Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Publish 'em all, let God sort 'em out...

... or the readers, anyway. The burden has shifted again.

It began with the major publishers announcing that they would no longer handle unagented submissions.  The workload shifted to the agents. It became their job to sort through the slush, dig out the gems in the rough, and polish them up. (Publishers used to do that. Some writers had several flops before they finally found success, but the publisher believed in them. Not so in today's world.) It was only a matter of time before this burden overwhelmed the poor agents and their employees. Some of these agents get thousands of submissions from new writers every single month, and it seems they're starting to ignore the slush pile too. And who can blame them? They didn't ask for this. They don't have the time or the resources to manage all these wannabe writers.

Enter e-books. And Kindle. And Nook.  Now it seems that there's a whole industry blossoming, and e-publishers are frantic for new material. The only problem is, the works are gummed up. Nobody knows who they should submit to. Agents don't know who to sell to. Everybody's worried about rights. And none can be sure what will sell, because for the first time, it's the readers who are deciding what they want.

People used to enter a grocery store, an airport, a walmart, and find a neat little selection on the shelves. That selection was there because those were the books that major publishers had invested in. Those were the books that had to sell; books by major writers who had been paid large advances. But did those writers become the superstars of the business because everyone bought their books, or did everyone buy their books because the books were everywhere? Not just any writer had access to that kind of distribution.

Until now. Things have changed, and even writers are wondering why they should have three or four middlemen tugging at their wallets when they can go straight to the consumer. Agents appear to have seen some writing on the wall. Several big name agents have either disappeared in the last couple years, or moved on to new professions. A couple have netted big book deals of their own before moving on. Interesting times. I wonder if they'll end up repping themselves and e-pubbing somewhere down the road.

J.A. Konrath was something of a pioneer in this movement.  He was a published author with a respectable career, but he decided to take his work straight to the people. And so far, it's paid off. He's been selling more than 10,000 e-books a months for a long time, and that number keeps climbing.  Amanda Hocking has been receiving a lot of attention because she's an unknown in the publishing world, and yet she has somehow managed to sell 10,000 copies of her books in a single week. That's a lot of e-paper (so to speak.)

So where am I going with this? Well, I think it's obvious. I'm not entirely new to the writing game but I've never had a publisher buy one of my books and I've never had an agent, period. I have sold stories however, and I think my writing has reached a point that I'd like more than just my small circle of readers to take a look. But the industry won't let me. I can't blame them exactly, because none of them have actually read my books. The publishers don't have time, nor do the agents, and I don't have the time to wait for one of my hundreds of queries to actually grab an agent. I've been waiting too long -and I'm getting less interest now than when I started submitting three years ago, even though I know my writing has improved dramatically over the last few years.

It's time to take the plunge.

 By the end of December I expect to have my first book available through all of the major e-tailers. Will I have the success of Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking? I can't even guess. But I do know that I'm going to bust my ass trying. I'll finish editing the numerous electronic versions and then ship them off to the publishers. Then I'll be busy marketing, promoting, and doing anything I can to make sure people know that my book is out there, and hoping they'll give the poor thing a chance. I think Jonah deserves a chance... That'll make more sense if you actually read my book.

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