Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friday Roundup - on Thursday . . . ooh, different . . .

Yeah, so I kind of never lived up to my promise of those Friday Roundup link posts I said I'd do a couple weeks ago. Sorry about that. Add that to the New Year's resolution list (which is turning into a tome I have to say). And yes, technically it's not actually Friday, but I've got a full day tomorrow ahead of me (much eating of food, and watching of movies, you understand), so I thought I'd do tomorrow's post today. Because, why not?

So . . . here are a couple items I thought I'd share:

Top 10 Most Surprising Performances in Genre Film 2009 - an article what I wrote over at which I think is rather fun

We all know my interest in Gender in Publishing (see my blog post here), and here's a very well written, well thought out article on the subject by Julianna Baggott of the Washington Post: The Key to Literary Success? Be a Man - or Write Like One

Another new blog I've found for you industry lovers out there: S. Jae Jones - Editorial Assistant over at St. Martin's Press (she's also the lovely young lady responsible for advertising and answering any and all questions with regards to this whole "New Adult" concept they've come up with - see my blog on said subject here)

And because I am a sucker for cute cat youtube videos, here's one I just found, Whack a Kitty, and another classic, Ninja Cat - for those of you who've yet to experience their awesomeness.

Finally I want to wish you all a most happy new year's eve! Here's to 2010 and it's amazingness! And what the heck, here's to all of us and our amazingness too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy holidays and a look back at the decade that was . . .

It's that time of year, and I want to wish you all a very happy holiday and very happy end to the year. It's been a daunting one for yours truly, filled with both good and bad, and it will be very interesting what the new decade brings.

It's also a little weird for me to sit back and realise that the decade of my twenties is coming to a close. Trying to think back on everything I did in the 00s is pretty overwhelming. I graduated from university, lived in England for three years, got to meet some pretty impressive people while there (like Edward Albee, Robert Altman), published two books, been in too many plays to count, founded a nerd website, interviewed a ridiculous number of people, discovered I loved writing movie reviews, and went to my first SF/Fantasy convention. I learned how to live away from home, how to have a variety of roommates. I learned how to relax and be a bit more spontaneous, that I loved to dance despite really not enjoying the club scene. I learned I actually didn't mind working out, even though I never really was that sporty. I also learned that I'm not giving up on my acting any time soon, and that setbacks never prompt the desire to quit.

This was a decade of glorious films - lest we forget it produced Lord of the Rings people. A decade of Harry Potter. This was a decade that began with 9/11 and finished with election of the first African American President in the States. The world has changed. The world has stayed the same.

Mostly this decade was one of making some extraordinary friends, and maintaining connections with those from previous decades. The people I have met the last ten years have been amongst the cream of the crop, truly talented, truly hilarious, truly fabulous.

There have been ups and downs, people we have lost along the way, and the last two years have been particularly difficult - both for the world, and also just for me. But I got through many things, am working my way through the other stuff, and have faith I'll come out the other end, have faith that we all will.

So here's to the new decade, and cheers to the last one. It's time to move on, but it's amazing to look back. I am who I've ever been, but I definitely think I've come out at this end of the decade a better person for having gone through it. I hope you all feel something similar.

See you in the new year! And can we finally come up with a name for our decades now?


Timothy and the Dragon's Gate was reviewed and recommended over at's Holiday Gift Guide. I second the motion that Timothy would make an excellent book for any child 8 - 12 this holiday season. It's a book that boys love, as well as girls, and appeals to reluctant readers with its fast paced adventure and sense of humour.

While your at it, why not pick up Alex and the Ironic Gentleman as a companion piece? :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Self Publishing Debate becomes a Debate!

I received the following comment to my Self Publishing Debate post, and I thought the commenter made some interesting points and asked some interesting questions. So I wanted to address them, but felt that my answers might be interesting to you guys too, so I'm creating an entire post in honour of this comment.

Not everyone considers self-publishing just because they received a couple rejections and never tried revising their work.

To this I agree. I already said as much in the initial post. For those who may not recall this is what I said:

I think self-publishing has its place. I think if you have a niche market, maybe are on the lecture circuit, self publishing is an excellent venue for you. If, let's say, you want to put together a collection of poems for your family, or print up a story you've written so you can share it with your loved ones, that too is awesome.

This I said in the middle:

I know that there have been works out there that have been rejected and it isn't because they aren't any good. It's because they just don't fit the market, or they're too much of a risk, or any other number of reasons. But again, that is the exception to the rule. That is actually the same exception to the rule as the one with the successfully self published authors. Because those successful authors were probably the ones that had that book that actually was awesome but rejected for other reasons in the first place.

And this I said this at the end:

But please, for those of you who do choose to go down that path, do it with respect for those who have gone before you and were successful at it. Those people had to work ten times harder than a commercially published author to get to the success they enjoy today, they spent time, energy and money. They were incredibly talented, and I bet they had an outside eye work with them on perfecting their book. It's darn hard to do what they did. Don't just think you can print off a book and voila!

So I do think there are some fiction authors who do go that route and have been successful at it, but those that were were incredibly talented, not only as authors but as marketers.

Moving on:

I don't know how many rejections you had before you found an agent.


I'm not going to say how many agents have rejected me. I will only say every agent on that represents YA has rejected me; the majority have never read more than a short query with ten pages attached. I've been trying to break in for the past four years and I am now beyond frustrated. I believe people are turning to self-publishing because they are finding the gates into traditional publishing to be shut.

This is the first point I wish to address here. I think you are right about why many authors are turning to self-publishing. And I still think this is a bad thing, and I'll tell you why. Many authors are rejected on their first work. For whatever reason it is simply not publishable, and many authors who have looked back on those works have understood why with the hindsight that is, as we all know, 20/20.

Yet these days so many authors who find their first work rejected take the blame outward, to the industry. They don't look at themselves and ask if maybe their work is not quite ready yet. So they turn to self-publishing, as you say, and then spend many man hours creating a work that looks like a published book (formatting the pages, hiring an artist to do the cover etc), years marketing said work, and a lot of money to do both. In my mind, 9 times out of 10, the author could have done herself a much better service by setting that rejected work aside, and writing a new book, and submitting that one. After all, we are authors. We aren't just "writers of one book", well except for Harper Lee. Our plan is to write many a book, to have a career writing stories. What's the harm in writing something new?

That's my biggest concern. I hate the idea of authors wasting valuable writing time on formatting, and design, and marketing when that isn't their niche. Now there are authors out there for whom those are also a passion, and that's cool. But most authors are, you know, authors.

It is possible the rejected work truly is marvelous, and just not right for the market at present. Again, I would still say set it aside and write something else. I'd suggest writing something maybe a bit more commercial, get a publishing contract with that, and then sell the more complicated work.

BUT. If you truly want to spend the time and money on self-publishing your work, then I respect that. A few authors have had success at that, but like I stated above, they are exceptions to the rule, and they not only turn out to be brilliant writers, but brilliant marketers with serious internet savvy. They also have the money to spend.

But who knows? Perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps there really is something terribly wrong with my query and first ten pages that would make any rational person turn away. Go ahead and take a look. I'd love to know what about my pitch and first ten pages justifies an immediate "This-sucks-and-isn't-worth-a-partial-request" rejection.

You know what, I actually have a bit of time on my hands. I would never normally agree to this as I have a lot of projects, but if you send me an email so I can send you a private critique, then I will have a look. But I warn you I may be a pretty nice person, but I come from a long line of teachers and my interest has always been first and foremost to educate. And if I'm going to critique your work, I will critique it honestly, I'm not going to be "nice".

I've had over a hundred beta readers and even if they have criticisms, everyone agrees it is a good read.

Honestly, this really doesn't mean much. I'm sorry. Often beta readers are just so impressed we've written a book at all, that they think the book is awesome. Besides, considering all the rejection you've had, I have to keep that in mind as well. After all, I don't think the industry is out to get you personally. I mean, do you seriously think agents look at your work and think, "This is marvelous, now let's reject it because it's all just such a fun game!"? So you have to honestly ask yourself, what's going on here?

I am on the verge of self-publishing not because I've been rejected but because I've done everything in my power to appease the gate keepers and they still won't give me the time of day.

And I get it, really I do. We've all been rejected and it hurts. But I've already explained my reasoning for not wanting to self-publish: I don't have the means, nor the ability. Plus, I'm at a stage in my career where I believe I ought to be paid for my work.

I wish it was as simple as revising the manuscripts. They don't even read the manuscripts. The majority decide whether to ask for a partial based on what amounts to jacket copy, which they dissect in a way no rational human would do (ex. no question hooks, despite the fact I can walk down to Wal-Mart and find numerous books and DVDs with question hooks on their jacket copy).

Okay, so this now sounds like you've had some blanket advice from someone: Never use a question hook, never do this, never do that. Whoever gave you this advice was doing you a disservice, there are very few absolutes in writing in general. The fact is that every agent is different. Nathan Bransford hates rhetorical questions. Guess what? My query was nothing BUT rhetorical questions. So I think you need to take a step back from the minute details and just find what works for you. Remember "Pirates of the Caribbean" - they're not rules, they're guidelines.

Also the idea that they dissect a query in no rational way is just, I'm sorry to say, irrational. Why on earth would they do that? Agents are people, people who love books. They aren't this giant amorphous mass that came from outer space with a whole different set of reading rules. Just because an agent takes the time on her blog to state preferences doesn't mean that they won't read the exception. In fact I've read so many blogs from agents stating just that. That when they offer specifics it's to help, but nothing is ever set in stone. I'll address the reading of queries in a moment.

However this is the bigger issue. If you haven't had a full request from a single agent, this means something really really positive. Your query sucks.

What? Uh . . . how is that a good thing?

I'll tell you. A query is a very difficult thing to get right. So what you need to do is work on your query. This is a great thing because it means you don't have to re-write your novel or anything. It just reflects a poorly constructed query, and that is something that can be fixed. There are some excellent venues for you to do that, I'd highly recommend Absolute Write, a writing forum with an entire critique section devoted to making queries awesome (password "Vista").

Let me now also address your other question from above, namely how can an agent judge a book based on a query letter and first ten pages.

When you buy books, what do you do? I'll tell you what I do, which I think is pretty much the same as most people. I go into a bookstore knowing I can afford one book today, that's it. So I need to spend my money wisely. First, I am drawn to a cover. Can't help it, and that's what covers are there for. Then I flip the book over, or open it to the front flap, and read the plot summary. Then if I like that, I go to chapter one and read a little bit. If I'm satisfied with that, I'll buy it.

Well that's EXACTLY the same thing agents are doing. They already have a lot of clients, so they have to be picky who they are going to represent next. They pick up a query, there's no cover to draw them to it, but since they get sent queries, they read them. If they like the query and there are ten pages sent with it, then they'll check those out. If they like those pages then they'll ask for a full.

Let me tell you, you can tell pretty quick in those first ten pages if you're going to like a work or not, and I am sure you've been able to tell, flipping open a book, if you're going to like a book or not by even just the first page.

You can even tell from a query blurb if you'll like the story (just like reading the back cover of a book). You can also tell from a query if:

- the writer understands grammar and spelling
- the writer understands how to write in a manner so as to be able to express herself accurately to a reader
- the writer has done her research into the industry, knows how to follow rules (which is very important because as you get into the industry more and more, and have to deal with deadlines, etc, an agent is going to want to know an author is capable of being a professional)

There is so much that can be revealed from a query alone, let alone those first ten pages which is more than enough to let you know if the writer is any good, or at least has written something you're interested in.

If you haven't read this already, here's a very informative article about what rejection means from an editor's perspective: Making Light's Slushkiller

And when publishers like Harlequin encourage us to pay AuthorHouse a bunch of money to "self-publish", I admit my faith in the publishing industry to ever give my work an honest chance is all but gone. By doing things like this they are telling me they are longer interested in working with writers to make money-- they are only interested in taking money out of our pockets.

This I agree with. This was the purpose of my original post. But I will add that Harlequin is just one publisher. That it isn't representative of the entire industry. And there are other commercial publishers that do own self-publishing outfits, but you'd never know it because they don't recommend it. It's just another revenue stream for them, and the company has an entirely different name so authors aren't fooled into thinking they are being legitimately published by a big company. My issue was with the recommending, not with having alternate means to make money. Most all publishers these days are still interested in publishing books, and most every editor I have met is obsessed with literature. What Harlequin did was wrong, ditto Thomas Nelson, but it is not representative of the entire industry. It is important to not take an individual case and then apply it blanket to everything.

So there we go. I hope I answered some of your questions, and addressed your concerns in an adequate manner. I hope others found what I had to say useful.

Thank you so much for the comment, it's always fantastic to be made to think, and I definitely had to give your questions a good deal of thought because I understand the frustration you are feeling.

In the end, I'd truly recommend writing another book. I had a friend who for ten years tried to get an agent with one book until her boyfriend made just that insistence. That second book she wrote landed her an agent. And yet even that one her agent couldn't sell. It was her third that got her that contract with Harper Collins, that has made her an author published around the world. If she had just decided to self publish at the beginning, she quite probably would have never landed that agent, and she most certainly never would have written this series that she adores, and, what's more, is bringing so much joy to so many readers. In fact, that's another really important point to note, just because you might have to write another book, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. You might discover that your next book is even better, something even closer to your heart. Writing another book should be an exciting prospect, not a negative one.

Oh and, btw, my friend's second book? The one her agent couldn't sell?

It now has a publishing contract.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Roundup - and some appreciation

I've decided to follow the example of my fellow bloggers and use Fridays to list links to articles etc I've found interesting over the last week that I'd like to share with you guys.

But first.

Evidently some author somewhere decided that today would be Agent Appreciation day, and I think that that's just a lovely idea. Often I see agents vilified as little more than gatekeepers, keeping hardworking authors away from their dream of being published, or as thieves taking the hard earned money from the authors they represent. You can read my post called "15%" in response to that attitude (in short: it's ridiculous).

So I'd like to offer up some agent love and take the time to send my appreciation to the amazing Becky Stradwick at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency.

Now some of you who've been with me awhile will remember that my original agent at the agency was Julia Churchill, and I spoke often and highly of her until she decided to leave to pursue her own dreams. But I realise I have been remiss in writing about Becky who is as equally worthy of attention and admiration. I suppose the reason you haven't heard me talk about her is because I haven't had any recent book sales and haven't been reporting too often of late on the goings on behind the scenes of my writing career, but that goes back to the misconception about agents. Just because I haven't sold another book yet, does not mean Becky hasn't been totally amazing to me.

First off, she works so carefully and closely with me to make my manuscripts as awesome as possible. She puts so much work into them, it's kind of overwhelming having someone else take so much time and care so much with something I've written. Next, of course, she works on getting them sold, sending them to publishers etc.

But most importantly she puts up with a neurotic author worried about the future (both for her and her books), and someone who likes to rant possibly a bit too much. Becky has been there for me to give me pep talks, make me laugh when I'm feeling down, and to steer me in the right direction - by which I mean away from self-pity and towards self-motivation.

And she's always been in my corner.

So Becky thank you so much for everything you've done for me this year. I know I can be a handful at times, but your advice and help has been invaluable to me.

I'd also like to thank Madeleine Buston who is another agent at the agency. As some of you may know, agencies can have many different agents who work there, and many work with specific sub-rights etc. Madeleine is responsible for selling my books to the States (quite an important market), and she too has been amazingly supportive and wonderful in all she's done for me.

Oh what the heck, to everyone at the agency, including of course the man himself, thank you! You've been so amazing to me and believed in me even when there were times I didn't.

I appreciate you.

And now . . . on to some links!

- Here you can find the most interesting bookstores in the world. Be warned, they will make you sigh with longing.

- With all the doom and gloom circulating the net of late about the state of publishing, it's nice to read something relatively positive.

- I've a couple new industry blogs I've been enjoying reading of late (just a note, some of the content on these blogs could be considered PG 13, with some bad language at times, and discussions of mature themes):

And that's it for now! I decided to do this link thing kind of last minute, so I promise next week I'll keep my eyes peeled for more links for next Friday, now that I know I'll be sharing them with you!

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Business of Selling Books

I thought this topic would be interesting for you guys because I'm not sure if everyone is aware of what a big influence book buyers at the big box bookstores stores have in the industry. How their business model shapes what gets published and how books are bought by publishers.

Despite how it may seem, most books these days still are bought in brick and mortar bookstores. So it is vital that your book, as an author, is on those shelves otherwise, to be perfectly blunt, your book will fail. Thus publishers have to appeal to the taste of the book buyers for these stores. They have to choose to publish books they know will be bought by the book buyers.

Think about that for a second. Let's look at the States. We've got Borders and Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart. That's four people who decide whether a book fails or succeeds, is bought from an author in the first place. Four people.

I know of books that are bestsellers in one country that book buyers for the big chains in another country wouldn't buy from the publisher and so (obviously) the book totally flopped.

I also know, personally, that the American cover of the paperback of "Alex" had to be changed at the request of the book buyers. In fact covers in general these days are being created to suit the taste of these buyers..

Interesting right?

Now of course the book buyers are buying books with an eye to what we the readers want. Their job is to sell books so they want to buy books that sell. They see what kind of covers readers buy, what kind of topics are of interest, so it isn't like there isn't method to the madness. I also happen to have met some book buyers over the years, and I can tell you, they are pretty passionate about books. But they really do have to be careful, and they can't buy everything, and it's a better business practice to purchase a sure thing over what might be perceived as a risk.

So that's one thing. The people who buy from the publishers the books to place on the shelves.

Here's another thing.

Bookstore chains are paid money by the publisher to place their books in certain parts of the store. It's called co-op. So books are paid to be on the table, as opposed to the shelf. On the front table, as opposed to the one in different sections. Paid to be face out on the shelf (where you can see the whole cover and is more eye catching), as opposed to spine out. This also determines what gets bought from the publishers. If a publisher is willing to invest the money, then the book has a distinct advantage.

There is a very interesting article over at the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency Blog about the big box bookstores, and their (possibly) faulty line of reasoning in selling books. The article actually references yet another, so if you have the time, you've got some pretty interesting reading ahead of you. To quote from the article:

" In brief: placement on the front table in a major chain bookstore costs the publisher up-front, about $30,000. Yes, after the publisher has paid the author’s advance, the costs of publishing and manufacturing the books, they also have to pay the booksellers to try to sell the book. . . they switched the book retailing model from selling books, to charging for shelf space for displaying books.
. . .

I believe that book chains don’t really want to be in the book business. They just want money because they control the access to readers. This allows them to dodge the question of responsibility for doing their job (selling books) and instead to collect an entitlement (basically a tax) for being in control of a step in the process. Unfortunately, they never draw new book buyers into their stores. The message is always: if you buy books we got a bunch of cheap stuff here, but they don’t even try to get new people to buy books. That would require a different type of marketing."

I have to say that I'm not surprised that the people in charge of these book stores don't feel it necessary to adopt a different model of marketing. It's been a trend of late that all you need is an MA in Business and that qualifies you to sell any product to anybody. Of course this is illogical, but you see it applied to many different businesses so it must be working to a degree. A profit must be being made. Of course we then return to the argument, is profit the only thing worth being in business for?

That's a debate for another time.

At any rate. When bookstores are making a lot of their money from publishers and not readers, what incentive do they have to work to sell books?

It's an interesting question.

At this point I should point out that people who work at these chains, including the managers, are often huge book lovers, and it is because of them that you still get all the love in these stores. I remember when the last Harry Potter came out, my local big bookstore chain store had a massive party, I'm talking closing off part of the street massive. The next week I was chatting with one of the booksellers in the children's department about what a great time I'd had, and she said it had been her idea initially. It surprised me because I assumed it was an order from on high, but no, it had started as an idea from someone who worked at the store who loved books.

There's also a woman called Wendy at the Indigo at Yorkdale mall, whom you have seen several times on this blog as she's been so helpful in helping me get together my book launches. This is a woman who ADORES children's books, and does everything she can to promote them.

In all there are wonderful people who work in these stores who are as in love with books as the rest of us.

The issue is with the business model. I'm not sure exactly what needs to be done, if it even needs to be fixed. I just know that the idea of so much power in the hands of the few can be a little frustrating (it can also be fantastic if you turn out to be the next Stephenie Meyer). But aside from trying to make any kind of statement, I just thought you guys should know this. That the books on the front tables (aside from ones which are marked "staff picks" etc) have spent a lot of money to get there. That it isn't necessarily a value judgment in placing them up front. That maybe, once in a while, you should check out what's in the back, spine out, next to hundreds of other such books.

There be jewels in them shelves. There be jewels.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Why New Adult Interests Me

The who did what with the what now?

The "New Adult".

Yeah, Adrienne, seriously don't know what you're talking about.

Fair enough. Let me explain.

So several weeks ago St. Martin's Press ran a contest looking for what they termed "New Adult". This is what they said they were looking for:

"We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.”"

Basically the genre has been invented by St. Martin's because of the obvious crossover appeal we've been seeing with such books as Twilight, and heck, even Harry Potter.

And I found this very interesting, and is something I've been keeping my eye on. Agent Kristin Nelson over at Pub Rants blogged about it today, and as such inspired me to add my thoughts to the chorus.

As some of you may know, and others may not, selling work that isn't quite adult and isn't really YA has been very tricky for a while now. You'd think the idea of college age stories, or stories with individuals just out of highschool would be highly coveted by just that age group, but for some reason, and probably a pretty pragmatic one, it's always been a very tough sell to publishers.

What is the pragmatic reason you may ask? I'll tell you. Shelving.

Weird, I know, right? But think about it. Where would such books go? It's just one small category after all, in a book store full of tons of categories. We separate adult from kids, sometimes even putting one on a totally different floor. New Adult would be a smallish category (unless the next Twilight wound up being from that genre), not requiring that big a section. But where would you put it? Upstairs with the kid's stuff? Downstairs with the adult (after all New Adult is still Adult, 18+). Maybe on the stairs? So it's tricky to deal with a genre like this because it's hard to sell a genre like this. To make buyers aware of its existence.

I've also heard arguments against creating this new category because we are dividing books up so much already as it is. YA already gets marginalised for not being "real" writing, for not being serious enough to be considered Adult literature. What would happen now to New Adult? Would that therefore be considered a category for adults not quite ready for the good stuff?

See, gets complicated doesn't it?

Here's my thinking. I don't like the idea of categories in general. I don't like the snobbery associated with division. And I don't like the judgment, and that good books can be totally overlooked because they aren't on the correct shelf.


I also happen to know that books that would fall into this New Adult category are not being accepted and published by publishers because they currently have no place on the market. So if we have to have categories, I highly approve of creating one so that these books can find their place out there as well.

Therefore, this is my plan. I am going to spread the good word. I am going to keep bringing up the idea of New Adult when chatting online, or with my fellow author buddies. And I'll blog about it. Wait, I just did. Because the more we talk about New Adult, the more people will hear about it, and the more people hear about it, the more people may realise they want it. And maybe when a lot of people know such a category exists, the bookstores will feel better creating a section for it because buyers will know to look for it. And then . . . oh then . . . then the publishers will want to publish it.

All hail New Adult! Let the spreading begin!

S. Jae-Jones from St. Martin's Press answered some questions on the new category over at Jodi Meadows's blog Words and Wardances here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Self Publishing Debate

These days it seems like more and more legitimate news sources are pointing to the concept of self-publishing as if it was just invented this year. There is talk of the democratisation of literature, how now with the internet and POD (print on demand) technology, self-publishing is more than ever a viable option for an author. What's more, some have been pointing towards self-publishing as a viable FIRST option for an author.

Two commercial publishing houses: Harlequin (yes, THE Harlequin) and Thomas Nelson (a Christian Publisher), have created self publishing arms. It seems, that the industry has a desire to legitimize this form of publishing. Well . . . at least cash in on it.

So, some of you, I am sure, have been sitting at your computers for weeks now wondering "I wonder what Adrienne thinks about all this?"

And now I'll tell you.

Sort of. Okay. So here's the thing. I think self-publishing has its place. I think if you have a niche market, maybe are on the lecture circuit, self publishing is an excellent venue for you. If, let's say, you want to put together a collection of poems for your family, or print up a story you've written so you can share it with your loved ones, that too is awesome.

However, if you want to know what I feel about self-publishing as a viable means of making a living as a writer of fiction, check out these blogs which articulate my opinion perfectly:

The Great Underground Myth: Why Self Publishing Doesn’t Work - by Max Dunbar

Self Publishing Rant - Agent Rachelle Gardner

(In short, I don't think it works for most people, and though I do think the current system is flawed, it is still much better than the current self-publishing model. Also I have to snicker a little at those articles pointing to the few self publishing successes - which are considered successes because they were picked up by commercial houses. First off the irony is obvious. Second, there are so few exceptions to the rule that it makes it so easy to point them out.)

My issue in this post is about something a little different, which agent Rachelle Gardner touches on in the post I linked to:

Writers had to endure rejection, and be persistent. They had to keep trying harder, improving their writing, to get to the point of being published. And they had to impress a lot of people.

Sure appealing to the gatekeepers sucks (trust me, I know, I really do, I've had my fair share of rejection lately), and sure all the rejection sucks too. But see, what self publishing is taking away is the next step after the rejection. The steps are becoming the following:

Submit MS
MS gets rejected
Try again
Gets rejected again
Self Publish

Not only is this happening more and more, but the two publishers I listed above say that they plan on recommending WITHIN THEIR REJECTION LETTERS that authors use their self publishing arm instead. They are totally pushing this last step in the process.

But see, that last step, as I mentioned earlier, is new. That didn't use to be the step. Quick, let's rip off that step and see what lies beneath:

Submit MS
MS gets rejected
Try again
Gets rejected again

What is this you say? Work? What is this "work" you speak of?

Rejection sucks. Yup. Totally man, like dude, bummer. But it is part of a very important process. Rejection prompts the writer to take a step back and take a hard look at her work. To really coldly analyse why, maybe, it has been rejected. It gives the author the opportunity to think, "You know what, maybe I should go back, re-write this thing. Or maybe I'll set it aside and try something else."

I can't tell you how many authors I know who, with the wisdom of distance, have looked back at their rejections as blessings. Have taken that initial anger and frustration at being rejected, and channeled it into creating another work that is so awesome that no one could possibly turn it down.

Rejection makes us stronger, it makes us hungrier, and it makes us better writers. And this concept, the one of working on your craft, dealing with the gatekeepers, and just keep pushing on, that concept is quickly vanishing. What's more, the idea of putting in the work is getting so foreign to us, that authors are considering self publishing as a FIRST option, before they've even tried to get an agent/publisher interested in their work.

I'm not stupid. I know that there have been works out there that have been rejected and it isn't because they aren't any good. It's because they just don't fit the market, or they're too much of a risk, or any other number of reasons. But again, that is the exception to the rule. That is actually the same exception to the rule as the one with the successfully self published authors. Because those successful authors were probably the ones that had that book that actually was awesome but rejected for other reasons in the first place.


Most people aren't. We just aren't. And now legit publishers are telling new authors that they don't need to go back and take a good hard look at their work, no! Now they can PAY THESE PUBLISHERS to print their books for them, so that the author doesn't learn anything from the experience and can play at Author the Role Playing Game. These publishers, who are extremely well respected in their genres, who are obviously so by the authors submitting to them, are using their position of power to suggest (just suggest, they're not forcing anyone, no, it's just a little suggestion - never mind how much the authors submitting to them respect their opinion) something that will make the publisher money, and deny an author the chance at real improvement.

That's one of my biggest issues with self publishing. The idea that rejection is an insult. That it can't at all be possibly a sign that you need to work a little more.

Why shouldn't books be rejected?

At any rate. That is my added little thought to the debate.

And please don't think I'm closed minded about all this, I've already said self-publishing has a place. I also don't begrudge anyone who does it. But please, for those of you who do choose to go down that path, do it with respect for those who have gone before you and were successful at it. Those people had to work ten times harder than a commercially published author to get to the success they enjoy today, they spent time, energy and money. They were incredibly talented, and I bet they had an outside eye work with them on perfecting their book. It's darn hard to do what they did. Don't just think you can print off a book and voila!

No one can simply print off a book.

It just doesn't work that way.