BLACK COLLAR: The story behind the story

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already experienced Black Collar. A lot has happened since I penned those first pages back in March of 2011. This is the story of how Black Collar came to be.

Black Collar started with an idea: breathe life into net neutrality with a tale of death and vengeance.

Structurally, Black Collar’s format was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones), although I halved the length and number of title characters for mainstream fiction. My hat tip to GRRM is Black Collar’s vile Martin Lancaster.

The day after finishing the manuscript for Black Collar, I began law school at the University of Missouri. After three arduous semesters, I withdrew to see Black Collar published.

By then, I had completed a fair amount of editing, cutting 162,000 words down to 138,000. My goal was to get Black Collar the manuscript into the hands of a literary agent who would then sell it to a publisher.

In February 2013, Black Collar was requested by an agent at Trident Media Group, one of New York’s powerhouse literary agencies. I don’t want you to think getting an agent is easy—it’s incredibly tough, especially for authors who lack literary contacts, and most established authors collect an obscene number of rejections. I was no different.

In June, I received a message stating that the literary agent had enjoyed a partial read of Black Collar, and her assistant told me to expect a response within two weeks.

Having the agent hold my fate in her hands was nerve-racking. I was one phone call away from taking a huge step forward in my writing career.

Four weeks later, I had heard nothing, so I emailed with the agent, who informed me that she had received client work, and client work had to take priority. Four more weeks turned into four more months, and, in October 2013, I pulled my manuscript from the high-powered literary agent and decided to self-publish, if for no other reason than to protect my own sanity.

Black Collar is 100% self-published. That means a lot of things—some good, some bad. On the bad side, self-publishing means wading into a big pool of authors and trying to stand out, and doing so without the vast resources and expertise of a traditional publisher. Big publishers market new book months in advance, with advance review copies, online and print advertisements, book tours, launch parties, wide distribution, branding, graphic design, written media placements, book conventions, press releases, author interviews, social media outreach, etc.

Black Collar had none of that, although it did find a small audience of Amazon readers who have rated it at 4.4 out of 5 stars, with 64 total reviews. By the way, I always read the reviews. They are, for the most part, very inspiring, and a great review can brighten my entire week. Thank you.

I wish Black Collar had all the editorial advantages of the traditional publishing model, because I want my readers to receive the best version of whatever I write. However, maybe Black Collar is a book that wouldn’t work if it had gone through the editing-by-committee process of traditional publishing.

Two days from now, I’m pushing Black Collar out to a much wider audience. Some of you might get Black Collar for free. Occasional free books are a great thing, but authors receive zero royalties on the books they give away. If you enjoyed Black Collar, please help me continue to be able to create content by leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads. The star ratings and reviews all factor into algorithms that affect my author ranking and the degree to which Amazon helps market Black Collar.

On the good side of self-publishing, there’s a lot of Daniel Sullivan in Black Collar. I’m also able to make all the changes and corrections I want. For example, based on the early reviews of Black Collar, several readers wanted fewer setting details. So, I spent the first half of 2014 editing down the longer setting descriptions, and Black Collar now weighs in at 130,000 words. I released the second edition of Black Collar on July 30, 2014.

By self-publishing, I’m also able to remain accessible, at least currently. You may email me and ask questions about Black Collar, my writing style, or whatever you want, really. If your book club wants to read Black Collar and ask me questions about it via Skype or Facebook or Google Hangouts, I’m there.

You might also want to ask about net neutrality.

In 2014, the D.C. Circuit Court tossed the Federal Communications Commission’s previously issued Open Internet Order. The FCC responded by crafting new rules under the Title II authority suggested by the Court.

Telecom companies are attacking the new rules in three ways: (1) paid “think-tank” content bashing the rules as a scary “government takeover” of the internet, (2) legislative “internet freedom” laws that would end internet freedom, and (3) by proposing a complete overhaul of telecom laws in the United States. Scarily, option 3 is much like Black Collar, and in the post-Citizens United era, telecom companies will be donating millions to candidates who support their unnecessary communications act update.

I chose net neutrality as the subject of Black Collar because the battle over who controls the internet represents the worst of American politics. We’ll either have a vibrant, open internet that welcomes the communication of all; or we’ll have an internet where the “free speech” of a handful of corporations overrides the speech of millions of Americans.

Net neutrality keeps the web competitive by giving all websites a fair shake. Telecom companies want to artificially restrict bandwidth in order to extract a toll from America’s wealthiest companies for prioritized delivery, while websites that can’t afford to pay-to-play receive less traffic because they are stuck in the slow lane.

On a grander scale, net neutrality represents America’s continuing struggle with rising inequality. We have, in the United States, an elite class that tells us capitalism requires competition. However, if America truly wanted a competitive economy, it would empower all citizens with the basic economic necessities required for starting businesses that challenge establishment corporations. That kind of competition requires a generation of young Americans who enter adulthood without education and health care debt. That’s true freedom to compete, to vote both with ballots and dollars.

A socioeconomic system that suppresses market participation for the poor while sustaining market dominance for the rich is utilizing neither capitalism nor democracy. Such systematic hoarding of upward mobility for the elite looks a lot like feudalism. The fact that American corporations spend so much on elections and lobbying is telling: we’ve created a system for purchasing privilege.

As long as “income inequality” remains a euphemism for oppression, America’s working class will continue to struggle. We, as a nation, and as fellow humans, must do better. Everyone deserves as right to start young adulthood educated and healthy—that should be our zero, a world without the shackles of debt that limit economic innovation by the working class. That’s the promise of America.

Thank you for reading Black Collar: Book One of the Uncommon Rebels Trilogy. I’m finally growing accustomed to the idea of sharing so much of myself with so many readers. Recommendations and positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are much appreciated.

I’ve got some awesome books coming down the pipe, so I suggest signing up for my mailing list. Also, you are welcome to message me. I am most easily reached via Twitter or email.

Thank you, again, for taking a chance on me. Over the coming years, I hope you’ll decide to spend many more hours inside the worlds I create. I believe in the power of the pen. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll change a thing or two—but, if not, I guarantee a fun ride as we try. Until next time …

Daniel Sullivan

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