To Thine Own Self (Publishing) Be True

Leaded type

I finished a novel in late 2012. Titled Aftershock, it’s based in San Francisco, and the 1989 earthquake plays a central part in throwing—almost literally—some disparate lives together. Nobody’s particularly comfortable in the book, but that’s the prerogative of the author—we get to torture our characters, so that we can be better people ourselves. Or not.

But I don’t want to talk about my psychological problems. (Unless you swing by with a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s bourbon—I have ice on ice waiting for you.) I do want to briefly talk about publishing. Briefly, because talking about the changes in publishing is an industry in itself these days, and my adding to the din won’t land me any Oprah-time.

Bleary Queries

To this point, I’ve sent queries about my novel to 22 agents. Despite the publishing heavens being torn by demons, agents remain the middle defenders for those writers hungering for the traditional publishing route, with its still-credible distribution structure, now-flagging marketing support, and tarnished-yet-dimly-shiny “Look mom, some NY bigwigs bought my book” cachet.

Depending on the agent guidelines, those queries have included a couple of full manuscripts, a lot of 10-50 page excerpts, or just a synopsis and a prayer. So far, I’ve received 12 rejections; some of the queries are a few months’ old without response, so I’ll probably follow up on the best of those.

But the winds of change have blown their clichéd gusts through publishing’s doors, and floors. Self-publishing no longer has the “I wrote seven poems about grandma’s feet, and had them printed with a velvet cover” taint. I self-published my first novel, had a book of short stories published by a small press after that, and should no agent show real interest in my newest work in the next few months, I’ll go the self-abuse route once more. (I did always love the punchline for the you’ll-go-blind masturbation joke, “Hey, can I just do it long enough so I only have to wear glasses?”)

Resources: Self-pub Grub

I’ve been reading a good deal about the publishing industry and its earthquakes in the last year or so. Here are a few good books that have solid info on the publishing world, self-publishing and how to market your work:

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

Create Your Writer Platform

Sites with Insights

And here are some sites I read regularly that provide great resources and insights into the roiling new world of publishing.

Jane Friedman
The Creative Penn
Digital Book World

And if I do self-publish, this time I’ll have my book edited by some professional other than myself. Woe befalls the writer, even if they are professional editors, who edit their own work. That self-abuse could take the sight from any writer’s eyes, and I already wear glasses, so I know better now.

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6 thoughts on “To Thine Own Self (Publishing) Be True

  1. You know what a fan of self-publishing I am. I like learning what you’ve done over on what I call “The Dark Side” as well.

    I read Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman, but hadn’t stumbled upon dbw.

  2. Yeah, the Dark Side is that bleak, unlit corner where queries go to die. I do dust them occasionally, but I’ve given up on watering.

    I do have a lot of fascination with publishing, having wanted to work in that field years ago. Developments are toasty there right now, but there’s too damn much to read about it—and the publishing world is the movingest of targets, so what’s read today is cobwebbed by the next morning.

    I’m thinking of going into a more stable field: horse-drawn carriages.

  3. Tom, I’ve worn glasses for a long time. What does that mean?

    I certainly understand the desire, and often the need, for self-publishing. I agree that you should stick with the traditional route for a few more months though; I think it much harder to to get a novel noticed when it’s self-published versus with a mainstream press.

    Good luck with it!

  4. John, I’m not going to comment on your recreational pursuits; keep those glasses polished, though.

    I am going to pursue mainstream pub for a bit: doing the seemingly endless marketing trying to get anyone to notice my first self-published novel wasn’t all that rewarding, though I learned some things. (What they were, I can’t remember now.)

    Thanks!

  5. Joel, though for me, “make it up as you go along” hasn’t always been the best process for engineering breakfast or dressing for formal events, it’s a good adage in impelling forward motion toward goals, rather than just stewing or endless projecting of negative consequences, which can freeze action.

    I do hope your future creation includes dessert.

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