Fellow Hobokeners, there is an excellent chance you have never heard of me.
When people think of writers, they tend to think in a pretty binary way—you’re either Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, selling books by the truckload and sleeping on a mattress stuffed with cash, or you’re a penniless striver carrying a battered old manuscript everywhere you go, shoving it into people’s hands and desperately asking if they know anybody in the publishing world who might look at it.
In reality, the author career is a spread. In-between the superstar authors and the failed writers are the rest of us, the mid-listers, the writers with some success but nothing crazy. In other words, me. I’ve published nine novels, dozens of short stories, and been in some hefty anthologies (including The Best American Mystery Stories). I’ve had my books optioned for film (though so far no films have actually been made) and television (ditto), and I’ve done panels at Comic Con and other big events.
In fact, the most remarkable thing about my writing career isn’t the number of published credits, or the fact that you’ve probably never heard of me. It’s the fact that an idiot such as myself could amass this kind of publishing track record despite knowing absolutely nothing about the business of publishing, promotion, or, you know, anything aside from writing. Which makes the fact that I’ve got a new book on the business and craft of writing, Writing Without Rules, being published by Writer’s Digest Books kind of amazing.
Writing Without Rules
That’s the general theme of Writing Without Rules, in fact: If a dummy like myself can get his novels published and make some money at this writing gig, anybody can. You don’t need a guru telling you the 5,000 rules of writing. You don’t need an army of lawyers. You don’t need much of anything aside from an ability to write interesting things in engaging ways and the ability to stand upright long enough to sign contracts.
The story of this book began two years ago, in 2016, when I took a meeting with my agent. We were in the middle of a contract with Pocket Star (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) for some novellas set in my Ustari Cycle series of urban fantasies, so it was time to strategize my next move. I’d been writing articles for Writer’s Digest magazine about writerly things—how to come up with ideas, mechanics stuff like dealing with too many characters or specific dialog problems—and my agent suggested I pitch their books division an idea. Here’s a 100% accurate transcript of the conversation that followed, quoted from Writing Without Rules:
AGENT: You should totally write a book about the craft of writing. Call it something like Unpublished, Drunk, and Pantsless is No Way to Go Through Life.
ME: Sounds like a lot of work. All those words, and I’d probably have to, you know, remember things and maybe Google something. Hard pass.
AGENT: Probably a little money in it.
ME: I do have debts because I invested all that money in Internet Memes. Slightly softer pass.
AGENT: No more refills unless you agree to think about it.
ME: How about Writing Without Rules?
AGENT: Good. Go home and work up a proposal.
As you can see, my relationship with my agent is marked by mutual respect and admiration.
Improbably enough, Writer’s Digest Books bought the proposal and will actually publish the book (it’s officially out on 5/18, but Amazon and other places are already shipping it). I decided to do a bit of a launch for the book, and what better place for a Hoboken author to do that than at our Little City Books? So that’ where I’ll be on Tuesday, May 22, at 7PM.
What can you expect from a Jeff Somers book event designed to seduce you into buying several copies of Writing Without Rules? Many things:
- A reading, by me, from the book. Possibly accompanied by drunken guitar strumming. Possibly culminating in partial nudity.
- Giveaways and prizes!
- Embarrassing intimate anecdotes told about me by my wife, who will cheerfully humiliate me at the drop of a hat.
- Dancing, possibly. Oh, who are we kidding: Dancing, definitely. But not the good kind of dancing you’re thinking of. The other kind.
I hope to see you there. Little City will have copies of Writing Without Rules on hand, of course, and if we don’t sell them all we’ll be slipping them into your bags when you’re not looking and then accusing you of trying to shoplift them. Which reminds me of my favorite Author Life anecdote: When I published my first novel, Lifers, in 2001, I did an appearance at a Barnes & Noble in New York City with Dito Montiel (who now makes a living directing movies in Hollywood). Dito brought a big crowd and definitely outclassed me, and at the end I shook his hand and told him I thought most of the people who’d come to see me had actually bought copies of his book.
Dito smiled and said “I think most of the people who came to see me stole copies of your book.”
See y’all on the 22nd!