When Not Being Published Doesn’t Feel Too Shabby…

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?

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About thefallenmonkey

Primate that dapples in writing when not picking others' fleas or flinging its own poop. View all posts by thefallenmonkey

10 responses to “When Not Being Published Doesn’t Feel Too Shabby…

  • writeinberlin

    Aw, my dearest. I am sorry to hear about those setbacks. There is nothing I can say that doesn’t sound trite. Still, if you enjoy writing and working with books and keep churning out stories like that you will get to a publication – today there are so many more opportunities than we had.

    I honestly think that in times like these it is really an incredible strike of luck if you get a major publisher on board. And then you are right – every stage of a writer’s journey comes with their own pitfall, and being one of many in a publishing house’s portfolio doesn’t mean you are much better off than self-publishing, marketing-wise. Everyone but a couple few writers with a very sound business sense might make it to stardom.

    Which leads me to topic two, the “Ich AG” (“Me Inc.”), as they call it in German. Funnily enough this will be my next blog post, but so much I can tell now – balanced self-promotion also is a skill to practice. There is a world between incessant “me me me” and just waiting there in all your modest beauty until the world takes notice, I have come to find out. Guess the challenge is to find a method that works for you personally. Just like writing, it will need you to push boundaries a bit, but I also think it is worth it, because what you will find is that with every threat of a rejecting reaction there are 5 that are really encouraging and positive. So it is also worth it.

    My 2 cents (which start to pile up the word count of other people’s novels – sorry). Not even sure if they make so much sense… I hope they help a bit, anyway. Best of luck 🙂

    • thefallenmonkey

      Your two cents are tremendous, thank you! I do believe in that space in between Ich AG (love that) and modestly waiting in the shadows – and as you say, it’s a skill. I think I’ve just felt thwacked over the head by too many of the “unskilled” self-promoters out there; I suspect it’s been proportionate to the growth in self-publishing as many writers debuting that way, with all due respect, are mavericks doing so without professional guidance or research into the art of tactful marketing. It’s interesting to observe and learn from, I guess. You are certainly at an advantage having the background you do.

      In all honesty, I find I tend to get the most down about my writing during the periods of time when I’m not doing it. I’ve had so much on my plate in other respects, that I’ve had to shelve my stuff a while, and I guess it makes me lose the momentum and passion behind it for a time. But like I said, I think it would all be much more wearying and upsetting if I didn’t have the immense satisfaction of helping others with their writing. It’s nice being involved in the industry in whatever role I can, so I content myself with that for now.

  • Alannah Murphy

    I suck at self-promotion. I hate all that it entails, and would rather have someone else doing it for me, I just want to write, and not have to worry about the rest, so I know how you feel.

    About the rejection that didn’t give you much information as to why your manuscript was rejected, yes, I think if I were them, I’d at least explain WHY it wasn’t for them. At least you’re submitting stuff, I tried about 1 year ago, 4 times, with some random short stories and got rejected for all, that was enough rejection and I haven’t tried again, because I simply cannot be bothered…sigh

    • thefallenmonkey

      *phew* Thanks, Alannah, it’s good to know it isn’t just me. Querying is the dullest enterprise I think I’ve ever undertaken, so it’s tough to get re-motivated each time rejection comes through. It’s not like I don’t know to expect it, it’s just, as you say, I’ve begun to feel I can’t be bothered to spend more time pursuing something that might go nowhere when I could just be writing instead. 🙂

      • Alannah Murphy

        I think, personally speaking, that I rather just concentrate on making my novel the best I can make it, and I’ll worry about querying for it, eventually. I won’t try to submit short stories any more, I rather concentrate on the novel.

  • Glen

    I’ll pass on commenting this time – it’s not for me… 🙂 keep going keep going keep going

  • Tahlia Newland

    I know what you mean, I don’t like promoting myself either. Promoting my book is easier, but I gave up promoting that too because it was just too dam hard and somehow icky. When my novella comes out, I’ll do a blog tour – if anyone will accept my humble offering – but that’s all. I’ll mention it in a comment if it’s relevant, but I’m over the whole of idea of promoting as being the reason for your soclal media activity. I dropped that and decided to promote and support others instead. That’s much easier for me and way more rewarding than trying to market myself .

    I set up the Awesome Indies site (yes, I am going to leave a link at the end of this message, but that’s because it really is a useful resource for readers, and it isn’t about me) and as a reviewer, I give private feedback to authors and in some cases even give them the opportunity to revise or re-edit before I post the review. People appreciate these things, so without me asking, they’re doing things for me, cheap editing, retweets, offering to beta read or review etc, not to mention a bunch of new friends.

    They tell me how much they appreciate what I do, so I understand exactly how you feel about those messages. It’s nice to know that even if you fail or are rejected in some areas, there’s some things you’re appreciated for and if that’s all you do it’s enough to be helping others..

    So karma really does work, and I like the results of good karma a lot better than running around saying look at me, me, me.

    http://awesomeindies.wordpress.com

    • thefallenmonkey

      So glad to get your input on this, Tahlia, as I know it’s something you’ve been having to delve into and, from some of your previous blog posts, has likewise been a source of frustration for you when the numbers of followers just don’t increase commensurate with all the effort put into reaching out. You’ve emerged from it all with a lovely approach that I see much merit in. Please DO drop your Awesome Indies link here whenever you see fit – those authors are lucky to have such an avid promoter of their books. It’s readers/reviewers like you that can help expedite the shift in perception of indie publishing.

      I don’t have the biggest readership here at the Monkey but will gladly partake in your blog tour when the novella is out!

  • No “Hem”-ing and Hawing About It: Hemingway Speaks in “Ernest” on Writing – Part 1 « The Fallen Monkey

    […] was his friend Evan Shipman. But I figured it made a good segue from my previous post about “When Not Being Published Doesn’t Feel Too  Shabby,” no? Who was Evan Shipman? Alas, perhaps if he hadn’t held the views on publishing he […]

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