I’ve been getting kind of into #Twitter #hashtag author games lately. I genuinely like reading the sort of varied concepts, quotes, characters, etc. my fellow writers are cooking up based on the theme prompts. I also get a little thrill when I see consistent appreciation from people who know how it feels to be a frustrated writer.
I’ve noticed some trends amongst us. Few authors make a living only from their writing. Unless you are Stephen King or J.K. Rowling most of my mutual follower Twitter buddies seem to have day jobs or kids or a combination. Stephen and J.K. don’t follow me of course but I dig their tweets so I keep them on my feed.
All of us, whether doing the indie writing thing or pursing traditional publishing REALLY want our stories to be read by a wider audience.
Since November, I’ve entered the cycle of querying for my paranormal romance novel, In Love With the Past. I’ve researched (okay, stalked) agents, I’ve joined Publisher’s Lunch and paid attention to what is popular, etc. I’ve sent the first thirty pages or three chapters or whatever of my manuscript to around twelve different people.
I participated in #PitMad, which is a twitter hashtag game with a difference. Basically you pitch your completed, finished project in a tweet with the required relevant hashtags, etc. The difference here is, that ONLY publishing industry professionals can like your tweet. If they do, it’s an invitation to query with them.
I got no likes.
I have had four polite rejections from my querying efforts.
I know I know…I can hear the voices of my fellow writers and published authors.
“You have to get at least 100 or 1000 rejections before you think about changing something”
“You MUST have thick skin for this gig”
“People are going to tell you that you suck. You are going to be invisible. But don’t you ever, dare stop.”
That is all true.
Now, aside from my genuine theory that frankly the intro section of my manuscript isn’t enticing or gripping enough and the paranormal romance market is utterly saturated, I have another theory as to why my manuscript likely won’t grab any big New York or London agent.
First, let me give you my pitch:
Amber begins seeing the spirits of an old couple who built the original homestead she has restored in North Dakota. Martin, a builder from Chicago comes to the region for business and seeking escape from the memories of his parent’s troubled post-WWII European childhoods. When Martin comes to Amber’s house for a job, they discover a shared background and that a lost love between his great grandfather and her great grandmother was interrupted by emigration and class snobbery in 1909.
That’s how the pitch starts. There’s an alternating time line, and a European setting, as well as the North Dakota one, dealing with a lesser known “ethnic German” group who lived in Eastern Europe.
Okay, now bear with me, please hear me out because unless you know me and where I stand on most issues you might get worried right now.
My story basically involves a bunch of white people. Not only that, but there are points of view of white people who were not from Britain and America during WWI and WWII…possibly of awkward when you write in English and want an Anglo/American audience. What happened to ethnic Germans living in Eastern Europe after WWII (bearing in mind that some, not all, of these people were active, enthusiastic Nazis) isn’t commonly taught or discussed in American/British history classes. BUT you know who does talk about it?
Apart from descendants of those communities like myself?
People who want to say that the actual Holocaust wasn’t what people thought it was but that the disenfranchisement of ethnic German communities was the real, “Holocaust”. Really. I found a website of some neo Nazi crack pot trying to say that. Dick.
My genuine point of view is this: Comparing the genocide and horror of the Holocaust with the disenfranchisement (and yes, there were war crimes, mass starvation, rape, etc.) of ethnic Germans living in Eastern Europe after the second world war is frankly, ignorant and unhelpful. But looking at both events is important. The latter would not have happened without the former, but both instances should be studied and heard. Not, however in the context of one competing with the other.
Because if we don’t explore these events, people who occupy a small minded, agenda driven place will take such events and use them to stir up outrage and polarization.
We really need more of that, don’t we?
The only outrage should be that such inhumane horrors took place (and still take place) in our world at all. But OF COURSE we need to recall that such horrors happen, the when and the tragic sorrowful why.
I could go to the wicked place and sound like a conservative or far right person who says, “Oh, see? Everything has to be about minorities now. Nobody cares about Christian white people anymore…we’ll be the minorities soon…it’s reverse discrimination bla bla bla.”
I literally have no time for this argument. It’s rubbish. Christian white people are not being persecuted.
My manuscript might not be standing out with ambitious, big name agents because it doesn’t involve particularly diverse characters and it touches (briefly) on a point in history the general American and British populace might be squeamish about: Specifically that while Allied folks in London and New York were celebrating the end of the war and victory over all evil, large amounts of innocent (yes, innocent because not all ethnic Germans believed or participated in Nazi ideology, particularly young children and the elderly), were being forced out of their homes and into labor or starvation camps in places like former Yugoslavia.
The WWII bits are not really what the story revolves around, but they did have an inevitable effect on my character’s lives. Because war messes with people, it ruins lives.
For stories more plot driven and closely revolving around the first two world wars, I would look to author, Christoph Fischer who actually wrote some wonderful stories revolving around Jewish-Germans, ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe, Polish slave workers, etc. taking place in Europe during the first and second world war. Luck of the Weissensteiners and Sebastian, I would highly recommend. His stories are more revolving around those identities and how the wars affect everyone. There is some romance but it isn’t the main aspect.
His stories are really more of a, “Look how war fucks with peoples lives, whatever side you happen to live on.”
And obviously, whatever side you live on, people who sincerely and fervently embrace Nazi ideology are assholes.
My story is really a ghost story and a romance. Martin and Amber fall in love. Martin and Amber have issues in their lives but they are not assholes.
Then again, I don’t get into the pipeline controversy in North Dakota. Between you and me, Martin and Amber would not be into a pipeline going through sacred Native American lands. At one point, Martin is helping put up some outdoor structures on a community farm project run by Native American folks.
Because Martin is awesome and worth falling in love with. But the story isn’t revolving around that controversy or the historically tragic treatment of America’s original inhabitants.
Now…I COULD find some right wing Christian/Conservative type agent or publisher (they no doubt exist) and portray my story as a really lovely clean romance involving white Catholic Americans who are horrified by their shady Eastern European/German potentially Nazi history.
But my romance doesn’t have an agenda. It just tells a story. And I am definitely NOT right wing or politically conservative. I’m also not “far left”. I am not THAT easily offended but I do roll my eyes a lot. I’ll admit, this isn’t an explicit or “steamy” romance but Martin and Amber do really want each other. They think about it…a lot.
Even I’m bored with the notion of “clean” romance.
Lately, with so many Christian white folks trying to use ‘civil rights’ language to perpetuate some notion that white people are the new oppressed people or whatever, I feel incredibly disturbed.
Someone should write a powerful story about the protests over the pipeline in North Dakota and the karma that might be creeping up behind the ruthless corporations as pay back for violating with sacred, spiritual property and endangering water sources.
Someone should write more in depth about how Nazi propaganda did reach German communities in Eastern Europe and how some were pulled into the German army and committed crimes against humanity. They appealed purely to their ethnicity, encouraged them to have a sense of superiority over their Serbian or Romanian neighbors. Danube Swabians in the nineteen forties had no physical connections to Germany, yet suddenly were told to have a sense of loyalty to the Fatherland. That’s messed up.
Someone should write more about how the perpetrators of such wickedness generally made their way to South America when Hitler was losing and left the poor buggers they’d bullied into joining the Nazi party to fend for themselves when the victorious Red Army rolled in. How they’d left their women and children and elderly open to labeling as murdering Fascists by vengeful communist Partisans. How people who commit true evil…often get away with it. Hitler certainly got off light in my opinion.
Dictators suck, the worst that happens to them is often a fairly quick death. Or they get pressured into finally leaving office as old, delusional men. Boohoo.
Someone could write a love story between a Communist Partisan and a widow of a fallen German soldier who had been told at gun point to fight for the Fatherland. A fate from which he obviously never returned. Maybe the communist partisan showed mercy and love when his colleagues encouraged him to punish any “Fascist scum” with violent vengeance.
Someone could write a story about a love between a US soldier told to stop the protests in North Dakota and a Native American. How love makes people see things more clearly. Maybe he spotted a crack in the pipe and felt shitty about the rubber bullets they’d been encouraged to use.
I’ve written a story involving ghosts, history, art and love.
Maybe the beginning (which is the bit that agents request) needs tightening so that an agent more open to folksy rural love stories could be more tempted. That’s…likely it.
Maybe it is just not dealing with trending issues involving more diverse characters that makes the agents go “nah”.
I am honestly okay with that, and I won’t stop querying.
I’m okay for this story to remain unpublished, if getting it out to a wider audience meant accepting the support of anyone other than a truly moral agent.
Because I’ve got other stories.
I’m still learning.
I’m not a one dimensional writer.
I’m also not a political agenda driven asshole.