This Writing Life--Mark Terry
Thoughts From A Professional Writer

The Kobayashi Moru Scenario
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May 5, 2005
The Kobayashi Moru Scenario is from the movie Star Trek II, and I would be happier if you didn't perceive me as a major Trekkie. I'm not. But I've always thought the idea of the Kobayashi Moru Scenario was a good one. And for anyone who isn't familiar with this, it is a training scenario for Star Trek captains where they are to rescue a ship called the Kobayashi Moru, which puts them in enemy space--it is, essentially, a no-win situation, and they want to test how the captains-in-training face no-win situations, ie., how you face death and failure is at least as important as how you face success.

Okay? Why am I thinking about this? Late last evening I checked my e-mail to find a flurry of e-mails from Irene and the editor at Llewellyn. There seemed to be a lot of quibbling over contract negotiations, and I had the sense that things were getting derailed. Also, Irene had liked my follow-up to Dirty Deeds, but when I sent her a copy of my Dirty Deeds contract, she flipped out about the "option" clause because it seemed to tie up the character, etc, the upshot being she didn't feel she could market Intentions unless something changed.

This put me into a pretty deep funk, momentarily convinced that all the contract options (most, anyway) for fiction were quickly going in the shitter. I've had disasters in fiction writing before--2 publishers going out of biz before publication--so I was beginning to feel that karma had come a'calling and I should throw in the towel, give up the ship, pick your failure cliche.

But I woke this morning thinking about the no-win scenario and decided I should follow up on things. Irene said things with Llewellyn were still a-go, and we should have everything nailed down next week. She said I needed to contact High Country Publishing re my contract and see about withdrawing Intentions and getting a written release from the clause. So I did, had a lovely chat with Judy Geary, the editor at High Country, who was amazingly supportive and, oddly enough, seemed very happy with my decision in a "proud momma" kind of way. They've done this before and were willing to do it again, and it seemed, plans for my follow-up weren't really strong anyway, because they had a couple mid-list authors sign on and they wanted to build more of a financial base before supporting people such as myself. Dirty Deeds sold as fast as anything else they had ever published, but Judy wasn't necessarily agreeing with the publisher about their philosophy, she--like me--feeling that if you've got a decent selling book and another manuscript, you should use the momentum and build on it. The publishers want to approach things more experimentally, apparently, and well, that's what happened. She also assured me that if my other plans didn't work out, they would welcome me back.

Huh. A happy ending, I believe, though clearly I'm schizophrenic about publishing contracts until they're signed, the advance check clears and the book is in my hands. Still, if there's a lesson here, it's that you should face hurdles and obstacles as things to be solved or cleared, rather than disasters.

I would also point out something that Judy said, when I was discussing several of the reasons why I wanted to go elsewhere, and I said that the longer I dealt with publishing, the more important distribution seemed to be. She was quiet a moment, then said, "Distribution's everything. Publishing the book's easy. Getting it onto shelves is the hard part." And I had to add that writing the books seemed easy compared to selling them, and not being able to get them into major chain stores caused a lot of hassles on top of everything else. Welcome the the wonderful, wacky world of book publishing.

Beam me up, Scotty!
Mark Terry

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