have no other effect but that of a viral contraction. Has not literature, when injected into our classrooms, proved thus far endemic? The alarming rise of street-urchin pickpockets has been directly attributed to young readers of "Oliver Twist" (by Charles Dickens) at Parkview High. The recent development of teenagers disobeying their parents, engaging in illicit rendezvous with forbidden lovers, faking their deaths, engaging in underage drinking of poison from each other's mouths, using "happy daggers" (and other illegal substances) and, in extreme cases, committing double suicide is certainly the outcome of entire freshman classes reading that burlesque propaganda of Shakespeare. English class, however, is not the only affront to decency in school today." Bradley Fisher


Common language

"[...] I thought to myself in amazement that people do not talk the same language, unlike sparrows, or chaffinches who sing alike everywhere.

We, the people, speak different languages, and only our laughter and our tears mean the same thing and are understood by all."

My translation from Choucas, by Sophie Nalkowska.


Are literary agents 'Gods'?

"Having finished your first novel, you have polished it to the best of your abilities, got rave reviews from your peer group of ‘wanna be' authors, and you think the most difficult part of your journey, of becoming an internationally published author is over. But, it is not. Before you seek an international publisher in mature markets like London or New York, you have to find a literary agent. ‘Finding a literary agent is akin to finding God [...]

Many first-time writers, especially those not familiar with the ‘behind the scenes' of publishing industry, would ask: Why do we need a literary agent in the first place? To answer this question, we need to understand what exactly an agent does. An agent, for an author, is an editorial consultant, a writing coach and a critic rolled into one. She markets your work to the right publishers. She also takes care of your financial interest. Above all, she understands the nitty-gritties of publishing, everything from e-book royalties and permission forms, to movie option agreements." source

Are literary agents Gods of the industry? Do you need a literary agent to publish a book with a 'traditional' publisher? The title says it all:

NATO's Secret Armies

"This fascinating new study shows how the CIA and the British secret service, in collaboration with the military alliance NATO and European military secret services, set up a network of clandestine anti-communist armies in Western Europe after World War II.

These secret soldiers were trained on remote islands in the Mediterranean and in unorthodox warfare centres in England and in the United States by the Green Berets and SAS Special Forces. The network was armed with explosives, machine guns and high-tech communication equipment hidden in underground bunkers and secret arms caches in forests and mountain meadows. In some countries the secret army linked up with right-wing terrorist who in a secret war engaged in political manipulation, harrassement of left wing parties, massacres, coup d'états and torture.

Codenamed 'Gladio' ('the sword'), the Italian secret army was exposed in 1990 by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti to the Italian Senate, whereupon the press spoke of "The best kept, and most damaging, political-military secret since World War II" (Observer, 18. November 1990) and observed that "The story seems straight from the pages of a political thriller." (The Times, November 19, 1990). Ever since, so-called 'stay-behind' armies of NATO have also been discovered in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Greece and Turkey. They were internationally coordinated by the Pentagon and NATO and had their last known meeting in the NATO-linked Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) in Brussels in October 1990."

The Book

The Movie

Spying: "Money is for Nothing and Chicks are Free"

"Smartphones and e-mail might be revolutionising espionage, but old-style personal spycraft is as important as ever when it comes to protecting -- or breaking -- state and corporate secrets.

But while the skills of electronic snooping are important, where information ends up can come down just as much to private deals put together in anonymous offices by spy chiefs, companies and powerful individuals.

"People using intelligence resources for their own private ends?" he said. "I'd love to say it doesn't happen. Doing someone a favour, maybe getting yourself a nice position on a board when you go into the private sector? It happens. Even in the United States."


Spy in your pocket

"Most Western states have powerful spy agencies that can read most domestic traffic, and sometimes overseas messages as well. How this functions is controlled by legislation, although this varies and it is impossible to tell how tightly it is followed.

Intercept intelligence appears to be heavily exchanged between the main Anglo-Saxon powers -- Britain and the United States, and also Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

A 2010 book "The Secret State" by academic Peter Hennessy says 50 to 80 percent of intelligence discussed at Britain's weekly joint intelligence committee briefing is of U.S. origin.

Continental European states often suspect Anglo-Saxon powers of spying for business ends. All European Blackberry traffic goes through UK or Canadian servers and partly as a result many European governments are reluctant to use the system.

Most security experts believe Western powers occasionally use spy services for commercial ends but their main focus is on tackling militant threats and fighting economic crime."


Humanitarian Assassination

"Britain's intelligence services carried out assassinations and did 'some very bad things' during the Cold War, according to the former spy and novelist John Le Carre.

Le Carre - real name David Cornwell - worked for both MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s.

His revelations come in the same week that the body of MI6 worker Gareth Williams was discovered in a holdall in his London flat.

But the former secret agent, who is about to have his 22nd book published, insisted that Western intelligence agencies operated very differently from their Soviet Bloc counterparts.

He said: 'Even when quite ruthless operations were being contemplated (in the West) the process of democratic consultation was still relatively intact and decent humanitarian instincts came into play.

'Totalitarian states killed with impunity and no one was held accountable.'"



Devil must be purged from books

"The government and publishers have been called upon to come out with measures that will forestall the breeding of 'negative literature' that has the potential to corrupt society", Said Professor Daniel Buor and "appealed to support publishers through the award of contracts for them to publish relevant literary works for public consumption [...]", because "reading exposes the reader to wisdom and experience as well as abilities to enhance his experience and abilities to perform more efficiently". He advised that "it was equally important for publishers to be selective in their publications to curb moral decay in society, explaining that "pornographic literature is having a toll on the moral life of the youth and must be eliminated from the system".



Novels, your gateway to understanding the world

"[...] do novels serve a wider function beyond latte chat?

According to international research, novels do more than mingle souls, as John Donne said of words on paper. Novels may inform us better about world issues than authoritative non-fiction data dependant studies.

This is the finding of a team from Manchester University and the London School of Economics. Dennis Rodgers of Manchester University's Brooks World Poverty Institute said in 2008: "Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job -- if not a better one -- of representing and communicating the realities of international development.

"While fiction may not always show a set of presentable research findings, it does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does. And fiction often reaches a much larger and diverse audience than academic work and may therefore be more influential in shaping public knowledge and understanding of development issues.""

SOURCE: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/

From an author's perspective I can say that history and actual events in my novels are only as factual as they fit the plot.