Sunday, September 21, 2008

Something to Consider

If you’ve been to our Web site lately, Sharene is closed to queries until January 1, 2009, and I’ve stopped taking queries from unpublished writers. The reason we decided to do this has much to do with the quality of queries we were receiving prior to this decision. So my next question would be to ask, “What’s going on out there in Writer Land?”

I don’t want to sound preachy, but folks, this is not a time to be lax on the quality side of your writing. Publishers have, for a number of years, been tightening their quality standards to the point that even that which was considered excellent writing a few years ago is now being rejected (and remember, fiction and nonfiction are fluid beings that grow and change over time as well).

Because inexpensive computers and word processors have given people the opportunity to become the writer they always wanted to be, more and more people are penning that which has been rattling around in their heads for years. This is not to say this is a bad thing because writing that poem, short story, or full length novel that you’ve always wanted to write is the most wonderful accomplishment imaginable, and I commend anyone who has attempted this and wish you to know that I applaud you. However, it’s a huge leap from putting that dream on the printed page to convincing a large group of people who would ordinarily spend that money for shelter, food, or clothing to instead spend it on your poem, short story or novel.

So, as an alternative, do something that this amazing time we live in allows each and every writer to engage in--publish your dream online and let others enjoy the fruits of your labor. You get to have a voice, and if you get a large enough readership, you might get published for actual money. (Don't forget that it is highly likely that the particular work you post will no longer be salable because it’s already been made available for a large reader base—the world. We have other posts on this.)

Here’s a suggestion…

Get yourself a Web site. If you want to be a successful author, you’re going to have to have one anyway. There are lots of companies that provide inexpensive Web hosting services and the templates to create a site in a matter of an hour or so. Next, post your poem, short story, or novel on your Web site. Another helpful tool will be a site statistics program that allows you to monitor how many Web visits your site receives each day, and since you’ll post nothing else there except your work, you must assume that everyone who goes to your site reads at least some of your poem, short story or book. Next get a free Twitter and Facebook account and advertise your Web site and the fact that you’re giving your work away free. From your marketing effort and Web stats, you now have the means to know how popular your work would be if it were sitting on a bookstore shelf. Actually, if you think about it, you will even have more evidence because you now have the ability to know how many potential readers have visited your site and read your creation. The other option is to post your work on your own blog space, which you can get for free. However, the problem with this is the temptation to post other items of interest there, which muddies the waters when trying to determine how popular your work is via Web stats.

One very last thing here is to ask for reader comments. Warning: Be prepared for criticism, because no matter how good you think your book is, your readers are the final judge. Then you have to decide how much weight to give each comment, as some people will be too eager to lavish you with complements or try to crush your ego just for fun.

If your now virtually-published book gets ten thousand hits and at least 200 excellent or great reviews, send me a query.

Now, I know we will get a lot of flack for this because most people have written one novel and giving it away for free is not what they had in mind. Well, here’s some news. Writers write; that’s what they do. You should have several pieces lying around you can work with or sell, not just one. Even just to establish a presence takes more than one project for 99% of writers out there. If you think you’re in the 1% that includes authors who hit it big on one book—Harper Lee, for example—then consider you are probably in good and abundant company. There’s a reason the phrase “writing the great American novel” exists. It’s because writing a book is one of those dreams that seems glamorous and easy when it is just the opposite, and everyone wants to do it. And everyone, including people all over the world, IS doing it.

In closing, years ago, Sharene and I wrote an article for the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market and in it made the comment that everyone, even the President of the United States, seemed to want to get published. I vividly remember seeing a review of the book on Amazon.com--from Publishers Weekly, I believe—where the reviewer picked that particular comment out of the guide and remarked on it as if it were unusual. People don’t believe us when we say it, but it’s true. There are millions of people who want to get their words in front of a large audience AND get paid for it, so the competition is fierce. I think the rise of blogs, Web sites, and social networking sites supports this and so why not use them to your benefit?

47 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

Interesting.

I have what I would consider a popular blog though I haven't posted much of what I call my "real" writing.

I guess I have been hoping to get my name out and about, build a following of readers that will hopefully buy my books one day, and connect with fellow writers and others in the biz.

One thing writing the blog has done is give me more confidence in my natural voice and to be bolder in my writing.

Anonymous said...

So what yo're saying is, self-publish because you won't be able to sell to the traditional houses.

But at the same time, there's nothing to lose by trying the big agents first, and if none of them will take you on, you go directly to the small publishers. Then, if none of them will take you on...consider that what you have written has no commercial potential. If, after this consideration, you still wish to publish your work, then do what this blog post advises: self-publish on your own web site and see if you can build an audience large enough to attract the traditional publishers. Or go POD. But to me, these are last resorts.

Also, to refuse to accept all queries because of the poor quality of "most" of them is a mistake in my opinion. Furthermore, I'd rather have no track record than a poor track record, which is to say, I"d rather be unpublished than published 20 years ago, or published last year with an AMazon rank over 1,000,000.

So I'd reevaluate your submissions criteria if you wish to remain competitive.

Anonymous said...

To me, the blogs, Myspace, etc. are only needed once a deal is secured. As is pointed out in this post, to post your actual material prior to being publish is to jeopardize being able to actually publish it.

The blogs etc. should be used for promo purposes only, e.g. news items such as release dates, new deals, etc.

If you give up and just assume that you'll never be published so you may as well go straight to the blogs, well...a person who does that is not cut out for this business.

Anonymous said...

The two previous anonymice have it right.

Additional comments:

You say: "Publishers have, for a number of years, been tightening their quality standards to the point that even that which was considered excellent writing a few years ago is now being rejected."

Indeed. Quite a disconnect with something I read in New York Magazine, from Have We Reached the End of Book Publishing As We Know It? Here's a quote: "But pretty much every aspect of the business seems to be in turmoil. There’s the floundering of the few remaining semi-independent midsize publishers; the ouster of two powerful CEOs—one who inspired editors and one who at least let them be; the desperate race to evolve into e-book producers; the dire state of Borders, the only real competitor to Barnes & Noble; the feeling that outrageous money is being wasted on *mediocre books*... (emphasis mine)

Anyway, yes, it does seem like everybody thinks they can write a book, but some of us unpublished writers don't just throw out any old slop at agents or publishers; we work hard at honing our craft. So while the competition is tough in this crazy business, I wouldn't call it "fierce" for a serious and dedicated writer when 90% of submissions are, at best, semi-literate.

Fellow writers, keep the faith. Write, edit, revise, edit, revise some more, learn, then write some more. If you can't get a good agent and/or publisher for one novel, then write another, better (or more commercial) novel.

But if publication is your dream and you're willing to work hard, then don't give up before you're even out of the starting gate.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Anonymous #1: Maybe that was the model a few years ago; however, it you’ll check the statistics of those who get published and those who don’t, you’ll realize that today’s model depends on whether or not you have a recognized name. I agree that this model only holds true for most of the big five; however, the big five is where the big advances are and apparently where most writers want their agents to submit. Otherwise why would they need an agent, as a writer can send their own unsolicited manuscripts to all of the others?

Yes, posting your material anywhere can jeopardize its salability, but my point was you need to have more than one project to work with so you can post something online to be able gauge interest in your work. In other words, you should have a piece to sacrifice for this purpose. If you don’t, then you might not be writing for the right reasons.

Yes I’ll agree, most people who are trying to be published in today’s market are not “cut out for this business.” This is kind of a harsh criticism of writers, I know, but it becomes a fact of life when more and more unqualified people are writing who should not be trying to be published. The plan we offer here is a way to be published—if that’s your desire—and to check if you should be go further with this. If you get a big readership, you then have a very good reason to continue. If you don’t, then it might be time to fold your tent and enjoy the fact that you at least satisfied that urge to write, which is much better than having that story stuck in your head. If you’re wondering, at this point, how you’re supposed to get a following for your writing, then you’ve already stepped into the shoes of a publisher who takes you on. How are they supposed to get a following for your books?

Also, viewing blogs as the last-resort alternative to publication, as if all bloggers have no talent, is not really accurate. There are some truly gifted individuals out there who blog, and to intimate that only printed material is worthy of reader consideration is the elitist attitude that has kept publishing in the dark ages while the rest of the world has progressed

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Anonymous # 2: No, I’m not saying self-publish as the term is generally used. What I’m saying is to test your product to see if it is viable. After all, every business that has a new product always tests it to see if people will buy it. Some writers test their books by letting beta readers read and comment on them. I’m suggesting you take the beta reader approach to the next level by letting hundreds of readers BETA your book or books. What we are advocating here is to test your writing talent to see if it’s saleable. About 99.99% of what is written is not, so isn’t it best to know before spending loads of time and energy on something that no one wants? These are not last resorts measures but first steps that most successful writers already use. If you don’t believe this, go on writer boards and ask about beta readers. All we are advocating is taking this to the next level.

So with all this said, we go back to our submissions policies. All I want to say about our present policy is that I’ve limited queries from unpublished writers a couple of times in the past and each time I do I get a better quality of queries and writing samples (although I do get the published writers with a poor track record, they are few). I think the reason is that those who do query are more professional, and what I experience when I open the query doors wide is just the opposite. I can only devote a small amount of time to queries anyway, as I have clients whose work is much more important to me. So by limiting queries from those who are not serious about their writing, I can better balance this very limited time and thereby remain very competitive.

I guess what I was trying to say is if you think your work is truly viable, put it out there and see, and I think most writers will be surprised at the effort that has to go into getting attention for their work, which is what publishers face when they contract your work. Walk a mile in the shoes of any publishing professional, and you will understand where your work truly fits in the food chain.

Anonymous said...

Anon #1 here. I'd like to apologize for and retract this part of my post:
"So I'd reevaluate your submissions criteria if you wish to remain competitive."

It's not my business to tell you how to run yours.

That said, every author starts from nowhere, and if you give up the slush, you also condemn yourself to 'scavenging' authors from other people who have had them first. It matters not how many poor submissions you receive--the commercially viable writer must cast his or her lot in with all the rest. The music industry, when dealing with the long-ago invention of the 4-track recorder, also went through this dillema. Sure, more people can make demo tapes, [akin to computers and email making it easier for writers to produce and submit manuscripts], but it doesn't mean you stop looking for new talent.

I think the original blog post has some merit:

the unpublished writer should use the webssite as a tool.

However, I still feel that if the writer believes in his or her work, that s/he should follow the path of submitting to NY agents, then if that doesn't work, submitting to small houses, and then...if that doesn't work...trying what the blog path advised here, which is to say, self-publish on a web site...[or POD, e-book, what have you...note the success of podcasters such as Scott Sigler who started unsigned and garnered the attention of the big houses...it can work...]

"Also, viewing blogs as the last-resort alternative to publication, as if all bloggers have no talent, is not really accurate."

Publication of a novel or book, versus having talent as a writer of any kind, are two different things. One can be an impressive blogger without being a novelist or book writer, and vice-versa. The skills are different. Which do you want to be?, one must ask one's self.

Enough. I shall let you know by way of anonymous fairness that I am but an unpublished novelist. I think the best path is thus:
Write a novel and try to get an agent. While waiting for repsonses, start on novel #2. If after a year you still have no agent, start trying with the small houses. If after the second year you still have done nohting with book #1, then it's POD time--if you can burn up the Amazon charts indie-style, then the NY bigs will come running to you. Meanwhile, time to hit up the agents with book #2 while you start writing #3....and so it goes until one of the books hits.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

To Anonymous #3:

I would never argue with someone who wears his convictions on his sleeve. However, the actual story behind the article which you selected a paragraph from is really about a new imprint at HarperCollins, Harper Studio, which is trying a new approach that would eliminate advances for a larger share of royalties. The article also had two authors lined up who agreed to accept this arrangement, 50 Cent is collaborating with The 48 Laws of Power author Robert Greene. Humm, these aren’t unpublished authors, I wonder why?

Anyone can go to an article, cut out a chunk, and use it to back up their argument. Here’s another paragraph from that same article that puts a different light (and spin) on publishing. I'll use it to back up my statement: "Publishers have, for a number of years, been tightening their quality standards to the point that even that which was considered excellent writing a few years ago is now being rejected."

The demise of publishing has been predicted since the days of Gutenberg. But for most of the past century—through wars and depressions—the business of books has jogged along at a steady pace. It’s one of the main (some would say only) advantages of working in a “mature” industry: no unsustainable highs, no devastating lows. A stoic calm, peppered with a bit of gallows humor, prevailed in the industry.

Anonymous said...

Your idea of taking the beta reader concept to the extreme might not be for everyone out there, but it makes a heckuva lot of sense to me.

I write because I love to write. I write because I love a good story. I write because I enjoy it more than anything else I've ever done. Getting to write is my reward for doing the mundane aspects of life.

I also write because I want to entertain, inspire, motivate, and reflect our society and culture back to itself. That means I need to do more than write -- my work needs to be read.

Your post seems to say, "Put it out there already." I think I will.

Thanks.

Scott Jensen said...

This is not that bad of an idea. This might be what I do with a white paper I wrote about peer-to-peer networking and the entertainment industry. I was thinking of making it book length but maybe what I should do is simply post it to its own website and, due to it being now five years old, then follow it with an "Update" section. Updating my predictions, telling what has happened since the white paper came out, expanding it out, and so forth. Possibly having the website include interviews I do of leaders in the different industries about the white paper and their thoughts on it. The website having a forum for its readers to discuss the book and its ideas. I could see placing small ads for it in Variety, Billboard, and other entertainment trade magazines.

I was never looking to become rich off of the white paper or its later book.

And then there's Google Adsense that I can tastefully add to the website to generate a little income. I'd just use whatever income it generates to simply advertise it more in the trade rags.

As you know of the white paper I am talking about, what do you think, Robert? Good idea?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #3 here.

Not meaning to be rude, but it seems to me that you didn't read the article. The article is about the publishing industry writ large, not just one imprint, hence its title "Have We Reached the End of Book Publishing As We Know It?"

The snippet you quoted appears on the first page of the considerably long article, and your snippet is followed by a glaring "BUT" which comprises the thrust of the rest of the article, about how the "stoic calm" from your quote is cracking. The article is about how professionals in the industry are feeling right now -- the article points out that many people in the industry are in a panic that the current publishing industry model isn't working (with outrageous money being paid for mediocre books but one part of the problem). The article isn't only about "What's not working"; it's also about "Why isn't it working" and "What to do about it."

What I get from the article is that there need not be a "demise" of the publishing industry at all but that things definitely need to change. And interestingly enough, the writers I know are on board with that. We're watching things closely to see how we can do our part to help make things better for both writers and readers.

I know authors who have won major publishing deals (each of them previously unpublished authors upon whom agents took a chance). Their books and their deals came before their blogs in each case. All of them have worked hard for years at their writing, and they queried widely. That's how they eventually got their book deals. But there's certainly nothing wrong with building an audience with a blog or a website. I know writers who do exactly that, and some of them do a truly impressive job. Nothing worthwhile comes easily, no matter what path a particular writer chooses to take.

I'll echo anon #2 in saying that every writer starts from nowhere. And to cite Robert Greene as a published author is all well and good, but 50 Cent?? Hello? He's a rapper, not a serious writer of either fiction or non-fiction.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:48:

Why put it out for free? At least put it oun lulu.com or some other POD where you'll get an ISBN and can offer it up on Amazon.

Some authors have been giving away the e-book version of their novel for free while selling the trade or mm paperback.

Larkspur said...

It kind of grates on my nerves, as a published writer, that everyone buys into the whole "gotta get published by the big publishers" crap. Considering they're the morons who've been producing 75% glop these last several years, I don't know why any writer would trust their judgment with their books. They've turned publishing into a high school popularity contest, and I, as a reader, suffer. I went to Harpercollins' site the other day and saw three books almost exactly alike. Cookie-cutter crap that they probably paid a lot of money for. It's ridiculous, and if print publishing goes the way of papyrus, so be it. Maybe the new model of publishing will spawn publishers, editors, and writers who aren't so darn full of themselves and who pick good books instead of books by the next "It" writer. Until then, I look at it this way...
1) If you just want to share your writing, post it for free and feel the love.
2) If you want to get paid for your writing, get a degree and work your way into it like the rest of us have. That does work, you know, it's just no one what to work that hard to get published.
OR
3) If you want to get published by the self-absorbed cretins in NYC, then do yourself a favor and try to get some feedback on just how fantastic that masterpiece of yours is. Every writer believes he's that ONE newbie who will get the BIG deal for his AMAZING work, and the chances of that smaller than my bra size.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Not meaning to be rude, but it seems to me that you didn't read the article. Yes, I read the whole article and it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. And I repeat, “The demise of publishing has been predicted since the invention of the printing press.”

Chicken Little articles appear constantly as there will always be those find joy in such things. They do it to get attention and thereby a readership. I really don’t pay attention to them anymore, as most of the information contained in them is old news. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that Harper is trying to do what medium and small publishers have been doing for years with small advances just tells me that the mega publishers should get out of NYC and look around every once in awhile? Small advance are nothing new in publishing. Advances many writers receive has been around one to two thousand dollars with royalties much, much less than what Bob Miller is offering. The major problem is that most glory writers don’t want to accept a low advance and reduced royalties, so what Bob is trying to do is not going to work.

The trend, as the article says, is that if you’ve a celebrity and have deep pockets you might accept Miller’s deal but most writers want to get rich from writing, so my question to writers is, “Who is killing off publishing?” Is it the people who just want to get published with money a secondary consideration? Or is it the greedy writer who finishes his or her so-called masterpiece and rushes off to find that NYC agent in hopes of one of those seven figure contracts? The bad new for those people is if you’re an everyday writer, if you don’t have credentials, publishers aren’t interested no matter how well you write. In most cases, no audience, no book deal. Why do you think putting 50 cents’ name on a book would make business sense? He doesn’t know how to write--but everyone knows who he is. As the article says, the book business anymore is Hollywood. It’s the entertainment industry, my friend with all its glitz and glamour. In Hollywood if you don’t have a name, you’re not even alive. Who knows Robert Greene? People who are into non-fiction know him but the average genre buyer reads for a completely different purpose—to be entertained, not educated. Everyone in these circles knows 50 cent. Hollywood knows 50 cent, south Beach knows 50 cent,“brand name” sells products and books are products, so declared when publishing became part of corporate America. Fine literature is practically dead; fiction is dying because there are few dedicated readers left.

Mega publishing may go down the tubes but that trend began when multinational corporations bought the five major publishers. Do you know who owns Random House, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Grand Central, and Penguin Putnam? If you don’t, then it’s back to the articles for you. And no, the particular article you read doesn’t say, probably because the person who wrote it doesn’t know.

Anonymous said...

Anon #3 back -- yup, I know who owns the big five. Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful response and your willingness to debate.

You nailed it with... "50 cent,“brand name” sells products and books are products, so declared when publishing became part of corporate America. Fine literature is practically dead; fiction is dying because there are few dedicated readers left."

On that, you and I concur 100%.

Anonymous said...

So...if you want to create fiction these days, which offers a better shot at being able to sell your work: novels or screenplays?

I would think there's about 10x as many people trying with screenplays as novels, but at the same time, more people watch movies than read novels. That said, many novels are made into movies.

Anonymous said...

So, after this discussion, are you ready to accept queries from unpublished writers again? I've got a good one, rarin' to go...

Wylie Merrick Literary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wylie Merrick Literary said...

No. I'll begin accepting queries from new authors when the markets open up to new authors. As it presently stands, that's not going to happen for awhile.

If and when that happens, I'll open again but will only stay open to new writers as long as I receive the same consideration, skill- wise, that others receive. I will not be a dumping ground for those writers who have tried every other agency in the country and been rejected by them, as seems to have happened in the past.

Joel said...

Greetings,
I've subscribed to your blog for a while because I've found it well-written and interesting...I'm a writer but my first Master's ("Professional Writing", a program at USC) is as much about publishing as writing, and I like to hear different opinions about the business. I have to respond, however, to the zing about showing work to 10,000 people, and getting 2000 great reviews. That would be difficult even for many books published by large houses! Maybe there was some hyperbole, and I do sympathize with some people lack of writing (or persuasive) skills...I was also a copy editor and WOW!

I like to encourage people to try Xlibris or one of the many other print-on-demand services, and I know a few people who've done relatively well (200-1000 copies) this way. I'd like to consider myself a pro, because I'm on my third novel, but I've found that there are different publishing streams for different genres. My poetry, for example, is on my website...there's no better way to find it. Musings and political screed are poured into a blog with about 200 subscribers and an unknown number of lookee-loos. My first book was published by a small press in New York with a great model - they made 600 chapbook copies, sold them for $15 each, and then 50 handmade artist's books which went to the rare book collections and museums for $1500 (!) each. Everyone made money and we sold out the run. My next book is of very local interest, so might go to a medium sized house here in LA and get a run of 5 to 10 thousand. My point is, there are a lot more options than there were even five years ago. You have the right to be selective, but I can't imagine any scenario where you can get anyone to read a full length book online...maybe sell it to Amazon's "Kindle"...?

Anonymous said...

Have you considered a query policy whereby you announce that you will accept queries from unpublished writers for a limited time only, say a 2 week window once per year announced a month or so in advance? This way, you won't be constantly subjected to the slush flow, yet serious writers who are paying attention can still have an opportunity for representation, and you open yourself up to the benefits of developing new writers.

What do you think?

Painted Delivery! said...

You say:

Don't forget that it is highly likely that the particular work you post will no longer be salable because it’s already been made available for a large reader base—the world. We have other posts on this.)

I tried to find those posts and I couldn't. Perhaps I am not looking in the right place?

I am interested in this as I am currently releasing chapters to writing.com. The implication is that I shouldn't be.

Eep!

Thank you for spending the time :).

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Painted Delivery:

Posting excerpts for other writers to comment on shouldn't be a problem. What we are mainly referring to was authors who post their whole book on their Web site then invite any and everyone to come and look at it.
If you would like to read what we said about posting your work, look under "Critique Groups," "Contracts" or "Rights" on the right side of the page and the index should take you to these posts. Hope this helps.

Mommy C said...

I subscribe to the belief that you should do what you love (i.e. writing). If you love it, you will work hard at it. Anything you work hard enough at will turn into success. So, if you want to write, your goal is to express yourself and to have that expression connect with an audience, not become rich and famous.

And, you're right. When I finally decided to get serious about my writing, I started a personal blog, a book blog and got a Facebook account. After just a couple of months I was talking on the phone with the founder of my "dream" publishing company (at a closed house) about subitting a PB and a CB. Perfecting the book has been a bit longer process, and finding an agent, well...

But seriously, take the leap of faith and write because it is what you believe you should do. Good things will happen. I've at least made it to working with an editor, and more importantly, I have built a community of other writers around myself who provide me with inspiration, persepective, and humour.

An apprentice doesn't become a master without using his tools everyday. It is essential that you write everyday, anyway. So, put it out there for feedback.

Mommy C said...

Ok, I should have read the comments before throwing out my own passionate thoughhts. I've got a few things to add. If 50 cent (who I can't stand) isn't a writer, than neither is Jack Kerouac or Woody Guthrie. I love grammar and pomp as much as the next writer, but honestly, if you can put your thoughts on paper and have a readership connect, you're a writer, and a good one at that.

And, why is everyone so hostile to this idea of blogging? It isn't going to hurt the publishing industry one bit. If anything, it will only help the cream rise to the top. I am constantly amazed at how quickly history is forgotten. In the Victorian era, blog-type publishing was very common. Dickens, for example, published many of his novels as serials in newspapers (hence the reason they were so wordy- paid by the word). But, that didn't kill the book industry. People still love a book they can hold in their hands, tuck under their pillow at night, be seen reading on the subway. Why does everyone act like this is so new, and so far fetched?

And one more thing about 50 cent. If you want to play with the big boys (though some of us still aspire for cutting edge indie publishers), you've got to have a brand. He's written his ticket just about anywhere, because he's perfected his brand. He's coined terms, starred in movies, put out clothes- oh, I could go on. He put his finger on the pulse of the Western world and milked it. If you want to be a mega hit author, that's what you have to do.

Don't mistake me. I'm not talking about all those crap celeb books out there, and saying they've got a brand, so, they're an author. But (correct me if I'm wrong), if you put a pen to paper and a whole lot of people want to hear what you have to say, because of what your saying (not because you're Paris Hilton) and you can bring yourself out of a ghetto with it, and get the world to listen, don't you have something to teach the rest of us?

Meanwhile, us idealists will be writing the stories we're passionate about, and hoping to discover the rest of the world has been feeling the same way.

Josephine Damian said...

I think the name of the game is to become a well-known name - there are lots of ways to do that, and I think Agent Robert has offered one way on how to do it.

Getting a website is next on my "to-do list" - I'm going to pay a professional, though, because I see so many DIY, cheapo services that allow authors with zero design ability to have a really bad-looking website.

I think it's better to have no website that a poorly designed one, IMO (I used to be a commercial artist).

Agent Robert, I'm linking to this post on Tues. I hope you'll stop by my blog for some more discussion.

Paul F. McDonald said...

Yes, I know that a lot of authors believe that they can somehow defy the odds and be that Chosen One who is going to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But here's the rub, kids. What if you actually are "the one"? What if your book, the words and thoughts and ideas that drip from your pen, are the very things that are going to save Western civilization as we know it? Seriously. There has to be someone out there who can turn this mess around, and what if it's you?

You can be the savior of the world, kind of like John Connor when he triumphs over the Terminators. How cool is that?

WRITE THE BOOK, SAVE THE WORLD.

David D said...

Thank you for the idea for an emerging writer to create a website and blog to display their work to others. To be honest, I've thought of this for my own work, but after reading what's been said here, feel ready to take the website/blog plunge.

My question is what others might think of a writer "serializing" their novels on their site. In short, putting an excerpt up every two weeks or so. I have a few themes I would like to publish on the internet, though none of them are yet complete.

Any thoughts?

Mommy C said...

David, if you want to post your story on a blog, and still have it saleable, you may want to hold something back, in order to keep interest. I'm going to start blogging as my main character to draw interest without revealing the story. I'm gambling with the story itself, over at http://authonomy.com
You really have to check this site out. I don't think you'll get 10 000 hits, but if you have 10 000 words and some talent, you can get a lot of attention from the right people. Good luck with the blogging/ website.

And I think it may have been EA at http;//editorialanonymous.blogspot.com
who blogged about posting your work, sometime at the beginning of the summer. The post I am thinking of talked about holding something back to maintain saleability.

Painted Delivery said...

I really like Writing.Com. I am able to allow certain groups to see the work.

What I've done since I posted here has been to allow Chapter 1 to be seen by any writer and further chapters are "behind a pass key". Those folks that DO review the first chapter are invited to review more. This way I am controlling what others can see. I can remove the work at any time.

I do want to point out that to get the pass-key feature you have to upgrade your membership.

Thanks for the great, timely advice.

Dow E. Manlove-Orme said...

I went to authonomy and was interested to find this in their FAQ(which seems to be at odds with everything everyone has said).

Does posting work on authonomy affect the value of my manuscript?

We really see no particular reason why a manuscript that’s been showcased online should lose any of its value to an interested publisher....


Overall I like the site and I like the possibility that someone from HarperCollins might one day see the work.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

To Dow,

As authonomy only requests that you post a few chapters, what's been said here does not apply. See our answer to what Painted Delivery said above. I would also like to mention that authonomy is sponsored by HarperCollins and I think it's a great idea because not only do you see other writer's works, but you also see Harper releases and from this see how your book might compare with works they have published in the past. This is a win-win as far as I'm concerned.

Wordy Boy in a Floppy Hat. said...

Blah.

I am PaintedDelivery (and Dow) and now, I bet, Wordy Boy. Blogger is free and easy with letting you change stuff and I've been doing that. Sorry for the confusion.

I guess I don't really understand then. The premise, as I took it, is that you don't wanna give away something NOW and preclude the ability of someone else to sell it LATER.

I get that.

Does it go further in that you CAN give away some of it?

I sense that I sound argumentative and I really don't mean to. I just wanna be sure I understand the rules.

So 10,000 words is okay? And that won't effect the authors ability to publish later?

And authonomy, while saying it only REQUIRES 10,000 words does seem to infer they would like the whole MS so that your work can be competitive with other finished items.

Again, I am very sorry about the name thing.

David D said...

To Wylie-Merrick:
In re. to what you said to Dow, how does what is said here not apply to Authonomy? Are you saying they discourage posting an entire manuscript? I haven't seen the Authonomy site yet, but I am curious about their policies.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

I have the same information about Authonomy that everyone else has and was referring to this line on their Web site which says: "Whether you’re unpublished, self-published or just getting started, all you need is a few chapters to start building your profile online, and start connecting with the authonomy community."

The reason I've made the statement on this blog about putting your full book on your personal Web site, or putting it anywhere for that matter, is that, in a sense, you are publishing your book. I see no different here from what an E-publisher would do. The only difference being that you have to pay to gain access to down-load books from an E-publisher's site. Other than that, there is no difference. Anyone can go on an unprotected Web site and down-load your book for nothing and one of the major problems E-publishers have is that their writers give away free copies of their book and when they do those who receive the book, in digital form, can read it and then give it to anyone they choose--free. If you choose not to believe this and do it anyway, it's your book. I just know that I wouldn't do it and if someone tells me that they have their complete novel or book posted on their Web site (as many do anymore) I don't want to represent them because their book has already been seen and possibly read by everyone who goes to their site. So you might consider, who would want to pay $27 to read it-- again? You don't see published authors posting complete novels on their sites, do you? So maybe you should take a hint from that.

Anonymous said...

I posted my 1st 8 chapters on authonomy.com. Interesting site and concept.

Karen Harrington said...

All of this discussion is very valuable and I'm glad Josephine posted about it.

This underscores what my lit professor told me years ago - "Many people want to be a writer, but few have the temperament to make a career of it."

David D said...

Josephine and others - what are your opinions about uploading chapters to a resource such as writing.com?

I know one poster on this blog has had good results with writing.com. Nonetheless, I'd like to hear from others.

Thanks.

Better Half said...

Thanks for this post!

It's great to hear from a literary agency that I may be doing the right thing in making some of my works available on the web.

I do often use password protection for my blog novel entries and PDF downloads, which I hope will protect my first right of publication.

(Wylie-Merrick, do you have any advice on that one?)

I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know my work has brought me a great deal more joy in being shared than it did as files on my computer or stacks of paper in my closet.

I love getting emails from readers.

I think the advice here is sound for a great many of us unpublished authors. If you're writing because you love writing, then you may very well have lots of different works. Putting one or two out there is a great way to find out whether you have a potential audience. It thrills me to watch mine grow, even in ones and twos.

Wylie-Merrick, I don't think I'll ever get the kind of stats you referenced, but I'm having a great time.

mythicagirl said...

Hello all,
I just found this site in late September but I took the advice and posted some of my work at mythicagirl.wordpress.com
I'm checking out all the author blogs and agency blogs I can to not only pick up useful info, but perhaps forge mutual respect amid curiousity at how my work stacks up with others (not saying I don't already know my own voice, because I do. It's been loud and strong for a while now, and even after a bout with writers block it came roaring back). This site has some very good info about the publishing business. Thanks for sharing it.

Stephen said...

With all due respect, the suggestion above made by this agency amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Having worked in technical publications for over 30 years, I recall the period when non-publications people discovered the ability to type for themselves, put whatever they wanted into bold or italics, etc., and then assumed that meant they could do their own technical writing. And in the same way I'm quite sure that ready access to home computers results in a multitude of nonwriters who imagine that they can write.

The outlet for those folks, I guess, is iUniverse.

But the result of excluding new talent inevitably means that publication is being limited to people who have an inside track. To pick a random example, I'm thinking of a memoir describing how the author lost everything in the stock market. I related to the story, and believe it deserved publication. However, would the same thing have seen the light of day had the author not been an employee of The New Yorker, with multiple connections? Based on what I've seen, the answer is no.

In my case, I have a project that is the work of two decades of work. It has been exhaustively critiqued, professionally edited, and it won first place in a literary contest. With professional help, I've developed a proposal that analyzes the market and details a plan for promoting it. And agents have no interest because I lack name recognition. I'm no stranger to online expression, but I am certainly not going to post this project on the Net in hopes of achieving fame in order to start over with something else.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

The whole point of the post was to say that if writers think it's easy to get readers (this includes agents, editors, publishers) interested in a new writer's works then try it yourself by posting your work on the internet and driving readers to your site. When your site (and therefore your work) gets a million hits, publishing will flock to your door and you won't need an agent.

It's the writer's choice as to whether he posts and what he posts. The initial blog entry did mention, I believe, that professional writers have more than one project floating around because they are always writing. That's their job.

On that note, while it is hard sometimes to stomach the idea that many people have the same story to tell, but no one wants to hear it from someone whose name they don't recognize, it is human nature. If there's a book about Oprah's trials and tribulations, it is going to be of more interest to the average nonfiction reader than the exact same book from someone the reader's never heard of because the reader has an investment--an emotional connection--to Oprah. Really well-written books can overcome this by generating interest through the writing or an extremely unique and compelling story. You've got to have one or the other--name rec or great original story.

On a final note, many new writers begrudge some writers with an "inside track" when the fact is that the person probably wouldn't be working for a publisher if he hadn't trained to do so. Many of these "insiders" have written for years, got a degree in English or journalism, did an internship with some kind of publisher (for no pay), and have worked in the trenches as an editor or agent or publisher for years. So why shouldn't they get to take advantage of an opportunity? Why should they say, "No, it's not fair to the writer who might have a one-in-a-million talent but who's never done any preparation to write. How can I deny the world the chance to be enlightened by this new writer even though I actually worked for the chance to be heard?"

Wordy Boy in a Floppy Hat. said...

I figured I would stop by and give people an update about my experience on Authonomy. I am there. My book (the first three chapters) is doing well! Last night I made it into the top five in my genre but today I slipped by one.

It is, mostly, a friendly atmosphere where people really do try to help people with editing, suggestions and more.

I have to say that I highly recommend the experience with the caveat that getting "to the editor's desk" seems to require some self-marketing as well as writing talent. Also, the forums can be very addictive.

Even so, if you don't post in the forums, you can get some valuable feedback, some exposure, and meet some nice people.

It's worth a look, for sure.

Good luck!

Stephen said...

I appreciate your taking the time to educate folks on the facts of the industry.

The strategy of writing continually is fine, and as a professional writer I understand that. But to repeat, some projects, mine being an example, are not one of many that can be cranked out on an ongoing basis.

My writing is primarily on the technical side, but I have a graduate degree in English and have been involved in various aspects of writing and publication since the late 70s. This is certainly not to pretend that I have a one-in-a-million talent, but by this point I do believe I at least have prepared myself to offer something for publication, as my earlier post attempted to say. And this is significant because I'm not unique. I know many highly talented writers with important messages who will not be saying it through the publishing industry that now exists. That loss is everyone's.

Anonymous said...

I too have posted chapters on authonomy and have found it to be a good experience--lots of quality feedback. My book is ranked 143 overall--doesn't look like I'll make the top 5, but if I can get under the top 100 I'll be happy.

Bob Gordon said...

This blog might be inappropriate for this site. If so, just delete and I will understand. I am a published author (two novels and a collection of short stories published by three separate Canadian small press publishers.) I am not agented and have two novels ready for submission but hesitate to submit the manuscripts for evaluation. I feel epublishing is an option with the right epublisher, but marketing becomes a problem similar to small press publishers agreeing to print the novel then expecting internet sales and author financed advertising to sell copies. The traditional publish/print scenario makes minimum profit for the printer/publisher and a cost factor for the author after arranging local book signings and limited media exposure. I am familiar with marketing and sales promotion after successfully building and publishing a community newspaper then selling the business. A major publishing group now publishing the newspaper mirrors its success.

Tradition indicates the most successful way for an author to sell his or her work is to find an agent that is keeping abreast of the latest innovations affecting the industry and working to have an author’s work widely read. With some good promotional work and well placed personal funding an author might be able to sell a sufficient number of copies through ebook sites and POD (print on demand) to break even. The same research indicates having a small press publisher accept your manuscript the book will probably sell, depending on size for $15 to $25. The printer will need to realize approximately 60% of the cost leaving 40% for the publisher and author to share. The author’s share will likely be 15% or $2.25 if the book or novel sells for $15. Using those figures, that appear to be accurate, 1000 copies would result in income of $2250 from which the author will have to pay shipping on promotional copies, transportation for travelling to book signings and promotion sessions. The author will usually need to guarantee bookstore sales with a return policy unless the publisher has a contact with one or more major bookstores and guarantees returns.

The numbers are not much of an incentive in a business sense and the time needed to promote a book is time away from writing. The dream of selling a manuscript for movie rights or even international distribution is not realistic since those odds are similar to winning a major lottery. A 15% royalty for traditional publishing or even 50% without an advance is not a problem if the agent has a proven marketing program.

I have a personal website at http://www.robertgordon.ca to promote my work and statistics indicate I have had more than 1000 hits over the past year resulting in sales for two of my novels through both my publishers’ webpage, bookstores, and bookselling web pages such as Amazon.

Has anyone had success with epublishing? Has the new technology such as Sony and Amazon’s handheld digital pocket sized readers affected the number of book downloads? If so, are literary agents promoting ebooks with any degree of success through internet sites?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Bob Gordon,
Just a couple of comments on your post:
A 15% royalty for traditional publishing or even 50% without an advance is not a problem if the agent has a proven marketing program.

Sounds like you somehow have literary agents mixed up with publicists. A literary works with his or her client to find a suitable publisher, works with his or her client to secure a fair and equitable contract and helps manage his or her clients future writing career. However marketing a book after it's published is the responsibility of the writer either in conjunction with his or her publisher or publicist. Because many publishers these days don't efficiently fund the marketing the marketing first books, many writers are using part of their advance to hire their own publicist. But agents are not marketing experts, so I doubt that we'd take on that task.

As far as the ebook market goes, there may be a future there as e-readers become more popular. I'm sure that major publishers will begin trending in that direction if there's growth in this area. But the vast majority of readers still prefer print, so until this preference changes, growth in this area will be spotty at best.