View Full Version : Considering The E-Publishing Route

08-28-2011, 12:46 AM
Okay, here's the deal. Nothing held back. I have been working on a story, on and off, for the past 21 years (That's right, 21 years!) I have finished it, reworked it to what I believe is the best that I can do, and I can NOT get to first base with an agent. I believe it is good enough to be successful (I know, so does everyone else who writes what they believe to be the next Gone With The Wind and its really just trash!) But considering the stuff I see getting put out there these days, in print, film and on television, I believe I have a story that is fresh and original. But I can't catch a break. So, I'd like to know just what I might expect if I decide to go the E-Publishing route with a service like Smashwords or Lulu. Am I short changing myself? Am I throwing in the towel too quickly? Am I just being an ass here? I'm so turned around by this whole process that I don't know which end is up anymore. I just don't want to see my story wind up lost in a box in my basement and never see the light of day. As far as I know, it might really just stink. Or it might be the next big best selling story. I can't say which. Does anyone here have any advice they can give me on this? I'd appreciate it. Oh and for those here on the east coast, stay safe with this hurricane!

08-28-2011, 01:37 AM
There are a couple of threads on going the self-publishing route, if you haven't read them yet, read them now.

I was all set for self-pub [e-book only at first], when I got back in contact with Tor, so they have Reprobate now under consideration and I'm awaiting their reaction.

However, I haven't disregarded self-publishing, for a couple of reasons:
- I have a lot of people eagerly waiting for Reprobate to be available.
- I think I can promote myself and my writing.
- I'm financially secure and don't need the money.
- I'm not interested in industry recognition [awards, that sort of thing].
- I'm not worried about the 'stigma' of self-publishing.
- I'm interested in the long haul, not short term success.
- I'm patient.

I think that you shouldn't go into self-publishing if you're impatient [yes, I know you've been writing for 21 years, but how long have you been promoting yourself/creating a fanbase?], or if you are easily disappointed about less than stellar sales. I think that you should be able to differentiate between being an author and being a businessman - once you publish your book, it becomes a product and you need to regard it as such. It may be your 'baby' while it's a manuscript, but it's only ready for publication if it can stand on its own legs.

Don't forget that once you self-publish your story, the first publication rights are gone. If you want to sell the story, there won't be too many trade publishers interested in something that has been published once already.

If you're nervous about the prospects of self-publication, you might want to consider trying the waters with some short stories first [if you have any].

I hope this helps.

08-28-2011, 01:59 PM
I looked over your last few posts, but don't see the answer there, so I'll just ask point blank: is this the only thing you've written in that 21 years?

Some people essentially have only one novel in them -- that's fine. It tends not to be what editors and agents prefer to have.

After reading Booneville, I had high hopes for Robert Mailer Anderson, but the novel was so autobiographical, I wasn't sure if he could produce another. So far, I don't believe he has.

Al Stevens
08-28-2011, 02:37 PM
My guess is that what you have written is either not about something most agents think they can sell or it might really suck. :) Either way, you're getting the message that agents aren't interested.

(Margaret Mitchell would have a hard time selling "Gone With the Wind" in 2011.)

Did you get input from beta readers? Did you try pitching directly to publishers? (I did that after a discouraging round of agent rejections and sold my first novel and possibly my second.)

If you self-publish, you have to promote (unless sales don't matter to you). You need to learn how to do that and be willing and able to go at it aggressively. Do some research on self-promotion.

And realize that you will get equal dosages of encouragement and discouragement on boards such as this one. Opinions vary widely, often based on experience, as often agenda-driven.

All the conventional wisdom is up for question these days. Things are changing. Crystal balls are shut down for maintenance.

Good luck.

08-29-2011, 12:44 AM

Yes to your question. It is the only story I've ever gotten to a point where I could cogently carry it through from start to finish. Now, this version is really my second storyline for thei idea. The first was my original "prototype" ms that I wrote 21 years ago. It didn't sell for good reason. It was just not good. It also suffered from some of the problems this ms suffered from before I joined this group and really learned how to fine tune my writting. (Too many adverbs; to much reliance on passive prose; too many "wases and thens") That's all been cut out, and my word count was sliced from 133,274 down to 94,125. I had a couple of beta readers love the new story. I'm waiting on a reply from another one. But as far as any other stories are concerned, this is it for the forseeable future. I have a very embrionic idea for a sequel, but if this doesn't fly, why bother pursuing it? And I do have an idea for a story based on a local urban myth near where I live, but again, it's only an idea that hasn't been fleshed out even to the point where I could intelligently outline it. And this whole process of query letter writing and asking agents to look at my story only to have them base their decision on a 200 word Q has been very discouraging. I don't think I'd want to have to make a living like that. God bless anyone that can and does! It's not for me. So, this is my only novel. It either sinks or flies, and I want it to fly. So that's why I'm now seriously considering E-pubing it. Maybe I'll get somewhere with it that way. I don't know.

08-29-2011, 12:52 AM

Pitching to publishers? I thought they only dealt through agents? If I could do that, I'd rather cut the whole agent middleman right out. Now is it something that agents don't like, or does it just suck? That's a great question. I think its very, very good. My beta readers thought so also. I'd like to get more input on it, because I can't seem to boil it down into a cogent query letter that gets an agent excited. I can't tell you if it's because the story is not what they want, or because I simply can't write a good query.

08-29-2011, 01:03 AM
Pitching to publishers? I thought they only dealt through agents? If I could do that, I'd rather cut the whole agent middleman right out. Now is it something that agents don't like, or does it just suck?

There are publishers who accept direct submissions. Go to the bookshop, find books that are like yours, and write down the publishers. Then go home and check the submission guidelines for those publishers. If they don't say 'no unagented submissions,' you can query them directly. If you don't have any luck with that, then you can go ahead and self-publish. It's not like waiting to self-publish will hurt anything.

It all really depends on what you want. If your primary objective is to have your book available (in hardcopy, e-book, or both) for friends and family, self-publishing is very possibly the best choice for you. If your primary objective is a wider readership, you're probably better off waiting to see the response from publishers. As I said, if you don't find a commercial publisher, you can still self-publish. And even if you go the SP route, you still might find a wider readership....you really can't know in advance.

So think hard about what you want, and base your decision about what to do on the best way to accomplish that goal. Different people have different goals, so there's no one answer that's right for everyone.

Al Stevens
08-29-2011, 05:25 AM

Pitching to publishers? I thought they only dealt through agents? If I could do that, I'd rather cut the whole agent middleman right out.
As with anything, you must educate yourself. There is a lot of discussion on this board about whether writers need agents, whether a writer knows enough to properly represent the work, subsidiary rights, and so on.

One book, "Ditch the Agent," available on Kindle, discusses the issue in detail albeit from a bias.

I wrote non-fiction books for years with NY publishers and no agent. It's all I know. Now I'm learning different ways.

The mass of the so-called slush pile, being fed by a glut of new writers, has made it difficult to call professional attention to any work by an unknown, irrespective of the work's quality and marketability. And a similar glut of self-published works is making it difficult to get those works in the hands or on the e-readers of potential buyers.

The industry has changed and will continue changing empowered by technology as paradigms shift and various publishing models succeed and fail.

Shift happens. Keep trying. Virturally everybody here is in the same boat, if that's any consolation.

My advice is to send more queries (maybe you need help writing the query*) and get busy now, writing that sequel. They like you more if they think you're not a one-trick pony.

The option to self-publish does not expire.

*I got help here in the SYW query letter hell place. I posted my query with requests for critiques. That had good results.

James D. Macdonald
08-29-2011, 06:55 AM
I wouldn't write a sequel. But I would definitely write something. New, different, original, and even better.

08-29-2011, 09:43 AM
That's all been cut out, and my word count was sliced from 133,274 down to 94,125.

I don't know if this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=204174) represents the current opening, but it's still got a lot of weak constructions and words that aren't obviously adding to the story.

And this whole process of query letter writing and asking agents to look at my story only to have them base their decision on a 200 word Q has been very discouraging.

Readers make their decisions based on first pages, too. Ever stood in a bookstore poring over first pages to see which three books you would buy with the money you had?

08-29-2011, 10:28 AM
I took a glance at the thread Deirdre linked to, and my first impression is that the narrative just doesn't 'pop'. Funny enough, my mind made nearly the exact same change to the first sentence that Deidre did.

In a 'buyer's market', which is essentially what the world of manuscript submission is, your product has to stand out above not just rubbish, but also good, pretty good, and even pretty damn good stuff. You might have a great story, but if the writing is pedestrian, you're most likely going to get a rejection letter. After all, the editor probably has equally great stories on their desk, and in the end, they're going to choose one that requires less editing over one that requires more, all else being equal.

I would suggest that you review the rules for when to use active voice and when to use passive ('never use passive' is wrong wrong wrong; there are times when it's exactly the correct voice to use), and also the rules on participle constructions. Then go through your manuscript and strengthen the prose to be more active. (Deirdre's edit of the first sentence is a great example of what you're trying to achieve.)

This is a timely story, and if the writing really shines, you might have a good chance of catching an agent's or publisher's eye.

BTW, this advice still stands even if you decide to go the self-publishing route. If you want to sell to more than friends and family, the writing still has to stand out. Most readers sample the firsr page or so, and if the writing doesn't carry them along, they're more likely to move on to the next book.

08-29-2011, 08:27 PM
Book blurbs are similar to the 200 word query, though. All books eventually have to be summed up. My first thought is have you had your query letter looked at here? If you aren't getting any requests, then the problem is almost certainly the query letter--not the manuscript. Queries suck. They're hard, complicated, and like a separate art form. I'll actually look yours over if you want a crit, btw. Just PM me.

As for what you should do...that's kind of a personal decision, but I will say this. I know that after 21 years you want the best for your book. My suggestion is just not to give up too easily. You might really have a great book that's just not hitting for some reason, but I think there are a lot of options out there you can try before you jump in.

The first thing to do is make sure the query letter is in tip-top shape. If that's what's biting you in the ass, it's good to know before you do anything else. Next ask yourself if you've sent to every person possible. I've seen a lot of people get thirty rejections and say "Obviously no one wants it." I'm personally a big fan of querying widely and I think anything less than a hundred probably isn't enough. Not all at once, obviously (you might have someone point out some flaws in the novel that need to be fixed), but over several months.

If agents aren't biting, you can try some of the presses that take unagented submissions. There are also a lot of small presses and epresses out there. Those require a bit more research to make sure they're reputable and capable of getting your book out there in front of readers, but we have a great Bewares and Background Checks section here that will help you with that.

If you still haven't gotten any bites, then I'd say considering self-publishing might be right for you. There are definitely more opportunities out there than just finding an agent, and your book might be perfect for one of those.

I also second the write something new thing. When you write something different, you'll have to use a whole new set of skills. It's always amazing to me how much my vision of previously written works change when I finish something new.

Also, have you had a beta reader? I'm busy at the moment in terms of betaing (and I'm slow as hell), but if you want someone to look over the first few chapters, I could probably do it in not too much time. I can't promise the whole novel because I'm backed up, but I could definitely do fifty pages or so for you.

08-30-2011, 12:27 AM

Excellent research on your part. I commend you. However that whole opening was scrapped a while ago. (That thread was 6 months old!) The story starts very differently now because as it was constructed, you didn't meet my protag until Chapter 2. Now, you meet him Page1, Line 1, Word 1 of a new prologue.

08-30-2011, 12:39 AM

Your offer to look at my Q is very kind. I'd like that. I'll PM it to you and if you think it's good, we'll talk about me sending you the first couple of chapters to beta. As for everyone else here, thanks for the encouragement. I needed it. Had a couple of lousy days here, including getting flooded by the recent hurricane that socked the east coast this weekend. Just a badly damaged basement carpet, but what a pain! Others are having it far worse than me, however.

As for the ms, this thing has gone through more rewrites than I can think since I joined this site last December. I like to say that I learned more about writing in the short time I've been here than I did in all my years in school! The versions that were posted in SYW and my several attempts at writing a Q in QLH are all past issues now. Much has been changed in the ms and the Q since my last posts on those sites. And I also have to say, my last time on QLH was very trying. It sent me into a tailspin that caused me to make drastic changes to the ms, only to realize that I was trying to please too many other people and forgot what I wrote the story about in the first place: For the shear fun of it! Do I want it to be a commercial success? Yes. But it just seemed like I was getting no where fast. I've since restored the ms back to more like I had intended, but with some real good upgrades. All that gut wretching work I did to change it all around did produce some positives. Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I might find an agent or publisher willing to take me on. By the way, I sent out 6 queries before I signed on to here today!

08-30-2011, 01:54 AM

Excellent research on your part. I commend you. However that whole opening was scrapped a while ago. (That thread was 6 months old!) The story starts very differently now because as it was constructed, you didn't meet my protag until Chapter 2. Now, you meet him Page1, Line 1, Word 1 of a new prologue.

BTW, it's pretty easy to find that kind of thing -- just look for threads started by a person. There were few enough, and that's what I found.

If it's your protag starting the story, why a prologue? (Admittedly, I'm a skipper of prologues.)

Generally, a prologue is a different time, place, or character that's out of the narrative present of the story's universe.

08-30-2011, 04:44 AM

You're right on the mark. The prologue was set on the ship which was to have set the story in motion. However, because of the structure of the story, my protag was not introduced until the second chapter, and I was told by a lot of people that I have to bring him out earlier than that. Otherwise, people will think that Laura is my main character, which she can't be because her character is the victim in the story, and as a result, too weak to be considered the protag. It was suggested that I start with Mike doing something unrelated to the story but that would at least introduce him to the reader so that when he comes back into the story in Chapter 2, the reader already knows who he is and what he does. And that's what I've now done. The entire prologue in the thread you referenced is now refered to in a simple one paragraph exchange between two of the bad guys in Chapter 1.

08-30-2011, 05:42 AM
Ahh, I see. That does make sense -- but then what's the reasoning behind it being a prologue instead of Chapter 1?

08-30-2011, 05:53 AM
It's a bit short, only 4 pages, and it really doesn't have a direct impact to the story, other than acting as a vehicle to introduce my protag.

08-30-2011, 05:56 AM
Epublishing isn't a terrible way to go if you're prepared to do the marketing for it. From reading this thread, it sounds like you still have a few more steps to take. I know beta readers are recommended here - have you considered taking the piece to a live writer's workshop anywhere?

08-30-2011, 06:28 AM

No I haven't. I don't really belong to any of those. I have had it beta read a couple of times and I'm waiting to hear from one guy who's reading it now. So far, Ive gotten all good reports AFTER I made a number of changes and improvements, all pointed out by the people on this site these past 9 months!:D