First of all, I’ve got nothing to whinge about because 15 submissions in over a year is hardly attacking the publishing world with my A-game. God-willing that I can light the fire under my arse by this summer. I have to laugh, though, because right on the heels of my earlier post about the ever-so-lovely rejection letters I’d received from a couple small publishers (I mean it; they were nice!), I got this one from an agent:
“Thanks for sending your manuscript. Sorry it’s taken so long for me to get back to you. Unfortunately, I’m going to pass. It’s just not for me.”
And then soon after that, I received the same ol’, same ol’ form letter rejection from another small publisher. Not very phased, although I’ll admit I felt the brevity of that first one in my gut a bit, as it followed reading my manuscript in its entirety. I appreciate that this agent gave the time to doing that, honestly; I know these people are outrageously busy, and I truly hate to sound ungrateful, but I can never help but wonder…if you’ve surely articulated the thought in your own head as to why a manuscript’s “not for you,” wouldn’t typing even one sentence’s worth of specific feedback only take another few seconds? Or how about just a bulleted phrase or two (e.g., “pace too slow,” “main character not developed”) and we’ll call it a day?But whatever. I’ve also been reflecting on what happens once one is published. I just attended the London Book Fair last week, sitting in on sessions aimed at assorted industry folk across the board. Interestingly enough, the bulk of the author-focused ones were about self-publishing; it’s like they bypassed the actual creative process of writing a novel to just cut to the chase with live infomercials on e-books and how to sell yourself. Disappointing. Hats off, nonetheless, to Acorn Independent Press, which offers a self-publishing platform that’s seems almost as good as being traditionally published if you’ve got the dough to shell out—if not as good if they deem your manuscript good enough for their highest-end services. There’s a range of packages, but all provide professional copy editing/proofreading, cover design, distribution, and marketing to an extent; if you qualify for their elite imprint, they’ll roll out an entire publicity campaign on your behalf. It’s really a brilliant model run by well-connected professionals from the industry who were frustrated at seeing only a handful of books a year being chosen from hundreds of manuscripts submitted per week. And yet in giving other manuscripts a chance, they want to ensure it’s a high quality product hitting the market.
So that’s nice they give a helping hand at promotion, but it all just got me thinking about the tremendous burden of marketing placed on authors these days. Session after session at LBF, agents, publishers, and authors admitted that when you’re not the crème de la crème publishers know they’ll bank serious money on, mid-market authors just don’t get the support from traditional publishers like they might have back in the day; the budgets allocated to them sounds piss-poor. And of course self-publishing leaves you on your own unless you enlist professional help. Which leaves writers to hoof it even though we’re not necessarily equipped with the marketing savvy and resources we need.
And do I want to be? Book-signings/readings and other in-person events actually sound like a lot of fun, but from a social media perspective, working full-time tweeting and Facebook-updating and blogging and commenting on others’ blogs hoping they’ll comment on mine and obsessing over Amazon rankings and otherwise Me-Me-Me-ing all over the internet just doesn’t entice me at all. To be frank, I believe in my writing, but I can’t stomach the self-promotion it takes to get others to read it. So maybe I’m not cut out to be a published author. Maybe I don’t want to be. Maybe I’m only meant to write as an outlet of personal pleasure as well as means of honing the skill and insight I can offer as an editor. Maybe it’s enough helping others see their work in print.
Because I’ll tell ya, not being published myself certainly doesn’t feel too shabby when I receive an email like this (yesterday) from someone who is:
“I absolutely LOVE working with you. ❤ I have learned so much from you, not only about editing and the technical aspect of it, but about my own writing. The editing process is so much fun for me because of that; I try to learn and retain what you’ve fixed and how I might implement that in my next manuscript.”
Or others I’ve received:
“If I haven’t said so, I wanted to let you know how wonderful I think you are! Your points are always excellent and I’m amazed at how much you can catch each time you go through the book. That trait of being able to see beyond the story is amazing.”
“I don’t know if I told you, but after one of my critique partners finished reading [my novel] she made it a point to tell me she loved all the changes and how the final version turned out. The finished novel being what it is today has a lot to do with your incredible editing skills. So thanks!”
“I really feel that you did such a wonderful job with the editing. As I’ve been reading the finished version, it’s so polished and reads so well. I couldn’t be happier with the work that you and [the managing editor] have done.”
Hey, so maybe I’m not so bad at this self-promotion thing after all! Hardy-har… Well, after undergoing the incredibly humbling process that is writing and querying—as all you other writers well know—I do need to toot my own horn now and then, gol’ damn it. 😉
So I don’t know. There are a lot of us in this together, so I hope my sentiments here haven’t put anyone off who has been working so very hard to promote themselves. If you’ve got your work out there, you gotta do what you gotta do—hey, my commissions hinge on my authors peddling their books, so God speed! I’m only judging myself here, feeling out if I’m expending energy toward something that might not, in the end, suit me. It’s a personal matter, and yet I ask you:
Can you relate to what I’m talking about? Any similar frustrations or advice for overcoming such that you can share?