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Writer v. Publisher

Since yesterday, I’ve been looking forward to today. Rain, they said. Clouds. Perfect writing weather.

I finished a long project on Friday and, since Monday, have been re-immersing myself in the hedonistic goals of Dan, Jenny, April, and Nina in The Year of Dan Palace. (It takes some time, when you’ve been away for a while, to slide back into the story. It’s all so much inertia.)

Today I was pretty sure I’d be ready for the writingrain and some wow-I-love-this-stuff wordplay. I would write three pages (my write-a-day goal), by god!

Or, well…not. There’s more re-acquainting to do, it seems. The writing felt stilted. Also, while in the midst of frantically trying to make sentences that meant something, I was involved in a series of emails that included a message by a Published Author whose publisher won’t renew their contract with him for the series he writes because of a chain bookstore’s “sales level requirement.”

Fall below their sales level requirement with one book, and they won’t buy the next book by that author.

Twice in one week, now, I’m finding myself plagued by spiritual illness. (The first was caused by an ad for “Toddlers & Tiaras” that showed three year-old girls in Woman makeup and hairspray gyrating to pop music.)

The news from the Published Author about his publisher’s non-renewal came just hours after I read this piece in Marketing Week about Dan Brown’s name appearing larger on a book cover than does the actual author’s name. Because the publisher thought it would help sell the book.

I’m sure it’s probably always been this way–publishing as a financial enterprise, rather than an artistic one–but I can’t believe it’s always been this bad. I can’t believe the industry has always been more interested in only churning out books “written” by celebrities or that were otherwise absolutely guaranteed to make #1 on the NYT Bestseller List…not because of the book, but because of the brand (or author) name.

What hope could there possibly be for me,  a “new” fiction writer, un-famous, un-Ann-Coulter-obnoxious, un-15-minutes-notorious, un-Writer-Cool-with-New-York-connections, un-HipBlogger, in the Real Publishing world ?

After writing Homefront, I put a lot of work into looking for an agent. I heard a lot of “marketability problem” and “tsk, new writer,” and ultimately decided to go independent. I found my own readers, acted as my own publicist, and sent the book to a number of reviewers. The reviews were all–and I hesitate to say this because it actually might sound a little Ann Coulter obnoxious–good. They were. But, even with the praise of critical reviewers backing the story and the writing, agents weren’t interested. Even with readers telling me they loved it, book clubs choosing it for their members, radio shows (including NPR) interviewing me about it, agents weren’t interested.

I truly cannot express how confusing–and, as a result, frustrating–that was. (Is.) “Oh, nope. Sorry. Good book, critics love it, readers love it…nah. Not for us.”

What?? (…gets out wine glass, thinking maybe one has to be drunk in order for it to make sense…)

The Year of Dan Palace, which I’m writing now, is represented by an agent. I was more than excited to find her, and I’m still more than excited to have her. But I have to remember that “agent” doesn’t necessarily = publication. And, of course, it never did, but the situation is worse, now. Some might use the word “dire.”

From what I keep hearing about the publishing industry–particularly as it pertains to fiction by new writers (and literary? oy)–the time I spend worrying over the quality of writing in Dan Palace might just be a huge waste of time.

There’s always self-publishing again, which is an absolutely wonderful alternative that has been more than rewarding, both personally and artistically, but it also, unfortunately, means making even less than a tiny bit of money. (Real Publishing won’t earn you a living, either, but I might make more than fourteen cents per book sold.)

I ended today discouraged. Almost afraid to write. While I love and believe in publishing independently, I do have that typical author dream of making money writing and seeing a Real Publisher logo on the binding. (Mostly because I have this fantasy of seeing my book in more than one bookstore. It would just be cool.) Devoting time and passion and soul (and blah blah blah) to something that may end up going nowhere financially is … I mean … why the hell bother? I’ll just end up working some regular old job and being pissed off that I don’t get to write.

The answer came after some thought, this afternoon: I’ll do it because…?

That’s the only reason, really.

Well, and there’s this: Ian, who agreed to be the only one working while I finish this book, wants me to finish it. (Probably so I can get off my butt and get a job. I don’t blame him.) And because he has agreed to give me this time, I have it. I have the time. I have a half-written book. I have an agent.

If I think at any length about the likelihood of getting Published and the frustrating process of trying, what I won’t have is the concentration or the inspiration.

All I can do at this point is make sure I do a good job, or at least my personal best. That, I have control over. It may be the only thing, but it’s something.

(And if I can get my next book into Backword Books, I’ll probably not be so upset if I have to let Real Publishing go.)

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Writer vs. Publisher

Sharon E. Dreyer - Wow! can I relate to your situation! Trying to have a science fiction novel published is very difficult too. My first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal, went through several incarnations before I actually saw a copy of the book in my hands. Let's just say that I finished the first draft of the novel in 1994. Trust me, I'd love to have all of the postage back that I spent sending letters and/or copies to publishers! Still, every few months I'd try to contact an agent or a publisher.

You are also correct about so-called "celebrities" being able to get a book on the shelves in six months no less! Then the news articles rave about how wonderful these bland/not so wonderful books are and how many have been sold. (Ugh!)

This is a very acurate article. Thanks for sharing.

This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

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for stopping by, Sharon. Best of luck to you with your book, and any future projects! And maybe my "best of luck" should be directed toward enjoying the writing process without worrying about publication rather than "best of luck with the publishing industry." As all-consuming as writing is, it's best to make that the most important focus. The rest is just a hassle.