Scott D. Southard
I’ve been chasing this dream since I was a teenager. I have had three different agents in my time, worked with numerous publishers and I have had highs (for example, the publication of my new novel Permanent Spring Showers) and lows. I’ve gotten close to achieving some of my dreams, and I’ve fallen a few times from them as well. There was even a point where I walked away from writing for four years.
That is not to say I wasn’t getting ideas during that time and still dreaming something might happen, I was just exhausted and nothing felt worth the inevitable disappointment that I was sure would follow. Everything looked like a negative query letter waiting to happen. Yeah, I was fun to be around.
The market today is congested. It could be argued that there are more writers than readers out there, especially with the explosion of indie presses, eBooks, and self-publishing. In many ways, I think this shows a strong future for the artform, but right now it is a lot of noise and it is hard for readers sometimes to find those new voices in the masses. In time, the right filters will come in and it will be easier to sort; that just hasn’t happened yet. So our books hide in the search pages on Amazon and we authors wait with bated breath.
Also, there are less agents and bigger publishers willing to take a chance on a new voice (especially one daring to do something truly innovative). The agents take a risk with each new author they sign, and publishing houses are based on business models. In other words, you need to prove almost that your work is sellable and will not be a loss for them. I think that, right there, is one of the reasons so many complain about how so many books feel the same on the market. It’s like how Apple creates an iPad and suddenly every company wants to make a tablet.
Honestly, tablets are pretty cool, but you get where I’m going.
From time to time I will answer a question from a new writer (when I’m speaking at a writing event or at a college), seeking advice for how they can succeed in their own writing dream. While a part of me wants to tell them it is all about luck (like winning the lottery or, as in the world of publishing, being Anne Rice’s or Stephen King’s kids), that is not always entirely true.
The fact is that in today’s writing world, I have found that if you want to be an author, you need to focus on your own career first. What I mean is, you need to convince an agent or publisher that you are even worthy of their time to review even a snippet of a manuscript. Yes, you need something beyond the fiction to back up the query letter.
What has worked for me, and what I would recommend to other writers hoping to find a readership is… start a blog.
A blog is great practice (you want to see if you have the chops to be a writer, keep an active blog for a year and get back to me) and a blog will give you actual data that you can use to find that agent or publisher. I started my blog (The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard at sdsouthard.com) over two years ago and it has really turned things around for me as an author.
That is not to say this is easy, you need to generate a lot of posts and they have to be more than just on one thing. You need to have a voice so that the people following you feel that they know you. I’m not saying you have to share every aspect of your life, but you need to share enough so people feel they are along with you on a journey.
For some that might sound scary, exposing yourself like that (and aren’t many of us introverts, really?), but for me I still find it empowering. And because of that blog, I have had my social media accounts skyrocket. For example, I have over 35,000 twitter followers. Sure, some of those found me simply because I am a writer, but many went on to find my website and then my own writing. I have the data.
And how about this- my twitter and blog introduced me to the publisher of my novel A Jane Austen Daydream and to the publisher of my new novel Permanent Spring Showers. Neither of those books today would be on the market without my blog.
There are few guarantees about anything in the writing world, but a blog is… a piece of awesomeness.
If my own kids were to come up to me and say they want to be an author, I’m not sure what I would say exactly.
I’d probably have a heart to heart about how difficult the field is, but I think a person should follow their passion. Life is short, why spend it doing something you don’t want to? And for as much as I have had highs and lows, I’ve always followed my heart on this and it is really hard for me to look back at my life as a missed opportunity. They are all part of the path I’ve chosen.
Yeah, I would say I’m living the life of an author, it is just different than what it traditionally has been viewed as. And I still have hope that my career will continue to grow, and hope is a powerful thing. Emily Dickinson said hope is the thing with feathers. The trick really is sometimes learning to recognize the feathers. I recognize my blog as one of them.
Professor Rebecca Stanley-Wilson is having a very bad season. The ramifications of one torrid evening with one of the great upcoming painters of his generation, will not only be felt across her life but over the entire art world. Sexy, funny, and very surprising, Permanent Spring Showers is the tale of one very memorable springtime and how it impacts a group of unique artists and dreamers. From the the hopeful Olympian with the failing marriage to the writer who is creating a new literary movement (through outright manipulation) to the romantic wondering what he did wrong to drive away the love of his life, each tale walks the line between reality and fantasy. And waiting at the end of the line is a very important painting… and possibly the revolver used in the Lincoln Assassination.
Enjoy an excerpt:
“What are you thinking? She’s an escort!”
“I’m in love, Steve. After sitting through the first twenty minutes of this lunch, it’s obvious you certainly still remember what that feeling is like.” He pushed his plate forward.
“But Clark…” I began.
He interrupted, “And it’s not like she wants to do that her entire life, Steve, if that is what is troubling you. She is doing it to pay for college.”
I stopped, the car of my mind shifting gears again. “Wait, did you say ‘is’? Do you mean she is still doing it?”
“Well, times are tough all over,” Clark replied far too calmly for my taste. “Have you seen college tuition rates this year?”
“And she’s really in college?” I asked, shocked. I began to wonder if I was on one of those TV shows and a camera was hidden in a bush nearby me.
My shock was perfectly mirrored by the opposite reflection of the casualness of my brother.
“You didn’t think I would marry an idiot did you, Steve? I need to be mentally challenged, you know that. She is studying education; her dream’s to teach third graders.”
“You’re engaged to a hooker…”
“Escort,” he corrected quickly for a third time.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sarcastically. “You are engaged to an active escort who wants to be an elementary school teacher?”
“Yes,” Clark said with a dramatic point across the table at me. “And Steve, this is where you come in. You need to help me introduce her to mom and dad.”
Scott D. Southard is the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors, Megan, 3 Days in Rome and Me Stuff in addition to his latest release, Permanent Spring Showers. His eclectic writing has also found its way into radio, as Scott was the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” where he writes on topics ranging from writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. His blog can be found at http://sdsouthard.com. Scott is also the fiction book reviewer for WKAR’s daily radio show Current State.