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I usually don’t like talking about the hardships of writing (or anything else, really) online because it feels like, with the inherently performative nature of social media, I’m only doing it to illicit pity and sympathy. And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re feeling down, sometimes misery does indeed like company, and it really can make you feel better to share your pain with other people. Unfortunately I’ve always been one of those suffer-in-silence types, in large part because I know my problems are miniscule compared to those of others.

There’s a line in the survival-drama movie The Edge in which Anthony Hopkins, who plays a billionaire mogul, tells Alec Baldwin: “Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane.” In my case, I would say, “Never feel sorry for a man with a Netflix deal.”

I’m writing this because I’ve had a lot of people — family, friends, and strangers — ask me about the Every House Is Haunted film coming soon from Netflix, as well as when the book itself will be reprinted. Production on the film begins in the not-too-distant future, that’s all I can say about that. The reprint of the book… well, that’s a bit more nebulous.

There are those who would think it would be easy to sell a book with a Netflix movie coming out, especially one produced by horror legend Sam Raimi. I know — I’m one of them. Unfortunately, it turns out this is not the case.

The difficulty of finding a home for EHIH has been more than a little mind-boggling to me. Not everyone has turned it down, my agent is still shopping it, but enough publishers have taken a pass that it has shaken my confidence, which, to be honest, has never been terribly strong in the first place.

I’ve never demanded, much less expected, anything from my efforts to make a career as a writer. I’ve worked hard for what I’ve achieved, and even then, I know I’m not owed anything for that work. My creativity and my passion live cheek-by-jowl with crushing doubt like a next-door neighbour constantly banging on the wall telling me “Give up! You’re not going to make it!” This is how most authors feel. Hell, this is how most PEOPLE feel.

I’m confident EHIH will find a home eventually, but the experience so far has made me take a good, hard look at my writing career — what I thought it would be in my naïve youth, and what I thought it would be in my (still naïve, frankly) adulthood.

I’ve had some great successes — I’ll say it again, “Never feel sorry for a man with a Netflix deal” — but I’ve also paid my dues and taken some pretty big hits. Wanna hear a good one? A few years back, I was VERY close to selling my first novel to a Big 5 publisher. The editor loved the book, spoke to me on the phone about a few changes she wanted, was impressed when I was able to come up with those fixes on the fly, and said an offer would be forthcoming. The offer never came and the editor proceeded to ghost me and my agent for the next several months until I finally realized the offer wasn’t coming. It would not be an exaggeration to say I was heartbroken.

I’ve always known that horror is a hard sell in publishing, especially when you’re dealing with the Big 5 publishers (or the Big 4 now, I guess). Horror collections are an even harder sell, and a reprint horror collection? Fuhgeddaboudit! Most horror books that aren’t written by the big names in the field are published in the smaller presses. But like most writers who start out headstrong and confident, I thought I would be the exception. That I’d be the guy who breaks through to rub shoulders with my idols on the best-sellers lists.

The funny thing is, I never really cared about the money or the fame. Still don’t, actually. I just wanted to write and see my work published. Fans are great, but it’s not really about that, either. Looking increasingly inward, as I’ve been doing the past few years, I’ve come to realize I just want to tell stories. That’s it. And if the only audience is my wife, my family, and a few friends with whom I decide to share them, then so be it. It has taken a long time — and I haven’t given up on publishing yet — to realize that my joy comes from the writing, not the publishing. Seems like that should’ve been obvious to me from the start, but I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box. Still, I’m catching on.

So for those who thought “The Netflix author thinks he’s really hot stuff!” I really don’t. Honestly. I feel like I wrote a good story, but the journey it took to Sam Raimi and Netflix is not based on any great skill on my part. It was luck and timing and good people (Ellen Datlow is one of them) who helped me out along the way. The lack of crossover success in publishing hasn’t knocked me off my high horse. I can assure you, I was never on that horse in the first place. But it has opened my eyes. Made me reassess my position in the publishing world and the role I want to play in it.

Like life, there are no guarantees in the creative arts. Even though I’ve been published in the past, and even though I’m fortunate to have a Netflix movie being made from one of my stories, there is no guarantee I will be published again in the future. And the strange part? I’m not bitter or angry about it. I was at first, but now I’m just a bit miffed. It’s like getting hit by a car and your first reaction isn’t “Where’s that jerk who hit me?!” It’s more like “What the HECK just happened?”

This is my very, VERY long way of saying that although there are no plans yet for Every House Is Haunted to be reprinted, I’m sure it will be, by someone, at some point, by the time the movie comes out. But will I be able to publish anything else? Like my “Blair Witch” meets “Jacob’s Ladder” supernatural thriller? Or the sf-comedy that I describe to people as “X-Files” meets “Arrested Development”? Or any of the books in the Black Lands series that I love so much?

The short answer is: I’m not sure. And that puts me in the same boat as any other writer (except the big ones, I suppose) who don’t know if they’ll ever be able to publish another book after their last one. Publishing is a tough business, even for the writers who make it look easy.

I apologize if this post comes across as downbeat. I can assure you, I’m not sad. I’m a little frustrated, but I think that comes with any hard realization in life, when you find out things aren’t the way you thought or hoped they would be. But some things do remain the same. Even though I can’t say for sure you’ll see any more books from me in the future, I still intend to write them. Right now that’s enough for me.

(I’ve turned off comments on this post. While I appreciate the sympathy and support from my family, friends, and fellow writers, this isn’t why I decided to write this. I’m not leaving social media, or even taking a hiatus — your regular dose of cat photos will not be interrupted, I promise! — I just want to bring people up to speed on what I’m doing and where I’m going. Thanks for reading and for caring.)


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Random Writing Quote

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success — but only if you persist."
Isaac Asimov

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