Striking the Board

I love the decision and determination in the opening lines of The Collar another devotional poem from George Herbert.
It’s visual and dramatic. I can hear the scrape and crash of the poet’s chair as it topples. It incites movement like a tour guide’s umbrella. Let’s go it says. (And all I notice, without a single exclamation mark – were they invented then?)

I struck the board, and cry’d, No more.
I will abroad.
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.

A friend used to say, “Don’t start the extension tonight, Jan.” I used to get overwhelming urges to act on  ideas the moment I thought of them – typical activist. Over time, those urges have diminished and less frequently resulted in action.
But, right now I’m feeling a dangerous buzz that’s everywhere, on my timeline at least. Yep, this is disintegrating into yet another blog post about the great and terrible rise of the Kindle and his ebooks. Can’t you see him rise from the East River like Godzilla?

Last year, I heard that ebooks are going to make it harder than ever to get a publishing contract because fewer real books will be published. Now the message that’s winging my way is get in there too, it’s up for grabs now.

I haven’t by any means had my fair share of rejections (about 5 so far) and by some peoples’ standards I still have plenty of time to gather a lot more. By mine, I don’t. I’m over the half century and feeling that downhill slide to oblivion. Reckless urges are set to make a comeback.

I remember an agent saying that if it’s really good it will be noticed…eventually.

Not sure I want to wait.

I read a blog post by Catherine Ryan Howard who has had a phenomenal success with her ebook sales even since Christmas 2010. It did sound a bit like an ad to become a Kleeneze rep – I made four million in my first week sort of thing, which almost made me click away. This was until I realised that I have already invested thousands in this malarkey, conferences, MA, laptop, paper, ink…. a little more would not make much difference and it could well bring some return.

Yes, books, real books, have a feel and a smell and a weight that’s comforting. They can win prizes. They sit neatly in pleasing rows on shelves. They press flowers. I’m not after dead love tokens but living stories; the fictive dreams they conjure, the worlds they create, the feelings they engender. They expand my universe. I’m not really after the feel of a good book but the mind-expanding experience of a good story.

I struck the board and cry’d …
My lines and life cost £1.99 on Amazon’s kindle store.

…fits my mood at the moment.

I could easily wait for another few years to find an agent, if at all. Then, a few more years to mash some trees. Instead, I could be getting on with what I really like doing – making stuff up, loving my characters, playing god with their lives without the constant background angst of will I ever be published? I’m doing that anyway, the getting on thing, but it would be nice to be doing it with the possibility of a few pennies being electronically handed over and even the increased possibility of actually persuading an agent to sign me up. That is if people download it in the right numbers.

If, in only a few months, ebook sales are exceeding paper books, in some areas, what could happen in a few years? Another if – if miraculously, I found myself with a publisher today and was given a publication date in 2013, could I be sitting, albeit with my contract, watching the party sail away on RMS Kindle?

Like any aspiring author, I would love an agent to say they would represent me, love them even more if they sold my book but it seems there are other opportunities.

So, I shall continue to strive to create believable characters, write engaging dialogue and page turning stories and return to George, who encourages me to…

Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,

…and think some more.

Ooh, that tingled, was it an urge coming on?

J.A. Konrath and Smashwords are food for thought too.


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