by Jonathan Marcantoni, Guest Blogger
At the same time, my last book, a collaboration with Jean Blasiar called COMMUNION, was about as mainstream as they come. A WWII-based fantasy about a little girl who uses her gift of communicating with animals to find her father amidst the rubble of post-war France, COMMUNION is about as warm, inviting and enjoyable as a book can be. And it sold practically nothing. Not for lack of trying, we did everything we could think of, and still it didn’t sell.
Eight years. Eight years ago I sold a script and signed a contract with a production company and could officially call myself a professional writer. For eight years I have done every BS and scam job imaginable just to make pennies on the dollar, as well some very good, legit writing work that didn’t pay me at all, just to build up a resume. Things were looking up when I began working for an independent publisher, the same one who published both of my books. I have edited fourteen books in the last seven years and even got a Hollywood agent interested in a script I worked on with Jean, and yet, for all that resume padding and for all the things I could say I had accomplished, sitting at that table and being completely ignored and completely uncomfortable—I couldn’t feel like more of a loser. Eight years of work just to be an embarrassment.
Anybody who has been trying to make it as an artist, whether with theatre, painting, dance, or writing, knows this moment. You’ve put everything out there and returned with nothing to show for it. Whenever I am working with a new author as their editor, I always counsel them about how difficult emotionally releasing a book is. I always caution them that sales are not guaranteed, and that all this work may often feel like it has been in vain. But I also tell them that it is worth it, that you don’t write to make money, you write because you have to. It is an essential part of yourself, and this sales game is the worst part of it, but you gotta do it. You can’t quit. I usually get a head nod or some kind of dismissive response, as though they will be the exception and not the rule. And then the book comes out, and reality hits, and not one of them I have known has written a second book.
When I lived in Atlanta I had the chance to see Eddie Izzard, for those of you not acquainted with the cross dressing British comedian, he was huge in the early 2000s, do a DVD signing Tower Records in Buckhead, which for those of you who don’t know Atlanta, is an extremely upscale part of the city. Anyway, this massive store was packed to the gills and Mr. Izzard walks up on a make-shift stage and does a stand up bit prior to the signing. Toward the end of the act, he decided to do a Q&A with the audience and someone asked him what advice he would give up and coming entertainers. For the first time that night, Mr. Izzard stopped smiling. He looked that person straight in the eye and said, “Persistence. You have to be persistent”. He went on for another five minutes or so espousing on that idea, and I don’t remember the rest of it, but his answer has stayed with me for almost a decade now. Persistence. I tell myself all the time I have to be persistent, I have to push through. Now that a couple days have passed, the sting of that night has gone away and I am continuing on my quest to get my book sold, but that night I wanted to burn everything down around me, including myself, yet, in spite of my feelings I allowed the sales clerk at the store convince me to schedule another book signing. Maybe it was my memory of that night at Tower Records playing in my head that forced me to swallow my pride and schedule it, or maybe it was the fact that this signing was made with less than a week’s notice and I was woefully unprepared, so the practical side of my brain told me that it was, in fact, me who was the problem, and some good planning could yield a better result. Whatever it was, I was able to fight through the pain of yet another disappointment and move forward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Marcantoni is the author of TRAVELER’S REST (Aignos Publishing 2012). He is also Editor in Chief for Aignos Publishing, a new bi-lingual independent press specializing in experimental and innovative literature. Jon is the co-author of COMMUNION with author/playwrite Jean Blasiar, which was published in October 2011 from Savant Books and Publications. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife and three children, where he is currently working on his next novel.