Author Topic: Advice on Moving Forward  (Read 1486 times)

inkling

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Advice on Moving Forward
« on: June 20, 2011, 02:59:51 AM »
I wrote a book.  It's good.  I want to move forward with publishing it.

Unfortunately, I'm a first time author, and I feel a bit of stigma.  I've almost compelte sworn off the idea of sending off query letters to literary agents and am currently leaning towards using a self-publishing service like CreateSpace just so I don't have to sit on my hands long.

Does anyone have any thoughts or personal experience that could lend some light to my decision making process?

fireflyz

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2011, 11:42:12 AM »
I would ask why you want the book to be published.  Is it because you want to be able to say that you've published a book?  Is it because you hope it turns into an internet sensation and you become a big name?  Is it to make money?  Is it because you feel you absolutely must share this story with the world?

The reason I ask is because first time authors in general, rarely become published.  Secondly, self publishing is a lot of hard work and often times for very little gain.  So if you want to publish it just to say that you have a published book or if you just feel you need to share it...then that's fine as you're not likely to be disappointed.  If, on the other hand, you are hoping for all of those other things, I wouldn't reccomend self publishing.

Writing Excuses has several great podcasts on selfpublishing, including one with Larry Carreira (Pretty sure I mangled the spelling of his last name).  He self published something like 6k copies of his book.  BUT, and this is important.  He had a successful blog tailored towards a small, specific group (gun enthusiasts) and so he wrote a book for that group.  Also, once Baen Books offerred him a deal, he took it.

Another caveat is that many agents will not handle a new author who has self published.  I've read this on several agents blogs and had a few tell me so in person.  Others will still handle a new author, but not that particular work.

Finally, I think it's awesome you wrote a novel.  That's not something a lot of people can say.  Unfortunately, there are still many that can say that, but can't say they have a deal with a publishing company.  My question is:  how many people can say they've written 3 books, or 5 books, or 10?  The few that can say yes to that are likely published authors.  It's my belief, that rare instances aside, published authors are published because they love to write.  THey'd be writing even if the manuscript was destined to be put in a drawer and never seen because no one liked their work.  And you have to have that mentality to get published.  Because there's a lot involved.

Definitely research self publishing if you're interested in that route.  My suggestion would be to write some query letters for your work and a synopsis.  Those aren't nearly as easy as they sound and it will force you into some new disciplines.  Then send them out and while you're waiting, begin writing another book.  It will be infinitely better than the first and when you go to write those query letters it will come easier.  Repeat this process until one day you're getting requests for more...then it's just a matter of time.
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inkling

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2011, 12:16:15 PM »
You raise some interesting points.

I would have to say my motivations for moving forward are achievement (hey, I'm a published author) and recognition (making a name for myself).  Making money is not really an issue, though I would like to break even at the end of the day and be able to afford ramen noodles.  I am making a career out of novel writing, so I can force myself to be patient if I must.  I think.

I did not know that there are some agents who would not work with a self-published author.  That is something to consider before I make any decision.  Looks like there's more than one stigma to be concerned about.

When I say "first time author", I should clarify that this would be the first one I want to have published.  I've been writing for 2 years now, but scrapped an earlier project that had gotten up to 200k because it wasn't right for my first book.

Published authors published because they love to write... hm, that's definitely me... though I'm not sure I'd be happy if a manuscript were destined for a drawer.  I want people to read the story because it's good, and when I say good I'm holding it up against the likes of succesful, published authors I enjoy (and hoping I'm not delusional and blinded by ego).

As far as self-publishing goes, I have a call set up with CreateSpace this week.  I've already done all the leg work, interior formatting, and have a friend (professional artist) working with me, so there's not anything stopping me from launching this way.  It would be just an issue of marketing and word of mouth to get my story out.  I'm writing a 12-book series (I didn't mention) and I think an agent would balk at signing a first-time author for one of those.

Juan Dolor

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2011, 03:46:16 PM »
If this is the first of twelve, don't self-publish it.   You want someone else to publish all twelve, and some people won't want to reprint it.  So don't close any doors.  Keep writing, keep moving forward.  Most of the authors I have heard talk about this say it takes several years (5-10) of serious writing to get a deal with a publisher. 

And listen to the writing excuses podcast-- especially the ones about the business of writing, including the previously mentioned one with Larry Correia.  Published writers are your best source of information.

Juan Dolor

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2011, 03:48:57 PM »
Of course, I have only published one short story, not a novel.  I haven't even finished writing my first novel.  So maybe you shouldn't listen to closely to me.  :)

Jason R. Peters

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2011, 05:32:57 PM »
Inkling,

I'm in the same boat as you. I'm writing my third novel. I've written about a dozen serious short stories. I am (to date) unpublished.

I have also done a wealth of research on the publication world, because I've known I wanted to be "a writer" since about age 11. And I thought the book I finished at age 13 was a book. Hell, I thought the book I finished at age 23 was a book, but it wasn't.

By research, I mean that I've read about 40 books "about writing" (only 8 of them were worthwhile) and listened to at least thrice that many lectures/classes/podcasts.

Though not a "member" of the industry, my research indicates the following:


1. There is an extreme stigma against first-time authors. Familiarize yourself with the Steps experiment, in which an unknown author submitted an existing award-winning story and was universally rejected.

http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_steps_experiment/

Also familiarize yourself with the rejection stories of successes like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson.

The latter wrote 13 books before he was published. That's more than you and me combined.

2. There is an extreme stigma against self-publishing, and with good reason. It's taken as evidence that since no agent/editor was interested, the author basically paid an outside group to print his book. And basically, that's what happens. The success stories in self-publication are the exception, not the norm, and only after you've beaten tough sales standards will an agent or editor even touch you after self-publishing.

2.A. Self-publishing is an extreme amount of work, IF you plan to be financially successful at it. In addition to being the author, you must also be entrepreneur, marketing expert, market researcher, editor, promoter, and distributor. All things that are handled by others in the traditional publishing industry.


3. The best way to get published is to write consistently and submit hundreds of times, both novels and short stories. (I have not taken the latter step because after I truly understood what it would take to get published, I realized my writing had to reach a whole new level of expertise, and I am only now approaching where I'm aiming.)

3.A. And to keep writing without waiting for results. John Grisham's first book was purchased on a wing and a prayer, and didn't get good reviews, but it didn't matter. He'd already written a second, which was optioned by Tom Cruise before Grisham's first publisher rejected it.

4. Make sure a sizeable group of unbiased readers has already reviewed your work. And submit your 20th draft, not your 2nd.

5. Familiarize yourself with industry-standard formatting.

6. Texts I found helpful:

For an agent's view (someone who throws away hundreds of manuscripts a day after reading just one page) of the quality of writing, read Noah Lukeman's "The First Five Pages". It is an eye-opener on how writing is judged.

For Lukeman's view of the business, I recommend "How to Write a Great Query Letter" (free e-book) and "How to Get and Keep a Literary Agent" (which was about $3.00 as an e-book). I've read many others on writing...Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, and Lukeman's information is the most concise and the most-directed at first-time authors with no clue about the industry.

I'm asked every day "Have you ever thought about self-publishing?" and my answer is always the same. Not a chance, because I want to be acknowledged by the industry, as tough or biased or chancy as that may be.

I want a publisher to PAY ME for my work -- even if it's ridiculously low amounts -- than pay someone ELSE for the priveledge of printing me.

(And if I were published tomorrow, I would make way less than minimum wage on my current novel, even with an advance on royalties given to experienced authors, which I would not receive.)
« Last Edit: June 24, 2011, 12:08:42 AM by Jason R. Peters »

fardawg

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2011, 05:37:26 PM »
I would suggest writing a stand alone and try to get that published first. You might try to write one that is connected to the larger series (or edit the first one to be less open ended) which could be sold as a stand alone while giving you a base to jump into the series if it is a success. I wouldn't even tell a publisher or agent about the series. They have no reason to believe that you can pull it off or that it would ever  sell.

Frankly, as a reader I would never invest in a large series by a new author (12  :o), especially a self published one. It is too risky an investment of time and money. Take the Elantris rout.

Jason R. Peters

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2011, 12:12:13 AM »
Brandon Sanderson's breakthrough story isn't just a good example of how persistent and experienced it takes to get published. It's also a good example of how the industry views series.

My understanding is that once Sanderson had an agent, he wanted to publish the Stormlight Archive. His agent was like...woah, you're a new author. There is no way you can introduce a multi-volume series and expect to be published.

So Brandon led with Elantris. And after that, Mistborn, which although it became a trilogy, definitely stood alone without need for a sequel. Only after those and Warbreaker (another standalone) was he ready to begin the Stormlight Archive for general consumption.

fardawg

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2011, 12:30:11 PM »
Brandon Sanderson's breakthrough story isn't just a good example of how persistent and experienced it takes to get published. It's also a good example of how the industry views series.

My understanding is that once Sanderson had an agent, he wanted to publish the Stormlight Archive. His agent was like...woah, you're a new author. There is no way you can introduce a multi-volume series and expect to be published.

So Brandon led with Elantris. And after that, Mistborn, which although it became a trilogy, definitely stood alone without need for a sequel. Only after those and Warbreaker (another standalone) was he ready to begin the Stormlight Archive for general consumption.

I believe he now acknowledges that he wasn't really ready for a large series. I think he had to almost completely rewrite Way of Kings before it was publishable.

Juan Dolor

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2011, 03:05:14 PM »
I believe he now acknowledges that he wasn't really ready for a large series. I think he had to almost completely rewrite Way of Kings before it was publishable.

And if Brandon Sanderson wasn't ready at that point, then probably the original poster isn't ready to write a really great 12-book series.  Or at least not as ready as he would be after writing (and publishing) a few stand-alones.

fireflyz

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Re: Advice on Moving Forward
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2011, 03:34:56 PM »
I think that ultimately, self publishing is not the way to go for a first time author.  If you want to try to sell a 12 book series, then make sure the first book could be a stand alone.  Mention in your query that it's a stand alone but you envision it broadening out into a series.  I truthfully don't believe that most people can start off with a 12 book series and do it justice.  THat doesn't mean you're one of those people, but it's something to consider.  Worse case scenario is there's no interest in it...you write other books, hone your craft, and one day when you get a sale you can go back to that series if you're still interested.  As someone who has written a few books that I envisioned as series' I have to admit a lot of times when you're done you realize it's not the ONE, haha.

Just to give you an idea, the agency I've been communicating with and getting some solid feedback from looked at over 15,000 queries last year, out of those they requested less than 100 full manuscripts and signed (I think) 6 authors.  I believe self publishing an unknown author would involve even longer odds.  So my question to you would be, have you tried to make it into that 100 full manuscripts.  Set aside being signed for the moment.  But if your work isn't able to attract that sort of attention, I don't believe it will do well self publishing.  And that's fine.  Writing is a lot of work over a lot of years for very little chance of being a commercial success.  Which is why you have to love writing for the sake of writing.  Pleasing yourself and no one else.

However you decide, I wish you luck.  Stephen King says writing a novel is like crossing the Atlantic alone in a bathtub, and he's right.  No matter what, just know that you only get better over time.
Follow my journey from aspiring author to published phenom.  Along the way we'll discover the dos and don'ts of successful writing!

http://twitter.com/ryanvanloan