Back in the day, before the Internet, global warming and eReaders, an old friend of mine who goes by the name of St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, wanted to write a book. He enjoyed reading the old classics such as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Frosty the Snowman and the ever popular, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He wasn't trained in the craft of literature by any means, but he certainly had an appreciation for the literary arts.
You see, Santa had lived quite a life. He had many stories to tell, you know, the usual world-traveler fare: fine dining, the occasional holiday mascot kidnapping/ransom thingy and Colombian cigs. Finally, his vast experiences and love of the arts had come to a head. He took one more drunken sip of his Jack-n-Coke and rang his little jingle bell that he kept near his side at all times.
The bell rang and a sexy little elf strutted into his private quarters and humbly bowed before the saint. He asked her to get him his old typewriter. She suggested he use the new MAC laptop that had recently come in from R & D. He smiled, parting his beard with his happy lips and his eyes beamed. Minutes later, after a brief tutorial, old Santa was off and running, well, typing actually.
His life-long dream of writing a hard-boiled crime fiction series had begun. Words came to him fast and furious, whipping through his thoughts and into the computer like Balzac on his sixth cup of coffee (look him up). Day after day he crafted his series, finally giving him the sense of fulfillment he had always longed for.
He once told me that bringing presents to those snot-nose brats year after year had lost its glam decades ago. But writing had ignited a spark in him. He had discovered that he wasn't a saint after all, but rather, a novelist, a gosh-darn-can-you-believe-it novelist.
He did a spell check, printed off the last page, and finally let Mrs. Claus read his manuscript. She found a few flaws, but smiled, hugged him, and patted his bottom. She was so proud of her Nikki, a hero to children around the globe and now he would add published author to his credits. What a man. What a stud! You should've seen the look in her eye. Not sure if it was dollar signs or if her second glass of chardonnay had finally kicked in, but she was getting warm...in fact, hot might be a better word.
The next morning... Santa mailed a stack of query letters to agents and publishers, most of which were on his naughty list, but he figured a personal letter of forgiveness might make things right and increase his chance of that big publishing and movie deal he'd been dreaming about.
Six months later... he received a letter in the mail. His shoulders slumped and Mrs. Claus patted his bottom again, comforting him after his first of many form letters.
The next morning... that cute elf I mentioned earlier suggested he try sending out a few electronic query letters. After all, she knew Santa had always been concerned about his bottom line. He did as she recommended. Several months later, he had received a slew of digital rejection letters, some suggesting he work on better characterization, dialogue, and that he would need a platform if he intended to be published in today's market.
"A platform?" puffed good ol' Saint Nick. He took off his big red mittens and flashed his middle finger at the stack of rejection slips, lifting each one and flipping the bird time after time until each paper had seen his answer to their suggestions.
Although he was hurt, Santa did have thick skin. He knew he had much to learn and so he buckled down and read a few books that he thought would improve his writing, such as: Write Like the Masters by William Cane, On Writing by The Horror Writer's Association, Novelist's Boot Camp by Todd Stone, On Writing by Stephen King and anything he could find by James Scott Bell. He upped his reading schedule and committed to polishing his prose.
Soon another Christmas had come and gone and Santa had revised his work several times, and even employed his staff editor to hone his MS to a fine point. By the next Christmas, Santa's books were still for sale. Times were tough in the publishing world with the onslaught of the Nook and Kindle and all. Agents and publishers just weren't taking new authors, although they had a knack for humiliating those who had decided to go it alone.
At this point, I was thinking, Come on. He's Santa for crying out loud. What the hell? Cut him a break.
Of course, Santa wasn't about to give up. Hell or high-frickin' snow drift, he wanted to share his hard-boiled crime series with the world. I mean the dude had built one of the greatest empires that had ever existed in the North Pole... surely he can figure out this publishing sh-- I mean business.
She too had written a book and a few sexy, paranormal novellas, and had been involved in an indie author support group that shared knowledge and resources.
WOW! Who knew? thought Santa. "Why didn't you tell me about this before?" he asked. She replied that she had just recently discovered the group and that it was new to her as well. She went on to say that she was about to publish her second novella as an independent author, or what used to be called self-published, a term that, as she said, meant that you were like rotting scum at the bottom of the writing pool. She just smiled and said that was starting to change. She flashed her first Amazon paycheck at her boss and winked a glittery eye lash.
The glimmer in Santa's eye and the red in his cheeks had returned.
He asked her all sorts of questions and she filled him in on the changes that had recently taken place in the world of publishing. Alas, Santa's hope of sharing his hard-boiled crime with the world had finally come to pass. He hired @TweeTheBook to create his ebook covers and format his print interior, registered with all the online sales channels and started selling. He planned his release after the first of the year, cancelling that year's trip to Sarasota with his sweetie and went on a blog tour instead.
Wouldn't you know it... Santa started selling. Day after day, he gained traction with hard boilers around the world. After a couple of months he made it into two Amazon top one-hundred categories and watched as readers moved from book one, to book two, to book three, actually paying him $2 for a book that cost him nothing to create (except the time he spent writing and pissing around with the publishers). On occasion, he broke into the top 200 which as far as he was concerned, was better than he had ever expected.
His blog, A Holly Hard-Boiled Christmas also started to gain traction, gaining followers daily. Mrs. Claus started checking his Amazon stats and frequently congratulated him in her own, very warm and very special way.
Santa had finally made it as an author. He sold over six thousand copies in six months, and projected fifteen thousand in the next year. And after hearing that he would've been lucky to sell that many copies as a "traditionally published" author, he wondered why his book didn't take with the publishing world.
"Hell," he said, "I'm getting great reviews, and people I don't even know want to read my stories. Just imagine what I could've accomplished with a publisher's global marketing budget. Maybe the gatekeepers are doing something wrong? he wondered. Maybe they don't really know what readers want? Or maybe the best thing to do is just keep writing what I love and be grateful that I live in a time when I can write and publish without someone telling me that I suck, when in fact, I do not."
Santa took a well deserved sip from his iced beverage, put his feet up and considered selling his North Pole stock. Maybe the elves can make this holiday work without me, he thought. Maybe, I'll keep writing and Christmas can take care of itself. I think I've had a good run. He sipped and chuckled as his head felt a little lighter. And then he stood up, grabbed his stack of rejection letters, shoved them in the fire and thought, I'm an author damn it. I don't need a label. My books are selling and that's all that matters.
~ Jeff Bennington
Author of Twisted Vengeance, Reunion & Creepy