Category Archives: Publishing

Getting My Book In Book Stores

When I decided to start self-publishing, people began asking me if I can get my book in stores, to which I’ve said no, not really. They almost always ask in amazement, “Don’t you want to see your novel in book stores?”  I usually shrug and say no and ask why they think it’s so important, but they don’t have answer for that. It begs the question – if they don’t know why I would want it, why are they amazed I don’t? Stuff like that makes me feel sarcastic, and one day I improvised this rant about it (and thought it was funny at the time), so I decided to share my sarcastic answer, which goes like this…

Why would I want that?  What am I supposed to, drive twenty minutes to the nearest one, find it there, and gaze lovingly at it, and then drive home?  Is this what you’re imagining:

English: Pringles chips (sour cream and onion ...

Pringles chips (sour cream and onion flavor) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I excitedly drive to the book store and find my book on a shelf.  It’s easy to find, what with the golden glow emanating from its cover, bathing my face in holy light.  With a gasp of delight, I reach for it with trembling hand, eyes wide in anticipation.  My fingers close around the binding, a thrilling jolt startling me.  I pull the book to me and lovingly gaze at the cover.  I open it, the crisp pages emitting a crinkling sound like the most delicious of Pringles.  Now I’m hungry, but the rapture I feel fills the void of dark despair that has long dogged me, and I no longer experience mortal pains.  I pull the tome to my chest, embracing it wholeheartedly.

And with a smile, I begin to spin, and spin, and spin, gazing up at the ceiling as if I can see the crystal clear sky right through it, for in truth, my eyes no longer see the physical world, enraptured as I am by divinity.  I just keep spinning – even long after I lose my balance and stumble into the bookshelf.  It teeters, totters, and then with a mighty crash, it falls backward, dumping book after heavy book onto the poor schleps on the other side.  It strikes the book case behind it and it, too, topples over, crushing and maiming still more people.  The bookcases, they fall like dominoes around the room, smashing the hopes and dreams of anyone in their path, leaving a ruin of broken and battered humanity in their wake.

And all the while, I continue to spin, unmindful of the destruction I have wrought, seeing nothing of the pools of deep red blood collecting around my twirling feet, or the frantic attempts to lift the weight off victims, or distraught bystanders.  The angry accusations of witnesses pass me by unnoticed.  The screams and groans of the victims I hear not, for only the heavenly singing of angels can reach me now.

Even the sirens of the ambulances, police, and firefighters with their Jaws of Life, cannot pierce the rapture enveloping me.  The cameras from local TV reporters capture the bizarre sight of a blissfully spinning author in the midst of carnage so awful that even the rescuers are overcome with despair.  Weeping abounds.  Many will need counseling and suffer PTSD for long, terrible years.  But not me.

Even when the police Taser me, hit me with a stun gun, and crush my limbs with batons, I twirl onward, until at last I am tackled to the bloody floor.  They pump me full of thorazine and attempt to put me in a straightjacket, for they have determined that I have indeed gone mad.  Yet they cannot pry my glowing book from my clutches to bind me.

I’m carted off to the psych ward, where I spend my days in continuous rapture, unmindful that I regularly soil myself, have bed sores, and haven’t once noticed the sponge baths and inappropriate contact from my caregivers.  The other patients see my starry gaze day after day and implore the nurses to let them have the same drugs they’ve given me, to no avail.

The nurses say, “Oh no dear, he’s on no medication.  He’s been like this ever since he found his book on a bookstore shelf.  He’ll likely stay this way until he dies.  His mind, heart, and soul have already left.”

Finally the day comes when I have wasted away, but even then, they cannot pry the book from my cold, dead hands, forcing them to bury me with it.  They close the casket at my funeral, for no one can stand the creepy grin I still wear.  Finally I am lowered into the ground, six feet under, and there I lay for all eternity, the maggots, bugs, and rats crawling all over my decomposing flesh, the golden glow of my novel bathing us all in eerie light.

You’d think I’d never seen the damn thing before.

The Art of World Building

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How Agents and Publishers Think About Manuscripts

Like most authors, I’ve submitted books to agents and either gotten no response or the form rejection letter. Well, let me be specific – I’ve sent a query letter, one page summary, and anywhere from 5 pages to 3 chapters as per each agent’s instructions. I jokingly tell myself that my books have never been rejected, just that opening material, but lately I’ve done some research that turns up some interesting info about this that I thought to share.

Imbalance of Power

To submit a novel, it must be completely written and edited. This can take a year, easy, depending on you and your life. And yet an agent will reject a book in 5-10 seconds, based on the opening paragraph and even first sentence. Or less, if they decide they’re tired of lead characters described as an “average girl”, for example, and your query says this. It’s hardly “fair”. A year of blood, sweat, and tears, and they give 10 seconds. That’s an imbalance of power.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

Mindset

I’ve recently listened to over a dozen webinars from agents and published authors, even publishers, all admitting ruefully/reluctantly, that they do indeed look for a reason to reject you. Why? Just to get through their “slush pile”.

And it’s no wonder. One agent said many agents receive between 15,000-30,000 queries a year! That’s 40-80 a day. I guess if they give most of us 1 minute, they can be done in an hour. That mindset is basically negative. And I think it’s the opposite of how the rest of the world thinks when picking up a book. They’re optimistic, looking to give something a chance.

Agents are overexposed through sheer volume and I think it’s understandable that they draw a hard line, but is that good for anyone, including them?

The time it takes to craft a good query and summary, which are only for them, is significant, and I personally don’t like spending that time given this mindset.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

Truly Exceptional

Agents say that your book can’t be just good, or even great, but must be “truly exceptional”, or something similar, to even get read, agented, or sold to publisher. Well, what does that mean?

And if a regular reader starts evaluating a book in a store or on Amazon and thinks it’s great, do they actually say to themselves, “Well, this is great, but I was looking for truly exceptional, so I’m not buying this!”

Agents readily admit that books that go on to be bestsellers are rejected all the time. Maybe this has something to do with how apt they are to reject one?

One agent said it’s well known in the traditional publishing industry that 7% of books account for something like 87% of sales, which means the vast majority of those books don’t sell – when agents and publishers, but not readers, thought they were “truly exceptional”. What does it mean when the agents and publishers are basically wrong 93% of the time? Is there a correlation between their mindset when reading queries (how little time they give one, for example) and this result? I wish I had a job where I got it wrong that often and still got paid.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

The Art of World Building

Rejections

No one likes a rejection, or even no response at all, but what bothers me most about this is that you never know why (out of my hundreds, I literally have one reason given to me). The ignorance causes second guessing. Was it the query? The summary? Opening chapter? And which part of all of this? Main character not compelling enough, fast enough? Didn’t like an opening sentence? Premise no good? Hook not hooky enough? You were in a bad mood? It was Tuesday?

What if the query and summary were “truly exceptional” but something about the opening pages wasn’t, and, not knowing this, I leave the pages alone but change the query or summary – for the worse? Counterproductive, to say the least.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

Loss of Rights

There’s always been a risk with traditional publishers that you lose all sorts of rights, including choosing your title, cover, and even having major rewrites forced on you. In the past, authors gave this up partly because they had no choice, but this isn’t true today when self-publishing is an option.

Another risk is that your book is summarily dropped, possibly within a month of publication, if it doesn’t perform well. So much effort by the author can result in very little support from a publisher. On the other hand, a self-published book is out there as long as you want it to be. And you control everything.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

The Burden of Proof, er, Promotion

A major reason to go with a traditional publisher is the marketing they’ll do for you, when this is a field they know all about and you probably don’t. Well, publishers increasingly expect authors to do most if not all of that themselves. This eliminates much of their appeal. Self-promotion is something all authors must/should do anyway, but I always thought I’d be supplementing their efforts, not replacing them.

If I’m to go it alone, I’d rather know that in advance and step up my efforts, having that in my plan for self-publishing.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

The Shrinking Advances

Another reason to go with a traditional publisher is that much-desired advance, but from what I’ve read these are so small nowadays as to be no enticement, really, especially if you have a decent day job. Sure, some get lucky, but the odds aren’t in anyone’s favor. An advance isn’t likely to change anything significant and this is no longer a draw of publishers, if it ever was.

– 1 for agents and publishers.

Coda

It increasingly seems like traditional publishers and agents aren’t offering much that authors can’t do themselves and without fruitless effort, losing rights, or taking risks. I was initially surprised by some what I’ve learned this year and wrote about here, but their positions make sense for them.

But not for some authors.

Even as the lure of traditional publishers fades, self-publishing continues to lose its stigma and be a more attractive option. We don’t have to spend precious time on queries and the whole agent business, and I find it more rewarding to research my industry instead, becoming more able to proactively manage my burgeoning career. The freedom to do what I want – and when – is a grand thing. And I now have the luxury of knowing for certain that every book I write will get published, get full support from my publisher (me), and be around forever!

+ a billion for me

If you have tips or comments, feel free to add them below or email me.

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