“You change the world when you change your mind.” – KINKY BOOTS (Harvey Fierstein/Cyndi Lauper)
This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation.
Today, please welcome Guest Blogger Rick Karlsruher. Rick has over thirty years of international marketing and management experience. Over the years, he has also delved into writing several times. His comedy writing was supported by legends like Laugh-In’s Dick Martin and National Lampoon’s Matty Simmons. A few years ago he wrote a book called A Story Almost Told . His experiences in trying to get it published led him to create Noveltunity® to help others have a better chance to have their voices heard.
I guess there were lots of reasons I decided to self-publish after all these years. I think the #1 reason was that I wrote a novel that I couldn’t bear the idea of not getting published. It’s kind of like the wonderful speech the best man, Steve, gave at our wedding. When my husband was going to propose to me, Steve said he advised him “the thing you have to ask yourself is – can I spend the rest of my life with this woman?” to which Bill replied, “The question is, could I spend the rest of my life without her?”
Is Bill the best or what??
I began asking myself – can I spend the rest of my life without getting this particular novel published?
As a writer whose ultimate goal was to be traditionally published, I’ve written a lot of books that I knew might never see the light of day. I’ve spent months – even years – researching, planning, outlining, writing, rewriting, getting critiqued, rewriting again, perfecting, and polishing books that, quite possibly, no one would ever read. I poured my heart, soul, and every ounce of emotion that I could muster into those tales knowing full well that my stories and my characters might languish on the shelf collecting dust for all eternity. There’s a long list of agents and publishers to query to try to get these novels read and published, but it is a finite list. Sooner or later, I do come to the end of it. When I reach the end of the line and I still have no agent to represent me and no publisher to publish it, it’s all over for that particular novel. There’s just nothing more that I can do for it.
I’ve come close – maddeningly close – to getting an agent, but so far I’m still unagented. Unpublished. But that’s okay.
Or is it?
I was approaching a dubious anniversary. July of 2014 marked my 20th anniversary as a still unagented and unpublished writer. Now to be fair, I was a screenwriter for 15 of those years. This is pretty much an exercise in futility if you live 3000 miles away from an industry that is nearly 100% based on who you know. Still, I did manage to get two screenplays optioned with production companies in Los Angeles. I’ve really only been writing novels since 2009, so it really isn’t that terrible that I still don’t have an agent. I had a New York City agent read one of my novels and tell me that she did want to represent me, but her current caseload wouldn’t allow it. She told me that my novel “has an excellent chance of publication” and that she “enjoyed it immensely”. This may not sound like a big deal, but when you’ve been around as long as I have, you know that agents don’t say that kind of thing unless they really mean it. I was getting closer.
Still. Twenty years is an awfully long time to invest in something that hasn’t exactly panned out yet. For the most part, I’m okay with the wannabe life. It’s hard as hell to get an agent or get published, but I work hard as hell and I’m not giving up. So there you have it.
I turned my favorite screenplay – QUEEN HENRY – into my favorite novel of the same name. I’ve always loved the story and the characters. I wrote the novel several years ago and I swear, I still hear Henry’s voice in my head. I’ve written three novels since then, but nothing I’ve written has ever resonated in my head and in my heart the way that story still does. It’s the story of a homophobic, macho, major league baseball player who takes part in a clinical drug trial to treat his asthma and the experimental drug has an unusual side effect: it makes him gay. At first, Henry is horrified to suddenly be attracted to men instead of women. Then he falls in love with a wonderful man and learns the important lesson that love really is love after all.
Believe me, that’s story’s been through a lot of changes over the years.
I got the worst reviews of my life when I first queried with the screenplay version. I mean, just bloody awful, terrible, no-good reviews that absolutely ripped out my heart. But I couldn’t bear to give up on my story. I rewrote the screenplay over and over and over again, working with a respected industry script analyst. I battled my way back and eventually QUEEN HENRY was a finalist in a small but national screenplay contest. They referred to the script as a “fun and uplifting story that combines baseball, homosexuality, and peach schnapps.” This was huge victory for me. Sure, it was a small contest and I was just a finalist, but it truly was an amazing accomplishment considering how bad the story was in the beginning. I loved the story so much that I stuck with it, refusing to give up. In the end, I finally got the story right.
Then, after I wrote the novel, I queried everywhere and got the worst response rate for anything I’d ever written. No one wanted any part of it. Every agent I queried told me that it wouldn’t sell because it’s a gay-themed story. No one even gave it chance. Not even a look. Just a NO when they found out what the story was about. But I found I still couldn’t bear to give up on it.
I had my heart set on traditionally publishing, but that’s just not going to happen with this novel. So, I could just put QUEEN HENRY back on the shelf and watch it gather dust, or…
I’m reminded of the story of the little red hen. She asks and asks and nobody will help her plant, harvest, mill, or bake the grain of wheat into bread. “Then I will do it myself,” said the little red hen.
That’s why I decided that, in July of 2014 on my 20th anniversary of being a wannabe writer, I was going to publish QUEEN HENRY for the following damn good reasons:
1. I want to prove to the world that a “gay-themed” story will sell.
2, I want to donate all of the proceeds to the Harvey milk Foundation.
3. I can’t live without publishing this novel.
No one would help the little red-headed writer write, edit, rewrite, polish, publish, or promote her book.
“Then I will do it myself,” said the little red-headed writer.
And she did.
QUEEN HENRY, now available at the following retailers:
* All proceeds net of taxes will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation **