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.