C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Do you have time to get published? And can we dump the “self” from publishing?

P Harry Potter

Image via Wikipedia

Wow. I just noticed that an author profiled on this blog, the great JE Knowles*, was rejected 100 times before her book Arusha, was accepted by Spinster Press. I’ll say it again: Wow. That’s common. Many authors who later went on to great success were rejected many times before someone in traditional publishing saw their manuscript’s sales potential. One day, JK Rowling will announce who rejected Harry Potter before Bloomsbury picked up the deal of a lifetime. (Then the tears, excuses and recriminations can really begin. That promises to be quite delicious, but I digress.)

The reasons for such rejection are many (and many of those reasons have little or nothing to do with any particular author.) I’ve delved into that reasoning elsewhere, so let’s talk about time. It takes you a long time to write a book and get your editor and/or beta-readers lined up. You comb and comb the manuscript and until at last you don’t find any typos. (As soon as you send off the manuscript, inevitably you will find a new round of typos and errors but just do what you can because that’s all any of us can do.)

You do your research and you send it off to editors or agents. You format your submission to the individual requirements of each agency or publishing house. Most just want queries up front and some want an outline, too. Others will ask for partials but the length of a partial can vary. If it’s non-fiction, you’ll need a business plan for all the marketing you intend to do to sell the book and evidence of your vast platform. You send it all off to five agents or houses and you wait. In the meantime, you work on expanding your platform and thinking happy thoughts and get all caught up in that positive thinking bullshit of The Secret.

Many agents and houses don’t actually do rejection slips anymore. No answer is an answer. The trouble with that is, you don’t know when they’re done with you. Next, after some undetermined time, you feel like your stress headaches will squeeze your forehead so hard your brains pop out through your nose. So you decide it’s time to decide upon the next five agents and you begin your research again.

And so on. And you begin to question your mission on earth and the need for your existence. And you get more of those brains and blood in the Kleenex headaches. And then you get a nibble. An agent wants a partial from a query you’d assumed had been forgotten. This tentative bit of interest can go south so many ways so quickly, I’m not even going to belabor those ugly facets here. Let’s just say, it’s a long road to getting an agent, and that’s no guarantee you’ll be published.

Once you get over the initial ecstasy of someone validating your wretched writerly existence (and that little orgasm is disappointingly brief) you start to get itchy that your book isn’t up for sale and won’t be for a long time.  “Patience,” you’re told. You’ll be told that a lot. Eventually you may begin to wonder if it’s just you being impatient. Then that will pass and you’ll start to wonder if there really is a flaw in the argument of  “This is how it’s done and this is how we’ve always done it.” The point is, after you’re accepted by a traditional publishing house, it still an 18-month wait until you hold a book in your hand. In most cases, unless you’re Sarah Palin (and thank God you aren’t!) that time-frame is a minimum.

So, how old are you? Do you have years to wait before you’re in print? There are alternatives. Smaller presses and POD publishers might have a shorter time frame to get your work in print. Using Smashwords, you could have your book out very quickly.  E-books are fast. Often, too fast.

If you’re not prepared to wait for the traditional publishing model, the deeper question is: Are you prepared to start your own business and become an independent publisher? I see a lot of self-publishers, but I see far fewer independent publishers who are prepared to dive in and get really serious.  The difference between a self-publisher and an independent, I think, is one of seriousness and commitment. You can get anything out there quick and awful. Any half-considered manuscript full of errors and dropped threads can be pushed on an unsuspecting populace quickly. (Of course, it won’t sell well, the word of mouth will consist of warnings and readers you suckered the first time won’t come back for your next book.)

I’d like to see more independent publishers who are ready to hire an editor (said the editor) and swim in the deep end of the pool. The stink on self-publishing is that the quality is atrocious. Eventually, I’d love it if the independent publishers who committed to quality outnumbered the self-publishers. In many people’s minds, “self” will always signify “vanity.” Those objections aren’t all wrong.

As creators, we must demand more of ourselves for emerging models to fly. We’re at the end of the beginning. Now let’s knuckle down.

And yes, you’ll see my first book, independently published, up and out there, later this year.

 

*See the first link below for that interview and more information about JE Knowles.

Filed under: DIY, ebooks, Editing, Editors, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

The Harry Potter Spreadsheet

J. K. Rowling, after receiving an honorary deg...

Image via Wikipedia

This is very cool. Check out

 J.K. Rowling’s Plot Spreadsheet‏

at mental floss.

When you think about it, it was a heck of a lot to keep track of.

Filed under: publishing, Useful writing links, Writers, , , , , ,

Agents and (Non)Acquiring Editors: A Word on Gatekeeper’s Remorse (Some don’t have any!)

J. K. Rowling, after receiving an honorary deg...

Image via Wikipedia

 

When a book is a great success, the rumors eventually emerge. JK Rowling was rejected six times. Meyer of Twilight fame? Fifteen times. All authors have stories of deals that almost went through. Many tell stories of cruel writing groups, insensitive english professors or critics that were hypercritical. When one writer triumphs and rises above these obstacles, all us of share a little of that. In German, it’s called Schadenfreude. In English it’s called “Nyaa-nyaa, nya-nya-naaaaaah!”       

Editors who reject books that go on to great success interest me. First question: Do they still have their jobs? Answer: Yes, of course they do.       

In Hollywood, you fail up. (Getting any movie made is such an accomplishment, you can have a string of failures and be a working director like M. Night Shyamalan.) If the rumoured stats are trues (85%-95% of books not earning their advances) publishing surely has the  highest tolerance for failure of any industry. There is no product research. “Product research is the first print run,” as they say. (Due to technology and Seth Godin forces, that’s changing. That’s another post.)       

Agents who pass up gold and editors who turn their noses up at diamonds answer predictably: “It’s a subjective business.” Yes. It is.    

Second Question: “But if these people are the experts who are supposed to know better, why do so many of their books tank?” Should we put so much stock in the opinion of people who are so often wrong? Dick Cheney doesn’t get to make credible predictions on foreign policy anymore. Why are we held in such thrall by agents and editors who have similar track records?      

The other common reply is, “I can’t represent it if I don’t love it.”       

I call bullshit. I’ve slogged through the slush pile. I worked as a sales rep for several publishing companies. I represented, and sold,  many books I never even got to read. (There were too many–especially when I worked at Cannon Books which listed hundreds and hundreds of books each year.) I even sold some books I actively loathed.       

The key question is not, “Do I love it?”        

The key questions are, “Can I sell it? Will lots of other people love it?”       

The idea that you can’t represent something unless you “love” it can set a ridiculously high bar for manuscript acceptance. You’ve read lots of books you liked and were glad to have read. How many were so good you really “loved” them? No wonder it’s so hard to get an agent if love is the accepted standard. (Love is not a standard criterion in business practice. You may think art is exempt from standard business practice. That’s one of the reasons this industry is in so much trouble. Artists worry their art is compromised, but without the business side? No art.)      

CORE ISSUE:       

Writers, particularly those yet-to-be published, are expected to have a thick skin.      

That is useful, though any really successful author will tell you the harsh critics hurt just as much as ever. They feel the pain, but aren’t supposed to complain.     

Some editors and agents     

 (PLEASE NOTE: NOT ALL EDITORS AND AGENTS!)     

act as if their mistakes aren’t mistakes.      

Therefore, their mistakes will be repeated.     

When ego gets in a writer’s way, he or she can’t learn and improve. That same principle should apply to gatekeepers. However, when gatekeepers make mistakes, some seem to say, “Not my fault. That’s just the way it is. I didn’t love it enough.” I say, “The new economy is making million-dollar companies, often out of billion-dollar companies. The coffee’s brewing and it’s a quarter past Massive Industry Fail. Wake up! And open up!”      

When you see an agent blog wherein the agent rips new queries, keep in mind that of all the many queries they analyse, they may accept only a handful (some perhaps two a year…or less.) Also, don’t work with snarky people because mean people suck and eventually they’ll be mean to you.     

This post was critical, not snarky. If I were snarky, I would have named names.      

Filed under: agents, Editors, manuscript evaluation, publishing, Rant, Rejection, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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