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I’m cold, Dave.

January 17, 2009

Welcome to an experiment.  I’m Orland Outland, author of eight published books – that’s how I’ve started most of my query letters in the past, so it’ll serve here.  The difference is, before now I was using that intro to try and sell a book idea to a publisher.  Now, I’m trying something different. 

About four years ago, I’d reached a point where I had to make a decision – either I could continue writing what I was writing, digging myself deeper and deeper into a genre to the point where I could never again escape it, or jettisoning my entire career to start over doing something…different, better, more complex.  Less gay, since that was the genre into whose quicksand I was sinking. 

You know my books – or the ones just like ‘em.  Two hot guys on the cover, in some state of buff undress.  It’s mandated by the marketing department, to make sure gay buyers see their preferred cereal on the shelf.  Of course, it also makes sure no non-gay person ever picks the book up.  Marketing, of course, punishes all writers similarly – just look at the covers for Julie Powell’s hardback and paperback versions of “Julie and Julia.”  The hardback looks very serious, very thoughtful – the paperback, however, is packaged as chicklit, even utilizing the Sans Shopaholic font.  Why, why, why would anybody package a book about a happily married woman, whose only competition for her husband’s attention is a supermassive fifty year old cookbook, as chick lit?  Why, because chick lit sells.  Inarguably, there’s enough humor in the book to justify pitching it to chick lit-only buyers, but at the same time, other readers who don’t know the backstory of the book are going to see that cover and say, “oh, that stuff,” and never pick it up.  Publishing has become almost entirely about the box, not the cereal.

Moreover, once you’re tagged with a genre, your books are going to be placed by the big chains in that genre’s section, for ever and ever.  So no matter what kind of novel I published next under my own name, no matter the subject matter, it was going to go in the gay cereal section, two hotties on the cover, lost forever to anyone who might otherwise have picked it up. 

The better I got as a writer, the more I cringed at the idea that this was all there was – a mid career crisis, if you will.  It was a small, supplemental living, about seven grand per novel, but not something that would be so hard to give up in pursuit of something better.  So that’s what I did.  Four years later, after a lot of thought, I’m finally ready to begin a new project, one I’ve been thinking about for years.  And because my previous relationship was with a “gay” publisher, I’m without a publisher, and because of lots of stuff I won’t get into, also without an agent.

The difficulty I have is that for so many books now, I’ve had built-in motivation – I had a contract, so I had editors who were reading me, and readers who would buy my next book, and of course I had the motivation of getting paid.  I had a deadline and I had feedback.  Now, I don’t – I’m working without that net again for the first time since my first published book.  And I am an emotionally needy, insecure writer – I need love!  I need attention!  Which doesn’t make me so different from other writers.  The question became, how to get that attention, that motivation, that feedback?  Why, a blog, of course.

So here’s the deal.  I’ve got one chapter of this book written.  I’m going to post my chapters here as written, and I’m going to blog about the whole process.  So the initial postings are going to be about why I’m doing things this way, “open sourcing” the novel writing process, and how I’ve gotten to where I am now with the project.  I’ve picked WordPress because I really want to concentrate on my novel, not on coding a site or anything that would take time to get going and would derail me from actual novel writing farther than I already get so easily.  In my next post, I’ll talk about the idea of the novel and how it’s gone from a vague idea for a play to a more solid novel plan.  I hope this blog will help me stay motivated and directed, and I hope in the long run, when it’s all said and done, that it’ll help other novelists see how the sausages are made.

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