Friday, August 24, 2018

Empathy for the Dark Side by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

We’ve all heard it said, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” In other words, have some empathy. Try to understand how that “someone else” lives, what they deal with on a regular basis, and why that person comes to the conclusions he or she does, whether you agree with those decisions or not.

For us, the author types, there is no position we should have more empathy for than an editor.

That’s right. I said it. In some of your minds, I just slipped on my Darth Vader helmet and asked you to come over to the dark side. But hear me out first before you rally the rebel forces.

Imagine yourself sitting at your desk. You’re the new editor for XYZ Publishing, in charge of making this new division not only solvent, but profitable. You have six months to a year to make that happen. It’s week four, and in your e-mail inbox are two hundred query letters, each complete with a synopsis, a marketing plan, an author bio, and the first few chapters of the work. About sixty pages each, give or take. And these are just the agented but unsolicited manuscripts that have arrived in your inbox. More arrive each day.

Also in your inbox are the agented and author-only manuscripts you requested at your first writers’ conference two weekends ago. And there will be more on the way. Current count sits at thirty-five, and you have two more conferences coming up within the next four months.

Now, as you sit there, you have to decide which ones get promoted to the “I need to examine these more closely” pile and which ones get placed in the round file (aka, the garbage). All the while, you’re thinking about lowly writers like James Patterson, whose first book, The Thomas Berryman Number, was rejected thirty-one times. That means thirty-one of your fellow editors back in the day “missed out” on landing the author who sells more thriller novels than anyone in the world.

Or what about Daniel Handler’s first novel, The Basic Eight? Many people have probably never heard of Handler’s first novel because many people don’t know who Daniel Handler is. Neither did thirty-seven other editors, apparently, when he kicked off his writing career. However, everybody knows him now…65 million copies later…as Lemony Snicket.

Then there was that little-known author with the backwards name of Elmore Leonard…He had his first novel, The Big Bounce, rejected eighty-four times. It’s only been made into a movie twice since its publication.

Then in today’s market, of course, there are the works of folks like Lisa Genova who never make it across your desk. Her first novel, Still Alice, was rejected by roughly one hundred agents who sent rejection notices or simply never replied at all. Finally, Genova went Indie with her book. It did well enough to catch the eye of an editor from an imprint for Simon & Schuster. It only spent forty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore.

So, now, in these days of self-publishing, you, Mr. or Mrs. Editor, must also scour the sales reports of entities like Amazon to try and find that next big hit from the ever-growing, why-does-everybody-think-everything-they-write-should-be-published indie crowd.

Say goodbye to your personal life. The hours required to make all this happen will leave you with about fourteen minutes of sleep a day, if you’re lucky.

Are you getting the vibes here? Being an editor would be easier if everyone had the talking mirror in Snow White. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who will be the next best writer of them all?” So, would being an author. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which story in my head is the greatest of them all?”

In other words, fellow author, take heart and have empathy. Your first novel, even your second, third, fourth, or fifth, may be “the one” that finally gets noticed. And it will probably not be the very first editor you encounter who does notice it. Actually, the odds are against it.

I often tell folks Michael Crichton’s first hit novel, The Andromeda Strain, was not his first novel. He wrote several books under the pen name of John Lange while going to med school. However, the book that made him more of a household name was a little- known book called Jurassic Park. That was his what? Twelfth book?

So, the moral of this story is:

  • Have empathy for the editors out there. They have to find you first. And even if they do, and love you and your work, they still have to sell you to the editorial board.
  • Editors have budgets like everyone else. They are allowed to publish only a certain number of books a year. Can you empathize with narrowing down three thousand submissions a year to twenty published books? Which twenty would you choose?
  • Editors make mistakes. Often, they are costly. Choosing those twenty books is like playing roulette. A few land on Red 37. Most don’t. If enough land on Red 37, you have a job next year. If too many do not, there’s always that sign-twirling job out in front of that mattress store down the street.
  • Keep writing. Your first few books may remain obscure. Maybe even unpublished. However, could it be that God is waiting for you to write your next novel? Just ask Lemony Snicket. He is glad he kept writing.







A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.



C. KEVIN THOMPSON is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a kid at heart. Often referred to as “crazy” by his grandchildren, it’s only because he is. He’s a writer. Need he say more?

The first three books of his Blake Meyer Thriller series are out! Book 1, 30 Days Hath Revenge; Book 2, Triple Time; and Book 3, The Tide of Times, are now available! Book 4, When the Clock Strikes Fourteen is coming soon! Also, the second edition of his award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, is now available!

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, NCIS, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too. It’s quite elementary, actually.

Website:                                www.ckevinthompson.com/
Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:         www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/
Facebook:                              C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter:                                  @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:                            C. Kevin Thompson







6 comments:

  1. Who are the editors that consult the self-pubs?

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    1. Steven, when you talk to editors, agents, publishers, they are becoming more and more open to indie authors. Of course, the sales of an indie author must catch the eye of one of these folks. But it could be the genre that resonates, or the platform that the indie author has developed, too. The number of Indies who get contracts from trad publishers is few and far between, but there are folks like Lisa Genova who have. Point is, they do keep an eye on sales and other data within the world of indie publishing. However, from what I hear, if Indies want to be considered for trad publishers also, they must sell beyond the 99cent Kindle. E-books have flattened out at around 25% or so of the overall sales. That means there is a 75% paperback, hardback market they have scratched very little, if their sales are mostly of the e-book variety. Hard for trad publishers to make a living on 99cent sales only. They do have overhead Indies don't.

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  2. Great post, Kevin! I had no idea and I'm so glad to know that so many successful authors struggled, too. (That sounded bad, didn't it? Oops!)

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    1. Encouraging, for sure! 84 times? Even over 100 times? And I squawk at two...how embarrassing...

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  3. Thanks for another thought-provoking article, Kevin! It's so easy for us as writers to complain about editors or agents not responding to us in a timely manner. Your words are a good reminder that they do have a lot on their plates. It's also encouraging to be reminded that just because our work is rejected/missed by one or more people, it doesn't mean that we should give up.

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    1. Amen, Dawn. Somebody who reads this post could be the next Lemony Snicket! Or Mark Twain! Or John Lange! (Did you notice how I threw in all pen names?)

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