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Give Up on Giving Up 
by M.J. Rose

If you are thinking of giving up on any idea you have – first think about whether or not you are using all as much creativity to solve the problem as you did to create the idea or product. I learned this the hard way. 

In 1996 I thought about giving up my dream of becoming a published author. I had written two novels, found a wonderful agent and by her account had the best rejection letters any writer could wish for. 

“Rose’s novels are riveting but they cross too many genres.”  “We don’t know how to market novels that don’t fit into one category.”  “Rose’s work is too intelligent to be contemporary fiction but not literary enough to be literary fiction.”

“We’d love to see her next novel.”

I asked my agent what I should do? I didn’t want to give in and change my style to fit the publisher’s marketing dilemma. She thought I should write a third novel. I thought I was headed for a massive depression. 

I actually thought about giving up and tired to figure out what I’d do if I couldn’t be a writer. 

Go back to school and become a therapist. 

Open up an antique store. 

I made lists of alternative careers. But each one suggested a character in a novel and I’d wind up making notes on possible plots.

All I wanted to do was write. It was all I’d ever wanted to do.

“So, why not just keep writing?” a friend asked. 

Good question. Well, it wasn’t for the money. I knew few novelists make a living. And I had a very lucrative career as in advertising. 

No, it was that to be a writer – to keep spinning stories - I needed to know people were reading what I was writing. Like every author, I dreamed about those reams of readers - hundreds of thousands of them who would stay up all night with my book, caring about my characters, getting caught up in their lives. 

Well, if all I needed to keep writing was readers - how many did I need? Perhaps not the multitudes I’d wanted. What about just one? Ten? Twenty? 

Would twenty readers keep me going?

Maybe they would. 

And if I couldn’t do it the traditional way and have my readers find me in a bookstore…maybe I could self publish my, Lip Service, on the web as an electronic download and find those readers myself. 

Little did I know the derisive laughter that would greet my decision by every one I’d ever known connected to the field of writing. 

To a person, everyone said self-publishing is nothing more than a huge ego-trip. 

And they all thought the concept of an electronic file was ludicrous. (Remember, by now it was only 1997 –three years before Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet made e-books an almost household name)

But what did I have to lose? What was so crazy about downloading a book to your desktop and then printing out or reading in segments? And what was so terrible about self-publishing?

Independent filmmakers who finance their own movies are lauded, I’d explain. Indies even have their own film festival at Sundance. 

But it is different - self-published authors, my well-meaning friends told me, are writers whose books are not good enough to get published by the big NY houses. Whereas indie filmmakers are iconoclastic visionaries who make gems of movies.

But despite them all… or to spite them all - I’m not sure which - I took to the web. 

I had a website built and a book cover designed. And then I spent four months figuring out where my kind of readers lived online. It took over 2000 hours to research and develop a marketing plan, learn about self-publishing, make mistakes and then correct them. I offered hundreds of free books to webmasters who might like to review my novel. I joined endless lists and newsgroups to talk to other writers and readers about what I was doing. I lived online.

And then slowly, very slowly, I started to get reviews. And then I got my first reader. A month later I had ten. Three months later I had 500. 

And then… ah then… I was finally a writer. I knew I was okay. I would be able to write my next novel and my next. 

Let someone else breed the dogs and sell the antiques. 

About 16 months after my web site went live, in February of 1999, Lip Service - the little book that could - was discovered on line by an editor at the Doubleday Book Club who bought it as an alternate book club selection. 

It was the first time a major book club and bought a self-published novel. The first time a book had been discovered online. And two weeks after that Pocket Books offered my agent a contract. At that point Lip Service became the first ebook to cross over to become a main stream novel.

Lip Service – the book no one wanted in 1996- has now sold over 60,000 copies and has been published in England, Germany, Israel, The Netherlands, France and Australia. The trade paperback version has just gone into a second printing.

In January of 2001, my non-fiction book, How to Publish and Promote Online – co-authored with Angela Adair-Hoy, was published by St. Martin’s Press and my new novel, In Fidelity was released by Pocket Books.

In reviewing In Fidelity, Publisher’s Weekly praised the book saying it was an entertaining and exciting read. But my favorite part is the end of the review where they say it is hard to fit the novel into a category but that doesn’t matter since “Rose is becoming her own category.”

How ironic. The very reason I couldn’t get published five years ago was because I didn’t fit in. Now it’s an accolade.

These days, you can find me at the laptop, working on my third novel or writing about epublishing for Wired.com. And if all this isn’t enough of a reason to convince you that giving up are the only two words every creative person should erase from their vocabulary – then I give up.

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