More publishing information

Around the time I first wrote the column, I read an article by self-published author Colin Macpherson, who was lamenting the fact that he wasn’t able to enter a contest for published authors for this reason. I believe there now are some competitions open to independently published authors, but I haven’t checked them out.   

He stated that some literary commentators dismiss out of hand anything that is self-published as not up to the standard required by publishers. He explained that this is far from the truth, and said there are three good reasons for authors to take this path. The first is to have total control of their work and receive the maximum rewards; the second is that not all material received by publishing houses is read and rejected by an experienced editor. In some cases, young interns are the only readers. He went on to say that, some works are rejected without being read, as they receive far too many.

And thirdly, if it does arrive on the editor’s desk and she accepts it, the marketing department may decide that it doesn’t fit into a category that will sell well.

A publisher’s editor reinforced this statement in a conversation with me. She told me that to her chagrin, it is sometimes the marketing and accounting departments who have the final say on the publication of her chosen titles. Sounds bizarre, but it’s apparently true.

So I thought long and hard and decided that maybe the future of publishing is to self-publish, at least for the first book. Successful sales from such a venture may just help to attract a contract from a larger publishing house; if we decide we need them of course.

There is much more work for the author, as they have to be heavily involved in the marketing of the book, but I look at publishing a book the same way I would look at starting a business.

I wouldn’t expect someone else to buy a business for me, and then hope like hell they get their money back; but that is what a publishing house does. Most of us would expect to buy a business, take the risk with our own money, do the marketing, and work to make it a success. When we self-publish, isn’t that what we are doing, buying a business and working for the profit? 

And sure, when taking this route the masochistic tendency is still there, as rejection by readers still a possibility.  But if we have invested our own money, and time, it will only be our fault if we fail. I have chosen this route and I will work hard to make it a success.  In the next few weeks, I will take you on the journey with me as I start at the beginning and share what I have done to get to where I am today.

The continuing story …

Partner publishers are a mixed bag. There are those who take large sums of money up front, and do nothing but prepare and print the book, but still expect a large slice of the sale proceeds. Those that take the same large sum of money, do a little of the marketing (mostly internet and overseas) and expect a large cut of the sales proceeds. And then there are those that take a small amount of money up front and give a more generous percentage of sales. The former takes anything that comes, and the latter is more selective with what they publish, as they too have a vested interest in the sales outcome – or so I thought. I decided on the latter and sent off a story. I progressed past the initial read, to a request for the full manuscript. My submission was accepted and excitedly, I read through the contract. No distribution!! Now why would someone take on the publishing task for little money and have no organised way to sell the product. It didn’t make sense to me. I declined the offer. Then I read a book that was self published, and produced by one of the former publishers mentioned, and I was appalled at the lack of editing. The story was entertaining, showed lots of imagination and heaps of potential, but it obviously didn’t receive the final polish needed. This scared me off this form of publishing for a while. The last thing I wanted to do was see a book of mine in print that doesn’t meet the standard required – even by me. Like most writers, I can see the problems in other people’s work and miss them in my own. Too many aspiring authors I meet tell me they wouldn’t allow their work to be edited, as it will then not be their writing. I disagree. It was their imagination that produced the story line and their skill and dedication that wove it like an intricate tapestry into the final enchanting work; a little professional polish will not take that away. I was happy to have my writing polished by an editor who works for publishers. I wanted it to be as perfect as possible before it went to print. More on self-publishing from another author’s point of view next week.

My journey to publication

A few years ago I wrote the following post as an article for the  Writer Queensland magazine. I still feel the same way, so I thought I would start my writing journey at the beginning  of my reflection on this new life I had chosen.  

I have decided that all writers who seek publication must be masochist (in the broad definition of the word of course). Let’s face it, who else would continually set them selves up for the pain of rejection as often as we do? That we are encouraged to do so by the very people who inflict this pain, and strangely we still succumb to the temptation every time, is quite alarming. Doesn’t that sound like masochism; or maybe it’s insanity?

I have a poster that reads, “The true definition of Insanity is to keep doing the same thing time after time and expect a different result,” and yet I continued to ignore that poster (I’m thinking about turning it around or taking it down) and kept leaving myself open to more rejection.

My daughter, who is studying to be a psychologist, asked me to explain the process of seeking publication, and my feelings as I follow its course. I told her to imagine that she has just applied for the job she knows is her destiny, one that will fulfill her in every way. Then imagine the agony as she waits to see if she is short-listed (in the writers case it can be months, not days, of nail-biting anxiety) only to finally find that she has been rejected once again. 

She then enquired, “Why do you put yourself through this agony.”

The word insanity quickly came to mind but I rejected that – I’m still in denial.  I told her the answer is simple; it is a form of addiction. Since I have taken up writing fiction, it seems I’m addicted to writing. Just a few days away from the story and I’m twitching and making all sorts of excuses to receive my daily fix. And let’s face it, there seems no point writing all these stories if no-one gets to read them. So, like all the other writers around me, I continue to hope that someone out there is interested enough to publish them, and post off another “application for rejection,” as I have started to call them.

I often wonder if the publisher’s editors, who send out so many rejections, sit around and machinate on ways to humiliate writers for a while, to make sure we don’t think we’re too good, and then finally decide we can now have the carrot they have been dangling at us the whole time. I’m joking of course (I hope).

An author, who has self-published, told me that he tired of the publishing treadmill and decided to alight and publish his own book. He wrote, “I realised that if I kept on that way I’d be published posthumously.” I know that feeling.

I decided then to look into partner publishing. Now that opens up a whole new shark tank.  More on that next week.

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