There used to be a saying in air traffic control - I haven't heard it recently, there is a changing of the guard taking place in the FAA as all of us who were hired after the disastrous PATCO strike in 1981 are rapidly approaching the mandated end of our careers and being replaced by a new generation - that went something like this: "One 'Oh shit' trumps a hundred 'Attaboys'."
The implication, and it's an accurate one, especially in a field of endeavor where a single error in judgment could cost hundreds of lives, is that you can do things properly a hundred times in a row, but as soon as you screw the pooch once, that's all anyone is going to remember.
Last week I discovered, just in case I had forgotten, that sometimes the opposite is true. After you've experienced a hundred "Oh shits," that single "Attaboy" that comes along is pretty goddamned sweet. On Wednesday, December 30, 2009, I signed a contract with Medallion Press for publication of my debut novel as a mass-market paperback, an air traffic control thriller titled FINAL VECTOR.
I'm not a huge fan of Woody Allen, but there is a quote attributed to him that says, "Eighty percent of success is just showing up." I'm not sure how true that is, but the implication - that if you go to work every day and keep slogging along, good things will eventually happen - is occasionally true, at least in the competitive field of professional writing.
I went back and looked at my records, and I received exactly fifty rejections from agents and publishers for the FINAL VECTOR manuscript before Medallion's enthusiastic offer of a one-book contract. If you add to that the combined seventy-seven rejections I have picked up over the last two years for my other two completed novels, that's a lot of "Oh shits."
But I'm here to tell ya, the cumulative effect of all those rejections, the combined lows of having people tell you that you're not good enough (They do it very nicely most of the time, but, as we learned in the last presidential election, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig), is nothing compared to the elation, the pure unadulterated thrill, of having a legitimate, mainstream publisher tell you they want to sell your book.
It's been nearly five days since I became a professional novelist and I still haven't come down off the high. If we could somehow manage to bottle this feeling, we could put every single drug cartel out of business overnight.
I am hard at work completing what Medallion calls their "Pre-Publication Title Sheet," a whole bunch of information they need about my book, where I believe it fits in the marketplace, any suggestions I have regarding the cover art, and a whole bunch of other things I was so busy trying to get my book noticed that I never really thought about. So, needless to say, I'm busy, but it's a great kind of busy.
I can't wait to find out what comes next. February, 2011 seems like a long time from now, but I think it's going to take me at least that long to get used to the idea that my book, my creation, will soon be competing for sales and shelf space with offerings from Barry Eisler, Harlan Coben,Lawrence Block, Lee Child, and so many other fantastic authors working in the genre I love.
I just can't stop shaking my head at my incredible good fortune.