When I started writing again, it was primarily for me. Because I wanted to, because I used to enjoy it, and because I wanted to see if I could still do it, or if it was just a creative muscle that I allowed to atrophy to the point of being useless. As I kept writing, and as the story kept developing, I realized that I do still enjoy it, I can still do it, and I would love to be able to do it for a living (if even just partially or supplemental). I decided that I was hell-bent on doing this through the traditional pathways – agent, publisher, brick and mortar bookstores. But a large portion of the traditional route is waiting. Lots, and lots, and lots of waiting. Which has given me time to think. Which, for an over-thinker, is seldom a good thing.
For those that don’t know anything about the publishing industry, here is a brief run-down of the process as I understand it. I don’t pretend to be an expert, and there is no single direct path, but through my research this is what I have learned. First, you write a book (duh). Then, you edit, re-write, edit, re-write again, send it to people you know that want to read it and give feedback, possibly pay for a professional editor out of your own pocket, and deliver the closest thing to a finished product as you can, as agents and publishers do not want a rough draft, especially from an unknown writer. Then, you write a one-page synopsis, a query letter (basically a one-page sales letter for the book with a “book jacket” summary, and a little info about yourself, along with why the agent should represent you), and look for agents that represent your genre. As you seek out these agents to query, each have different requirements for what to send. Some want the query letter and synopsis plus 5 pages, some want 10 pages, some want 5 chapters; but the one thing that all agents want is time. It seems that the standard timeline among agents right now is 5 weeks for a response. Query letters are piling up from hundreds of people just like me for every agent. Rejection is a standard part of the process. If you are sending targeted queries to individual agents, this can mean weeks of silence while you wait. The alternative is sending mass emails to multiple agents and hoping for the best. I have heard of some people that go directly to publishers, but the big houses and other names in Horror that I have found do not accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from authors. There is also the potential to visit Writing Conferences, and to join the masses perfecting their “elevator pitch” at these events -a two minute sales pitch to convince an agent or publisher to consider you. Sometimes this whole process can take months, or even years, until you find an agent that is willing to give you a shot. If you are fortunate enough to get an agent, there are contracts with them. Then it’s the agent’s turn to play the same game that you just played with them, but on their end it’s with publishers and trying to find an outlet for your book, and more contracts. Everybody along the way gets a percentage of the end product. But, that’s the standard for traditional publishing.
As I play the waiting game, I have come across a few articles and spoken to quite a few people about Amazon, and how they are impacting the world of publishing. Self-publishing used to be largely considered “Vanity Publishing”, or “Vanity Press”. Something that people would do because they were unable to get an agent, and those that did self publish were questioned as to whether or not they are “real” writers. These Vanity Presses still exist, and can cost several thousand dollars for a few hundred physical copies of a finished product that you can then attempt to sell. A quick Google search will tell you that the stigma of self-publishing is still around today, but not to quite the same extent. Amazon has made it possible for writers to self-publish at low (or no) cost, including the option for paperback copies available through print on demand when customers are looking for physical books (like myself), still at no up-front cost to the writer. This eliminates the need to print large quantities of books, store them, and figure out shipping or getting them into stores. The writer holds all rights to their book, has final say in pricing, promo-pricing and timeframe, and publicity. The downside is that your book is one out of roughly three million available and publicity is entirely up to you, so it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The upside is that Amazon is up front about their costs and charges, and payment is generally much more beneficial to the writer than traditional publishing. I have also heard a number of writers that found publishers for their work after self-publication through Amazon.
So, that’s where I find myself. I still have queries out, and I’m waiting to hear back. I’m far from being discouraged about the traditional path, as I believe that I have a solid story and will get through at some point, and have really just started the process. I just find myself wondering if I should stop chasing tradition, and open myself up to the new electronic world that’s available and see how it goes. If I am taking my fate into my own hands, why not just go all-in, instead of trying to find an agent and hoping that they will do everything possible to represent my work? Like most everything else in life, there is no one right answer or correct path. I’m just trying to figure out what is best for me, and not screw it up along the way.
As far as the other part of the blog goes, no real update this week. For one thing, I realized that I do not have a working scale in my house…