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So You Want a Book Deal, Do You? - Good Luck

by Michael J. Ganas
Author of 'The Girl Who Rode Dolphins'

I've always suspected that I would someday write a novel, and somewhere deep inside me I could always sense it wanting to come oozing out.  But the thing that finally compelled me to actually write it was the way my wife, Harriet, was able to cope with her illness.  Harriet is tough as nails and for the last seventeen years, she's been battling CML - chronic myeloid leukemia - and so far she's put up one hell of a valiant fight, absolutely refusing to yield to what most doctors would describe as a devastating, life-threatening malady.  Thus she made up her mind long ago to live out a normal existence, avoiding hospitals completely and refraining from seeing doctors as much as possible.  Consequently, it was her grit and determination that inspired me to take pen to paper and flesh out an adventure imbued with these admirable qualities of the spirit.  In its basic subliminal form I wanted to honor her with something unique, essentially a literary work that came from the deepest part of me, something only I could give her, but something which would reflect her iron will and indomitable strength.  This is initially mirrored in the book's opening scene where we find a woman adrift and marooned in a thunderous, tumultuous sea.  She is alone and clinging to a piece of flotsam, and the reader finds the woman to be pregnant.  By all rights, she should accept her fate and succumb to the elements, but she continues to fight on in the face of overwhelming odds, clinging to life and refusing to quit until she has nothing left within her to resist the battering forces of a sea gone mad.  Later in the book we learn the woman survives with the help of a dolphin and that her name is Harriet Grahm.  And although she has no recollection of her former life, she ends up taking on a new identity, becoming Amphitrite, one of the cornerstone characters of the story.  During her ordeal at sea, something incredible has happened to Amphitrite, and her failure to remember her past has somehow given her the power to glimpse the future.  Henceforth she becomes an arrant believer in this power and what the future holds, convinced her visions are real, and it is this ability that spills over and infects the reader to make the story palpable and real.
 
Writing the novel was a labor of love that took four years to complete.  In creating it, I had to constantly challenge myself to come up with new ideas, not always knowing where the story was was headed since some of the characters within the developing plot started taking on a life of their own.  I only knew I wanted to take the reader on a journey to high adventure, an escape from the often mundane routines of everyday life most of us encounter, and in adhering to this I kept imagining what I'd like to see on the big screen if the novel was ever made into a blockbuster movie.

The Girl Who Rode Dolphins is a fast-paced and explosive action-adventure that is epic in scope, making use of a loaded plot and holding back an array of mysteries and unanswered questions until the last 150 pages where everything comes together in a fantastical, high-suspense thriller. Within the adventure there are 22 action scenes that will keep the reader thoroughly enraptured, and at times electrified according to those who have read it.  Fitting the novel into a specific fictional category can be subjective since the story falls within the boundaries of several genres.  The fact that it brims with action-adventure on an epic scale cannot be denied, and although it can also be argued that it has the makings of a mystery/thriller, it can just as well fit two other genres.  The storyline is spiced with healthy doses of fantasy, science fiction and philosophic viewpoints that tie right into a modern world and some of its most pressing issues: Islamic terrorism, global warming, and mankind's greatest vice, that of greed. And inasmuch as Haiti's past leadership and historical events, both past and present, were used as a backdrop for the writing of this novel, history was merged with fiction in such a way as to make the epic believable.  The story is further enriched by a diverse cast of personalities, some exceedingly virtuous, some sickeningly evil, and others in between, a few of whom are ultimately forced toward epiphany and a re-examination of their self-identity. Finally, the reader is led to wonder if the characters themselves are somehow being manipulated by a force far greater than themselves with the introduction of James Lovelock's controversial Gaia Hypothesis, an idea that the entire earth is alive and acts as a complete organism, possessing various self-regulating mechanisms for its survival.
 
Even before the novel was completed, I kept reaching out to the mainstream publishing houses, optimistically shopping the book around in the hope of securing a book deal.  Reality quickly caught up with me, however, and I soon learned the true nature of the publishing industry, discovering it to be a maze of obstacles and entrance barriers, all seemingly designed to impede the aspirations of budding new authors like myself.  Generally speaking, mainstream publishers make it a policy not to review unsolicited submissions, relying instead on an army of literary agents to do the screening for them, and it is these agents who initially determine the fate of an author's work, sometimes deeming a manuscript a potential candidate for publication, but far more often than not rejecting it as unsuitable.  At the risk of speaking out and possibly alienating, or even worse, excommunicating myself forever from the graces of the ever so vast and elite ranks of the literary agent, I found the people within this domain to be essentially clones of one another, stubbornly clinging to outmoded tenets and resistant to change, and as time went on it became increasingly apparent my material was not even being read each time I queried one of these toploftical dogmatists.  Coping with rejection is not in my nature, and I have to confess this was a rather embittering experience for me because deep down I knew my work was good and I was not going to accept the opinion of some supercilious, pseudo-intellectual say-so who is convinced he or she knows what's best for public consumption.  I could use a barrage of other descriptive words, some even profane, but I'll refrain from doing so as I'm sure there are enough wanna-bes just like me who share this view and have their own choice words to cover whatever I left out.  But to put it more succinctly, I never seem to be amazed anymore with the myopia exhibited by the logjam of literary agents that exists these days, and I've amassed a preponderance of evidence to conclude that this cadre of pontificating and misguided misfits wouldn't know a good thing under most circumstances, particularly when one considers their rigid, out of touch mindset to a rapidly evolving industry.  Cases in point: Harry Potter (rejected 11 times before being published through unconventional means - I hear a publishing editor struck up a conversation with the author in a coffee shop and the rest is history); The Shack (rejected 20 times before the frustrated author decided to self-publish, with the result of over 4 million copies being sold using podcasts to promote his book); John Grisham (rejected a gazillion times before he went ahead and self-published his first novel, The Firm).
 
Approximately 16 months prior to my novel going live, I ignorantly and naively sent my developing manuscript to a woman editor at a prominent New York City publisher.  Through an acquaintance who knew this woman, she was willing to take a look at my work, bypassing the normal protocol of a literary agent pre-screen.  Amazingly, her response concerning 1000 pages of double-spaced manuscript at font 12 came back one week later, a portion of which read as follows:
 
"I am writing to you to let you know that we are passing on your manuscript.  Your story falls between two disconnected genres;literary and action adventure which makes it a hard sell."  After some additional blah,blah,blah, she went on to say, "I also feel you should try and get a literary agent to also help you form a book that appeals to a larger segment of the reading public."
 
Truly taken back and disgruntled about the "disconnected genre" comment, this was my emailed and sour-grapes reply (grrrr):
 
"Dear Rejectionator, I'm rather ignorant about the meaning and consequences of producing a work that falls between two genres - let's call it disconnectedgenreism - wow! that's one tongue-twisting word!  I only know that when I go into a book store, the title of a book is what often attracts, as it does most people.  I am basically an unsophisticated simpleton, somewhat lacking in the way of intellectual pursuits and much more top-heavy on brawn.  Neanderthal-types like me are automatically attracted to books rich in action-adventure, and believe me, there's oodles of people just like me who look to gobble up a tale designed to awe the senses and take us on a journey far from our everyday lives.  The Girl Who Rode Dolphins has been purposely designed to satisfy this basic market.  How you can deem it as falling somewhere between a literary work and action-adventure tale is beyond me, but then again you are probably one of those people who thought the movies "Sideways", "Fried Green Tomatos", "The Bridges of Madison County", and "The Good Shephard" were all exciting (ZZZZzzzzzzz, sounds of snoring).  Success stories especially inspire me, like that of John Grisham when he wrote "The Firm."   From what I gather, Mr. Grisham had enough rejection letters to wallpaper his home.  However, his belief in his manuscript was strong enough to carry it into the realm of best-sellers and box-office movie hits, leaving all those know-it-all rejectionists scratching their heads in dismay."
 
The genre thing grated on me, and I continued to brood over it like a puppy that had just been scolded for tracking mud through the kitchen.  Such narrow thinking appalled me!  The very idea sounded absurd!  What zaniness!  Was she kidding?  Because my novel failed to fit snugly into a single genre, this editor was telling me it would be hard to sell.  The Rejectionator, however, did bring my awareness about the inane workings and restricted mindset of the mainstream publishing industry to a new level, and I began actively seeking an alliance with a reputable literary agent. 
 
Two of the most typical but dreaded words coming from a literary agency are "regretfully" and "unfortunately," and I'm sure many aspiring writers out there have heard this one many times before:  "Unfortunately due to the large volume of submissions we receive, we regretfully advise that you submit your material elsewhere."

Here's another common reply:  "Thank you for your recent query.  Unfortunately, we do not feel your project is right for us, but we wish you the best of luck elsewhere."

Or how about this one:  "I'm sorry I don't have better news, but I can't offer you representation, although The Girl Who Rode Dolphins has an interesting premise."

Here's an obnoxious, snooty one:  "As to your material, I am afraid I must pass. I represent a very full list of fiction writers, and must be highly selective in adding to it. I realize that it is difficult to judge your potential from a query alone; nevertheless, please know that we give serious attention to every letter, outline and writing sample that we receive.  I regret I have to pass on many interesting projects due to time constraints.  I urge you to query widely of course! Unfortunately, after giving this a read, I've found that it isn't quite right for my list. I must therefore step aside and encourage you to submit elsewhere."

Or how about this irksome one:  "I have now had the opportunity to review your query, and unfortunately am not sufficiently enthusiastic about your synopsis to request further material." 

This last reply came from a trainee apparently being indoctrinated by a prestigious international literary agency.  Ughh!  Can you believe it, a wet behind the ears, brainwashed trainee?!  That was the final insult, a rather painful kick to the groin, so to speak.  Oh, well...sigh.  They say that everyone eventually rises to a level of incompetence, and I found this to be especially true with literary agents.  "Ah, but don't fret, my good man, there is still hope," I whispered inwardly, reminding myself of a few bright spots.  To date, The Girl Who Rode Dolphins has won seven (7) literary awards:
 
             2010 Winner of International Book Awards for Environmental / Green Fiction Category
             2009 Winner of Green Book Festival Science Fiction Genre
             2009 Indie Book Excellence Awards Finalist for Action-Adventure
             2008 Winner of BooksandAuthors.net for Best Epic Adventure and Best Science Fiction
                     Epic Adventure (2 awards in this contest)

Most recently, it was the winner of the Talking Category of the 2015 Animals, Animals, Animals Book Festival, and was an Honorable Mention Awardee in the Science Fiction Category of the 2015 London Book Festival.
 
Obviously the judges of these book contests saw something in my creativity that the aforementioned agents were unable to grasp.  Blinded by their own shortsightedness and bias, these agents failed to see the forest for the trees.
 
With the sobering and futile experience of having dealt with literary agents now under my belt, I decided I would not delay getting my completed work into print any longer, and so I self-published my manuscript. And while I would still welcome a book deal, this wanna-be writer is now free to get his creativity out there without any restraints, fully immunized and independent of all the nonsensical obstacles mainstream publishers and literary agents have laid in my path.  A budding writer should always be aware that this oligopoly of publishing powerbrokers has an objective, and that is to limit the amount of books being sold in the marketplace.  From a sales perspective, they don't want additional competition because the more books that are out there competing with their own translates into reduced revenues for themselves.  And this they surely don't like.
 
Here's my advice to all those budding fellow authors out there.  Writing is a purely creative endeavor, plain and simple.  With fiction this is even more so.  If you truly believe in your work but fail to spark the interest of a literary agent or publisher, then by all means self-publish.  Writing is every bit an art form as painting or sculpture.  Creativity should not be compromised to conform to the pontifications and agendas of biased mainstream powerbrokers in an industry stubbornly resistant to change.  Mired down in standards that no longer apply in a rapidly changing world, the fate of such people will eventually be sealed as the self-publishing houses leave them in the dust.  Remember this, Pablo Picasso suffered through a mountain of ridicule from shallow-minded art critics early in his career, and history now shows us how utterly stupid those critics were.
 
May the dolphins be with you.

Author's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaeljganas
'The Girl Who Rode Dolphins' Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3PEPcR2rms

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