Wednesday, April 13, 2011

At the risk of being redundant...

I didn't blog this weekend because I really wasn't sure where to start. Plus, I didn't want to keep flogging this self-publishing e-book revolution thing that's going on. You already know about it. We all know about it. But...

In his newsletter, Piers Anthony recently announced that he was jumping into the Kindle with both feet. A bunch of his e-books are now available on Amazon here. He's also caught up to the new millenium by starting a blog, which is awesome. I enjoyed reading his newsletter, but the format wasn't very computer-friendly and I always forgot to go check for an updated newsletter. I can't wait to see what he's got to say in this new medium. I did notice that all of his e-books seem to be priced at $7.99 (the same as paperback), and I'm curious as to why he chose this price point. It's possible that he still has some sort of contractual obligation in this regard. Or, perhaps he just thought it was a good place to test the waters. I personally think this is a little high, and I suspect that he'd reap bigger rewards somewhere in the $2.99-4.99 range. Then again, he's Piers Anthony. It's not like he's got to drum up interest and build a solid platform with a lower price. He's the man, and everyone who reads fantasy knows about Piers. At any rate, I wish him luck. I suspect that -whatever his price point- he'll earn more than he expected.

I also wanted to relate my own personal Piers Anthony story. A few years back, when I was more naive about the publishing world, I had the audacity to email the man. Looking back, I suppose I'd committed every other rookie-move atrocity so why not that one too? I was feeling very frustrated with my lack of progress in the business. I'd completed a few books, which I thought were good, and most of my feedback seemed to support that opinion. I submitted these to publishers who responded positively, but it never went anywhere. Soon, I learned that I had done it all wrong. I was supposed to submit to agents, and not publishers. The agents would help me to refine my work so that publishers would be interested.

The problem? Agents were less interested than the publishers. So tell me, in what world does that make sense? The publishers liked my books but agents wouldn't even glance at them. From then on, it was a downward spiral. I started following the agents' blogs, buying their books, learning all I could. Here's what I learned: Every agent has a specific manner in which they want a submission. It must be submitted to that agent's specifications or it's instant recycle bin material. You must research each individual agent and learn everything possible, especially since agents tend to change their preferences from time to time and the instructions they left on a website last year may not match what they want this year. Expect to spend several hours researching each individual agent before you even think of sending a query. Don't send more than a query unless they ask for it. The agent also expects you to read and comment on his/her blog. You should mention this in your submission, so the agent knows you're a fan. If you're not a fan, become one.

Wait at least three months before asking why you never got a response (because their spam filtered it into the junk bin). Resubmit and wait another six months before you get a request for a full. Don't submit your full anywhere else, even though it will be at least six more months and probably a year before the agent gets back to you. I am not exaggerating. One agent responded to my partial two years after I submitted it. I got a form rejection. And I won't even talk about how many years I lost, waiting for responses that might never come.



I could go on, but I think  you get my point. That's what the publishing world is like. That's why I emailed Piers and said something like, "Can you please help me? Would you take a look at a few chapters and give me a blurb to attach to my queries?"

Well, Piers was kind enough to look at my work and respond, via his assistant. His response was something like this (paraphrased): You write well enough, so that's not your problem. Unfortunately, the publishers have become a closed shop. I recommend you look into small publishers and e-publishers.

So I did. But I found e-publishers to be thoroughly overwhelmed. Their response times were about the same as the literary agents, and they simply didn't have room for work like mine. After all, how do you characterize a young adult fantasy coming-of-age story about a boy with a magic journal who has to watch his entire world destroyed in order to save it? Their response: Do you have anything with teenage vampire cheerleaders?

Okay, they didn't actually say that, I made it up. But there were times I felt that way. Of course, Piers was right, but even he didn't see the revolution coming in quite the manner it arrived.

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