1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Be Honest: Why are you Really Not Published Yet?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Philip Overby, May 8, 2012.

  1. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

    134
    34
    28
    I did finish. I did submit to agents and publishers. I received oh so many stacks of rejections. I received two individual acceptances from agents who believed in my book.

    The first agent to accept it wrote after a month or so to tell me she'd had a death in family and she was leaving on sabbatical. She asked if she could hold on to the book until she was back. I agreed. About a year later, she wrote to tell me she didn't have the business in her any more. She left me to go my merry way.

    The next acceptance from an agent ended pretty much the same. "I'll do it," turned into "I'm getting out of this business, good luck."

    Bad luck - or really, really weird rejection process? Honestly not sure. Though the first agent had a well established agency. I'd researched her, read interviews and reviews of her agency, but, still, ended up in the same place.

    I sat on it for a long time. Until I needed it, really. I drug it out and dusted it off and went back to work trying to polish as best I could. After years of being pushed by people who had already read it to put it on Kindle, that's what I did.

    That being said, I am moving on the next book(s) (I take notes for the stories I want to tell but aren't currently in the writing process.) I started before the holiday season, and I'll keep it going until it's finished.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2014
  2. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,009
    442
    83
    Good god! Seems I struck a nerve.

    Let me start by saying that I did not say that rejection is the only thing that makes you a better writer, and nowhere did I suggest that thinking like a publisher meant thinking like a traditional publisher...whatever a traditional publisher is...

    I don't have the time to address all the points made extrapolating or reinterpreting my post above, so I shall focus just on psychotick's polemic against 'trad' publishers.

    Traditional publishers are not just some amorphous evil mass, the same everywhere. They are made up of diverse individuals who are vitally interested in good books and good writing. They live to discover new voices and by god you've got to be good to get taken seriously (let alone published). To suggest that traditional publishers all want to force writers to write in some uniform corporately approved manner is simply wrong. They have their own ideas about what will or won't work in the marketplace and they stick pretty rigidly within those lines, but that's their commercial judgment - it's not them forcing writers to change the way they write. They will survive or perish on the basis of their judgment because in today's digital world where anyone can be a publisher good literary judgment is all they have to sell.

    Publishing is a hugely competitive business - probably the most competitive there is - and only the very best claw their way to the top of the Darwinian pile (irrespective of which route you take). When I finished my first novel (in about 1997) I thought it was a work of genius. It seemed only a matter of time before publishers started driving dump trucks full of money up to my house and I entertained daydreams of signing away the film rights in some gorgeous office above Manhattan. It was rejected about 20 times and I was forced to review it with different eyes. These days I can't read two sentences without vomiting blood, but back then I thought it was inspired.

    And that's my concern about new writers today. They get a couple of rejections and race straight to self-publishing, not realising that what they've produced is really just a first draft. Obviously that's a massive generalisation and there are plenty of decent/successful self-pubbed books. As I said in my original post, for every book published in the mainstream there are probably hundreds technically good enough, but there are also hundreds of others which are not. I did some slush pile reading for a small publisher for a couple of years and let me tell you it was dire. In the 40 or 50 mss referred to me not one was worth pursuing. I always gave reasons for rejection and had a number of letters referred back to me, mostly written by embittered types indignant that I hadn't perceived the majesty of their creation. They hadn't engaged with my criticisms and were therefore unlikely to learn from them. That was about ten or so years ago but today those same people would be saying: Right! I'll show that ratbag! And triumphantly publish their unedited, poorly crafted drivel online.

    Judging by the level of discourse on this forum, I'd expect that most people here would be writing at a level that was technically worthy of being published, so it becomes a matter of judgment. You will have to learn to think like a publisher no matter what publishing route you take.
     
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,950
    163
    Keeping in line with how someone handles rejection...

    You're going to face rejection one way or another. If it's traditional publishing that comes at the hands of agents or editors. If self-publishing you'll likely receive rejection from not selling books or from receiving poor reviews. Even wildly successful authors get some bad reviews.

    Lastly, if anyone can talk you out of being a writer, then you're not a writer to begin with. That's true of any endeavor. If you can't handle rejection & still push forward to success, then you just didn't care enough. If you truly want to achieve something, anything, you will do so, rejection be damned.

    How someone handles failure has a lot to do with their ability to succeed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2014
  4. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,824
    714
    113
    Hi Dark One,

    I didn't make any of those comments about trade publishers and evil amorphous masses. I think you've confused my post with another (Mythopoets?)

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,009
    442
    83
    Sorry Greg...that must be because I see people who disagree with me as just an evil amorphous mass.
     
    Kit likes this.
  6. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    2,132
    1,343
    163
    There is another point to be raised about the differences between traditional publishing and indie. Someone, I am not going to go back and look, raised the (incorrect) point that one does not grow from being rejected by form letter. But yet somehow putting out the same work that would be rejected by the traditional publishing juggernaut will garner reader reviews which will lead to improvement. Um... I'm sorry, that's not how the real world works.

    With traditional publishing, yes, most rejections are form letters (unless you get the super-awesome personalized ones). This is due to the massive amount of manuscripts that agents and publishers have to wade through every week, every month, and every year. Not because they are heartless users of our talent who seek to take advantage of us and suck us dry. They are hard working men and women who love books, just like us, and wade through those slush piles looking for new writers. The beauty of the normal traditional rejection, as faceless as it may seem, is that it is also private. The only person who needs to know you were rejected is you. And, this may sound harsh but this is a rough business, any writer who isn't dedicated enough to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and say, "What's next?" as they start the next project and continue to improve is probably not cut out to be a professional.

    Indie publishing, on the other hand, is not only supremely easy, it's supremely public - not a good combination if your work is not the masterpiece you've convinced yourself it is. In a market where hardback books came out as the surprise front running sellers of the last quarter of 2013, self-publishing has become inundated with offerings that are of such poor quality as to be barely intelligible. So, picture that hypothetically somehow in this cacophony of crap you manage to attract readers who not only buy your book, they read it and feel strongly enough to leave a review. If your work is not clean, not crisp, not professional - in other words, if you think you have room to improve (because this is how writers improve, right?) and somehow these readers who have paid money for your work will tell you how you can find ways to do so out of the kindness of their hearts, you my friend are in for a very rude awakening. And this will happen in that most public of venues, the reader reviews of a major internet retailer. Now, your professional name is out there, on the internet where true immortality reigns, attached to substandard work with bad reviews.

    How is this better than a form letter, again?

    Now, I'm not saying that indie publishing is bad and traditional publishing is good. They both have issues and benefits. What I am saying is be professional, be prepared, and do your own homework and stop regurgitating what you read from one or two sources online. The real face of publishing is both more diverse, and more crazy, than you can imagine. And it's changing almost every day.
     
    AnneL, Philip Overby, Kit and 3 others like this.
  7. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,824
    714
    113
    Hi AEL,

    I didn't say that getting hit by one star reviews was easy. It is public and it is painful. And sometimes it's not even that honest. But any information you get is better than a form letter that tells you nothing. Your sales numbers tell you something as well. And when they go up and down as you alter blurbs and covers or advertise, you learn a lot.

    In the end which would you rather have? No information other than the fact that your book hasn't been picked up? Or a dozen reviews, lots of them hurtful, that tell you what your readers think is wrong and right with your book? Which is going to help you improve as a writer more?

    And my nightmare in this debate would be sitting waiting for an agent to pick you up after so many submissions for five or ten years, and each time guessing that the reason they didn't pick you up was because;
    1 The writing was too loose
    2 It was too tight
    3 There was too much purple prose
    4 Too much introspection
    5 Not enough introspection
    6 Too much showing
    7 Too much telling

    And in the end while you keep beavering away - perfecting your novel in the dark as you guess what they thought the problem was, the real reason they didn't pick you up was that they had fifty other books in their pile and there simply wasn't room for another.

    And lets be honest here, your audience are the people you publish for. They will tell you what they think is good and bad for them. And that is the information you need to make a book more acceptable to them. Your beta readers and editors are a specialist group. They aren't necessarily representative of your readers. And agents and publishers are only guessing what your readers will want. (Guessing more now that so much more of the market has gone indie and so they don't control it as they once did.)

    As for the name and the immortality bit. You can always unpublish if you choose. It may not be a perfect solution, but it can be done.

    As for the psychological impact of these reviews and critiques, you were always going to have that whether you go trade or indie. LOTR has loads of one star reviews. But this is the difference between writing and publishing. If you're going to publish you have to develop a thick skin.

    And again, I have not in any way said that trade publishing agents and publishers are bad people or doing bad things to authors. I'm sure they are for the most part exactly as you say. I'm not talking about them at all. I'm talking about you as a writer. If you want to publish, you have to publish. It really is that simple. And it will be the best way in which you will improve as an author, no matter how painful.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  8. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,824
    714
    113
    Hi,

    By the way, forgot to add: Self publishing is easy to do if you don't want to do it well. If you do want to do it well on the other hand it will require an awful lot of hard work. Steep learning curves etc. I would never suggest to anyone that self publishing is easy.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,009
    442
    83
    Look, this wasn't intended to be a debate about trad versus indie. It was about responding to rejection (from my perspective). Let's try and stay on track.
     
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Slightly off topic if I may for a second: I have enjoyed the Indie books I've read and they were all professional in their presentation. In fact, I prefer to read Indie stories--just like I prefer to watch Indie films. I like supporting individuals in their artistic endeavors and I think its hard work to publish a book alone. I respect it. Lately it seems I'm coming across many articles on the internet saying how some Indie authors are publishing without their work being ready. I don't understand it. Let people be. We all share the same dream and there's no right or wrong way to do it...its all about individual perspective. But that's my two cents.

    Back on topic before the mods get me: I'm definitely going to take up Phil's challenge. In 2012 and 2013, it was a huge step for me to let beta readers have a taste of my work. I have learned a lot from their reviews and also from being on these forums. But its time I published, or try to do so. I'm still figuring out how to structure my goals, but I at least want to submit work. He's right. I should just go for it. If we wait too long, time passes us by. I'm in my early 30s with plenty of life to live, so why not start now? I've dreamed about being a professional writer since my teens. Thank you, Phil for putting this out there. I'm taking advantage of it and holding myself responsible via this forum and my social media. :D
     
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    5,997
    1,711
    213
    OK, now that I'm back from my trip, I can add my two cents a bit more. I just wanted to note, that this discussion eventually evolved into the Mythic Scribes Blood Pact which you can find here. http://mythicscribes.com/forums/writing-groups/3365-mythic-scribes-blood-pact.html

    The idea of this thread when I wrote it back in 2012 was to motivate myself and others to strive to finish their work and submit it (or publish it, depending on traditional or self-publishing methods). It was never intended to be "which way is the better way." I frankly don't care what publishing path a writer takes if it makes them happy and they're satisfied with the choices they've made. The goal of this thread was originally meant to encourage people to really look more deeply at themselves why they weren't reaching their publishing goals. It was more about finding the path to write/polish/submit that seems to evade so many for various reasons.

    That said, we all face rejection one way or another, as many have stated very well above me. It can be facing the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, getting bad reviews, or even giving into your inner editor and, yes, rejecting yourself. There always comes that point when you have to quit blaming others for why you're not achieving your writing goals and figure out your own path. Either by trying new methods or taking your lumps and carrying on.

    One way or another, talking about goals has to become pursuing goals. I hope I've been working my way toward my original goal of having something published by 2014, but if I don't reach that goal, I feel like I"ll be satisfied knowing that I tried this time and didn't just pile up more excuses for why I didn't achieve what I said I was going to.

    So yeah, this isn't about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. It's about getting your work into readers' hands instead of just talking about it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014
  12. JRFLynn

    JRFLynn Sage

    297
    50
    28
    Mainly, I have trouble finishing what I start...and yes, sometimes I think my story is complete crapola. Trying to get over that. Another reason would be that the publishing process is completely daunting, I'm going for Indie but I have no idea where to start. Editing, illustration, Ebook publishing, maybe getting an agent, or starting a blog (which is even scarier). Yaiyai! That's going to be tricky!

    One step at a time, I guess. Hopefully I'll finish the 1st draft by next year!
     
  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,952
    982
    113
    All right, I'm sorry for derailing the thread. I'll stick to the topic at hand or shut my mouth.

    Like JRFlynn I have a hard time finishing things. This is probably why yesterday I came up with the idea for a story in which the characters of unfinished stories come to life to try to get their authors to finish their stories and give them closure. Of course, as I said in chat, if I tried to write it I'd probably never finish.

    I said upthread that my problem is "sheer laziness", but that isn't really true. The fact that at this point in my life I'm a mother of five young children (oldest is 10, youngest is 9 months) two of whom are autistic and most of my energy gets used up in caring for them. At the end of the day, I usually feel exhausted and used up and not fit for any sort of creative writing. I don't mind this because my family is my primary vocation. While I take writing seriously and will treat publishing as professionally as I can when I am ready, it is more like a hobby than a career for me. I am not trying to make a living at it (though I strongly support writers who are). I just want to share my stories with the world, even if it takes years to finish anything and get it out there. I'm more on the Tolkien side of things than, say, the Stephen King side. And I'm happy there, even if I can't manage to publish anything until the kids are much older.
     
  14. Kit

    Kit Maester

    603
    99
    28
    If you want to start a blog, do it. Most blog systems will let you control who can see it. You can make it utterly private, make it accessible only to a few people of your choosing, or make it public. Even if you make it public, unless you aggressively advertise it, very few people will find it. So go ahead and do it, and only advertise when/if you decide you're ready.
     
    JRFLynn likes this.
  15. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

    149
    55
    28
    FWIW, my book is being published 20 years after I got my MFA. (It's not my MFA manuscript, which is safely trunked.) Perseverance pays off.
     
  16. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,824
    714
    113
    Hi Phil,

    I also apologise for derailing the thread. My only point really in this is to point out that self publishing is a valid method of getting yourself published. (Not talking about quality here or any of those other issues - just about getting your work published.) And if you're determined to publish and getting rejected time and again you should consider it. If you don't add it to the bottom of your list of goals, and you spend year after year simply going through the motions of submitting and being rejected without any real idea of why, then you have to ask yourself as an author, are you really so dedicated to being published?

    What's that definition of madness? Doing exactly the same thing again and again and again and expecting a different outcome.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,009
    442
    83
    All of this is entirely consistent with my points above. The only thing I'd add though is that after being rejected, I did NOT do the same thing again and again. I went out of my way to work out what I was doing wrong and my writing improved out of sight. The third book I completed (fifth book I started) was the first to be published. It took 15 years of effort to get to a publisher saying yes, and then another two years of editing before it went into production. That book didn't get huge sales but it certainly won some critical acclaim. Now my new book is winning accolades and selling well (even in the airports). I firmly believe that it was my persistence and determination to rise above (and learn from) rejection that got me to this place.

    Having said all that, self-publishing was not the accepted and respected route that it is today. If I was just starting out now I've no doubt I'd be self-pubbing after a few rejections. And that would lead back to the old question: how do you know it's good enough when the industry has already told you it's not?

    In fact, the industry is not telling you it's not good enough - they're saying they don't want to publish it. It still may be good enough to find an audience but how do you know? Unless you publish? The danger is that if the work has not been adequately refined to be of publishable quality you will damage your reputation.

    It strikes me there's a business opportunity here. Someone, even Mythic Scribes, could set themselves up as a ms appraisal service (paid for) and give good feedback and a rating out of 10, where (say) 7 means publishable. Anything under 7 is effectively a rejection and people could learn from that and the feedback to improve their work. Once above 7 it could be published with the MS (or whoever) rating attached so that consumers would know they were buying something regarded as of good enough quality to be published, even though the mainstream had passed.
     
    JRFLynn, teacup, BWFoster78 and 3 others like this.
  18. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

    117
    56
    28
    Sorry to continue the derailment, but this is a great idea for the indie world. Rating a manuscript on its quality alone. I have often felt that an indie novel needs some sort of stamp of approval for the readers sake. As an author, I would be willing to drop a few bucks for something that could stop me from releasing garbage and maybe even get some hardcore, kick-in-the-mouth feedback. On top of that, a stamp of approval has the potential to help sales.

    Let's face it, a majority of rejections are based on whether an agent/publisher feels the manuscript is salable on a grand scale. And a lot of us don't give two shakes about mass appeal, we just have a story to tell. But, none of us wants to publish garbage.

    On the topic:
    What held me back from publishing: confidence. I can take rejection. I welcome harsh criticism from my editors and beta readers. There are very few stories I haven't finished. I just lacked the confidence to throw my work out into the world. And, quite honestly, confidence remains a bit of a speed bump for me, but it is no longer a road-block.
     
  19. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,009
    442
    83
    It is a good idea, isn't it. I might start a new thread in Publishing to discuss it properly.
     
    Kit likes this.
  20. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    5,997
    1,711
    213
    For those that have trouble finishing things, I have a question: How often do you finish anything? Are you interested in finishing your work or is it something that if it happens, it happens? I'm just curious in that regard. I oftentimes think finishing something is really more important that ever publishing it. Of course you can't do one without the other, but the sense of accomplishment I feel when I actually finish something is pretty good.
     
Loading...

Share This Page