IWSG: Publishing Paths

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

This month I’m insecure about the fact I entered Pitch Wars for the first time ever and have so far not received any requests for more pages. Between that and the fact that I keep being told by agents I’ve queried that my writing is “really good,” “engaging,” “flows well” . . . yet somehow no one wants to represent or publish it . . . I don’t know what to think or do. Which leads somewhat indirectly to this month’s question:

What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

As of now, I have eight books on the market. Two were published by small publishers, the others I self-published. I’ll be self-publishing Faebourne too.

For some manuscripts, I do try to get an agent. If I think the book might be commercial enough, I do an extensive round of querying. If, however, I know it’s too niche, or if it’s something I know I can sell on my own (like Sherlock Holmes or Regency romance), I self-publish.

I guess a part of me still hopes to someday be published by a bigger house. I don’t know why. A lingering desire for legitimacy? For someone to say I’m good enough? Hence the most recent heartbreaking year of queries. For this particular manuscript I’ve sent out 134 queries, and at the moment I’m waiting for answers on 3 of them. The rest were rejections or no responses. And now I’m hoping maybe, just maybe, a Pitch Wars mentor might see something good in my work. But that appears to be a no as well.

It’s tough to stay confident in your writing when no one else seems to believe it’s worth their time or effort.

Yet my Sherlock Holmes books and Brynnde sell well. So at least a few people like and read my work. And I have hopes Faebourne will follow in Brynnde‘s footsteps. All signs point to me continuing to self-publish because I come out ahead on those books. (Mostly due to my husband who handles the marketing.)

In short, my publishing path is something I determine on a book-by-book basis. If I think there’s a chance an agent might like the manuscript, I do some querying. Otherwise, I self-publish. I don’t really bother with the smaller publishers any more because I haven’t had much luck with them. I’m better off having full control of my ability to price and market, and in determining which format(s) to produce, etc. I’m sure there are some great small publishers out there that actually do market and won’t just churn out a ton of books and hope they sell, but I’ve ceased looking for them. If a publisher wants me to do the marketing for them, well, I might as well put the book out myself and keep more of the profits.

So this manuscript I’m shopping, well . . . First I have to get Faebourne out, and then I’ll decide what to do with it. Scrap it. Overhaul it. Or eventually put my faith in it and self-publish. Its fate remains to be determined.

It’s Raining Rejection

Rejection is a part of the writing process. Precious few writers don’t suffer it in one form or another: rejected queries, rejected manuscripts, or the rejection of the reading public (often in the form of one-star reviews).

Today I received this rejection from an agent who’d done me the great good service of reading my entire manuscript:

This is an original concept and you’ve done a great job creating a novel with a strong voice and engaging characters. That said, after careful consideration, I just didn’t connect as strongly with this project as I would need to in order to represent it.

Arrrgh! (No, not a pirate. Frustration.)

I really, really want to take consolation from that first line. But . . . If the novel was good, why doesn’t she want to represent it? And since she doesn’t give me any specific feedback or suggestions, I can’t help thinking the manuscript must be unsalvageable. Like, if she thought I could do something to make it better, she’d at least give me an R&R, right?

[For the uninitiated, an R&R is a “revise & resubmit.” Agents and editors sometimes offer that if a manuscript isn’t quite there yet but they see potential.]

There are a couple other agents still looking at the manuscript, but all the rejections thus far have been of that same ilk: “Really good, but didn’t connect.” At this point I don’t know what I’m going to do with this book. Burn it? While I try to decide how to build a suitable bonfire, I’ll focus on finishing Faebourne. That one I’ll publish myself. (Already have a gorgeous cover, so be on the lookout for it in a future post!)

The Stats

Another writing friend mentioned recently that for every 50 rejections he might then finally receive one acceptance. Now, this writer sends out both stories and manuscripts, so he’s juggling a lot of paper in all this. But it made me wonder what my own rejection/acceptance ratio might be.

I don’t write many short stories, my Sherlock Holmes stories notwithstanding. I self-publish those anyway, so I have no stats for rejections. Well, that’s not entirely true; early on I did send “Mystery of the Last Line” out to a few mystery magazines and the like. Maybe five? Then finally self-published it and never looked back.

That said, I did recently write a story called “Aptera.” It was written to spec for an anthology about Sirens, and though shortlisted did not make the final cut. (Tone too different from all the other stuff, which is a topic for another time.) Counting that rejection, “Aptera” was sent to 12 venues and rejected by 8 of them. I had not heard back from 3 others when Aurora Wolf accepted it. So, discarding the might-have-beens, my acceptance ratio for this story was 1/9.

Okay, what about novels? Which is more of what I do anyway. I queried The K-Pro just shy of 50 times before self-publishing it. So the ratio there is 0 for 50, more or less. The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller was my hardest sell. I queried that one exactly 100 times and had 2 acceptances. So my friend’s 1/50 estimate was spot on there. And Changers? I sent out 70 queries on that one. I received 2 acceptances and had not heard back from 4 at the time I accepted Evernight Teen’s offer. So if I subtract those 4, I get 2/66, or 1/33, which isn’t too bad.

And what about timing? I started sending out “Aptera” in January after receiving the boot from the anthology. It was accepted in May, so it took me 4 months to place it. I queried The K-Pro for a year before giving up and self-publishing. It took 15 months to place Peter, and 10 months to find a home for Changers. The reason for that is most likely there are more agents and publishers open to YA fantasy (Changers) than there are for adult upmarket espionage (Peter).

What all this adds up to is that querying and finding a home for your book or story is not, on average, a fast process. You’re going to hear “no thanks” a lot, and you should be prepared to stick things out for a year or more depending on your genre and how popular it is. There are more romance and fantasy publishers than, as I said, upmarket espionage publishers. So plan for a long-term siege. That way, if it happens sooner rather than later, you can be pleasantly surprised. But if it takes a while, you’ll be ready for that rather than disappointed and disheartened. It’s all a matter of perspective.

2015 Summary

We’re staring down the barrel of the end of the year, and while there’s still plenty of time for things to happen, I’m feeling a tad retrospective. So here’s a summary of my year (so far).

After more than a year of sending out queries, I found a publisher for The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. That was exciting! The e-book is out in January with print to follow in late spring.

The romantic comedy I co-wrote was optioned . . . and then the option lapsed, so now it’s on the market again.

The short film Adverse Possession, based on my 15-minute play “Warm Bodies,” premiered at the San Diego Fall Film Festival.

I published another Sherlock Holmes story.

I recorded my first ever podcast interview (I was the guest). It should be available early next year, I believe. (Look for She Wrote a Book, launching December 7. I believe I’m episode 7 as well. Links to come.)

I also had a flash fiction piece selected for a podcast which will air in February (that one is called No Extra Words).

I traveled to London to see Hamlet at the Barbican. Also got to see Buckingham Palace. Turns out they have amazing pastries.

I went to the DFW Writers Conference and got to meet—and really converse with—Kevin J. Anderson. He lived in Livermore! ::fangirling!::

Lots and lots of rejection. I’m feeling pretty beat down by that at the moment, but there are still a few agents and publishers interested in Changers, so I’m trying to focus on that rather than the rejections.

And I have vacation starting tomorrow, and my birthday to look forward to, and another little trip to Carmel just prior to Christmas. So there’s still plenty of time and room for good things to happen. At the same time, I fear getting my hopes up too high.

What you, dear readers, can look forward to is the Giftmas Blog Tour coming up on this and other sites. Keep your eyes peeled because there will be giveaways! Including an ARC of Peter and a copy of The K-Pro. Stay tuned!

Query Confusion

Okay, here’s a story about a query. I’d submitted to an agent (we’ll call her Agent A) and eventually been rejected. After looking at the agency’s Web site and seeing nothing about not querying other agents if one passes, I submitted my query to another agent (Agent B). Only to get a response from Agent A saying, “Sure, we’d love to take a look.”

Um, okay, but . . . You’ve already taken a look. Did the query not ring any bells for you at all? Where is Agent B?

Of course, I didn’t answer exactly that way, but I also didn’t resubmit my manuscript. Instead I gently reminded Agent A that she had read it, and told her I’d hate to waste her time if she didn’t want to give it another look. (Though I also pointed out the manuscript has been through a major rewrite since she saw it. It was a rewrite I had offered her before and never heard back on, so . . .)

So far there has been no response. I mean, my rule of thumb is: If the agency’s site doesn’t specifically say that a pass from one agent is a pass from all/the agency, then it’s fair to submit to another agent at that agency. But maybe I’m wrong? Or at least in this case I might be? It is a pretty small agency, so maybe it’s a matter of size. But I do wish agencies would make their processes more transparent. Not because I think they’re hiding something—some alchemical secret they use to determine whether to sign someone—but because it would make it easier for the writers to do things in a way that complements rather than complicates those processes.

Downhill

There are ups, and there are downs. March was a decent month, and April started out promising as well (despite pneumonia), but now I’ve hit a two-week slump filled with nothing but rejections. It’s looking like I may end up self-publishing Peter as per the original plan. It’s so frustrating, though, having been told by two editors at major publishers that my book sounds like something they’d like to see. “Get an agent to send it to me,” they say. And then the agents all say the book is “well written” and “intriguing” but won’t take it on.

Tomorrow I’ll be at the Tri-Valley Writers Conference. Maybe being around other writers will innervate me, spur me on. But right now it’s difficult to imagine. I keep chipping away at Changers in the meantime. Though days like today, filled with ever more rejection, make me wonder why I bother.

Pain

Three rejections in two days. Feels a bit like being beaten with a stick.

And there are a lot of good things happening, too, but when you’re in pain you don’t typically focus on the parts that aren’t hurting. When you have a migraine, you don’t think, “At least my feet are all right.” You’re too busy trying to fix your head.

So this morning I walked without music, which is really rare for me. I love music, and usually I would pump up the upbeat tunes to get me back into fighting shape. But today I felt the need for something more fundamental. To hear the birds, to meditate on the “clouds low and hairy in the skies” (Robert Frost, somewhat adjusted). And it was good. I’m in a little less pain now, and even just received news that I’ve been added to a stable of writers to be called on if and when needed. So that’s nice.

And now I’m going to try to work. Because if I focus on the pain too long it will only get worse. Better to think of something else and let the pain ebb away.

Slings & Arrows

I’m having a rough week.

No, that’s not exactly true. I’m having a big dipper of a week with lots of downs and then a few ups and then more downs.

On the one hand, bad news (twice over) about one of my scripts. It’s receiving great coverage but can’t get anyone interested. Hrm.

And then, too, a pass from a literary agent who said she really likes Peter but can’t sell it because the first part was self-published as a novella. Well, I’m fixing that with this revision. The first part of the novel is now far different from what was self-published. And the agent did agree to read the revised manuscript when I finish it, so there’s a bit of hope there.

The real high points of the week have had nothing to do with my work. Date night last night was great, though: We went to Bluestem Brasserie and had one of the best meals I think I’ve ever eaten (Boozy Malt FTW), then saw Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink over at the American Conservatory Theater. Fabulous food + phenomenal play = great night out.

Classed under “middling,” a co-writer and I received some anticipated paperwork regarding our romantic comedy script. I’d be more excited, but the attorney has it, and there’s nothing all that exciting about attorneys. (Sorry, Chuck! I know you’re doing a great job!)

Well, and it’s only Wednesday. We’ll see how the rest of the week plays out. January is giving me whiplash; maybe February will be kinder.

Sunday Stroll

The year is winding down, and this week has been quiet, which is more or less what I expected. So when a rejection came in early this morning I was a little taken off guard. It seems so many literary agents are waiting to send out bad news until after New Year’s. Not that I want to start 2015 with bad news, either. Maybe I would rather receive it now and close out the year with a clean slate.

I’ve been cleaning up my office in advance of the new year, too. Ready to start fresh with a tidy workspace. I’ve fallen behind on the actual writing, though I’ve edited the first half of Changers (on paper; need to go make the changes in the Word document). And I have a rough outline for the rest of the book. Or, if not an outline, a general idea of where things are going.

And today the weather was nice enough for a walk. So:

1. “Whenever We Wanted” by John Mellencamp
2. “Through With You” by Maroon 5
3. “Like Sugar” by Matchbox Twenty
4. “Why Should I Cry For You?” by Sting
5. “Getting Late” by Rob Thomas
6. “Chanson Pour les Petits Enfants” by Jimmy Buffett
7. “As Long as It Matters” by Gin Blossoms
8. “Sunday Morning New York Blue” by Rob Thomas
9. “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat
10. “It’s My Life” by No Doubt
11. “All Your Reasons” by Matchbox Twenty
12. “I Don’t Need Another Thrill” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
13. “So What” by P!nk

Those first few songs tell quite the story. An edgy, defiant relationship that ends (1–2) . . . Except he can’t quite let go (3) . . . Until yes, he finally does (4). There’s the dip in energy, an inward focus (5–7), before the chrysalis bursts open again and hopefulness shines out (8–9). But the last four songs speak of a certain back and forth tension.

In short, it was a good walk filled with a really good musical story.

Now I’m off to rework a TV pitch and make those edits to Changers . . .

Downs and Ups

The past couple weeks have been difficult ones for me, so I took a break from writing this past weekend and focused on family instead. Well, okay, I did at least outline a bit for my current WIP, and I named a character (after much research and consideration) . . . So I did a *little bit* of work. I’m pretty excited about how my WIP is shaping up, too. If I could just find Peter a home, I’d be happy all around.

This morning’s walk:

1. “Wave Bye Bye” by Gin Blossoms
2. “Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song” by Matt Hires
3. “Lonely Ol’ Night” by John Cougar Mellencamp
4. “Home” by American Authors
5. “Like Sugar” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “Put Your Hands Up” by Matchbox Twenty
7. “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer
8. “Pieces of the Night” by Gin Blossoms
9. “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons
10. “Here We Go Again” by Everclear
11. “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat

“Put Your Hands Up” is such bubblegum, but every now and then I do just want a song that makes me want to move my body, and that one fits the bill. As ever, Rob and his crew brought my spirits up. Last week consisted of nothing but rejections, but today I at least received one request for my manuscript. So already this week is better than last. And having the Christmas decorations up helps my mood, too.