Posts Tagged self-publishing

Where Do All The Writers Go?

I’ve been an aspiring writer of fiction (largely science fiction novels) for over twenty years now, and have yet to publish a book-length work.  I have published a few short works, including one poem (free style), but nothing—short or long form—to a paying market.  Not a particularly auspicious beginning to a writing career, especially when I read every now and then about someone who writes a book, never having written a book before, and sends it to an agent or two, and they love it right off, and it sells to a publisher in a preempt for 6 or 7 figures and now they’re really well known, and accolades and awards and prizes pour in, and all’s well that ends well.  The writing magazines love to do interviews with them.  And seriously, my hat’s off to them.

But—and I put myself in this category—for every successful author like that, indeed for any successful author regardless of how long it took him/her to get there, there must be hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of unsuccessful authors who write and write, but whose work is not deemed worthy of publication by agents, editors, publishers and the like.  It’s not good enough, they say, or it doesn’t meet our needs at the present time, or we just published/handled/represented that type of story recently, or it needs work/editing/cutting/revision, or nobody’s buying that type of work any more, or it doesn’t have zombies in it, or the undead or Abraham Lincoln, or it’s just plain lousy, or—and this is my favorite—we just couldn’t get past the writing (?).  There are a zillion reasons writers don’t get published.  Perhaps a different reason for each author.

Only a small number of writers get to the stage where an agent/publisher will pick up their work and decide to give it a go to the extent of a book or series of books; I suppose the vast majority of those who submit are never picked up.  What happens to them?

I’ve been to a number of writer’s conferences in my attempts to learn enough about writing to get published the traditional way, and at those conferences I’ve seen many who could be classified as The Great Unpublished.  They, like me, submit and submit, but nothing ever comes of it.  Some may get a book deal, but I suppose most don’t.  I don’t know of any statistics on the subject, so I find myself wondering: what happens to them?  Do they eventually quit?  Do they go on and on, endlessly submitting and getting rejected?  How many unpublished novels are out there that are eventually self-published because no one will take them?  In other words, and to put it a little more scientifically, for how many novels, is KDP an endpoint?

I’ve heard it said, and I’ve read it in magazines, that no matter what you write, someone, somewhere out there, wants your work.  This is supposed to get you to keep submitting.  You’ll find someone somewhere sometime.  Don’t give up, they say.  Granted, that’s sound advice, but personally, I’ve had little success with it.  KDP is looking better and better.

Does anybody know of any statistics about how many writers quit after giving the publishing game the old college try?  (Sorry about that.)

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Good Enough To Be Published

Over the past eighteen years, I’ve written three science fiction novels, each about 125,000 words.  That’s just the word count of each of the manuscripts as they exist today, and doesn’t take into account all the re-writing and revisions I’ve made over the years, especially to the first.  The total number of different words I’ve put into those books, and taken out and moved around and cut-up and redistributed and so forth, must total over five hundred thousand.

Currently, I’m finishing the third in the trilogy, but I’m still trying to sell the first.  Over the past sixteen years I’ve sent query letters to well over a hundred agents about that first book, but haven’t had a taker.  I’ve met with agents and editors at meetings, but no one has yet agreed to represent it.  In the meantime, I still work at writing on the trilogy, mostly on the third, but occasionally I go back and make changes and revisions to books one and two.  I also write short stories and blog posts.  Writing keeps me busy.

The most common question I get asked about all this is, have you considered self-publishing?  The answer is yes, I’ve considered it, but I have, at least for now, rejected it.  Those who have self-published a book say it’s a wonderful experience.  You get a book out there on Amazon and other places, without going to the trouble of having to find an agent and a publisher.*  Just do it, they say.  No, I say.

Why not?  My usual response is that I would prefer to write and leave the publishing details to those better prepared to deal with them.  Sure, I could go ahead and find an editor and a cover artist and a printer and all that, and put the book out there.  That could be done.  It wouldn’t go into many bookstores, though.  The most important question I ask myself about this process is: would the book be any good?  There’s a lot of self-published stuff out there that isn’t.  I’m sure an editor, especially an editor who looks at content, could give me his/her opinion about the whole matter, and manuscript reviewers (that is, beta readers) could give me feedback too, but the ultimate decider of whether a book is any good is the reading public, and I wouldn’t want them to read a half-ass book.  Or a three-quarter ass book.  Or even a seven-eighths ass book.  I want to put out only my best work.  I’d rather go through the regular old-fashioned process of getting an agent and publisher and let them decide if the book warrants publishing.  So far, that hasn’t happened, and leads me to wonder if my first book is really good enough to be published yet.  More revisions loom.  And if it’s not good enough to be published through the traditional route, it certainly isn’t good enough to be self-published.

*Sometimes I get the feeling that some people self-publish because they know their book(s) isn’t/aren’t good enough for the traditional method in the first place anyway.

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