For the Narcissist Lover in You…

On James Potter, George Lippert, and the Future (part 1)

So I have seriously never really considered writing a blog about me, George Norman Lippert, wannabe-writer, artist, 40-year-old husband and dad.

I mean, yeah, I’ve written a good bit as G. Norman Lippert, author of the James Potter series, but I was always careful to keep it pretty topic specific– i.e. what’s happening with the next story, how far am I along, what sort of challenges James, Zane and Ralph will face in the next book, etc, etc, etc.  In short, I never really assumed anyone would be interested in hearing about my struggles as a would-be writer and a regular guy struggling (like so many others) to make it as a “serious” writer.

I mean, come on.  How boring.  Right?

But maybe some of you are interested after all.  Maybe some of you are curious about it, or just want to commiserate, or are even (thank you very much!) cheering me on.  After all, I am in an extremely, singularly (I think) unusual spot.  Let me state it on its own line for the people who are just scanning this bit:

I am a million-read author who has never officially published a thing.

My books have never graced a Borders or a Barnes and Noble.  I’ve never been reviewed by the New York Times.  I don’t have a publisher, an imprint, or even so much as a literary agent who is willing to take me seriously.  And still, amazingly, my stories have been read– and mostly very much enjoyed– by countless people around the world, in something like six or seven languages.  How’s that for bizarre and even ironic?

I’ll be honest: most days, I vacillate between being very proud of this accomplishment, and kicking myself for it.  Why, you ask?  Because I have learned something very disheartening in the days since the release of “James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing”– that no matter how many readers one gets for a fan-fiction work, no literary agent– anywhere– on the planet– will see past the words “fan-fiction” (or even, for that matter, the word “Potter).  It does not matter how many faithful readers one has garnered by such works, or how many articles, interviews, and news stories have appeared about it.  One simply cannot be taken seriously as a writer, no matter what else he may have done, once the fan-fiction cat (or kneazle) is out of the bag.

In effect, by “launching” my writing career with the James Potter series, I have effectively (or so it currently appears) doomed myself to official literary obscurity.

So.  I sound whiny, but the truth is, I have what any author wants more than anything in the whole world: I have readers.  LOTS of them.  And I thank you all from the very bottom of my heart.  But the truth is that, of course, I want to (say it with me) Write For A Living.  I don’t need to be a millionaire to do it, but I need to get paid SOMEthing.  This brings me to a conundrum worth thinking long and hard about.  Ready?  Here it is:

If I write more James Potter books, I will keep my legion of readers, but get nowhere as a traditionally published author (and therefore never get to Write For A Living).  If, however, I stop writing James Potter books and focus on my own original stories, I will certainly lose some percentage of readers, but perhaps (perhaps!) gain the attention of the serious publishing world.

Do you see my predicament?  This is why I have been dragging my feet on a book four, despite my own interest in writing it, and the multitude of requests for it from my readers.  UGH!

Needless to say, a lot rides on the response to my upcoming story, “Ruins of Camelot”.  But that’s a blog for another day.

In the meantime, I will stew a bit more on this.  I love the ride my writings have taken me on so far– it has been a singularly amazing experience, reaching so many enthusiastic readers from all over the world– and yet I am so frustrated and stymied in my search for that holy grail of all writers: the legitimate contract.

It’s like claustrophobia of the brain.

More later.  I will try to make this a regular feature– maybe even daily– but no promises, and many of them will probably be very short.  We shall see how the inspiration (or lack thereof) strikes.  For now, its late and I am not tired.  I am hungry.  And frustrated.  And a little whiny.  And sorta hot.  Sheesh.

Onward.

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22 responses

  1. Hile

    mucha mer!! 😉

    July 12, 2010 at 5:36 am

  2. Natalie

    I have enjoyed your books so far! I look forward to your blog!

    July 12, 2010 at 7:16 am

  3. Dawn

    Hey Love the Blog.
    I’m definitely interested in how your mind works on or off “the Job”
    I tweeted you with opinions lolol
    sorry if they sound like i’m scolding you i’m 44 so older than you and female so it’s inevitable that it should sound like scolding…lol
    Hang in there good things do come to those who wait
    don’t let anyone steal your dreams
    don’t let anyone tell you what the definition of success is
    don’t let anyone package you in one box or another and sell you as a whole unchangeable medium of any type !
    George just live in the moment and love it until you don’t love it any more.
    try to chat with Popeye Wong just google him you’ll find him …I think he will be of help to you .

    July 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

  4. Samus

    You know, you point out a problem that a lot of fanfic writers think about. It’s why most of us use pen/screen names for our fanfic so that we can publish under our real names and no one ever knows we wrote fanfic. On the other hand, you’ve got people like Cassandra Clare, who was well known in the Lord of the Rings fandom and then the Harry Potter fandom, and now has a hugely popular series of books out published under the same name. You never know.

    July 13, 2010 at 5:40 am

    • You are right, Samus. If I had known the professional stigma attached to writing fanfiction, I would have considered a pen name as well. Still, how frustrating is it to have garnered such a huge worldwide readership and to NOT be able to use that as proof of one’s writing ability? Pretty frustrating. There IS hope, and the truth is, I am not willing to hide my accomplishments out of fear of stigma. How ’bout them apples? If the professional publishing world chooses to not to take me seriously, well, as my mother used to say, it’s their loss. Snap.

      July 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm

  5. Abdullah

    I`ve so far enjoyed your JP novels and Christmas stories. I`m eagerly waiting for book 4….. so please please write……..

    August 10, 2010 at 4:11 am

  6. Gail

    Have thoroughly enjoyed your James Potter books. Do you know when you will be adding your Girl on the Dock to the Amazon Kindle store? I would really like to be able to read it on my Kindle.

    October 2, 2010 at 1:32 am

  7. John

    Honest *anonymous* advice from someone in the publishing world –

    Regardless of your writing skill, popularity of the books, capability of the stories, etc. you should probably stop writing the Potter series and begin distancing yourself from the stigma of “fanfiction author”.

    I understand that it may be difficult for you to stop living in that world or to carry on the plots you have likely been building toward, but if you write them (and if you want to be taken seriously), you should keep them on your desktop for your wife and children and leave them off the internet. Although your readers will not like to hear my advice, this post is primarily for you and your future career as an author.

    From my perspective – fan fiction is for the advancement of readership and for the enjoyment of story. For those readers who can’t access more of the world because it is within the original author’s mind, fan fiction is a gateway to that ability. Problem solved? Problem is, many fan fiction authors write short novellas that have an erotic underscore. Although yours do not, your pages are naturally swimming in that same pool. Some would say, cesspool. Even without reading your work, that’s a big nail that some people I know could hammer into the coffin of your career. Still, that could be overlooked if they actually read your books. Which, from what I hear, are good.

    You were writing for the enjoyment. Not for profit. That can be commended by many. The hard truth? Publishing is a business, first and foremost. My only caveat in this topic is that you won’t be taken seriously as a viable commodity. J.K. has intellectual exclusivity on the world of Harry Potter and your series (while it remains largely original content) portrays a sense of inability on your part to craft uniquely exclusive young adult fantasy…whether or not that’s accurate.

    The sooner you can create, explain, promote and sustain your own creative stories while (and that’s a big while) congruently separating yourself from the stigma of “faux author”, the sooner you will be taken seriously by literary agencies, publishing houses, etc. and your career can essentially begin – though it has already bypassed many.

    I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but I believe my perspective is one you should consider to be significant. Most agents these days are more worried about their own careers and less about fixing someone else’s. Your problem is a unique one. Something I don’t envy. But something that can be fixed with work. My educated advice? Lose the Potter series and all association as soon as possible. Unplug your career “persona” socially (facebook, twitter, etc.) to help gain the distance you’ll need. Get a pen name and take yourself and your novels off the market independently. The next part is hard. You’ll have to give it some time. Write often. Be patient. In a good while, after the Potter-craze has diminished, you can come back and launch yourself as something *new*. Create some stability through self-publishing while marketing yourself to editors and agents. I know it sounds hard, but have hope. It’s really the only way you can legitimately stabilize your career and start making money with your writing – which is most important.

    I know my response could come off cold and insensitive, but others will just tell you to keep going because they think that’s more encouraging and kind. They think that’s better for you. I know where your worries stem from. And Cassandra Clare is a rare, one in a million exception that I wouldn’t put my career on hold for.

    Good luck to you. My sincerest support.

    November 10, 2010 at 9:56 pm

  8. ladymirth

    Mr. Lippert, as a reader who has read, nay, DEVOURED, your books within a single week and been blown away by your imagination and writing, I greet the above comment with no small amount of dismay. However, I might set aside my personal disappointment to cheer you on a professional writing path if I was not also fundamentally opposed to John’s advice.

    I’ve been in a myriad of different fandoms since I was 15, and I’m sure I don’t need to enumerate to you its value and the richness it brings to one’s life. My naive, convent-shielded, conservatively brought-up self learned to explore and understand a wealth of topics due to my fandom exposure. Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and, most of all, false intellectualism have all fallen by the wayside over the years, thanks to my immersion in what John calls “the erotic core” of fandom. Therefore, I take personal offence to this oft-touted and hypocritical stance that authors who explore adult themes and sexuality by putting pg-13 works in different contexts somehow “taints” them.

    Today’s world of mass media and popular culture IS sex-obsessed and revolves around adult and sexually-curious adolescent tastes. Fandom is merely a mirror of the diverse tastes and demands of its consumer base. It is nonsensical to think that a writer could be “tainted” by associating with who are essentially his peers.

    There is no denying that this ridiculous stigma is alive and well in the world of publishing. And there is also no denying that most of the fandom greats who have now gone on to cultivate successful writing careers were successful because they were careful to operate under pseudonyms or because they divorced themselves entirely from fandom after being published. (I point to Sarah Rees Brennan, the authors of the Shoebox Project, Lori Summers, Cassandra Claire etc)

    But I have very little patience with these people who build up their reputation and writing skills through a long rapport and association with fandom and fan culture, use their following to advertise their work high and low, and once part of the so-called legitimate press, distance themselves from us and treat fandom like a guilty little secret. It’s yet another way of pandering to the smug self-satisfied literary pundits, elitist snobs and arrogant so-called intellectuals. When will this absurdity end?

    Like you said, you already have a million-strong readership. And you’re certainly more skilled than the majority of the talentless pulp novelists who get published. Are you sure you really *need* a literary agent?

    In the end, Mr. Lippert, I can only hope that you continue to be true to yourself and stick by your guns. Hacks who get published are a dime a dozen, but may be YOU can make an actual difference in how popular culture is perceived.

    December 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    • I love your passion for the subject, Ladymirth, and I needed to hear that. I am currently tottering on the fence about this whole thing, and my indecision is culminating in the decision of whether or not to self publish my latest book, “Ruins of Camelot”. I love this story– it has been called the best thing I have written by people whose opinions I trust. The only reason I am waiting is that Mr. Orson Scott Card has agreed to look it over, and if he likes it, I think that will help me immensely in my quest to find “official” representation for it.

      Either way, I am very proud of my James Potter stories, although I do think that it is time for me to expand on my own entirely original works. I say this with some chagrin, because I think that a great majority of the writing in my JP stories is original (the last book, in particular), but as “fan fiction” it is still deemed a rip-off. Bleah.

      Thanks for reminding me that the JP stories are legitimate writing, even if the literary world will never recognize that.

      December 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

      • ladymirth

        I say this with some chagrin, because I think that a great majority of the writing in my JP stories is original (the last book, in particular), but as “fan fiction” it is still deemed a rip-off. Bleah.

        I was actually thinking the same thing while reading the last book. The imagery and descriptions were so rich (surpassing the HP books even) and only passingly associated with Rowling’s own creations, that I thought you were passing up the chance to make good money for yourself by including them in a work of fanfic instead of your original work.

        I know people who are incredible writers and make a conscious decision not to take it beyond fanfiction. I respect that, because for some people, converting a hobby into a profession kills their drive and because, like I said, I believe fanfiction has its own equal legitimacy.

        But you are obviously angling to make a living out of it, so giving away your best ideas for free seems a little counter-productive. At the same time, I sympathise with the artistic vision that insists a scene should unfold in a certain way, regardless of where the money’s at. 🙂

        As an objective reader, I think your work is on par with JKR’s in its own way. Hers is superior in pace, overall plot and narrative cohesion, but I think this is because hers are “destination stories” and yours are more about the journey. When I look back on your stories I remember the richness of imagery, the intricate explanations of how magical objects work and the wise-cracking humour. When it comes to characters, I think she and you are more or less on even footing.

        Also, IMO, your own expansive imaginings are both your strength and weakness in the JP books. The scope and imagery is stunning, but it wobbles rather precariously when built upon JKR’s established rules and worlds. This is mostly because JKR takes the fantastic and magical and tranforms them into something endearingly hum-drum and routine, while your world building tends toward the more grandoise, flamboyant and dynamic. You like to up the ante, and keep upping the ante until you feel we’re sufficiently slack-jawed. JKR’s attitude is more like, “yes, yes, they’re invisible creatures that can fly, blah blah. But the PLOT is…”. This gives JKR’s writing a stream-lined quality yours doesn’t always have, but it also leaves readers with a dearth of unsatisfied curiosity and questions. Why do you think the HP books have arguably the biggest fandom on the interwebs? 😀

        For my part, I find both styles highly appealing. 😀

        I do ramble on, don’t I? 😛

        December 10, 2010 at 3:38 am

  9. Zixi

    Well, here I am, late again, but must leave my comment anyway. I was a huge fan of the original Star Trek series, and still have, to this day, two large books of ST short stories I wrote back then. I contacted the late, great James Blish, who put me in touch with a lady agent who, as he told me, was something of a rogue and might take an unknown writer as a client. She selected three of my stories and submitted them to the ST Animated series. I say that to show that not everyone is scared off at the thought of fanfiction. My story did not have a happy ending, because my stories were rejected; but my plots were stolen and used in the series, though rewritten by professionals to the point where they were unrecognizable as mine. I did not have your tenacity, and quit writing. I sincerely wish I had not. I had scribbled constantly up to that point, and have had a 40 year case of writer’s block ever since. Don’t let this happen to you. Self publishing was not an option in those pre-internet days, as the cost was prohibitive. You, however, have the talent, tenacity, and opportunity to “make it” as a paid writer, and should do anything you have to do to reach your goal. I wish you luck, and hope I can help in some small way by purchasing, reviewing, and recommending your books as you release them.

    December 2, 2011 at 7:07 am

  10. abzlucero

    I feel so honored to have been reading and supporting your James Potter series before it would be a loud talk in the future. And because of your masterpiece, I am starting to revive my long lost aspiration to become a good writer. JK Rowling and your are to be considered as our time’s valuable gifts to the Literary World. Keep it up! God bless us Sir! Thanks 🙂

    October 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

  11. Sarah

    I don’t know why you’re moaning. Is it because you think you should find a publisher based on the fact that you wrote a fan fiction series based on Rowling’s work? Why should you be published based on that? Do what she did, and what every other author does, and come up with something original.

    March 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    • Good idea. I have this idea for an original story about an artist and a ghost. It’s called “The Riverhouse”. Oh, er, actually wrote that one already. And published it. And it sold remarkably well– was a bestseller on amazon.com for a few weeks.

      But then there’s also my fantasy idea about a princess defying her own (and everyone else’s) expectations of herself. I love that story idea. Except I already wrote that one, too. Maybe I should have made a really intense promotional trailer for it and website — oh. Yeah. Did both of those things, too.

      And then– what the hey!– I got into making video games. There, I was able to use both my story writing skills and my digital art skills together. My first one caught the attention of Apple themselves and they nearly chose it as the keynote example of iPad graphics capability for their Worldwide Developers Conference.

      But that was probably going to be your next suggestion, wasn’t it?

      Still, I love it when people feel super-duper free to offer advice, especially when I’m sure they’ve accomplished loads more than some schmoe who just wrote a fan fiction series based on Rowling’s work. Got any more pearls of bleedin’ wisdom?

      March 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm

  12. Anonymous

    Hey Geo. Firstly, congrats on getting your own original work published. And kudos for creating such a captivating HP fanfic. However, I can’t help but notice that your books have popped up for sale on Amazon in the last few days. How is this in any way legal? I assume that you have gotten legal advice before doing this. So I’m curious about how you can legitimately make a profit from work that is rooted in a world that another author created. And I’m also curious as to why you would want to when you are trying to make it as a published author (and seem to have already been successful). I can see that there is money to be made, but don’t you feel that you are undermining your integrity as an author?

    I’m sorry if this is coming off as harsh, but I have to admit that I was nothing short of flabbergasted when I found your books on Amazon.

    March 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm

  13. Dr. Douglass E. Stevenson, Ph.D.

    I have enjoyed your James Potter novels very much. I discovered them while searching for possible problems I might have with a fanfic novel of my own based on a minor J. K. Rowling character. I worry because Rowling and her publishers have a history of capricious legal actions against some fan fiction writers while leaving others alone.

    As a Texas A&M Extension entomologist, I published 10 sci-tech books, through the University Press. We had to seek a cease and desist court order for copyright infringement against several companies printing and selling unauthorized copies of my Pesticide Applicator General Manual (Ext. pub B-5073). We have not yet taken action against 3 companies selling unauthorized copies of my Physician’s Guide to Pesticide Poisoning, which is now out of print. Nevertheless, it is personally troubling when two of these companies are selling completely unchanged copies under a different author’s name. I am tempted to throw PDF versions of this publication online at no cost. This brings me back to fan fiction.

    I retired from Texas A&M seven years ago. I continue to write and publish scientific articles. However, my children got me to read the Harry Potter novels in my spare retirement time. And they pointed me to several fan fiction sites on the internet. But I didn’t find your works until last week when I found a reference to Rowling’s initial negative reaction to James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing and then her turn about and support of it and other works like it.

    What I would like to know is why did Rowling and her publishers initially single you out among all the other fan fiction writers developing stories in the Harry Potter genre. I know they dropped the action. I was particularly curious as to why they decided to try to suppress your novel but had not taken action previously against others, particularly Judith Rumelt writing as Cassandra Claire (now Clare) for her novels. Have you any idea why?

    September 13, 2013 at 6:37 am

    • Professor Paul

      because mr lipperts books were seriously cool incomparison to other fanfics….

      January 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

  14. Pingback: The James Sirius Potter Series – Past goes Potter

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