2/6/15

Jeffre Mariotte Day 3

Good Books, and The Other Kind
By Jeffrey J. Mariotte


Writing a novel is hard work. It's not ditch-digging hard, or first responder hard, or as
hard as lots of other kinds of labor--I always have to laugh when I see some overpaid
rock star or screenwriter claim to have "the hardest job in the world" (and I've seen both
of those things). They're not, and neither is writing novels. Still, it ain't easy. Especially if
your goal is to write a good book.

And, of course, pretty much everybody who sits in a chair and puts his or her fingers on
the keyboard wants to write a good book (with the exception of those few who can write
bad books that still make money, for one reason or another. Writing a bad book is much
less work, but it can be done really quickly, and in some cases they can be very lucrative.

But even in those cases, I suspect the authors aren’t intending to write bad books. They’re
intending to write books that serve a particular purpose, that meet the criteria for a certain
genre, that satisfy the needs and desires of their planned audience. When series romances
come out by the dozens in any given month, some of them are likely to be very well
done, while others are likely to be formulaic. Same with men’s action adventure series,
and other lines where the books are written on a more or less assembly line basis, to fill
slots in a monthly schedule. And within those lines, there are definitely authors who do
their best work, who try hard to put some artistry into their books, to create memorable
characters, to come up with plots that surprise while still fulfilling the needs of the line.
That’s not easy, either.

All the way around, it’s safe to say that for the vast majority of writers, the work we put
into a book would make our hourly wage pretty pathetic. We’d be better off flipping
burgers, because then we’d at least get a discount on food. Or what passes for it.

So no, most of us don’t do it for the money. Or for the glamorous lifestyle; most writers
also work day jobs to pay the rent or the mortgage and to keep the refrigerator stocked
and the lights on (present company included). That means writing time is early in the
morning or late at night, or on weekends when everybody else is out doing the fun stuff.

Wait, I can almost hear you saying. If it’s such hard work and it cuts into your life and
you don’t make a lot of money at it, why do you do it?

There are as many reasons for that as there are writers, probably. If you want to
generalize, though, it’s probably because for most of us, we’re not very good at not doing
it. We have stories running in our heads all the time that want to get out. Characters offer
themselves up as imaginary human sacrifices. Phrases present themselves, and have to be
written down. We’re driven to tell stories, and that’s a hard calling to resist.

So we write.

Then, once a book is written, the really hard stuff comes in. Whether you have an agent
or not, unless you're self-publishing (not my preferred option), the book has to be
submitted to publishers. With a few, rare, exceptions, most publishers will say no. They
want to publish books that will make them a lot of money, or at least bring some sort of
prestige. At worst, they want to publish books that will more than pay back whatever they
spend to acquire, edit, and market. But a lot of books don't do that. Books that publishers
know will earn a lot of money are almost always by authors whose last book made a lot
of money, and the one before that, and so on. Those authors usually don't have to worry
about rejection.

But the rest of us do. Writing a book is a lot of work, and then there's no guarantee you'll
be able to sell it. It might languish in a drawer (if you’ve printed it) or take up space on
your hard drive for the rest of your life. I think my new thriller, Empty Rooms, is a very
good book, but my agent had a hard time selling it. Not that editors didn't like it—many
did--but there are lots of reasons to pass on a book. Way more than there are reasons to
spend the company's money to acquire it.

In the case of Empty Rooms, one of the various rejections--from a major editor at a major
house--was, at the same time, one of the best reviews I've ever had: "Clearly there’s quite
a bit of talent here—it’s obvious that Mariotte is a seasoned professional even without
knowing of his previous publications. Detroit, here, is encapsulated ably, ex-cop Richie
makes for a compelling lead, and the eerie killer who has been operating in Detroit for
decades is one of the more chilling antagonists I’ve encountered recently. Hats off to the
author on extraordinarily compelling work."

I've never had a rejection that I so wanted to turn into a cover blurb--but then I got even
better cover blurbs, from a couple of the world’s best thriller writers:

Empty Rooms is as good and moving as a thriller can be.  Keenly observed and deftly
written, it’s something you’ll want on your shelf as long as you have one.  Mariotte’s
characters come off the page at you, and through them, the author spins a tale truly of our
time.  I couldn’t put this one down.”
--T. Jefferson Parker
 Author of The Jaguar and The Border Lords

Empty Rooms is a searing, no-holds barred journey into darkness. Jeffrey J. Mariotte
knows the key is character, character, character and has delivered a story about men who
relentlessly work the case at the same time the case works them. I was pulled in from the
start on this one and it never let up. I highly recommend it.”
--Michael Connelly
Author of The Black Box and The Gods of Guilt

I'm thrilled that WordFire Press picked the book up, and with the job they've done on it.
And I'm pleased with the critical reception, too. This week I got a great review from a
major publication, which unfortunately I can't share yet. There are, at this writing, eight
reviews on Amazon, and all of them give the book five stars. Empty Rooms is live on
Barnes & Noble's website, and reviews are showing up there, too. And it’s on
Indiebound.com, but that site doesn’t use reader reviews.

So yeah, that’s part of it. We write so people will read what we’ve written. Ideally, they’ll
spend a little money on it, and we’ll make enough to encourage us to write the next book,
and the next one. But mostly, we want people to read, and if they like our books, it’s cool
when they let us know, one way or another.

That chair can get pretty lonely sometimes, early in the morning and late at night.

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