Recently a friend of mine (not in publishing) asked over lunch if self-publishing is still frowned upon. It took me by surprise, as this is someone who generally avoids discussing the writing realities of publishing, and generally geeks out over books with me. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised by the conversation. It’s one I know can and will happen when I least expect it.
The green-eyed monster will try to tell you that other writers will steal your readers. How wrong this monster is! People who read books will read more than one book, and as we all know, writers are readers too. Never forget that.
Writing: it is a work of love. It may or may not result in riches, but the process in itself should be satisfying. Literally there is blood (oh those paper cuts), sweat, and tears as the words find their way into the public ether. So it’s natural to feel the drive to “give up the day job” when going down this path. This is my gentle nudge that it’s better to ease oneself into such a position vs. backing out at a breakneck speed. There’s a life beyond writing, and both are dependent on the other to ensure success.
Books are generally a source of comfort for readers. What the readers may not realize is it the rollercoaster of emotions that any author experiences while creating those books.
If there’s one thing I will always honor, it’s an understanding and appreciation of authors putting themselves out there, being willing to share their stories hell or high water. As an agent, I am used to seeing this side of the creation of a book, but there’s only so much I can do. It’s generally understood that in order to survive publishing, rhinoceros skin is required. It takes time to develop this protective covering, but it’s guaranteed it’ll help any writer survive the pre- and post-publication process.
What are some ways to tackle those insecurities?
In November 2016, our agency decided to close to submissions for two months, as all of us at the agency had a large number of partial and full manuscripts to read. This was due to the many queries received (where we requested each book), as well as the conferences we had attended in the second half of 2016.
Thankfully our agency is not alone. This is a normal practice in publishing, which will be done by some publishing houses, as well as literary agencies. The reality is that more people than ever are writing (who doesn’t love that?), but there are only so many hours in a day one is able to read submissions. The other responsibilities we have in our respective publishing houses and agencies generally will take precedence over the submissions pile.
As a writer, how does this impact your individual goal of getting published?
During my first year of graduate school in Library and Information Sciences, it was hard to accept that even with the best effort, I’d never be able to read every single book that sparked my interest. Even the basic act of walking into any library or bookstore generally results in a pile of books that I can only hope will be read. Thankfully I’m not alone here.
Fast forward into a life of publishing, this realization not only becomes clearer, but it also pertains to the overflowing inbox of queries in my agent life. Ultimately there are many ideas in the world any agent will find interesting, but due to a shortage of time and our daily agent responsibilities, it’s necessary to read quickly and to know immediately when we’re not connecting with book ideas.
At the beginning of November, Colson Whitehead was the final guest of Talking Volumes for 2016. If you've ever read his books, you'll know that he was quite the colorful personality and kept Kerri Miller on her toes (in the best of ways).
Having limited time in any day, I’m not able to read all the books by any author nowadays. I've read some of Colson's works, but sadly not all of them. However, it became abundantly clear one of the reasons he has thrived as a writer is that he keeps it real. Real, as in he writes what he wants to write, bringing a natural curiosity to the writing table.
If you asked me 15 years ago if social media, let alone the internet, would be such an influence in how publishing operates, I would have thought it was a joke.
Back then, it was perfectly normal to pitch all book ideas by phone, sometimes written correspondence, to editors at the publishing houses. Despite the fully working publishing websites, email wasn’t necessarily the first go-to. In today’s publishing climate, it’s a different ball game. Instead, more time is spent communicating through email and social media, and the phone is generally a third option.
This leads to my topic today: Geography.
Tis the season for submissions! Labor Day has come and gone, and the hectic pace associated with every Fall has begun for editors and agents.
This can be an exciting time for any author who has representation, as all the preparation done in advance will hopefully lead to their book’s publication. Sometimes months, maybe even years (especially with fiction) of work have lapsed already—during which the manuscript, or perhaps a book proposal and sample chapters, has been lovingly put together for submission by the author and agent.
This process takes time, patience, and a willingness to ensure the idea is the best it can be before approaching traditional publishers. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.
During this period, when it’s time to take our authors’ books to publishers, the queries in our inboxes multiply significantly. This means we’re generally looking for new ideas, specifically books that haven’t reached readers yet. Self-publishing a book is definitely a viable option—we’ll never discount that decision. Unfortunately the ability to go in reverse and seek traditional publishing afterwards for a self-published book can sometimes be challenging.
Anyone who acquires books and works with authors will generally agree that it’s one of the most satisfying experiences when discovers a new book idea (in addition to its publication). While agents and editors have very specific categories they work with, once an offer to work together is on the table, please remember it’s 100% personal, as an emotional connection has been made. This isn’t a decision any of us take lightly, especially with the large quantity of queries received on a daily/weekly/annual basis.
Unfortunately the one thing authors never anticipate is the departure of an editor after the book contract is signed. This could happen at any point, including the last days leading up to the book’s release. I’d like to say this rarely happens, but then I would be lying.
Here are some ways to keep your head in the game.