For a Friend

If you can lift someone’s spirits, you can lift mountains out of the earth.

A friend’s response to But it’s a Lovely Tree caught me by surprise. He wrote

I don’t think that anyone works harder & more consistently than you do, good sir. I hope that you and your wife are both happy, healthy, and doing well. I have been out of the writing scene for some time now after a series of disheartening events. I wish that it had all turned out differently. In any case, I hope that you enjoy an adventurous weekend doing whatever you’d like

Considering the tone of the post and the tone of the response, I was concerned.

The meaning of the message is the response it elicits.

“The meaning of the message is the response it elicits” is a truism from the psychotherapeutic world. In all things, this aphorism applies because it considers the world of the person receiving the message more than the person sending the message, and if you want to be understood, you have to be aware of how the person receiving your message interprets it.

A close second truism is “The first message must be instructions on how to build a receiver.” People reading or hearing this for the first time often make a “confusion of levels” error. Take it alongside the first and it’s easy to figure out (let me know if you need a hint. took me a while and once I got it, it locked in).

In any case, I have enough training to know that response signaled someone in distress, so I reached out.

No response.

Concerned, I reached out again.

No response.

My concern increased. No response from someone in distress is a danger signal so I reached out again and this time I got a response, and I promised my friend I’d get back to him.

(My friend’s response to me is in normal type. My response to my friend is in italics)

I haven’t written any new material in probably close to 3 years. Being published through TFP left a worse than bad taste in my mouth that I still can’t get over. I worked incredibly hard to get published, but once the nonexistent royalty checks started rolling in, it gave me pause.

No idea who TFP is or was and I understand. Your story is not unique in the modern publishing world, and it is unique to you. I’m sorry this happened to you and glad you learned it now with a publisher that doesn’t matter.

I’ve gone through five publishers before finding my current one and each of the five failed in multiple ways.

I also know knowing someone else has a broken arm doesn’t help much when you’re humerus is poking through your skin.

I was doing all the legwork promoting & trying to get people to buy my book, but they were not paying me accordingly.

Sorry to say I’ve heard this from more people than not.

Even when my book launched & everyone was buying it, the highest check I saw was about $75, & it was only downhill from there. Eventually, I wasn’t getting any royalties at all.

Again, sorry to say I’ve heard this from more people than not.

Honestly, the fact that my book ended up failing wasn’t the publishers fault, but the fact that they never paid me for what I was owed was.

Books fail for any number of reasons. Some are the author’s, some are the publisher’s. The real problem (to me) is when the publisher doesn’t live up to their words and their contract. FWIW, one publisher I went with didn’t follow through on their contract and I lost out on lots of royalties. I asked my attorney if what they did was actionable. Well, it was but pursuing it would probably end up costing me as much as I’d make, hence wasn’t worth persuing.

In your case, a publisher not paying owed royalties is something I’d post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Substack, … Personally, I’d nail those f?ckers to the wall. Not paying what is owed is a statement about them and their attitude towards you.

Remember, their act isn’t a slight to you, it’s a statement about them. Please don’t let an idiot take your success away. You wrote a book! Respect and honor that even if they don’t.

I could just no longer see the value in it. I spent upward of 5 years of my life carving and crafting that novel to make it perfect & nobody cared.

Incorrect. You cared. You cared enough to spend five years of your life working on it. What happened is a question of audience, marketing, and the publisher’s failure to act, not you or the quality of your work.

If writing is in your blood, is what puts life in your limbs and powers your heart, if writing is the air you breathe, then WRITE! Write because not writing is dying.

Anybody who’s creative, regardless of the direction their creativity flows, creates for themselves first, others second (a firm belief of mine). Marketing comes in when the creative wants to share their creation with others.

Find the correct “others” and then find the best “others” from the correct ones. Experience tells me this takes time. Great! Excellent! It took you five years to get your story down on paper. Who knows how long your nonconscious mind was piecing it together?

So for dear god’s sake, HONOR YOUR CREATIVENESS!. Long before I got my fiction published I took part in a meeting (not involved in writing), and mentioned I was working on what would become The Augmented Man.

If you don’t share your stories, they’ll be lost forever.

When the meeting was over, one woman came up to me and told me “You have to share your stories. If you don’t, they’ll be lost for ever and that will be a crime against yourself, against others, and against the Universe.”

I’ll put it to you, my brother and friend, are your stories so minor, so meaningless, so meager that they don’t deserve to be put out there? If not via an honorable publisher, then through a blog, serialized on Facebook, LinkedIn, Substack, Medium, …?

I have too much respect for you to believe your work should be hidden. Especially if hiding it is killing your soul.

I guess I’m just hurt about it all, and haven’t discussed any of it with anybody other than my wife & now you.

I’m honored to be in such worthy company.

I did mention the pay issue to Jonesy, but she never addressed it.

Don’t know who Jonesy is.

Now the publisher is out of business, my novel is no longer in publication, and I didn’t even receive a proper notice of what was happening. I figured it out myself that the company went belly up when I was trying to show people my book online.

Sadly, this happens more often than you’d think.

I suppose you can’t stay in business very long when you’re not compensating the people you employ.

Strangely, taking people’s good effort and giving nothing in return is a regular occurrence in many startups.

I was supposed to be getting paid 30% of the cost of the book, but then I’d sell 5 or 6 copies & get a royalty check for $1.70. It didn’t make sense to me & it finally just crushed my spirits.

I appreciate your spirits being crushed. And I’m curious; are your dreams so meaningless you’ll let them remain crushed?

Since it all went down, nobody has reached out to me personally to tell me anything, but I also have not tried. I built many friendships over the years & I was a member of a good community of authors. I feel saddened that it’s all gone now & that I’ve lost my heart for it.

I, too, am saddened. So a question for you: Is your heart worth finding?

I have a lot of respect for you because you’ve been such a consistent hard worker in your craft.

Oddly, consistent, hard work is the only way I know how to accomplish anything.

When we had our last company, the US Patent&Trade Office fought us regarding our original patent. They wouldn’t grant us that first patent because “If we grant you this patent, you will own the field” to which our IP attorney said, “Isn’t that what patents are for?”

It was quite the long haul. One of the junior lawyers quoted Calvin Coolidge when telling others about me:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge

Flattering that, and I put it against something I said to a dorm brother when he told me “You are steadfast, and steadfastness is a quality of the Lord.”

I replied

A person’s steadfastness depends on social distance. I’m steadfast, you’re stubborn, he’s too stupid to know any better.

Put more succinctly, don’t give up your goal, change your path to your goal. That publisher didn’t work out. And you still completed a novel and got it out there!

You are running laps while 99.999% of the people are still on the couch!

I just wanted to say that you are an inspiration. I intend on publishing again one of these days, & I will self-publish when I do.

At some point I’ll tell you about Northern Lights Publishing, the little company that not only could, it did! In short, you don’t have to self-publish, you do have to perform due-diligence when selecting a publisher. There are more sharks out there than anything else, so caveat emptor.

I appreciate it, my friend. My wife has offered encouraging words, but it just never seems to be enough to make me sit back down at the computer again. I really was writing because I loved it. I didn’t care if I ever became rich or famous from it, but getting financially screwed is a whole different thing.

Give yourself time to heal.

And while you’re healing, work at your craft.

Just a suggestion.

I know I’m going to get wounded. I can either focus on the wounds and watch my blood flow out or I can do what is necessary to heal those wounds.

When it comes to healing wounds, everybody’s different. Find what heals you and let healing happen.

Imagine going to work at a day job that only pays once every 3 months. You go to work for 3 months & your company gives you $100 as compensation. Would you continue working there? Apparently, I did

Yeah, okay, and chalk that up to a learning experience, not a death sentence.

I made more money trading crypto & selling silver coins than I ever made from writing and publishing. I wish that wasn’t so.

Haven’t explored crypto or coins. Maybe I should?

I sent an email back to him with “It’s long, yes. I didn’t edit it before I sent it. Could be a blathering idiot, and so it goes.”

He replied, “You certainly didn’t sound like a blathering idiot. I appreciate the heartfelt response & the time you took to draft it. I have much to consider. You may have just saved me from squandering away my talent into the sands of time. Thank you!

If you can lift someone’s spirits, you can lift mountains out of the earth.