by John Ramsey Miller
I have something like two million books in print, not counting what has been pulped. Not a huge number compared to lots of other authors, but not too shabby for a country boy without a college diploma. It’s been a struggle here and there, and I was out of print for eight years between my first book, THE LAST FAMILY, and INSIDE OUT, my second. LF was a Literary Guild Main Selection, was printed in 12 languages, and some more stuff that’s bragable, but I’ve lost track of it. Hallmark bought the film rights but never made the film. Imagine a Hallmark film that opens with the murder of a Cub Scout and ends with people being exploded and shot to shit. After two years they made THE ODDESY instead with Armande Asante parading about in a toga.
My first book, The Last Family, was a disappointment to my publisher because it only sold 45,000 copies in hard cover, and like 450,000 in paperback. When I didn’t deliver a second book (they liked) on schedule I lost my seven figure contract. After five years and the insistence of an editor who believed in me, they gave me a new contract, and I wrote six more books for them. Don’t get me wrong, they paid me a lot of money, and I had two, three book contracts, but even though I got great reviews, my books failed to perform to expectations. I had the best editors, the best sales team, the best promotion, the best house, and now it’s back to square one.
The truth is that I might never have another book published, and not because I don’t write good books, but because I haven’t sold in numbers that impress publishers and faith in a break out book are not there.
If I had it all to do over again, I’d not let the publisher think I agreed with everything they were doing if I was uneasy about it. Looking back I can clearly see the mistakes I made, or allowed to be made by others. I think if the publisher had introduced my books differently and looked at building my career differently, it might have worked better fo all concerned, but that’s hindsight. I could be wrong, but I think I just went along for the ride and that didn’t do my career amy good. I can’t blame the publisher, I can only blame myself. So my advice is to go with your gut and make waves if you think you’ll suffer if you don’t.
Ours is a hard life and is getting harder all the time. But every occupation has its difficulties and there’s no security in any of them. So far in my career I wish I’d been less a dog, and more a wolf.