Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Frank Zubek: his own perspective

Today, we are again joined by Frank Zubek.  Yesterday we read his interview, and today he is sharing with us his take on what it is to be a writer, and why we all keep plugging away.  But, get ready to hang on to those dreams, because he's not talking about the pleasant hours we while away perfecting our craft and entertaining the muse.  Prepare for Frank Zubek to hit you with some hard facts: the reality for many of what being a self published writer, novelist, peddler of stories, or any other name you want to give yourself really is.  Over to you Frank.
Hi Michelle, Thanks for the opportunity to speak about my work.

     And I’d like to say up front before we begin that I tend to be a-typical about this sort of thing. In other words, I want to point out a bit of the downside of the e-book business using my own experiences to date.

     First off, let me quickly tell my back-story.

      I have been creative most of my life including dabbling in cartooning but since that wasn’t really taking off the way I had figured I decided to focus on writing. I wrote a novella in 1999 that eventually got the attention of a New York agent though at the end of the day he wound up turning it down. But just knowing that I was good enough to attract his attention was enough to encourage me to keep at it.

      So since then I have been working on short stories. And I have had a degree of success since 1999.

     In 2006 I submitted some fan fiction for a website about the classic series, MASH.  It was an idea I had where a box of bullets, for some reason, gets delivered to the camp and Hawkeye actually signs for it and thinks up a way to get the bullets out of circulation.

(He dumps the box into one of the latrines!)

     Encouraged by that success, I managed to get a few stories published on a web page called Every Day Fiction- and got paid too!

     Over time, I collected up enough stories to make a collection called Guarding Andrew Gates and it sells for 99 cents. Despite my best efforts with tweeting and notifying people through my web page and blog, on a good month Gates sells maybe a few copies.

     So I kept working. I gathered up about seven new stories this year and submitted them to a variety of places that accept flash fiction. Despite my hopes and confidence, they all got rejected for one reason or another.

     But turning lemons into lemonade, I placed them all into a second collection. Now just seven stories- especially stories that are under 1,000 words each- isn’t quite enough for a book. So I took four of the best stories from the first collection and added them in there, which gave me around 45 pages.

     I called the collection, Almost A Dozen, because there’s just eleven stories in the book. Hopefully I’ll get better sales from this one since, in my opinion, I have learned from the first batch of stories and my work has improved since the last time.

      My stories are mostly about common people who face a variety of problems. Someone the average reader can relate to.

     I’m also working on a novel I am hoping to release by Halloween and it’s much different from the short stories. This one, called A Strange Life, is about a Cleveland cop who gets shot in the line of duty in a cemetery. After he recovers from the experience, he begins to encounter people with weird problems. There is a man out jogging who gets hit by a car so hard that his very soul gets thrown clear of the body! Then there is another incident where two guys are playing a childhood game ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and one of the guys aims his finger and actually ‘shoots’ his buddy! There is an actual smoking hole in the guy’s finger and by the time Crowell shows up, the hole has vanished, which means that there is no evidence that the guy killed his friend.

    And of course there is more in there as well but that’s the first novel of what I hope could be a series for this character

    And yet, where am I with all of this? About 24 dollars richer truthfully.
    That’s right.  Since 1999, in between working and sleeping and laundry and seeing an occasional movie, I took the time to think up and write over thirty stories. I managed to get seven of the thirty published and out of that seven, I got paid for two of the stories.

     And remember, we’re talking thirteen years!  So what do I have? (Aside from 24 bucks?)

     Experience.   Lessons learned.  The raw determination to keep trying.  A couple of friends that I met along the way (as well as a few more I have yet to meet)

    So while it hasn’t been a financially beneficial ride as yet, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

     And yet I DID get into this for the money

     Now while I have shared my stories and felt all the pride and wonder that that entails, I can’t pay the rent with actual sheets of paper from my printer.

      And so I keep at it

      I make the time every day to sit down and either work on current projects or plan new stuff. And if you love this craft then that’s what you need to do as well. If you have a spouse who understands this business and gives you the time to make a go of it then you are a lucky person.

     If not, maybe try to compromise for some time for yourself. Handle a few chores for them in exchange for a few hours at the keyboard. Whatever it is you need to do, do it.

     This business isn’t for everyone. Some get lucky and the rest struggle. The brass ring     can’t be grabbed by everybody and you should know that going in.

     Heck I am fully aware that even though I have a long way to go there are writers out there who are better than me who’ve yet to see their work in print or online. So in a way, I am fortunate that at least some of my work is online. Such is the nature of the beast.

     This isn’t even one of those things where ‘you get back from it what you put it into it’. No, writing and all its few rewards is a fickle beast.

     In fact, as a way to illustrate my point, I have come up with this example. Every  single week, hundreds and hundreds of hopeful writers get published. Either through e-book publishing or by way of official paper publishers. 

      Now take a moment to add all of that up for an average year’s total. We’re talking maybe 10,000 people.

     I think that if you took all of the most famous writers (the ones who make serious money and don’t have to work a ‘real job’) and had them all stand next to each other in Stephen King’s house, there’d probably still be a good deal of empty space available for others to stand. We’re talking maybe a hundred?

     Now, remember the grand total of all the other writers who were published in a year’s time? THAT’S how many writers are out there who, while they have books out there in the market, still have to have a day job to survive on while they wait for their big break.

      So why do so many keep trying? Because it IS possible to ‘make it’. Unfortunately, a big factor in the equation, the number of active readers who make the time to READ a book, keeps shrinking. This is something that ALL writers need to get involved with. The state of literature, despite the access to e-books, is still in trouble and we need to keep the flame alive because the more readers there are, the better the chances for all of us.

So good luck to you all. You’ll need it.


Frank Zubek



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