March 27, 2015No Comments

Why I’ll Likely Self-Publish

I've been struggling to find a literary agent for one of my two fiction novels for more than a year now. I've pitched the story at conferences and via email, and received a steady trickle of rejections. Mostly formulaic responses, some nicer than others, one or two with encouraging words, but all the same rejection in the end.

People tell me to take heart. Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before finding someone to accept her debut novel, The Help.

Others tell me to self-publish. After all, the greatest thing about the Internet and the print-on-demand technology is that I don't have to rely on someone else to "give me permission" to publish my novel. I can do it myself.

But since I was a girl, I wanted to be an author, and I thought authors needed agents and publishers. And to be honest, I don't want to sort out ISBN numbers and e-book formats and cover art. I want to write.

However, the truth is that I cannot get a foothold in the publishing business. I've tried to figure out the rules of what makes an agent accept your work. I've been told all of these things:

  1. It's all about the writing. If the writing is good, we'll consider it.
  2. Target agents based on their interests and other clients.
  3. Format your manuscripts properly and be professional.
  4. No typos!
  5. Make me fall in love with your characters.
  6. I've got to be hooked on the first page.
  7. Create a narrative voice I haven't heard before.
  8. Create a world that I want to learn more about.
  9. Develop a platform and fan base first.
  10. It's a subjective business.

I've worked in business long enough to know that following the rules only gets you so far, and by this, I mean that you can follow rules to a "T" but still get rejected for just not being the right fit. Which has led me to the recent conclusion that most of those tips are noise, because number 10 seems to trump them all.

Case in point: take a look at just a handful of the rejection emails (form letters) I've received.

  1. I'm sorry. This is not for me.
  2. You have an interesting idea for a book and there's a lot to like about your approach. But in the end I'm afraid I didn't come away from this quite fully convinced this was something I think I'd be able to represent successfully. (I've gotten this exact same email for both of my novels.)
  3. I’m afraid your book isn’t a good match for my list.
  4. Having considered it carefully, we have decided that we are not the right fit for your project, and so we are going to pass at this time.
  5. As interesting as your novel sounds, I don't believe I would be the best agent to represent your work.

The world of book publishing has changed. I may need to admit that despite persistence and hard work, I may not find a traditional book deal waiting for me. And that I should take advantage of the opportunities afforded by self-publishing to reach readers directly.

I'll just wait until the latest batch of rejections finishes trickling in, to be certain.


January 31, 2012No Comments

RIP Book Publishing


The big book publishing houses have set the rules since 1947, according to Dan Poynter, but those days are over. Poynter is a self-publishing guru who has been his own writer, editor, publisher, distributer and marketer since 1969, and what is most impressive about him is the way he has kept up with market trends and technologies over those 40-plus years.

I heard him speak tonight in front of more than 100 writers in Culver City at a session of the Independent Writers of Southern California. He was easily 10 years older than half the crowd but far more tech savvy than 80 percent of the population. 

"Don't sell your books in [brick and mortar] stores," he quipped. "They won't be around to pay you for them." 

Poynter's specialty is non-fiction publishing, and that is how he has made his living -- writing books on skydiving, hand-gliding and now self-publishing. Silver-haired, clean shaven and nattily dressed in a suit with an actual silk handkerchief tucked in the pocket, he seems to actually be one of those people who has turned his passions into a career. And he's happy to help others get there as well.

His advice was geared toward non-fiction writers, and as an aspiring mystery writer, I found some of his assessments of the industry's future very grim. People who are 18-25 years old don't read, he said, so don't write a book and expect them to buy it. Beginning of the end of long-form fiction, I wondered? Maybe I should channel my energy into a screenplay. After all, I do live in LA.

Oh, and the final grim statement--there are 145 million blogs. *sigh* How many readers are there?