My coffee is lukewarm: the smell of tobacco and beer fall upon us like a familiar overcoat. The warm face sitting across from me has harsh disparaging eyes. He turns away; because he knows I know him all too well. The best of friends, even when he's being a troll. His beer goes down with a resounding thunk, so he can fold his beard with the thumb and forefingers of each hand: he points his head toward me. He says, "I know I said I didn't want to hear your lame ass justifications, but tell me again. The last time I wasn't listening."
I lean onto the table lowering my lids a bit and watch him just a moment longer. Still looking my way; that says something. It's probably safe to go on.
My hands splay out on the table palms down; I try to give the appearance of saying a small prayer, not for him to be enlightened, but for me to have patience. "Well, it starts back when I went to a blog where it was clearly explained that there are thousands of submissions every year for new books from new authors. There were a series of daunting hoops to go through just to be sure your i's are dotted and t's crossed. Those were not insurmountable. In fact they're instructive. With the insight offered, I could ensure that I'd not fall into some of the usual pratfalls of the average new author. And it isn't that I can't finish the work. It's finished. I have another on the way. And I have an infinite supply up here." One hand leaves the table for a quick gesture.
Shaking my head, it lists slowly as though it's over heavy, I wait and watch. There should be more comment from the peanut gallery any second. When only silence reigns I clear my throat. "None of that poses a problem. It's those blasted statistics. One in several thousand chances that an agent or publisher will spend more than a passing glance on my work: even when it's presented properly. It's like a slow death march. I'm sending out clones of my manuscript on one way trips with such a small chance that they will survive the purges. That alone would not be so bad, but it's not knowing what I'm sending them into. Rejection notes vary but the common theme is to just say keep trying. Not much in the line of battle reports to tell intelligence what we're up against. God, it would be at least something if they just said that they'd decided to burn the remaining 1000 manuscripts to make room for the next invasion. Seriously though; some constructive criticism would be nice. It would dispel any vision that there are a whole circle of agents and publishers with a large hat just pulling submissions until they reach the quota.
"This same blog-site had a link.
"It has statistics related to authors in print and their experience with getting published by major publishing houses. It was in part done to help highlight the importance of doing short stories to build your reputation and credibility as an author. It had statistics showing the difference between published authors who first did short stories and then published a novel as opposed to those who were fortunate enough to go straight to a first novel. It also included the success rate of both sides of that coin. Showing that building a reputation with short stories has a higher probability of delivering success in maintaining a consistent flow of novel work. This was all instructive in painting a clear picture of what needs to be done.
"Still, a daunting part, the submissions and rejections, remain to hang my manuscript over a fire.
"Then, light at the end of the tunnel. The author of this post painted this horrible picture of self publishing. For some reason he'd deemed it necessary to include statistics on the number of self publishers who might be noticed by an agent or publisher. His indication was that it was a sad 1 out of 256 chance. I looked at this and realize 1 out of 256 as opposed to 1 out of thousands. And, there was my solution to my dilemma."
My companion looks only slightly baffled. Eyebrows furrowed above thin slits behind the dark reflective spectacles. This is good; I expect he's forgotten previous rounds of discussions about my book. I say, "Remember, you indicated that you didn't want to read my book to review it. You wanted the hard evidence in your hand so you could browse page by page in one night the efforts of all my years. And, there it is, chance is more in my favor with self publishing. All I have to do is sacrifice my first born. And it's not really that much of a sacrifice, when I can place a copy in those fleshy maws of yours. To say nothing of the fact that it would cost the same or less than a custom made furry costume."
As is his characteristic response to such revelation he sits back in his chair and forms an O with his mouth. Then his eyes light and he smiles and chuckles, nearly sloshing the beer from his mug. His throat adds its own reverberation to his chortle. The wind comes up swiftly to whip the smoke up and away. The smell of beer washes away from us like the evening tide. I lift my eyes to watch the smoke become a part of the clouds. Then I force them to come back to the empty chair across from me.
Taking the book from my bag I set it on the table.
It's a shame you couldn't stick around long enough to see this. I can only hope that as I sit and read you will be reading over my shoulder. Farewell my friend and have a good rest.
Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias