There have been a lot of famous writers who self-published their work; Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, and Stephen Crane just to name a few. Recently, Christopher Paolini self-published his first book, Eragon, the first of a trilogy. And do you remember James Redfield? He wrote a book called The Celestine Prophecy. These books generated millions of sales.
I think some of these writers self-published for the same reasons people go Indie today. They had something to say and they simply wanted their work to be recognized. They knew they had talent and something to offer.
I have spent hours and hours and hours writing query letters to literary agents. I usually got back a form letter, thanking me and wishing me the best of luck finding an agent, but telling me that my work wasn’t right for them. I kept all the letters. I still have them in a file cabinet.
Nonetheless, in spite of the hundreds of rejections, I persisted. I kept writing, and I kept getting better. With each new novel, I thought aha! Now, they can’t possibly reject me! But, of course, they did.
I remember thinking that my writing must not be good enough. I had written three novels, and I did a lot of soul searching. So over the years I went back and revised and rewrote all of them. One of my novels, Summer of the Beast, has been revised from beginning to end three times, a very lengthy process, and many pages were revised dozens of times, until I thought the story read well. Hot Planet, my first novel, originally self-published in paperback in 1994, was rewritten twice, and a few years ago I added about thirty thousand words beyond the first version. And I kept sending out more query letters, only to receive more form rejection letters.
Then, I kind of gave up. For two years I didn’t write. Instead, I concentrated on getting a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University. Funny thing, though. I breezed through the coursework. All of the professors required written assignments, in some cases lengthy written assignments, but by then writing was very easy for me. I had had a lot of practice.
And then one day, along came Jeff Bezos with a new vision: the eBook!
After I wrote The Horn, my fourth and latest novel, I didn’t even bother to send out query letters to agents. It was an eBook all the way-the literary agents were the furthest thing from my mind. How did this novel come about? I think a lot of it was psychological.
With my master’s degree in hand, I had a new confidence in myself. Hundreds of rejection letters from literary agents had beaten down my self-confidence, but taking graduate courses and winding up with a GPA of 3.9 made me realize that I wasn’t stupid. In fact, I was brimming with self confidence. I decided to write a fourth novel and I also decided I was going to give it my best. During my summer vacation two years ago, I wrote the book, sometimes sitting at my computer for ten hours a day. I was determined that this book would be successful. All those past rejections meant nothing!
But there is one more thing I should mention.
When I first self-published Hot Planet in paperback, I managed to get two independent book reviews from reputable reviewers. I was very fortunate, because those two reviews have kept me in the game all these years, in spite of the numerous rejections. Those two book reviews were an indication that I had talent and something to offer. I knew that I could tell a story.
As of today, I am done with literary agents, and even if a mainstream publisher came knocking at my door, I know what I would tell them. It’s too late. My mindset is that I am Independent now, and I intend to stay that way. This summer I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a collection of short stories, and then I’ll begin my fifth novel. For me, there’s no turning back.
Michael Burns lives and works in Arizona. He has a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University and teaches language arts at Tohono O’odham High School in a very remote part of Arizona. He lives in Rio Rico, Arizona with Christine, Bud, and Chewy. His interests include gardening, especially growing flowers and native plants.
He is a Vietnam veteran. He spent thirteen and a half months in the Central Highlands during 1969 and 1970 with the 4th Infantry Division and, for a brief time, with the 173rd Airborne Rangers on LZ English.
‘My best asset is my ability to think critically, and then to use that knowledge to be creative. There are certain truths I live by, and I think you’ll see that in my writing if you read my work. I write in different genres because it requires me to do research and learn new things I wouldn’t otherwise learn; so, I have an environmental disaster story, a horror story (my attempt to enthrone myself as the new King of horror), a naval war action story, and a Christian book, which just happens to be my favorite. My next book might be a science fiction story, though I’m not sure about that yet. I am currently studying the work of Joseph Campbell in the hope it will make me a better writer.
‘The one thing I don’t want to do is reach a comfortable plateau and find myself stuck there, like so many, writing in the same genre book after book. I want to keep challenging myself, keep learning, and to keep exploring.’
An elite U.S. Navy group of men and women sail on a luxury yacht on a top secret mission off the coast of the Horn of Africa, hunting Somali pirates. The female sailors have been selected because of their abilities, and also because of their physical beauty. Wearing bikinis while lounging on deck, their job is to lure the pirates in, making them think they are attacking a defenseless ship. Also aboard the yacht is a special SEAL team, operators who are even more elite than SEAL Team Six.
But some of the admirals are worried. Will the ship perform its mission, or will it become a love boat?
For the next three days, the Nemesis sailed on a southeasterly course, taking the ship farther and farther away from Somalia. The crew used that time to train with the weapons’ systems and everyone was able to get some much needed rest. Watches were established on the top deck, to provide a backup to the ship’s radar system. Truman had brought along several pairs of very powerful binoculars. He wanted someone to be on lookout at all times.
On the afternoon of the third day, Truman noticed that the SEALs were doing calisthenics on the stern deck. Truman had walked out onto the stern deck to catch some fresh air. The SEALs immediately caught his eye. It was hot, tropical hot, and the SEALs, stripped down to just shorts and tennis shoes, were sweating profusely, their muscles bulging. They were all doing one arm push-ups, first using their left arms, then switching to their right arms. Then, they switched back to their left arms and repeated the process. After several minutes, they began doing another form of push-up. They pushed their upper body forcefully upward, springing up just high enough so they could clap their hands in unison, falling back and catching themselves, waiting three seconds, then springing up again. Their physical prowess was impressive.
The SEALs had formed a pyramid, Shepard at the point, Owens and Wright behind him, then Grady, Randall, and Hunter. It was obvious to Truman that Shepard was a natural leader. His men followed his every move.
Truman heard some sounds coming from above and behind him. He turned and looked up and saw that the women were all on the top deck, watching the SEALs perform. He saw that they were making comments to one another, and he wondered what they might be saying.
He smiled up at them, gave them a wave, then went back inside and to the galley. He poured a cup of coffee and sat down. For the first time in a long time, he felt completely alert. The night before, he had managed to sleep uninterrupted for eight hours, and the night before that, he had slept for nearly ten hours. As he sat there drinking his coffee, he realized that the ship was ready. Everyone was ready.
He made his decision and went back to the bridge. Yeager was at the helm and Bowden was at his station.
‘Come about, Master Chief,’ Truman ordered. ‘We’re heading for Somalia.’
Yeager smiled and turned the wheel. Truman stood there next to Yeager, sipping his coffee and thinking. He turned on the ship’s intercom.
‘Now hear this,’ he said. ‘We are changing course and heading for the coast of Somalia. I would like to commend all of you for getting yourselves and the ship ready for combat. Enjoy the rest of the day. Starting tomorrow, we can expect action at any time. That is all.’
Truman turned to Yeager. ‘Check your navigation systems, Master Chief. Let’s head directly for the coast off Puntland. I’ll be in my quarters working on the deck log.’
‘Aye, sir,’ Yeager said. ‘Consider it done.’
Later that night, at dinner, Truman noticed that the galley was unusually quiet, that everyone seemed subdued. The crew knew that the Nemesis was sailing into action, that it would only be a matter of time before they went into combat.
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Very nice post. Thanks for sharing.
Great post Michael. I admire your perseverance and passion for writing.
I'm pleased you made it in the end and your talent has been realised. It's an example to all writers that we should never give up. At the same time we should always strive to be better.
Thank you David,
Please do me a big favor. Take a look at my selection of short stories when itâ€™s published this summer. Then we’ll see if my ‘talent has been realised.’
I checked out your website: The World According to Dave. I see that you live in the U.K. You might be interested to know that a cat named Sherlock is a featured character in my novel The First Miracle.
Hi Michael, I’m really getting into your books. The first was the one about the FBI agent who teamed up with the Indian woman to track a serial killer in southern Arizona. I’ve also finished the Horn and the Peninsula, and am now about one-third of the way through the Island. I really appreciate your insight into the world of weapons and special operations. And also that you’re based in Arizona. As a child, I spent time on the Dine’ reservation around Teec Nos Pas and Shiprock, so that whole setting really sets me on fire. My own protagonists include a Dine’ journalist who reminds me of al an old girlfriend.