helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 7, 2016 - 1:35pm

I've got a fiction manuscript that I've sent out to about 6 agents, and I've got another 6 I'm working on. So far, no bites. 

My question, for anyone who's had experience or just has a wild opinion, at what point should a writer stop spending the energy sending out a manuscript and start putting that time and energy into exploring self-publishing options? 12 attempts? Never? Immediately?

I definitely know the benefits of a bigger house picking up a book and would prefer that route, and I've worked hard on query letters and pitches. But I'm starting to feel like it might be better for me to move my efforts into the self-publishing realm.

Thoughts?

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami July 7, 2016 - 3:50pm

My judgement depends on how genre-bending it is. Like in my case for Simply Pace or Aimless human existance in a cosmic nutshell (the spiritual interquel to Meadow Of Gold) I knew something that's very transrealistic and at time almost autobiographical would be very weird for a science fiction agent to handle.

So I put it up on Upliterary, which is sort of the adult Wattpad.

It seems to be a curse for me, since I don't do literary and yet can't find a genre other than Knights And Inner Space.

hope that helps.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel July 8, 2016 - 2:54am

I don't think self-publishing is the way to go. Ever.

If the story isn't getting picked up by the people you want, then you need to go back into your manuscript and write a better story. You keep trying no matter how hard it gets. You become Sisyphus. You roll the rock up the hill, and then you do it again, and then you do it again.

Write better art.

Self-publishing, for me, is letting the rock go and saying, "This is good enough."

Write it better. Then, write it better again. Refine, kill your darlings, go over the mechanics, ensure your hitting the right plot points, build the tension, write a better hook, then write an even better hook, nail the ending, then perfect the ending. Just keep writing it better.

In ten years, of submitting, and getting rejected, and rewriting, if it hasn't sold, then wait twenty years.

This isn't a one-shot deal. It's a lifetime of work and suffering, with brief glimpses of success. We suffer for what we love.

Just write better art.

Don't focus on the overnight success. Start focusing on the long game.

This is what I tell myself. This is what I do. Maybe it works for you, maybe not. All I know is that I have to write better. I write better and hope someone recognizes me. Or maybe I go to my grave without publishing anything. But I will never quit.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. July 8, 2016 - 11:26am

 I can only write. It's an easy call for me. 

Humboldt Lycanthrope's picture
Humboldt Lycanthrope from California is reading Sing, Unburied, Sing July 8, 2016 - 9:46am

This is a question I am facing myself. I sent out queries in May to fifty agents. I received one request for a synopsis and three requests for a full manuscript. One agency had me promise not to query any one else for three weeks while they reviewed the manuscript. I've gotten one formal rejection and the others, including the agency who asked me not to query further, have yet to reply. So, now I'm sending it out to small publishing houses and entering it into contests. I'm giving myself a year, and then I'm going to self-publish.

@Jose, you do know that both Fifty Shades of Grey and The Martian were self-published as were many, many other novels that were eventually picked up by one of the big five and turned into bestsellers. It's not as easy as just killing your darlings and rewriting. I've workshopped the shit out of my manuscript and had it edited professionally. H.P. Lovecraft received hundreds of rejections and basically self-published by putting his stories into magazines he was the editor of. In today's market self-publishing can be key to getting your foot in the door, though if I can break in traditionally I'd obviously be much more inclined to do so.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel July 8, 2016 - 10:04am

40 authors, out of all self-published authors (hundreds of thousands) have become a success through the process as we understand it today. 40.

I stand by my opinion on self-publishing.

Maybe tomorrow I will change my mind on the subject, as is my right, but not now.

Now, I suffer.

Humboldt Lycanthrope's picture
Humboldt Lycanthrope from California is reading Sing, Unburied, Sing July 8, 2016 - 10:11am

How do you define success and where did you come up with this number?

Here's a quote from Writer's Digest: “Does anyone still dispute the viability of self-publishing?” Let’s Get Digital blogger David Gaughran asks. “I can list well over 100 authors who are selling more than 1,000 [e-]books a month … and more than 200 authors who have sold more than 50,000 [e-]books in the last year or two.”

I've got a friend who self-published a book on training service dogs a year ago and is now making a cool $500 a week on it and is writing a second about puppies. True it's not fiction. But still.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 8, 2016 - 11:35am

At this point, I'm starting to think of this like a career, and my thought is that I can keep submitting to publishers, which is the equivalent of filling out applications, getting the occasional interview, and all the while not having a gig, or I can say Fuck It and start my own business. Starting my own business is less likely to get me financial success (maybe, possibly), and the personal risks are a lot higher (almost definitely), but I like the idea that all my efforts go straight into the business. Not to someone else. And doing it myself, I can make the decisions about what is and isn't worth doing, what my time is and isn't worth. I'd rather be spending my time sending individual copies of a book to spots for consignment or to reviewers than sending a manuscript off to publishers. That seems like something I would just plain enjoy a lot more. It's not an angry move or me thinking "Fuck those pubilshers, they don't know how great I am." It's a question of how much time I want to spend submitting a manuscript, a process that's supremely unrewarding, before I change gears.

I certainly didn't get into writing to get rich and famous. That would be a very stupid way to go about that. But I do want people to be able to read my work. To at least have the option. 

Humboldt Lycanthrope's picture
Humboldt Lycanthrope from California is reading Sing, Unburied, Sing July 8, 2016 - 12:04pm

Very well put. You've summed up many of my own feelings. Only one thing, if you're not going to say it, then I will: Fuck those pubilshers, they don't know how great I am.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. July 8, 2016 - 12:43pm

I am an observer, not a participant, but there seems to be a strong wave of almost a co-op kind of community forming around the very question you are all posing here. The lines between publishers and writers are getting harder and harder to discern, with a lot of the newest energy coming from writers starting small presses where they publish what they see as the exciting work coming out of their own community, and provide a conduit for their personal work as well.  So many new sites, and journals and experimental presses it is literally impossible to even look at them all, with the pulse of new blood, sometimes participants functioning as editors and sometimes as featured writers, and working as an ensemble to provide a communal stage for more writers to generate an audience.

I'm not sure if this is a new thing, because my perspective is limited, but it does seem more and more that writers want to abandon the old passive role of waiting to be published, and be more active in determining their own destiny in the writing world.  

It's like starting and running a theatre so you can have a stage to do your creative work, and practice your craft. The worm in the apple is the moment when your realize you are too damn busy producing the show to have a part in it, and you are sweeping out the theatre and cleaning dressing rooms instead of acting. It's an age old struggle, and has to be answered by any artist who is seriously trying to do good work. 

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami July 8, 2016 - 4:39pm

What gets me is this one person says self-publishing is bad because of all the crap that is out there. I mean that's like saying Stephen King is bad because of all the crap that's out there.

Oh yea, by the way Stephen King apparently self-published once. He was able to get a lot of reads, and some people pirating his work.

You got to go in refining it the best you can no matter what route your take. I chose mine because I get tired of hearing "don't read the classics, read my book as a comparison title" from some of the more marketing heavy people.

I mean that's really all comparison titles are, just a cheap way to market someone else's work by putting it on the back of other writers. To me that's almost as bad as asking the author to but their own books. Because you know you'll be buying book that specific agent represents.

Yea I don't visit one other board cause this copy and paste mentality, it makes me self-publisher harder. No good for an industry where brick and mortars are becoming restaurants to stay afloat.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel July 8, 2016 - 5:30pm

Amazon gave those numbers out about authors that have become successful from self-publishing. NYTimes ran the story. By all means, do your own research.

We disagree. Oh no. Whatever shall we do with our lives now? We may just *gulp* have to go our separate ways. 

JeffreyGrantBarr's picture
JeffreyGrantBarr from Oregon is reading https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/10268733-jeff-barr?shelf=currently-reading July 8, 2016 - 8:07pm

Self-publishing is a viable alternative to traditional publishing. If you're looking for 'success', what does that mean? If it means getting your book available for people to read, you can do so either way, but self-pub is a quicker option, just on the basis of skipping the agent -> publisher -> contracts etc steps. What else... becoming famous? Getting rich? You can achieve those measures both ways; statisically, the chance is you will achieve none of these measures of success, but with self-pub you can endlessly retry with the same work. You can change the cover, try new marketing tactics/strategies, hell, you can rewrite the damn thing.

If your intent is to produce the best work possible, you can do so without a publisher. You will have to be the publisher, and ensure proper editing et al is performed, but again, it's a faster route, since you control the end-to-end process. 

I'd like to point out that SK didn't self-publish, he e-published: the two are not synonymous. 

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. July 8, 2016 - 8:36pm

I have perceived the e-publishing and self publishing are different, but I don't know what those differences are. Would you be gracious enough to educate me please?

Here's what I think I know. I think I know that self publishing means I have to do the whole package, from cover design to edits to rewrites, and all. And then, I have to market and promote this piece.

With e-publishing

What? Am I paying amazon or someone to take on those responsibilities? And then I go market whatever they produced for me? Do I have it all wrong? Odds are. Educate me you young whippersnappers.   With regard, gsr

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal July 9, 2016 - 7:03am

It's funny that the OP mentions the number 12. Is that where you give up?

Harry Potter was rejected 12 times and picked up the 13th. JK Rowling's net worth is about a billion dollars. 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 9, 2016 - 8:45pm

I did 12 because I think I'm 1/13th better than JK Rowling.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer July 10, 2016 - 12:05pm

Don't forget that there are small presses who accept unsolicited manuscripts without an agent. In general, they are a little more fringe-friendly, so if it isn't exactly mainstream commercial stuff, they may be more accepting. Just make sure you research them, because there is a big variation in their qualities. 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 10, 2016 - 2:19pm

Funny you mention that, I'm headed to print off a few for some smaller presses. I looked at some I liked, plus some local ones to see if that might give me an edge. But you're totally right, that's a great way to go. I hope, anyway.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break July 10, 2016 - 5:43pm

Small presses seem to be the happy medium between self-pubbing and big house publishing. Just make sure that you ask about their marketing and how many reviewers they can get your book out to. My last press did next to nothing on both fronts, so it was almost like self-pubbing again, only they were still taking a cut of the money for doing nothing.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer July 11, 2016 - 6:40am

That is a major concern these days. Some small presses are basically just fronting the costs of publication in exchange for royalties. Everything else is exactly the same as a self-pubbed book, except sometimes done less professionally.

When I did my collection, I looked around for small presses that would accept unsolicited collections from first-time authors. Then I looked at the covers they produced and how their books were doing on Amazon. By the end of it, I went to some friends that have a "press" for their own books. My wife is a freelance editor who works for them. She did the editing. They walked me through formatting. I paid for the cover and other image licensing. 

The downside is that I had a hard time getting reviewers, but unless I could find a publisher that can get more eyes on the book than I could, then there was no point in giving them a percentage of net royalties. I earned back my initial publicaton costs and made a profit.

Basically, just make sure that you research the publishers books. Are they getting reviews and how are they doing on Amazon? Those are easy things to find out.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami July 11, 2016 - 6:35pm

Indeed how is sucess defined, I mean I'd honestly be happy with even twenty happy readers. I write so niche anyway, it would be to much to expect for me to have the followers on social media necessary to get a publishing contract from even an small press that doesn't turn out to be like vanity or some questionable form of crowd funding.

I mean I get 84 reads and 21 favorites on The Elf Girl Beyond The Dreamer's Edge. This is more than I even thought possible for my work, as I thought transrealism about splinter cults wasn't a thing. And so it really depends on what your goal is.

Even Palahniuk status is waaaaaay to much to expect for me at this point. So I'm think I'm pretty happy with self publishing for now.

DrWood's picture
DrWood from Milwaukee, WI, living in Louisiana is reading A different book every 2-5 days. Currently Infinite Jest July 12, 2016 - 7:37pm

It depends on the responses you have gotten and what your objectives are.

If you are getting rejections based on content (I can't place a novel about gay vampires in space right now . . .) then perhaps you might want to self-publish.

I've never heard of a rejection based on lack of skill, but if you've gotten those, you might want to consider self publishing because that's the only way you'll get published.

If you really want to see your work in bookstores, you need to keep trying until you get an agent.

12 rejections typically wouldn't be enough to quit, though . . . uh . . . that's what I've done (even less for one novel that received no comments whatsoever after 8 submissions).  I wouldn't put out batches of 50 at a time either, on the chance that you can get some useful feedback from early submissions (as I did for one novel - - it was just too long for an unpublished novelist).

 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 14, 2016 - 12:03pm

Hey, my gay vampires are on a space station ORBITING Mars. This is totally different.

The rejections I've been getting have all been of the generic variety so far. No comments on the actual manuscript. I've been doing batches of 4, waiting the allotted periods and then doing another batch. 

I think that's part of the killer. You're just sitting on your hands, waiting, and for fairly long periods. I'm not a patient person. I've tried to prep pitches for new batches while waiting for the others to get back to me so it's as easy as hitting SEND when the time comes. 

The bookstore thing is definitely the primary reason to go big.

This thread and others have really made me wonder about the future of print and ebooks and how this process might change. My personal theory (I'm a librarian by day and keep an eye on the book world) is that publishers will stop taking submissions and start trolling self-published material, and those authors who succeed in the self-publishing world will be brought up to the majors. Why take a chance on a total unknown when you could build a contract for someone who already has an audience?

But I do think that's still a ways off. I think it will happen after a lot of people in traditional publishing retire out and are replaced by people with a different slant, and after a lot of powerhouse print authors stop working (James Patterson, Stephen King, etc.)

Just a pet theory. 

DrWood's picture
DrWood from Milwaukee, WI, living in Louisiana is reading A different book every 2-5 days. Currently Infinite Jest July 14, 2016 - 7:21pm

while you are waiting, you should also be writing something new.

 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 14, 2016 - 7:35pm

Don't worry, I am.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated July 17, 2016 - 2:02am

Well, maybe the question is flawed? If you are writing something that won't be published EVEN if people like it you never should have submitted it. If there are books like it that are just better, keep working. Do you have the skill set / money to hire those with those skills to make a good cover and edit? Might not be any single answer.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 17, 2016 - 10:52am

It's a good point. The answer(s) depends on what I can do for myself and what I can and can't afford to farm out. That line, the time when it's right to switch from traditional to self publishing might be a moving target depending on how much I can do for myself.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated July 21, 2016 - 2:33pm

And what you are producing. I've not seen a lot of novella or on going serial work getting published so maybe it would be better for self-publishing, stuff like that.

TurtleM's picture
TurtleM September 29, 2016 - 2:19pm

If no one is biting, self publish one or two and see what happens.The thing is you need some sense of how your book fits into the market ime. The books that do the worst imo are the ones where you can tell the author just didn't know the market or what ebook readers respond to. And you want to build a brand. And network wtih other indies.

It's not that there are ton of crappy writers out there, it's the spammers and scammers clogging up the discovery system on Amazon that are the biggest problem. Crappy writers don't always do well unless they are marketing whizzes (not many are), but the spammers know how to market their drivel and outpace legit books.

(And all the really awful stuff is on Wattpad imo. That's a place where only about 10% is readable.)

What I love about self publishing is that I now know people will read what I write and like it. It's essentially a marketability workshop. Will readers respond? Will anyone care? If you publish and get a decent response, you know you are on to something kwim? You're vetting your craft in a way. That is really useful and it helps you grow into the writer you are meant to be IME.

 

 

 

 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman September 30, 2016 - 4:00pm

That's a good point (or set of points). It would be nice to not have to worry about marketing as much, but I don't mind. 

Anyone had any good experiences with printing services? I'm not looking exclusively at Print-on-demand or any model so much as looking for a service that people felt worked well for them and produced a quality product.