Author Topic: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years  (Read 2859 times)  

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2017, 03:02:11 PM »
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.
Because if they went ahead and self-published, then they couldn't be the self-suffering martyr.

Offline S.G. Seabourne

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2017, 03:03:17 PM »
This part stuck out at me:

Quote
I havent stopped submitting, but once a monthand only once a monthI send out a single query letter to an agent or small press.

I played the agent game for awhile, and only submitting a single query once a month IS basically giving up. Gotta play the numbers.

This is a sad article. It's true that literary doesn't do as well with self-publishing as genre... but man, something is better than nothing.

If I were her friend, I'd advise her gently to start over. Maybe go for one of those "genre" books she looks down on. Something to get her back in the game and rediscover her love of writing. Because right now? She's distancing herself. Her books will languish, unread in a hard drive and her voice will never be heard.

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #27 on: September 11, 2017, 03:04:39 PM »
The weird thing about this attitude is it's quite at odds with almost everything heavyweight lit heroes have said about writing. Take Hemingway. He seemed to be the sort of guy who would tell everyone to live strongly and be brave, to tackle everything head on. How does that translate to spending literally a decade asking for permission to get your work out there?

I guess literary stuff is a difficult ball game, but I dunno. On one hand the author says it's unlikely they'd make up the cash from marketing, but then also says they spent tens of thousands of dollars on an MFA. It's hard to believe they're not motivated by pure vanity (how ironic).

I tend to think if you're writing literary fiction and it's all about the art (a noble pursuit, for sure), you should be willing to put yourself out there, and damn the consequences. Wanting to publish "art" (but only if it's through a "reputable" publisher) seems very... I don't know, safe? Maybe this is just an indie bias, but I tend to think the literary greats went through publishers because today's indie platforms didn't exist. Those people were trailblazers in what they did and how they did it. Maybe I'm wrong, but part of me thinks Hemingway wouldn't be waiting around for a publisher in New York to figure out whether The Sun Also Rises was worth the risk.

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Online Laran Mithras

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #28 on: September 11, 2017, 03:24:40 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

Hi, my name is Laran Mithras. Wanna see my profits?  :P

Nice to meet ya.  ;)

Edit: BTW, about 90% profit.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #29 on: September 11, 2017, 03:39:07 PM »
Hi, my name is Laran Mithras. Wanna see my profits?  :P

Nice to meet ya.  ;)

Edit: BTW, about 90% profit.
I didn't think you wrote literary novels? I thought you wrote erotica or other genre fiction. Perhaps I have you confused with somebody else.

I agree that for literary fiction, self-publishing probably will have dubious success. But then, it has dubious success in traditional publishing also. And there certainly have been some literary fiction or, I guess you'd say, almost-literary-fiction success stories. (Mostly women's fiction or historical fiction.)

Online LilyBLily

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #30 on: September 11, 2017, 03:40:12 PM »
I meant to excoriate only the remote MFAs, which entice mostly women with a little too much money and time on their hands: "We meet for a week in Paris..." (taken from a real come-on).

It does appear that this writer has forgotten the purpose of literary writing, which surely is to communicate Big Thoughts (TM) about the universe. She communicates nothing by keeping her own thoughts in a drawer, and what a shame.


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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #31 on: September 11, 2017, 03:43:31 PM »
I didn't think you wrote literary novels? I thought you wrote erotica or other genre fiction. Perhaps I have you confused with somebody else.

I agree that for literary fiction, self-publishing probably will have dubious success. But then, it has dubious success in traditional publishing also. And there certainly have been some literary fiction or, I guess you'd say, almost-literary-fiction success stories. (Mostly women's fiction or historical fiction.)

Ah, literary. The fog of vodka clouds my understanding. Literary is a tough market. I write erotica. Exit stage thataway.

Offline C. Gold

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #32 on: September 11, 2017, 03:59:18 PM »
I finally read the entire article and I agree, she seems to have given up on publishing. But, her real job is fulfilling so maybe that's enough for her right now.

Offline Piano Jenny

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2017, 04:13:34 PM »
I liked this from the comments. It sums up why I hate referring to my books as being "self-published."

I am an author with two independently published books. They are not self published books. A self published book is something you print out at Kinkos and put in a three-ring binder. An independently published book is no different than one from a major publisher. I can put my books up against anything from a major publisher. People buy books because of the content not because of who published it. I have never once gone looking for the next Random House book.

When a filmmaker releases an independent film, no one calls it a home movie. Why rely on the publishing industry for validation? Your validation comes from the honest reviews you get from actual readers.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #34 on: September 11, 2017, 04:26:37 PM »
Because if they went ahead and self-published, then they couldn't be the self-suffering martyr.
We need a 'like' button.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #35 on: September 11, 2017, 04:31:39 PM »
I liked this from the comments. It sums up why I hate referring to my books as being "self-published."

I am an author with two independently published books. They are not self published books. A self published book is something you print out at Kinkos and put in a three-ring binder. An independently published book is no different than one from a major publisher. I can put my books up against anything from a major publisher. People buy books because of the content not because of who published it. I have never once gone looking for the next Random House book.

When a filmmaker releases an independent film, no one calls it a home movie. Why rely on the publishing industry for validation? Your validation comes from the honest reviews you get from actual readers.

Hear, hear! I couldn't agree more with this.

To be fair, I love independent movies. I prefer those to blockbuster ones, actually. Some of the best films I've seen in my life were independent. Same with books. Once I discovered Indie books in my Kindle...there was no going back.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #36 on: September 11, 2017, 04:40:40 PM »
The M.F.A. is a boondoggle invented to drain cash from hopefuls who don't actually need the degree to get a job.

You're wrong to make a blanket statement like that. The M.F.A. itself is just fine, if... if you are clear about what you want to, and can, get out of the effort, and you go to a good school with a good program. In the other thread that we had on here a while back about M.F.A.'s, several holders of that degree told of how satisfied they were with the great program that they went through to get it. As with so many things, bad teachers and bad schools often turn out unhappy students who think that they've wasted their time. The sad thing is, when that happens, the student didn't waste their time (and money); the teacher did. But that doesn't invalidate the existence of the degree as a goal for which some still want to strive.

The only writer I know who has an M.F.A. has been working on the same novel for going on 4 years. [...] If you ask me, the M.F.A. was a waste of time because it didn't teach her the value of FINISHING ANYTHING.

Obviously, all of that time, effort (or lack thereof), and money were wasted on that one. Sometimes the problem is with the student, not the teacher or the degree itself.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #37 on: September 11, 2017, 04:56:50 PM »
You're wrong to make a blanket statement like that. The M.F.A. itself is just fine, if... if you are clear about what you want to, and can, get out of the effort, and you go to a good school with a good program. In the other thread that we had on here a while back about M.F.A.'s, several holders of that degree told of how satisfied they were with the great program that they went through to get it. As with so many things, bad teachers and bad schools often turn out unhappy students who think that they've wasted their time. The sad thing is, when that happens, the student didn't waste their time (and money); the teacher did. But that doesn't invalidate the existence of the degree as a goal for which some still want to strive.

Obviously, all of that time, effort (or lack thereof), and money were wasted on that one. Sometimes the problem is with the student, not the teacher or the degree itself.
Actually, as my later comment said, I was talking about the remote MFA. Not wishing to get into an argument about the value of an advanced degree per se, but these "education products" are pitched to a certain group, in a certain way, that clearly indicates to me they are a very expensive version of the adult ed "leisure classes" most community colleges offer. Remote MFAs aren't meant to turn out museum curators, as the regular MFAs do, for instance.

If I had $26k to toss around, I'd do a remote MFA and after my semester of online work be glad to "meet in Paris for a week." I'm thinking a car with a backup camera and side airbags might be a better investment in my future, though.


Online deniseleitao

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #38 on: September 12, 2017, 06:11:49 AM »


[A few quotes:]
[/quote]

Well,  I've yet to meet an author who felt their traditionally published literary novel or memoir generated enough sales to make up for the amount of time and money spent marketing them.  :P

But they do get validation and they can make money doing other things, such as teaching, so I guess it's all right. Plus there are grants, prizes and fellowships.

Literary novel is tricky, but it will always be tricky because " literary writing"  means having someone say your writing is good. It's not about the readers as it's about the middle men and being part of a select group.

But I still think many of them are committed to the ideas and the writing, in which case I really hope more aspiring literary writers take the plunge and publish independently.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 06:14:49 AM by deniseleitao »

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #39 on: September 12, 2017, 07:30:38 AM »

Well,  I've yet to meet an author who felt their traditionally published literary novel or memoir generated enough sales to make up for the amount of time and money spent marketing them.  :P

But they do get validation and they can make money doing other things, such as teaching, so I guess it's all right. Plus there are grants, prizes and fellowships.



Depends on who you meet. Iain Banks admitted toward the close of his life that his literary novels were what paid for the SF, not the other way around. Big trad pub literary novels can become big movies = big money. If you've ever read Atonement, it's hard to imagine it would have become a big budget motion picture if it was published by an indie. Same for Cold Mountain, same for Benjamin Button, probably the same for a lot of books but the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.  Once your novel is published indie, it's very hard to go the other way unless it's truly huge like The Martian. Indies can't write deep, slow to start novels like Atonement, reviewers of indie books wouldn't turn past the first chapter. Depending on your style, trad pub might be the only way to get a serious read.

Also I've known people to win grants even though they weren't famous., $25K+ up for free money isn't a trivial consideration for many authors.

While I doubt this person is going to win any big trad novel contract-- after 10 years they'd know if they were competitive enough to win that-- they're earning from the other publications and from the teaching, so chasing these contacts hasn't harmed them and may have helped them in their career. It isn't the path I would choose, but I see no harm done in letting them go on their way.
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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #40 on: September 12, 2017, 07:36:41 AM »
Depends on who you meet. Iain Banks admitted toward the close of his life that his literary novels were what paid for the SF, not the other way around. Big trad pub literary novels can become big movies = big money.


I meant that I don't know them personally. I know some literary trad pub authors. They sell like 400 copies of each novel.

While it's true that some of them make money with books, you could claim they are outliers, just like the wild successful indies.

And there are some boring, slow literary novels coming out of teeny tiny presses, so I don't think it's impossible to self-publish, or at least establish a small press with some literary friends. Literary visibility has a lot to do with contacts, and these authors could do readings and network, so I think it's possible, but needs a paradigm shift.

Maybe it's fine to leave a novel dusting in the hard drive, but maybe, just maybe, we are missing a few masterpieces because the authors weren't bold enough to stand up for their works. That's everyone's loss.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 07:39:19 AM by deniseleitao »

Offline MonkishScribe

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #41 on: September 12, 2017, 07:42:16 AM »
It's helpful to think of "literary" as a genre, rather than being about quality. Some people prefer that type of book, and they are widely taught in schools, but they aren't better (or worse, for that matter) as that's simply a question of taste. ParkerAvrile's comment about grants is a good one. I'd include teaching and speaking opportunities in the potential income for literary writers. Publish a well-received literary novel and a lot of doors will open.

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #42 on: September 12, 2017, 08:16:45 AM »
Self-publishing often doesn't work, either. I had a friend who after years of trying to find a publisher finally self-published his novel. He did everything he could to market it. When he saw that except for friends no one bought it, he pulled it and never talked about it again. Enjoy the journey of writing because there is a good chance that there won't be any payoff in the end. Books may go the way of the radio.

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #43 on: September 12, 2017, 08:25:06 AM »
Books may go the way of the radio.

Funnily enough radio (particularly when combined with podcasting) is still an immensely powerful medium. It hasn't suffered like TV has.

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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 #44 on: September 12, 2017, 08:27:13 AM »
Self-publishing often doesn't work, either. I had a friend who after years of trying to find a publisher finally self-published his novel. He did everything he could to market it. When he saw that except for friends no one bought it, he pulled it and never talked about it again. Enjoy the journey of writing because there is a good chance that there won't be any payoff in the end. Books may go the way of the radio.

It's hard to say what makes one writer successful and another not, but people who keep writing rather than giving up seem to have a better shot than most. It's a tough, tough business, but as much as it hurts to see your friend fail like that, very few people strike it big with their first novel.

Offline WHDean

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #45 on: September 12, 2017, 09:04:00 AM »
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.

This level of reflection is wonderful to see on KB, especially since you seem more self-possessed than the author of the piece in the OP. She can't give up belief in the system of validation that no longer validates, if it ever truly did. She's pining for a world that's gone and that was mostly smoke and mirrors anyway. And we're not so much jumping into a new future as returning to a modified past. People were self-publishing books for centuries before publishing houses came along and took over the market. 

I share some of your concerns when it comes to literary aspirations, though I come back to the imperishable wisdom of the ages: When the world gives you lemons, and it will in whole baskets, make lemonade. Start with the facts. First, big publishing is still a vehicle, but it no longer controls the market. Second, we know we can publish virtually anything we want (at least for the time being). Third, we know that word of mouth is everything. That's all we need to plot a course. We can forget--I mean really cast off--everything else we think we know that we can and can't do. Once you start looking at it with only these three facts, the situation is not so bad.   


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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #46 on: September 12, 2017, 10:41:14 AM »
This level of reflection is wonderful to see on KB, especially since you seem more self-possessed than the author of the piece in the OP. She can't give up belief in the system of validation that no longer validates, if it ever truly did. She's pining for a world that's gone and that was mostly smoke and mirrors anyway. And we're not so much jumping into a new future as returning to a modified past. People were self-publishing books for centuries before publishing houses came along and took over the market. 

I share some of your concerns when it comes to literary aspirations, though I come back to the imperishable wisdom of the ages: When the world gives you lemons, and it will in whole baskets, make lemonade. Start with the facts. First, big publishing is still a vehicle, but it no longer controls the market. Second, we know we can publish virtually anything we want (at least for the time being). Third, we know that word of mouth is everything. That's all we need to plot a course. We can forget--I mean really cast off--everything else we think we know that we can and can't do. Once you start looking at it with only these three facts, the situation is not so bad.


I don't see any major problem with finding a small press that has a decent reputation and letting it do a nice little run of trade paperbacks. The press can then submit the book for reviews, and if they know what they are doing, the author will get the validation sought. Trade publishers have a history of republishing obscure literary works that first appeared in university presses, for instance, back when those presses weren't particularly front-facing. Earning a fortune via a literary-oriented small press is unlikely, but earning a nice literary reputation is definitely possible. An author determined to achieve literary renown can build on that. Some parts of the dream may not arrive in one's lifetime; all artists have to understand that. But it won't happen if the great literary work sits on a hard drive or in a thumb drive, waiting for a relative with a lot of time to find it and turn it into the literary event of the 22nd century. Far better to be obscurely published now, and go from there.

If this particular author can't even get picked up by a small press, that indeed is a commentary on the content of these possible literary masterpieces, and that calls for an expensive, literary-experienced developmental editor. Check off another $5k or so.

 

Offline Ellie Lynn

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #47 on: September 12, 2017, 11:27:04 AM »

So...this is, I think, one of the biggest reasons why some authors pursue trad publishing relentlessly. They want to feel validated.

While I completely agree everyone has to do what feels right for them, and for some, it's trad publishing, I personally feel completely validated every time someone buys one of my books. It works for me, but then I've been the traditional route (still am somewhat), and found that I enjoy the creative control that comes with self publishing.   For the author still pursuing traditional publishing, perhaps she needs more than validation. Perhaps she needs to experience the entire publishing process to know WHAT it's about before she can move on to self publishing, if that's even an option for her. (shrugs) Everyone needs to find their path.

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Offline Vale

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #48 on: September 12, 2017, 12:52:44 PM »
Well, that's a depressing article. Since she's writing literary fiction, sales numbers and money probably aren't a concern. Most creative writing programs open with "this isn't a degree that leads to a job. Even the creative writing professor positions are flooded with applicants with O. Henry and Pushcart prizes."

To continue the tradition in the thread of playing Devil's Advocate, I think what she could be after is to join the conversation around modern literary works that happens when you're published "the right way" so academics see your work. If you want people to look into your work and share it among your MFA/literary magazine/Creative Writing circles, that's the way to go.

To play the angel's advocate, when I looked at the people self-publishing literary fiction, a lot of them are women and minorities who were treated badly by traditional publishing. Sometimes it was having their work excluded, sometimes it was the way New York Publishing treated the author themselves even after accepting their work. It reminded me a lot of the African-American Literary Magazines around 1900: they were massively important and influential, but because they weren't published "the right way" the way the other lit mags were published, the scholars of the time didn't study them. It took a hundred years before they became part of the creative writing curriculum.

I feel like something is happening now with self-published literary writers that'll be meaningful in the future. If you want validation through literary publishers or bragging rights or to be part of that world, go for it. But I think something amazing is going to happen among literary fiction writers who self-publish. I think a conversation is starting there that's going to prove to be the start of a different movement that will be studied by creative writing programs in 2117.

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Article: Why 'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years
« Reply #49 on: September 12, 2017, 02:01:55 PM »
Funnily enough radio (particularly when combined with podcasting) is still an immensely powerful medium. It hasn't suffered like TV has.
After the NAB (national association of broadcasters) meeting in Austin last week, it looks as if radio is experiencing a resurgence in millennials.