Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Next?

When I started writing on 9/12/01, I had a simple goal in mind: try to get one story published. As I completed more novels, that goal changed, first to multiple genres, and then to multiple publishers. Now I’ve completed my ninth novel, The Trophy Wife. I believe it is the most humorous novel I’ve written. The publisher for my other Miss Havana paranormal comedies (The Substitute, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! and The Training Bra) is not accepting full-length novels at this time, and The Trophy Wife will easily top 106,000 words when the editing is complete. So now what?
Early on, before I realized how difficult obtaining an agent can be, I collected lots of rejection letters from various agents. I have a little more experience now, with eight novels and one short story published by three different publishers, and I’m toying with trying the agent route again. Why? Because self-promotion is so difficult and, in my experience, ineffective.
Don’t get me wrong. I continue to try. Even this blog is part of self-promotion. I also post a joke a day on Facebook, do reviews of works by other authors, attend and speak at book fairs, make presentations at book clubs and libraries, stay active on social media and work directly with a few book stores. So far, nothing has caught on in any big way. I continue to write (some people believe your next novel is your best promotion), and I believe having multiple publishers is a plus. Still, nothing I’ve done has captured the attention of the book purchasing public. I don’t even think any of my books have been pirated.
A logical question is, “Maybe your books stink?” I’ve considered that, but then I read reviews from other people and consider what others have told me to my face.  I have many five-star reviews and people continue to say they’ve enjoyed the comedy. I try to walk the thin line between being funny and offensive. I believe that balance is about right because some of my religious friends have only purchased “The Substitute,” but others bought the whole series. I continue to have faith in the stories; it’s my methods of marketing I question.
If marketing really is my biggest problem, it’s probably time to send a few queries to a few agents. In preparation for that, I asked for advice from some Linked in connections, and will follow suggestions sent back to me. I’ll keep track of the journey, just so I can tell you all about it in the future. I’m not sure what it takes to find good agent with experience in the comedy area, but if any of you can provide advice now, I’d love to hear it.

Please enjoy the excerpt below from “The Trophy Wife.” Laughter is good for you! In the excerpt below: Waldo, the devil’s right-hand shadow creature is haunting a low-life known as Fred, Jr. and Lilith, the offspring of Miss Havana and Lucifer, is haunting Lily, one of Miss Havana’s students.
After they finished their cigarettes, and after Lily took considerable time to admonish, in many creative ways, how she had “had better,” the two entered the restaurant just in time to witness a young child sneeze on the far end of the salad bar. Waldo saw a green piece of slime leave the kid’s nose like a missile and land like a lettuce worm on a large leaf of romaine. From Waldo’s perspective, that wouldn’t have been all that bad, but Lily remained unsatisfied. “This is your idea of a dinner date?” she moaned, loud enough for most of the patrons to hear.
Not so fond memories crept into Waldo’s mind, memories of Lilith’s deriding comments while he abused her below. The bitch could not be satisfied, and she whined incessantly about everything and everyone. Lucifer banished Lilith’s spirit to Lily’s body for exactly that reason—he simply couldn’t take another minute of her constant bellyaching.
Waldo sighed. Nothing had changed. Lilith would always be a bitch—nothing would change that—but he so enjoyed Lily as a sex toy that he would put up with it. He shrugged and responded, “Just don’t take any of the lettuce from that end of the salad bar. I’d avoid the chocolate pudding too. The little girl with the blonde hair licked the serving spoon before putting it back.”
Lily sulked most of the meal, probably because she expected something higher class, like a steak at Outback. But no, Fred, Jr. wanted to eat leftovers at Golden Corral, the food remaining after the 6:00 p.m. dinner rush. She exhaled an exaggerated sigh, knowing she didn’t come with Fred, Jr. just for the food. With more at stake than the steak she didn’t get, Lily gagged down the last bite she could stand to put in her mouth as she glanced up to see Fred, Jr. stuffing mashed potatoes in his. She had to look away, and thought momentarily that the dog next door might have better manners. She stiffened her resolve, leaned forward and cooed, “After desert, Fred, I’d like to talk to you about a little problem I’m having.”
Fred’s cheeks bulged a little, but Waldo still managed to spout without thinking, “Oh, you mean the crabs and chlamydia. That’s not a problem for me. What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is yours.”
Lily gasped. “What crabs … and what do you mean, what’s yours is mine?”
Waldo forked a piece of roast beef, stuffed it in his mouth and chewed with the enthusiasm of a dog with his master’s new shoe. He swallowed hard and then looked innocently at Lily’s smoldering glare. “The crabs Bob gave you … you know, Bob … our nighttime tow truck driver. Haven’t you had a crawly crotch lately?”
Lily rolled her eyes and shook her head. “That bastard! So that’s the reason I’ve been so itchy. I’ll get back at him later.”
Fred, Jr. continued to look innocent. “I thought you already did. He said he got chlamydia from you. He’s being treated for it by Dr. Swartz.”
Lily’s face blanched as she broke eye contact. “Serves him right, taking advantage of a lady in distress like he did.” She re-focused on Fred, Jr. “While we’re on the topic, what did you mean by ‘what’s yours is mine?’”
Waldo raised his host’s palms. “Shit, Lily, I don’t know. I haven’t been tested in a while.”
“Keep your fucking voice down, you idiot. Maybe we can get tested together.”
Waldo lifted his host’s eyes from the food long enough to glance at Lily. “Okay, maybe we can get treated together too. I like doing thing things with you. It feels good to deal with problems when they come up, doesn’t it. I’d hate to have this discussion over desert.”
Lily’s frown morphed to a scowl. “That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about, you cretin. This is serious. I have a problem with one of my teachers, and I need you to man up … or you can just make love with your hand the next time you get horny.”
Now, that got Waldo’s attention. He didn’t like threats. When people threatened him below, he just tore their arms and legs off, or offered some other mundane, yet painful, response. He looked at his host’s skinny arms. Nope. That won’t happen here, he thought. He took a deep breath and smiled, knowing Lilith would always be Lilith, and capitulated. “Okay, we can get serious over desert, but I’m having more fired chicken first.”
Lily continued to sulk as Waldo ate and ate. For a skinny guy, Fred, Jr. could really pack it away. Finally he leaned back, held his stomach and belched. “Oh, boy, I could do that every night.” He winked at Lily. “Sex makes me hungry. I need some desert.”
She squirmed. Sex usually didn’t do anything at all for her appetite except make her lose it. Even though Fred, Jr. could, on rare occasions, be a pleasant surprise in bed, she didn’t want more … of either food or sex. Still, rather than just sit there and gawk at Fred, Jr. as he gorged himself, she said, “Get me some cherry pie when you’re up.”
Waldo’s host raised his eyebrows. “You want me to put cream on your cherry?”
Lily rolled her eyes. “You can be a real piece of shit, Fred.”
Fred soon placed the pie in front of Lily and several deserts on his side of the table. When he began eating his pudding, he looked her in the eyes. “Okay … what? We know what I need from you, but what do you need from me?”
Lily took a tiny bite of pie before answering, slowly and deliberately. “I need your help … to send a message to one of my teachers. A message so strong she will never forget.”
Waldo’s smile radiated from his host as a grin so evil that Lily’s heart skipped a beat. “Miss Havana, I presume.”
She leaned back in her chair. Perhaps Fred, Jr. wasn’t as ignorant as he looked. “You must have friends in low places. How did you know?”
He stuffed an entire chocolate chip cookie in his mouth, and crumbs flew as he talked. “I have a sixth sense about these things.” He leaned in closer and whispered. “Do you want to kill her?”
Thanks for reading,

James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

I understand your pain and frustration, James. It isn't that popular novels are necessarily great works of art (many aren't). They simply caught someone's imagination and the ball started rolling.

I've read novels that have stuck with me for months, even years, they were that good. None of them were bestsellers.

I've read bestsellers that I couldn't recall even a week after reading them.

I wish I knew the formula for publication success. It isn't necessarily an agent. I know. I've had three (my current one is all right).

Even with an agent, publishers still reject 99% of what they see. Don't make the mistake of not subbing while waiting for an agent to take you on. That's a recipe for disaster. You could wait years.

IMO, the best thing to have is a very solid and lengthy backlist. Agents are like publishers, they tend to take people on who have already succeeded (in some way).

It's not about how great the book is, but how well (and easy) they believe it will sell.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina:

Your advice, as usual, is spot on. Yes, the self-promotion business is a little frustrating. I know my novels are NOT "the great American novel," but I also know they are quite humorous, especially the Miss Havana series. They are exactly what I would choose to read if I could find books like that. Maybe that's the problem. The book buying public is mostly women, and the racy humor in the books might be a little much for them. I just don't know.

I appreciate your words about an agent. I have serious misgivings about even trying to get one. I mean, how does one know if such a person will be any help at all? It is hard, but you can be sure I will not stop writing while I wait to see what happens. I have two additional comedies planned -- "Sisters" and "In The Beginning." They are Miss Havana comedies with the potential to be as funny as "The Trophy Wife" (which I believe is my best yet).

Thanks again for your comments.