Author Topic: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years  (Read 2862 times)  

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Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« on: September 11, 2017, 12:18:28 PM »
https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/09/why-im-still-trying-to-get-a-book-deal-after-10-years/539115/
Why I'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
A writer explains her dedication to becoming a published author -and how her approach has changed over the last decade


[A few quotes:]

Quote
Today, six manuscripts languish on my laptop - two nonfiction books, two novels, and two picture books. My older children are now teens, and my youngest, the one I was pregnant with when I started this journey, a fourth grader. In the meantime, I've managed to forge a rewarding career as a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. My essays, articles, and book reviews have appeared in publications I could never have dreamed of writing for: The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, The Guardian, and NBC. Despite all this, I'm no closer to getting a book deal.

Quote
The truth is, my dedication to getting a book deal has been expensive. Each local writing conference costs about $250, and I've attended six. Over the decade, I've spent approximately $5,000 paying top-notch editors to carefully critique my work. My two-year, low-residency MFA program cost in the neighborhood of $26,000.

Quote
Self-publishing can be a popular and accessible option for writers who wish to bypass the traditional route altogether. But while there are some wild success stories in self-publishing, they tend to be genre works - romance, erotica, science fiction, crime, young adult, and Christian lit. I've yet to meet an author who felt their self-published literary novel or memoir generated enough sales to make up for the amount of time and money spent marketing them
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 12:22:05 PM by German_Translator »

Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)

Offline Word Fan

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 12:40:19 PM »
https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/09/why-im-still-trying-to-get-a-book-deal-after-10-years/539115/
Why I'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years

A writer explains her self-deluded obsession with becoming a traditionally published author, and how her approach has changed over the last decade but still has failed and wasted an obscene amount of money.

Fixed that.

Offline TiffanyTurner

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2017, 12:49:39 PM »
I guess everyone can have a choice to do what they want. My journey was similar. I've done the writing conferences and the critiques. But I took the self-published route 10 years ago. I spent all that money she's talking about on editors, cover designers, and marketing. I've got a website and two pen names, and am making money. It isn't a lot of money, but at least all the books I've written are published. I figured out the thing that is key in the traditional publishing arena: Stick with it and luck and timing will eventually get you a book deal. Wrong. Or just leave you with nothing. It's a basic mind trip to get you to except the mediocre system created in the 20th century.


And yes, you can wait the 10 years or even 20 for it to happen, and that will still make it ok. But there is still no guarantee.

Or you can try the new route of self-publishing, take the bull by the horns, hire your own editor, cover designer, copy editor and formatter, and publish it yourself. SO WHAT if local news won't cover it as a review. How many people read local paper reviews in the newspaper anymore? Most read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and I've got all of that. My first book has like 49 reviews!

*Slaps forehead*

All this article did was give me a glimpse into the fact that had I waited, I might have been like her, with a half dozen non-published books sitting on shelves or hard drive doing nothing for me.

Thanks OP for the alternative universe check.  ;)
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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2017, 12:59:57 PM »
I guess I don't understand. Wouldn't it make more sense to self-pub the trad-pub rejects instead of letting them languish? At least that way the chance to earn some money is greater than zero. Are they really going to magically become accepted after ten years of rejections?

Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2017, 01:09:53 PM »
Cut out the bolded word and I pretty much agree with this:

Quote
But while there are some wild success stories in self-publishing, they tend to be genre works - romance, erotica, science fiction, crime, young adult, and Christian lit. I've yet to meet an author who felt their self-published literary novel or memoir generated enough sales to make up for the amount of time and money spent marketing them.

She's pursuing the literary market, which is a different animal. The same could be said for picture books or middle grade novels or narrative nonfiction. The action in those categories is still in traditional publishing.

As for how much money she has spent, the MFA stands out to me. You can self educate anything you can learn from an MFA. The rest of that stuff, spread over 10 years, isn't a whole lot of money. Most people spend more than that on coffee and donuts over the course of a decade.

Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2017, 01:15:57 PM »
I guess I don't understand. Wouldn't it make more sense to self-pub the trad-pub rejects instead of letting them languish? At least that way the chance to earn some money is greater than zero. Are they really going to magically become accepted after ten years of rejections?

Actually, it sounds as if she's been successful in pursuing a journalistic career while deluding herself that she's a literary stylist. The two are very different.

The MFA is a boondoggle invented to drain cash from hopefuls who don't actually need the degree to get a job. It's a complete waste of time if you want to be in the literary elite. It would cost less and be more entertaining to find a literary icon and spend weeks and months getting drunk with him (and...). That could get your Great American Novel published.

Offline D. Zollicoffer

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2017, 01:16:05 PM »
I'm on Reddit often and most of the young writers over there feel this way. Some people really want to know that they're "good enough" to land a deal. They feel like self-publishing is for rejects and posers and that we just release crap.

I always tell them: "You need to hold yourself accountable. If you put in the work, you can produce a self-published book that rivals a traditionally published one. It'll cost you some money, but it's possible! Don't set around and wait for someone to take a chance on you."

Honestly, in this day and age, I don't know why anyone would spend years trying to get published. Just do it yourself. The market will tell you if you're a delusional wannabe.

And let's be honest, landing a deal has a lot to do with luck. Just look at all the great books that were rejected dozens of times. Some of those agents glance at books and junk anything that doesn't tickle their fancy right away. The greatest novel ever written could be in some old guy (or gal's) attic  :D
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 01:22:55 PM by D. Zollicoffer »

Offline Rosie A.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2017, 01:18:35 PM »
I guess I don't understand. Wouldn't it make more sense to self-pub the trad-pub rejects instead of letting them languish? At least that way the chance to earn some money is greater than zero. Are they really going to magically become accepted after ten years of rejections?
I have a friend like this. She's written 20 novels in the past ten years and countless short stories. During this time, she's done everything to get published but all she's managed to get was a "send me your manuscript" from an agent. That didn't go anywhere, last I heard. When I've asked her why not self-publish she says that she wouldn't feel validated as an author. It's not about making money for her, she just wants to be able to say that she's published by such and such publishing company. What about getting print on demand? Totally not the same thing. She wants esteem. And there you have it. She has published one short in an anthology all this time!

So...this is, I think, one of the biggest reasons why some authors pursue trad publishing relentlessly. They want to feel validated. While I respect to each their own, it seems like a writer's career has a greater chance of hitting somewhere if they are pursuing many paths. Anthologies, contests, trad, indie, whatever. If being trad published it top of the list, why not show your initiative? I don't know...I gave up querying years ago. The last time I even thought of trying to query again I felt nauseous. Putting all that time, effort, and money just to let your manuscripts sit in a drawer seems like not only a waste, but the opportunity for major regrets later on in life.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 01:20:28 PM by Rosie A. »

Offline EmmaS

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2017, 01:22:06 PM »
Quote
I've yet to meet an author who felt their self-published literary novel or memoir generated enough sales to make up for the amount of time and money spent marketing them.

So you can spend around $32k to have a pile of rejected manuscripts and an MFA... or you can pay $5,000 to have a pile of published books with professional editing, covers, and marketing.

Even if you only make 35 cents on each book, you're still coming out ahead.

Offline Rosie A.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2017, 01:25:29 PM »
Actually, it sounds as if she's been successful in pursuing a journalistic career while deluding herself that she's a literary stylist. The two are very different.

The MFA is a boondoggle invented to drain cash from hopefuls who don't actually need the degree to get a job. It's a complete waste of time if you want to be in the literary elite. It would cost less and be more entertaining to find a literary icon and spend weeks and months getting drunk with him (and...). That could get your Great American Novel published.
The only writer I know who has an MFA has been working on the same novel for going on 4 years. She's one of the people in that writing group I left because all they did was talk about writing vs actually write. She's one of those. Her writing is engaging and I like it, but she continues to delete rewrite delete rewrite delete rewrite it's not perfect enough! How much progress are you really making? Does it really take 4 years to write a 40k novel? (mid-grade). She refers to herself as a literary snob/elite and acts like it, too. If you ask me, the MFA was a waste of time because it didn't teach her the value of FINISHING ANYTHING.

Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2017, 01:25:48 PM »
So, devil's advocate again. Isn't part of the reason we got into this because we wanted to contribute, in some small way, to the tradition of literature and storytelling? I have to admit that there's something ephemeral about my entire career. Of all the books I've sold, some tiny handful are in print. The rest are electronic copies, and they don't feel tangible. I also know, no matter how many books I were to sell, or how good they were, everything I've done will be gone sometime between when I die and when the last device gets replaced for a newer model

There will be no awards. My local bookstore is too snooty to carry my books. When people ask who my publisher is, and I say self-published, I can see the light fading in their eyes. A lot of people I know wouldn't read my books, because they've made assumptions about them.

I earn a living from my writing. That's the most important thing for me. But it might not be for other people. And even though I'm mostly happy, I do feel a bit of a sting from the things that I don't have.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2017, 01:27:05 PM »
Hey to each their own but this reminds me reading that traditional publishing is now more akin to vanity publishing (don't remember the source). Even if you land a deal for most the advance, royalties, and marketing push from the publisher will be negligible so it's more of an ego thing a desire to be validated by a publisher versus going direct to the reader.


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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2017, 01:51:22 PM »
So, devil's advocate again. Isn't part of the reason we got into this because we wanted to contribute, in some small way, to the tradition of literature and storytelling? I have to admit that there's something ephemeral about my entire career. Of all the books I've sold, some tiny handful are in print. The rest are electronic copies, and they don't feel tangible. I also know, no matter how many books I were to sell, or how good they were, everything I've done will be gone sometime between when I die and when the last device gets replaced for a newer model

There will be no awards. My local bookstore is too snooty to carry my books. When people ask who my publisher is, and I say self-published, I can see the light fading in their eyes. A lot of people I know wouldn't read my books, because they've made assumptions about them.

I earn a living from my writing. That's the most important thing for me. But it might not be for other people. And even though I'm mostly happy, I do feel a bit of a sting from the things that I don't have.

The idea that all self-published books are garbage is a prejudice, and like any other prejudice, it may take a long time to break down. We are the pioneers in that sense, and each of us helps to break down that idea a little if we keep publishing the best work we can. Just a few years ago, self-publishing didn't even exist, and now self-published work accounts for more than a third of Amazon's ebook sales. That's a lot of readers who are either willing to give self-publishing a chance or just don't pay attention to who published the book.

I look at the ebook/print dichotomy somewhat differently than you do. A hundred years from now, the print books will be decaying, but the digital files will always be there. If you have heirs who have an interest in collecting royalties, the book will still be up for seventy years, and after that, as public domain works, they may well take on a separate life. Some print books are almost impossible to find after a much shorter time.

We all want validation, and very few of us would spit on a Big Five exec offering a huge advance. However, if you're making a living at writing, that's more validation than even some trad published authors get. When you think about how few people can do that, it's amazing.

I can understand why people see a trad published contract. I did, too, when I first started writing (before alternatives existed). However, when someone has waited ten years, and the books are piling up, it seems as if a rethink might be in order. Unless the only thing one wants is the pat on the head from the trad publisher, unpublished books make no money and give pleasure to no readers. 


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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2017, 02:03:39 PM »
The idea that all self-published books are garbage is a prejudice, and like any other prejudice, it may take a long time to break down.

The longer I'm in SP the more I'm realizing the thing it most closely resembles is the porn industry. Used to be studios controlled things because it took a lot of money - cameras, marketing, locations, etc - to make a porno.

Now anyone with a go pro (or something equivalent), some computer software, and a web site can make mad bank if "consumers" take a liking to them.  But because of this, there are also people who really shouldn't be making videos who nonetheless keep hoping the world will want to see them "doing it"; or maybe they just enjoy it regardless of the financial rewards (or lack thereof). 

I think publishing will remain a mess forever, now, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

And hey, everyone only gets one life, so maybe things being a mess is a good thing because it means people are at least attempting to make their dreams come true.


Offline D. Zollicoffer

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2017, 02:16:32 PM »
The longer I'm in SP the more I'm realizing the thing it most closely resembles is the porn industry. Used to be studios controlled things because it took a lot of money - cameras, marketing, locations, etc - to make a porno.

Now anyone with a go pro (or something equivalent), some computer software, and a web site can make mad bank if "consumers" take a liking to them.  But because of this, there are also people who really shouldn't be making videos who nonetheless keep hoping the world will want to see them "doing it"; or maybe they just enjoy it regardless of the financial rewards (or lack thereof). 

I think publishing will remain a mess forever, now, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

And hey, everyone only gets one life, so maybe things being a mess is a good thing because it means people are at least attempting to make their dreams come true.
That's a good comparison. I know there are camgirls making six-figures a month. That's amazing to me. A few years ago they would've had to enter the business and deal with a lot of BS, now they can give content straight to the fans. The same is true with YouTube. Years ago you had to work for a network to become a media personality, now random people online are becoming powerful brands. We're living in a DIY age. Even in music, more artists are deciding to stay indie instead of signing deals. Like Chance The Rapper, he won a Grammy and he's still unsigned.

Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2017, 02:20:02 PM »
I don't have a super high opinion of the quality of art I'm producing--it's mainly brain candy--but I hope I aspire to something a little more elevating than a comparison to the porn industry. ;)

Offline JaclynDolamore

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2017, 02:21:00 PM »
So, devil's advocate again. Isn't part of the reason we got into this because we wanted to contribute, in some small way, to the tradition of literature and storytelling? I have to admit that there's something ephemeral about my entire career. Of all the books I've sold, some tiny handful are in print. The rest are electronic copies, and they don't feel tangible. I also know, no matter how many books I were to sell, or how good they were, everything I've done will be gone sometime between when I die and when the last device gets replaced for a newer model

There will be no awards. My local bookstore is too snooty to carry my books. When people ask who my publisher is, and I say self-published, I can see the light fading in their eyes. A lot of people I know wouldn't read my books, because they've made assumptions about them.

I earn a living from my writing. That's the most important thing for me. But it might not be for other people. And even though I'm mostly happy, I do feel a bit of a sting from the things that I don't have.

I totally get this. I love print copies, and of course the dream of all time is to have that sort of book that people are still reading 50, 100, 200 years later.

But having been traditionally published, I realize how ephemeral it all is, anyway. I go to auctions and often buy boxes of old books just to get one title, and there are boxes of novels from 30-100 years ago at auction houses full of print books that are just junk at this point. No one's reading them, they're super dated, just recycling bin fodder or decor for those weird people who decorate their houses with unread old books. My most popular self published book has already sold 2x what my most popular traditionally published book sold. So, it's reaching more people now. People probably won't read it in 100 years, but...that usually IS the case. I've made peace with it. My writing might inspire a few writers in the future, and that is how I will be a part of the conversation of writers across centuries.

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Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2017, 02:26:03 PM »
I totally get this. I love print copies, and of course the dream of all time is to have that sort of book that people are still reading 50, 100, 200 years later.

But having been traditionally published, I realize how ephemeral it all is, anyway. I go to auctions and often buy boxes of old books just to get one title, and there are boxes of novels from 30-100 years ago at auction houses full of print books that are just junk at this point. No one's reading them, they're super dated, just recycling bin fodder or decor for those weird people who decorate their houses with unread old books. My most popular self published book has already sold 2x what my most popular traditionally published book sold. So, it's reaching more people now. People probably won't read it in 100 years, but...that usually IS the case. I've made peace with it. My writing might inspire a few writers in the future, and that is how I will be a part of the conversation of writers across centuries.

That's a great post. And some of what I'm shaking my fist against is the transient nature of nearly everything that humans do. I'm feeling a little glum today about my place in all of this.

Offline Pandorra

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #18 on: September 11, 2017, 02:29:12 PM »
I don't have a super high opinion of the quality of art I'm producing--it's mainly brain candy--but I hope I aspire to something a little more elevating than a comparison to the porn industry. ;)


Agreed. LOL
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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #19 on: September 11, 2017, 02:30:39 PM »
I guess it all comes down to what you're really looking for out of your writing. You can want that validation of being published by a real publisher, with the work that will likely come with it for next to nothing. And that's fine. Or, you can get the validation of having people read your stories that you've been the publisher for, with all the work that entails, and make more money. Or, you can have both and be a hybrid author.

The thing is, it doesn't matter to me or my business which anyone else picks. I just keep doing my thang, and that makes me happy. I do wish people that can't make it with literary novels, poetry and memoirs of lives that are so ordinary as to be sleep-inducing would give me the same courtesy, and just shut up about it already.
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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #20 on: September 11, 2017, 02:35:38 PM »
So, devil's advocate again. Isn't part of the reason we got into this because we wanted to contribute, in some small way, to the tradition of literature and storytelling?

Not all of us. You really have to allow for wide-ranging differences in people, their circumstances, and motives. I wrote my first book to win a bet. When I found out about KDP (back in 2010, it was DTP then), I published to see if what I'd written could make a few needed dollars. I continue to write and publish for the money. If my books stop selling, I'll stop writing then and there.

As for print, all my books are available through Create Space, but I confess to having no understanding of those who cling to print as I abandoned it the day I got my Kindle 1 in spring of 2008. Horses for courses, I tell myself.

Offline Marian

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #21 on: September 11, 2017, 02:39:05 PM »

The MFA is a boondoggle invented to drain cash from hopefuls who don't actually need the degree to get a job. It's a complete waste of time if you want to be in the literary elite. It would cost less and be more entertaining to find a literary icon and spend weeks and months getting drunk with him (and...). That could get your Great American Novel published.
Yup!

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #22 on: September 11, 2017, 02:43:49 PM »
The idea that all self-published books are garbage is a prejudice, and like any other prejudice, it may take a long time to break down. We are the pioneers in that sense, and each of us helps to break down that idea a little if we keep publishing the best work we can.

Yikes! I need to start publishing the best work I can now! I didn't know I was the ambassador to indie publishing...

I make more money slinging paperbacks at events than I do in digital sales, so my paperbacks will be used to build society when the zombie apocalypse happens.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 02:50:43 PM by Mark Gardner »

Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2017, 02:56:08 PM »
That's a great post. And some of what I'm shaking my fist against is the transient nature of nearly everything that humans do. I'm feeling a little glum today about my place in all of this.

Totally get that.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2017, 02:57:49 PM »
I guess I don't understand. Wouldn't it make more sense to self-pub the trad-pub rejects instead of letting them languish? At least that way the chance to earn some money is greater than zero. Are they really going to magically become accepted after ten years of rejections?

This is a very valid point. If they absolutely do not sell in her first choice manner, why simply let them languish? Even if they didn't make much money, a few would read them which is for most of us the reason for writing, not validation from some big corporation.

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