Book fairies flutter over your book and turn it into a bestseller.
Today a woman suggested I self-publish my novel. This woman doesn’t really know me, and she’s never read my blog and she’s never read a word I’ve written, but she is an encouraging person her comment made me laugh because, well, that’s what I do when I don’t know what to say and because it is a topic on my mind lately.
Just today I read this bog entry from Nathan Bransford on the mistake one self-published author made, and the overly high-price she seems to be paying. The Internet is an unforgiving place.
As the world seems all a-twitter about e-publishing and self-publishing and the-end-of-publishing-as-we-know-it, I’m trying to sort my thoughts out about this.
I like approval from others. It is annoying, but I’ve been like that all my life. And rejections, generally, don’t make me angry. Self-publishing won’t make me feel like I’m sticking it to anybody or bring anyone down. The publishing industry doesn’t care what I do with my novels.
But the guidelines are maddening. How long is a synopsis? I’ve read different answers to this question, and now I just pretend I don’t see agent guidelines requesting a synopsis. If my query gets their attention, and the first five pages gets more attention, they aren’t going to turn me down because I don’t have a synopsis. They’ll send me a letter saying, send more pages and a synopsis!
If I’ve been rejected for an arbitrary reason–I don’t know. No agent has ever fessed up to one in regards to me. And if they did, they’re not the agent for me.
The steps to publication are mental-breakdown-causing. Write novel. Rewrite novel. Rewrite. Rewrite. Edit. Rewrite. Polish. Research agents. Query. Rejected. Query x 10. Rejected. Query. Maybe find agent! If not, see other options. If yes, rewrite according to agent’s insights. Polish. Wait–while building a base!–never get published. Or. Get published! Book hits bookstores. Book sinks. Book returned. Writing career over. Or change your name. Start over. Or book sells moderately. Writing career in jeopardy. Start over. Or book becomes best seller. Fans write. Haters write. You write the next book. Publisher says–you can’t write this. It isn’t what your fans want! Start over. Or publisher loves you. Fans say–why isn’t this as good as your first book? Book sinks. Start over.
Then again, you could publish your book yourself. Rewrite. Rewrite. Polish. Research self-e-publishing options. Design cover (possibly, depending). Create a marketing plan. (What?) Research formatting and god-knows-what-else to prepare manuscript. Push the button. Tell your friends. Your friends buy the book. Go write next book. Or, your friends buy the book plus a few other people. Go write next book. Or your friends buy the book, and they get their friends to buy the book, and those people get their friends to buy your book, and you google your name to find out someone has blogged about you. They say nice things. More people buy your book. You wind up making money! Write next book. Repeat. Maybe at some point a publishing house calls you. Or a morning talk show.
I can barely get people to read my blog, how on earth would I convince more than five people to buy my book?
So, my first choice is to find an agent. Okay, so how many clients can an agent realistically have at any one time? Agents get paid when they make a sale, and let’s say, optimistically, they get a client a deal for 100,000. What would the agent get paid? 15K? And that client might write a book every two or three years. One client isn’t going to pay the bills. And taking on a client, of course, doesn’t mean selling that client’s book to a publisher. And every agent has to have to read submissions. Depending on the agent, some want just a query. Some say send the first five pages or so. An average agent in New York gets…what? 100 submissions a week? 200? Probably depends on their reputations. Donald Maas probably gets a thousand.
The agent has to read those submissions. The agent also has to do the rounds for all the existing clients, trying to sell their clients books to the publishers. The agent has to be in contact with clients–how is the next book coming, did you go over those edits, yes, I’ll call the publisher about the cover. Writers being how they are, lots of handholding may be involved. Reading contracts. Managing office. Dealing with nut jobs. Maybe even trying to sell movie rights for current clients–wouldn’t you want your agent to do that for you? Also, a good agent has to stay on top of the publishing news–reading about new releases, staff changes at publishing houses, publishing trends. Read more queries and submissions.
Writers probably don’t stop sending queries because you’ve got the flu. The submissions keep piling up. If your a good-hearted person who means well and loves stories, you’ll want to read those submissions. You’ll do your best. After you return a few phone calls and argue for that cover that your current client wants. If you’re a less good-hearted person, you’ll flip carelessly through the submissions looking for keywords like vampire or whatever the hot thing is.
Maybe you read something you think is great and you then you think about the market. You think about your current clients. You think about your bills. You think about your love of reading. You think about that annoying editor at such-and-such publishing house who moans about the state of publishing today. You think about the books you loved that failed and the bills that must be paid.
Depends on the kind of agent you are of course. Some agents are terrible. Some are even criminal. But I can’t muster much anger towards the rest. And when an agent tells me he can’t connect to my writing, he’s probably telling the truth. And if he can’t connect, then he shouldn’t be my agent.
Maybe I can’t get people to connect to my writing. Maybe the agents are right about my book.
The things is, I don’t self-publish not because I want approval from the powers that be, but because I suspect I can’t make my book good enough. Self-publishing would simply be self-embarrassment. My books are not best-seller material, and I’ve no idea how to make them that way.
To those of you who haven’t done so already, would you publish on your own? And to those who have put your own work out there, what would you do now if a publisher called and offered you a deal?
How do you know your work is ready?
And when is Oprah going to release the book fairies anyway?