This year is different. This year I turned seventy-one. Most of my friends and many of my acquaintances have perished from this earth. People I depended on to review my works or edit them or recommend them or nominate them for awards are no longer able to do so.
When Gretta, my wife of nearly thirty years, died suddenly of a massive heart attack in 2012, I began writing again from scratch. In essence, I started life over. Writing was all I had to keep myself sane in a world turned upside down. Writing gave new purpose to my life and allowed me to mix fantasy with reality in healthy ways. I completed novels I had started thirty years ago and I began new novels in a variety of genres.
This year—2015—some of those novels appeared in print for the first time. Two new short stories—“Dolls” and “After the Fall”—were published in magazines. Several of my out-of-print novels and short stories were reprinted or appeared as e-books. 2015 has been a marvelous year, and 2016 appears to be even better.
Fame and fortune are fleeting. Some of my titles became momentary best-sellers, then dropped in rank like a rock hurled over a cliff. A few readers were kind enough to write reviews on Amazon or Good Reads. One or two favorable reviews also appeared in magazines or on blogs. I’m grateful for each of those unsolicited reviews, and I hunger for more.
Nelson Algren told me once that a writer needs to ask everyone—friends and strangers alike—to buy his books. “Buy my books and the autograph is free,” he said. “No one will buy your work if you don’t ask.”
Algren was right. Writers must first ask agents or editors to buy their works in manuscript, and then they must ask readers to buy their published works.
It goes against my grain to ask for anything. I was raised to be an independent person, totally self-reliant. If I couldn’t do it by myself, I didn’t bother to do it.
But now I’m asking. I ask you to buy my books and read them. I ask you to leave reviews on Good Reads and Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. I ask you to review my works in print and on blogs. I ask you to talk about my works with anyone who might be interested.
Frederik Pohl used to tell me, when we chatted in con suites at Windycon or Chicon, that a writer is always too close to his own works to judge if they’re good or bad. That’s why we need editors. And reviewers. And awards.
And, I might add, why we need blurbs from other authors. People really do judge books by their covers and cover blurbs from names readers recognize.
Up until now, I have been scrupulous about not allowing burbs on my books. Personal letters from Karl Edward Wagner, Richard Laymon, Mort Castle, Jerry Williamson, Dave Silva, and others who have read my stuff and took the time to tell me nice things about my writing are personal. I treasure them and never asked if I could share them in print.
Nor do I brag about awards I have won or the nominations for awards I haven’t won. I did not solicit those awards and was pleasantly surprised when I received them. I keep the certificates and trophies in the basement where I store old trunk stories, ARCs, page proofs, and thousands of books I have read and cherish. All of my papers and books will pass to the sff archives at Northern Illinois University when I die. I expect the awards will end up there, too.
But I’m alive and well and still writing, and now I’m asking friends and fans and readers and reviewers to consider my latest works for review and for awards. There will be more Paul Dale Anderson novels and stories appearing in print next year and the year after next. I’ll be asking other writers for blurbs to put on the covers.
If you’re an author who wants readers, you’ve got to think long term. No one lasts long-term in this business without a little help from his friends. So, at long last, I’m asking my friends and followers and fans and fellow fiends for help.
If you like my stories, say so. If you don’t like them, say that, too. Let me know if you want to see more of what I write. If you think my stories or novels are worthy of awards, nominate them for a Stoker or a Nebula or a Hugo or an Anthony. But do it only because you want to, not because I asked.