Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adventures in Epublishing: Oh, New York...

I opened the trusty mailbox today to find a letter addressed to me. I noticed it had a New York postmark and I looked at it like it was from outer space. I haven't had mail from New York in ages, since the last time I queried Into the Shadows and Sol and Luna (a picture book I wrote), I believe. I queried for The Green last summer, but that was all done by email.

So what on earth could this be? I tore open the envelope while still standing out in the driveway in the snow. 

It was a rejection.

From a query letter I sent out after our Prairie Writers' Day here in Illinois. You want to know the last PWD I went to?

November 2009. NOVEMBER 2009!

I did the only thing that was appropriate. I laughed.

Now I've strayed from really saying much about New York and their happenings and have really stuck to just positive tales of epublishing. So I'm not as much ragging on them as I am providing some commentary, like a sports commentator.

First thing that kills NY (both agents and publishers) is this slow response time. I understand that agents and publishers are bogged down with crap as well as good things, and probably even more so at this time when less books are getting picked up by publishing houses less and less...but really?

There is no real good reason for taking FOURTEEN months to reject a book. I've heard of people getting rejections after 2 years. And when agents request your material, there is no reason they should sit on it for months. One author I know very well had a full sitting with an agent for SIX months. Agents continually discuss on their blogs and whatnot that they accept very few of these, like out of 1,000 queries, they might request 4-6 fulls. You can't tell me in SIX months they can't at least read a couple pages and see if it's for them.

As authors, we try our best to adhere to the strict code of business etiquette regarding queries and submissions. Each agency and publisher requests different things. One might want just a query, one a query and the first 5 pages, or the first 10 pages, or the first chapter and a synopsis, or a first chapter, 3 page synopsis, and bio. And they should be all in the body of the email, only in a certain attachment, or carefully organized in a giant envelope which costs 5 bucks to mail.

Before I started epublishing, I spent hours preparing materials for querying. Being that I got a SASE for this particular rejection, it's clear I had to mail the submission in whatever requested order was demanded.

And I did as they asked.

And I even applied my little SCBWI sticker showing I came from the conference.

Only to get a rejection 14 months later.

It would be nice if they had the courtesy to respond in a more timely fashion.

But that's only one of the issues New York has. In addition to being slow to respond and slow to put books out (each new title has roughly an 18-month turn-around), they are also overlooking some amazing books. I'm not talking about my book, I'm talking about other indie authors I've read, as well as some that my fellow authors have read. There are some fantastic books out there that have been passed over by New York. Which is really too bad for them.

Now that we have epublishing, we don't need New York anymore and more and more new authors, frustrated by the old archaic system, are joining us here. You can put out books as quickly as you are able and make money right away (Joe Konrath had a great post on this the other day).

I even heard someone say on Kindle Boards the other day that less people had signed up to compete for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, because winning the advance just isn't worth it anymore. They offer up a $15,000 advance. According to Joe, I might be able to make that money in a year.

I think back to the author I was back in November 2009 and how badly I wanted to break into New York. Had I got that rejection shortly after, I'd probably have been bummed. But 14 months later, the market has changed, publishing has changed, and I as an author have changed.

I've published the book they rejected and have sold over 350 copies in four months and am gaining new readers every day. I'm garnering respectable reviews in the 3s, 4s, and 5s on every site that deals with my book (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Smashwords). I hit #51 on the top bestsellers in Teen on Barnes & Noble. I even started my own epublishing label and am happy to report that Anathema by Megg Jensen, our newest release, is already selling a bunch of copies and hitting rankings on Barnes & Noble as well.

So I guess you can see why I found it so chuckle-worthy, this one piece of 8.5x11 inch paper, with a publisher's letter head and 'Into the Shadows' actually hand-written in blue ink on the top in my SASE. I bet that's why it took 14 months to get it together.

Good luck, New York. Maybe we can have a drink sometime, but I don't think it'll work out between us.

20 comments:

  1. Dude, I had a full with an agent for NINE months. I could have had a freaking baby. Oh wait, I did. Anathema is out, isn't she?

    LoL!!!!!

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  2. Count yourself lucky. I once got a rejection letter when a novel of mine was on the NYTimes bestseller list. And I'm not kidding!

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  3. I was talking about you...I guess I got my figures wrong! My bad!

    NINE months makes the point even more, doesn't it! ahahahaha

    And your baby is beautiful, BTW.

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  4. And Ruth, that is *awesome*! Probably warranted an equally good guffaw!

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  5. Actually, she had my stuff for nearly a YEAR before I pulled from her. First it was a partial and then the full. Blech.

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  6. I had "Lisa's Way" at one publisher for a year & heard nothing. I queried; they hadn't gotten it. Sent it back immediately, and shortly thereafter got a "thanks but no thanks" form rejection. I think I had it out in its current form, to agents & publishers, for three or four years before a small press picked it up. It's a wonder that process doesn't break more aspiring authors.

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  7. As authors I think we tend to look at this from our perspective, but I like to look at the issues with legacy publishing from the customer/readers perspective. Readers want a variety of material that matches their diverse interests. They want quality, they want value, and they want their titles quickly. Traditional publishing at most can claim quality, and I think at times even that is in question. The fact is that the model is broken for the customer. If bookstores were smart they would start paying attention to self-published authors, cherry picking the best and featuring them in their stores. Why my local B&N doesn't have a best of POD shelf is beyond me.

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  8. Excellent points, Gen. It really is not completely fair for the readers! I meant to mention that as well, that NY tends to reject because the market isn't right, but who's to say it's not? Those readers still might want to read THAT book, even if not all readers do. Readers are delivered a set of hand-picked titles that the NY houses have deemed worthy, for whatever reason they see fit. NY houses are businesses and they are looking to cover the bottom line.

    The difference is we're looking to entertain, and if we can make money, excellent. I would be lying if I said I didn't want to make money off of this, but I don't have the costs a NY publisher has! :D

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  9. Ruth, I couldn't have resisted tearing out a copy of that NYT bestseller list and sending it back to the agent with a copy of their rejection letter. Too funny.

    Businesses all have their rules that they want us to abide by before they'll let us do business with them. I like to tell them that I have rules, too, and if they can't abide by my rules, they won't be getting my dollars.

    Indie is the only way to go.

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  10. That's the problem I'm having. Several personal notes from agents stating that the market isn't right for my ms right now. The books are selling in stores, but by the time NY can get it published, they're afraid it won't be "in" anymore. Self-publishing is looking more and more like a better option.

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  11. Great post Karly. It just describes the exact reason serious authors are opting to put their publishing into their own hands. My novel won the Southwest Writers Award in 2009, yet when the publisher offered me a deal in 2010, he said it would be November 2011 before he could release it. The wait and the price ($27.95 for a hardcover)caused my agent to convince me to publish it myself on Amazon and I'm glad I did. I'm currently selling 50 books a day and have people constantly asking me for the sequel.
    I've never been more optimistic about my writing career. There's enough readers out there for all of us. Just make sure it's a good book and it will sell. If it's not, none of this other stuff matters.

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  12. I completely agree with everything that's being said. It's amazing that we're all running into the same problems, which means that it must be a huge problem. Great books are not getting out, are getting out late, are priced too expensively, etc.

    I think if you're thinking about epub, you can be really confident at this point that it's a good decision, Danielle. SO many people I meet/talk to/work with (for that matter) were/are in that same boat.

    NY sez 'it's a great story/great writing/etc. but it's not right for the market.' Which is funny, because like Gary says, if it's a good book, it will sell. And they are. And our books won't be pulled from shelves in 4-6 months. They are there forever. Earning us money forever. Or until the internet implodes, but I'm gonna guess that won't happen!

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  13. I would have liked a professional editor, (and a good one,) to help bring my work up to truly international standards. Even though I write, (and want to write) 'pulp' type fiction. Seize the opportunity.

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  14. I'm more or less with you, but unless you're just crushing the indie world right now, I think there's still value in pursuing NY deals. If you won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, for instance, you're looking at giant publicity that's going to help all your other titles. And $15,000 in guaranteed minimum money for a single title is nothing to dismiss out of hand. There's no reason new authors can't go New York with some books and self-publish with others.

    That said, I do think it's funny some agent's had my partial since last May. I'll probably never hear back from them--I moved a few months later, and my mail forwarding will expire soon. They might just have fallen behind the curve.

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  15. NY is still making mistakes, IMHO. Many of their eBooks are way overpriced, losing sales for their authors. I once had the dream, too, of seeing my book in a bookstore window...until I found out that space is sold. NY doesn't support mid-list authors and signs on people like Snookie. They don't even do a good job anymore with editing. Who needs them? I don't. :)

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  16. Good point Laura.

    And Ed, you make some valid points regarding the ABNA contest. You would definitely get publicity and that would be good for you overall, especially if you have an epubbed backlist. And I really did pull that quote from another author on KB.

    But aside from the contest being a good idea for maybe the few writers who get to the finals (because really, only one of thousands wins the prize), I will say among all my writer friends, not many are getting the book deals these days. A few of them got agents in the early fall (August/September), and I've yet to see their books sell. Another friend had an agent for 2 years and parted ways because he was yet to sell any of her work. So I do know some of these folks and they just aren't making it through the NY gates yet, although they are fantastic writers. I hope they do though!

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  17. Hee hee, wow. Two years ago, I expected to try and go the traditional publishing route. But in the last 8 months I changed my mind. And one big reason for that is my own impatience. Life's too short to wait a year (or more) for rejection letters!

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  18. I'm glad you're on the other side of rejection. It doesn't have to sting now.

    Right now, I'm trying the traditional way. We'll see what happens.

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  19. Good luck Theresa!

    And right on, K.C. Good luck on your new book!

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  20. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

    EPublishing

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