The Special Page

On this month's Special Page: Part Two

Joe R. Lansdale talks about publishing


Joe R. Lansdale Part 1
Brent Monahan
Owen King
Dacre Stoker

Piers Anthony
Simon Clark
Lisa Morton
John C. Farris
Ramsey Campbell


(Part two of a two-part series. See part one about writing HERE)

I talk to people all the time who are looking for the secret to getting published. Really, there isn't one. It's just what it seems to be. You write it, and you try and find a publisher, or you publish it yourself. Nothing wrong with that, but without having someone to vet it, you can really pass off anything.

Sure, crap gets published, but I'll put the worst of it up against most of the self-published material. I'm not telling you not to do it, or that you may not be a literary genius, but I'm saying I've read so many self-published books with hope, and found them wanting, I rarely do it anymore. I find a lot of things I don't like from mainstream publishers as well, but less.

So write, and market. If you don't agree with me, don't do it, and don't waste your time telling me how you did it and made a million. I say do what you want. But I'm telling you that the secret is you write, and then you market, and then if all else fails, you publish yourself. I still expect people to waste my time, and theirs, telling me how self-publishing is the way to go and they made big bucks or know someone who made big bucks. Save it. I know it happens. But I'm saying this is how I would approach it. You approach it anyway you like.

I keep getting asked what the secret is. Who do I know? I get sick of people who don't sell always saying those who do sell only do because of an "in."

How did I find a way to get published? I met editors when I could, and agents. But before that I was selling by writing and sending it in and getting it bounced.

Some of the damnest things become popular, and I might hate it, but I meet people who tell me, "Oh, this is the best book I ever read." And from their perspective they are right. And if that writer (someone who I think sucks) is very successful, no doubt some editor believed in them and thought they would sell, and if they do, that editor has somehow tapped into what readers want, even if I think what they want at that time sucks. When they like my work, I think, oh, cool. But you have to be suspect of your own material. Always.

Publishing can be about being published only. I wanted to make a living do it, and doing it my way. I have, somehow.

I think for someone who has been publishing, it can make sense to self publish. They have built their audience. I may do it for certain books in the future. I can't say.

I'm just saying why not give it the old professional try. I know some folks if they make a hundred dollars a year, or a hundred dollars a month, it's fine for them. For me, it's not. I love to write and I write for that reason, but I also want to get paid. I've been able to do what I love and get paid for it, and often well. I would never quit writing, but I would never cease trying to also make a living at it so I don't have to do something I hate. So far, so good. But life is long and fate is strange and publishing is the god damnest thing ever.

Remember, even someone who is published or makes a living at it as I do is just as likely to screw up as anyone else. Writing is a day to day event, and sometimes you do better on one project than another, but you should always try to do the best you can every time out. That way you find a level that you don't fall below. Or seldom do.

List of book publishers


(The Horror Zine does not recommend literary agents that charge reading fees)

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About Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale is the multi-award winning author of thirty novels and over two hundred short stories, articles and essays. He has written screenplays, teleplays, comic book scripts, and occasionally teaches creative writing and screenplay writing at Stephen F. Austin State University. He has received The Edgar Award, The Grinzani Prize for Literature, seven Bram Stoker Awards, and many others.

His stories Bubba Ho-Tep, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, and Cold in July were all made into films. He is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan, and has been in the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame four times. He lives in East Texas with his wife, Karen.

Learn about the Hap and Leonard TV series on the Sundance Channel HERE

Find out about Season Two of Hap and Leonard HERE

Visit Joe R. Lansdale HERE

See all of Joe R. Lansdale's books HERE

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