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BetsyComedy
12-21-2012, 10:57 AM
My mom is NOT cut out for self publishing. It is expensive and the money to market her book she cannot afford. She spent years writing her book, she's not young, works full time despite serious medical issues, she's not in a position to really pursue this route the way it needs to be.

But, she did not get any agents nor publishers to take an interest. She sent hundreds and hundreds of query letters and a bunch even came back non deliverable. This was a few years ago. Only one place took some interest, after 6 months she called to ask the status. Nothing ever came of it.

I am really bummed. I want to help my mom, but I haven't even gotten my own show out there. I am kind of overwhelmed and exhausted.

She said she will go the Amazon route, not that she knows anything about it. But first she has to find an illustrator for the cover. My concern is that without the marketing it will just sit there and she will get so depressed when people don't buy. But she's 60's, she doesn't do FB and Twitter and that crap. I try to stay away from it but realizing now I need it for my own project, ugh yuck. And she's not a blogger, she's tired after 10 hour days at work. She's not remotely tech saavy, at all. Not that I am, but I know the basics, not enough though.

Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions before I try to help her on top of my own projects? I honestly wish she could have gotten interest because her book is so unique and interesting. Naturally she feels that working on her book 7 years is enough. But sadly that's not how it works. I am wondering if I should start sending out her query? If so, I'd need to find a list of current agents and those who bring in the money. I forget the site that shows this info? So much stuff here hasn't applied to me as someone writing for TV, so I sometimes miss things.

Thank you in advance, sorry for the rambling, sorry for the venting, I am a bit stressed seeing my mom so very down. I hate feeling helpless.

Old Hack
12-21-2012, 11:35 AM
Betsy, this part of your post caught my eye:


She sent hundreds and hundreds of query letters and a bunch even came back non deliverable. This was a few years ago. Only one place took some interestIf she sent out hundreds of query letters and got no interest, then I'd guess there's a problem with her query.

That doesn't mean that her book will necessarily sell if she fixes her query, but it's an indication that something is definitely wrong with that query.

If she really wants to try for a publisher she might want to throw herself into Query Letter Hell--assuming, of course, that she's already had the help of various beta readers, to make sure it's ready to query.


I am wondering if I should start sending out her query?No! Don't do that. If an agent gets even a whiff of an indication that a book has been submitted by someone other than it's author, they'll reject it without looking at it.

ETA: moving this to the Round Table, as it's not really about self publishing.

BetsyComedy
12-21-2012, 11:46 AM
Sorry it was in the wrong place, thanks for moving to where it should go. I guess I am not sure whether to help her with the self publishing or try the traditional route again. Both are time consuming and I want to make sure I invest precious time in the right place. Both have advantages and disadvantages but right now I mostly want to do whatever she'd have a better shot at.

What I meant was simply sending the query for her just like she would if she had the time, not writing anything for her.

What is query letter hell? It's been a long time, I will ask to read her query to make sure it's OK and also get more eyes on it. Her book has been edited by two people already. One that just took her money and did nothing, and another that I think did a good job.

Where was the link that shows how much each agent grosses for their company? If I go this route, I'd like to start at the top and work my way down with her book.

Kerosene
12-21-2012, 12:07 PM
Query Letter Hell. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=174)

I don't know the rules regarding it(slaughter me if I'm wrong), but I'd think it would be fine if you post her query letter up when you have 50+ posts.
Have her read the stickies and revise the query letter before posting. All the guidelines are there, she just need to apply them.

Also, make sure you and her research what agents would be interested in her story. Find a genre that matches what she has written and fine agents who deal in that genre.

Putputt
12-21-2012, 12:12 PM
Query Letter Hell is a place where your mom can post her query and have us critique it. Here is the link to the Share Your Work forum: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=26 and you can find the link to QLH third down from the top.

I strongly agree with Old Hack about putting the query on QLH first before sending it out to agents again, because if only one out of hundreds and hundreds of agents bit, then it sounds to me like there's a problem with the query itself. Trying again just because it has been a few years would not make much of a difference.

blacbird
12-21-2012, 12:46 PM
She sent hundreds and hundreds of query letters and a bunch even came back non deliverable.

Not trying to be harsh, but the bolded above says a lot.

I have a pristinely perfect record of query rejection, many many many, but I've never had an "undeliverable" return.

caw

Katrina S. Forest
12-21-2012, 12:58 PM
I don't see anything wrong with basically acting as your mom's secretary in this case, as long as the words are all her own. But I notice you keep coming back to which agents bring the most money. I'm not sure that's the angle you want to take on your agent hunt. Stephanie Meyer's agent made her a ton of money, but if she doesn't take the genre you mom wrote, then submitting to her won't help you. (Though it's a good reason to look at that agency to see what genres the other agents there take.)

I believe the site you may be thinking of is Publisher's Marketplace. They do list the newest deals, and while they don't list amounts per se, they often come with descriptions that indicate what range the deal fell into. There's a subscription fee involved, however, so don't sign up with them until you're really ready to use them. (Every time I've done agent research, I just sign up for a month and cancel afterwards.)

What is your mom's goal with this book? If she did get an agent, would she be willing to work on revisions with that agent? What about if she gets a book deal, but the editor wants to see revisions? I don't mean sentence tweaking stuff, I mean adding or removing thousands of words. What about a sequel? Are these things she is willing and able to do or is she satisfied with having written this one book and just wants to see it published as-is?

If the latter is the case, commercial publishing may not be the path for her. Even in a best-case scenario, people are going to ask a lot of work of her. It's not the same type of work that a self-publisher does, but it's still work.

The advantage of programs like CreateSpace or Lulu is that you only have to put in as much effort as you care to. For people who just want to see their book in print and available to others for purchase (without really caring about the sales), it can be a nice way to get that desire satisfied without being bombarded with rejection letters. The key is having realistic expectations. Odds are, without any marketing behind it, the book will sell only to family and friends. For some people, that's enough. (You can even look into making covers yourself so you don't have to spend the cash there.)

I'm not at all trying to discourage you. I'm going for the commercial path all the way. I guess I'm just saying make sure what you want for this book and what your mom wants are actually the same thing before you start submitting.

Cyia
12-21-2012, 03:25 PM
Betsy, you can't post your mom's query in QLH for her. She'd have to be a member and do it herself.

1st, when you send out queries, they need to be targeted. It sounds like your mom scatter-shot to every agent she found a name for, which is why some came back non-deliverable. Her list/source was out of date and the addresses were no longer valid.

After the MS is ready, and the query is ready to go, she needs to go to Agent Query and/or Query Tracker and seek out agents that represent the sort of book she has. Once she's got those names, she still can't send to everyone on the list because you're going to end up with agency-mates, and most agencies don't allow you to submit to more than one agent at a time within the agency. (Some don't allow you to submit to more than one agent, period.)

Once you've got your list of potential agents, then you need to vet them. You can check out Preditors & Editors, which is free, to see if they're recommended or not. You can subscribe to publisher's lunch, or you can pay the $20/month subscription fee to Publisher's Marketplace, which will give you the latest information on who has made deals in what genre and how big those deals were. Finding out how much an agent "grosses" for their agency isn't really on a list anywhere.

Another route is to Google the names of writers with whom you are familiar and who write in the same genre. Google [author name] + AGENT and that should net you some names. (Query Tracker also has a client listing for all of their agents as part of their free search. You might have to sign on as a member, though. I'm not sure.)

You need to also be aware that those top agents are the ones most writers want, and they're going to be the ones with the fewest openings on their lists. Some agents can take as few as 1-2 new clients a year, some can't take on any because their lists are full.

Marian Perera
12-21-2012, 03:37 PM
My concern is that without the marketing it will just sit there and she will get so depressed when people don't buy.

What kind of sales is your mother hoping for, Betsy? Does she want to sell thousands and thousands of copies, or a few hundred, or would she be happy with just the occasional purchase?


Naturally she feels that working on her book 7 years is enough.

This part concerns me, because if her manuscript does attract an agent's or editor's interest, would she be prepared to revise it in response to critical feedback, or would she feel that having worked on the manuscript for seven years was enough?

Would she also be prepared for negative reviews from readers if or when the manuscript was published?

Cyia
12-21-2012, 03:47 PM
Something else that I didn't notice when I read this initially - your mom called to check on her submission? Don't do that. Calling is a bad idea, and it can leave the person on the other end of the line with a bad impression. If you want a status update, you email.

Anne Lyle
12-21-2012, 05:27 PM
If the latter is the case, commercial publishing may not be the path for her. Even in a best-case scenario, people are going to ask a lot of work of her. It's not the same type of work that a self-publisher does, but it's still work.

I would second this - I've worked harder on my writing since signing a book deal than I ever did when writing for myself. It's a different kind of work, but it's still work.

I'm sorry your mum is so disappointed at not getting anywhere, but publishing is tougher now than it's ever been. Maybe you could get a nice print copy of her book made through a POD (print on demand) service, so she has something concrete to show for all her hard work, and then sit down with her to make a realistic plan of how she might try again? Focus on learning about publishing, instead of fretting about the book itself.

I also have to say that these days, being totally offline isn't an option. You don't have to do social media, but at the very least you need an email account and to be able to use the web a bit. If you could get her to join a friendly forum like this one, she could talk to other writers herself and it might help her feel less isolated and frustrated.

Hope this helps!

Old Hack
12-21-2012, 06:04 PM
Betsy, if your mother doesn't have the time to blog because she's tired after her ten-hour working days, and isn't inclined to do her own research and send out her own queries, then she doesn't have the time to work with a good trade publisher or to effectively self publish either.

I'm sorry to be so blunt: but publishing well, no matter which route you take to find your readership, requires sustained hard work over months and years.

It also requires that you understand the business, and know how things work: and with all the respect in the world, it's clear from your comments in this thread and in others that you don't know enough about how it works to give your mother the help she needs. And from what you've told us, I suspect that your mother won't know enough about publishing either.

If neither of you have enough time to learn enough about publishing to do it well, you're not going to publish a good book and you're unlikely to sell many copies.

If you'd just be happy to know that the book is out there, and don't care if you only sell a dozen copies or so, then go ahead and bung your book up on Amazon and see how it gets on.

If you'd like to do better, would like to see your book on best seller lists and on bookshop shelves, then you're going to have to work a lot harder than it seems you're prepared to, and learn a lot more about publishing than you know right now.

I really don't intend to upset you, and I don't mean to be rude. I hope you can take my comments in the spirit they're intended, which is one of friendly concern.

NeuroFizz
12-21-2012, 06:12 PM
Before having the query critiqued, have the manuscript critiqued. No query in the world is going to help a sub-par manuscript. Has your Mom had any input from beta readers, other than you? Has she had it critted in any place like the Share Your Work forum? If not, have her post the first chapter here in SYW so she can see if what she has is of publication quality. Worry about the query letter after that question is answered.

ether
12-21-2012, 06:20 PM
Betsy, if your mother doesn't have the time to blog because she's tired after her ten-hour working days, and isn't inclined to do her own research and send out her own queries, then she doesn't have the time to work with a good trade publisher or to effectively self publish either.

Unfortunately, I agree with this bit completely. Plenty of authors work long hours and come home only to then work on their writing because they don't make enough (or anything!) writing to be able to quit their day job. It's exhausting. But if she can spend even 30 minutes a day after work researching, then saying she doesn't have time doesn't need to be an excuse.

Both traditional and self-pub routes are going to cost at least a little money and a lot of time. Self-pub requires at least a decent cover (which doesn't need to cost hundreds of dollars, thankfully), e-book formatting, print formatting, and editing. Lots of editing. Depending on how good a self-editor she is, she might be able to get away with having several beta readers catch anything she missed. But most self-pubbers need to pay a freelance editor to make sure their book is as close to publisher quality as possible.

Say she goes the traditional route. Like others said: she's going to get a LOT of criticism, and a lot of rejection. That's the way of publishing. Even if she lands an agent, there will be revisions. Then if she lands an editor...even more revisions. I've noticed a lot of people who work for years on the same book and haven't written anything else are usually less inclined to make changes to that book. Also, I could be totally wrong on this, but I think a lot of agents these days are hoping for clients that are looking to make this a career, which means putting out a book a year. (If not more.) If this book is a one-off, it might be a little harder to land. (Again--I could be totally off on this point. Just observation.)

I think it's great you want to help your mom out! But there is going to be a lot of work involved in it for the both of you. Maybe sit her down and ask her what she wants for this book, then start doing the research for it so you can keep her informed and help her along.

Best of luck to the both of you. :)

Phaeal
12-21-2012, 08:13 PM
I would suggest forgetting about publication efforts until your mother gets some impartial beta readers. There's no use marketing material that isn't ready for prime time.

And as others have noted, getting a publisher doesn't mean your work is done. Far from it. Deadlines for rewrites, for galley checks, for the next book start popping up like Whack-A-Moles that cannot be hammered back into the earth.

If the thought of that hard work frightens and if your mother doesn't want to keep writing, self-pub would be the better route to follow. You can do as much or as little marketing as you want when you're the one in charge. Just don't expect a little to return a lot in the way of sales. But maybe sales aren't the real point here.

They don't have to be.

JanDarby
12-21-2012, 08:55 PM
As a fairly active member of QLH, I just wanted to repeat what Cyia said -- it's not a good idea for a query to be posted there by anyone other than the author. QLH is a pretty demanding place, and we have the 50-post requirement, so that the author has a chance to prepare for the feedback she's going to get. It's NOT a place to simply post the query, take the advice and run. it's interactive, and you can't be interactive for someone else.

Calla Lily
12-21-2012, 10:39 PM
QLH Mod here, chiming in to agree with Jan and Cyia. There's a reason for the rules in QLH.

OP, if your mom wants her query critted,she needs to join AW, read the Newbie Guide, and become part of the reciprocation in the community. Only the query author can post his/her query.

thothguard51
12-21-2012, 11:00 PM
What kind of book does your mom write? The reason I ask is because if its a memoir and your mom is not somewhat famous or infamous, then memoirs are very hard sells to agents and publishers.

As to your moms age, I am 61, have all kinds of health problems and my age and problems have nothing to do with my ability to write or publish. I do not do facebook as it really is a waste of time and energy as far as sales go. Age really has very little to do with the writing industry. Its all about the story and how well it is written as to be sell able...

I would also suggest that your mom join a writing group, in person or online, and have her work critiqued. Reason, there are very few writers who could not use a second or third pair of eyes to catch problems and flaws. If your mom has not had any feed back outside of family and friends, then more than likely she is in need of a good detailed critique of her work and style.

Tell you mom, chin up. Its not the end of the world...

BetsyComedy
12-22-2012, 08:42 AM
Well I asked about the agents that grossed the most because I've heard of agents that don't do anything for you. She is very hard working and motivated, it would be nice to work with an agent who is the same. Sales is the only way I thought of to be able to narrow the search down and work outward. Thank you for the search terms!

She only called because the one agent actually asked her to call in a few months in case he forgot. He had requested her manuscript. That's one out of a few hundred, and it was 6 months into waiting that she called, then once again at the 2 year mark. They did more snail mail than email then. She never called anyone else. But then he stopped working there so that never went anywhere.

It's not that she's not willing to do the work. She did do the work. But it's naturally disappointing when it goes nowhere. I know someone who sent 10 queries for her book and is waiting around for something to happen. That was *not* my mom. It's just difficult to start all over after hundreds of query letters were sent. If someone took an interest, she'd be open to making changes like she was with the editor, she would be open to writing more potentially, she would be open to a lot. She'd have hope. A flower won't grow without a planted seed. She's not looking to make a killing on the book but after everything, yes, she would like to make a little money on it naturally, selling to an actual audience, not family and friends as that is no measure of success nor worth so many years of work.

Her book is general fiction which is so broad, there is a little bit of everything in it.

I do wish she could quit working her day job to focus on this because she is retirement age. I know she can't though and neither can many, but it makes it much harder no doubt as she has much more fatigue due to her health issues. But she's very passionate and she pushes herself. Many of her friends are housewives looking for things to do, it's so very backwards lol.

It seems like if you don't have a huge network to market to, and at least 30K to start, self publishing just isn't the right fit for her. I could be wrong, but that's my impression. I don't want to talk her out of anything, she just doesn't seem to think she has a choice because she tried the traditional route. Whereas I want to see if there is still a shot there.

Since I can't post her query here, which I do understand (ironically I can post my own yet I am not read for that like she is), I will try to get her query to some local writers for an opinion, I'd pay for it, I just have to get some advice since like you guys said, maybe it needs some changes. She did go to book writer groups before and they all said her query was perfect, so there is some sort of disconnect.

I don't get what was meant about receiving a lot of undeliverable mail saying a lot about the writer, and the poster hadn't ever received any? She found out many of those agencies had gone out of business and she was using up to date resources to find them. But I don't think it's any reflection on her...

Shute, maybe I should become an agent, I always killed in sales, no one could ever outsell me no matter what I was selling.

Thank you all for your help!!!

frankiebrown
12-22-2012, 09:45 AM
Hi Betsy. It's past my bed time, but I just read your last response and wanted to encourage both you and your mom to get more involved in and knowledgable about the publishing world. Read blogs, subscribe to magazines, get books. What you've said so far leads me to believe that you have a huge knowledge gap there (agents do a LOT for writers) (calling back after two years...).

Wish both of you the best of luck.

BetsyComedy
12-22-2012, 10:26 AM
Thanks Frankie. You're right, there is a ton we don't know that we should learn. But even as a newbie I still feel comfortable saying that no, not all agents are created the same, as with anything else in life. On this very board that's been proven, I've been reading. And it was she who called him every 6 months because that's what he told her to do. He didn't do anything. Then at the 2 year mark they said he was no longer there. She was very patient, but for nothing.

But anyway, we will just plug along and make sure her query is as good as possible. I read it tonight and there are things I alone saw that needed fixing.

Old Hack
12-22-2012, 11:10 AM
Well I asked about the agents that grossed the most because I've heard of agents that don't do anything for you.

I'm glad you're thinking about the best way to proceed. That does sound like it should be a good way to go but as is so often the case with publishing, what looks like the right way often isn't.

You need to find agents who have a history of making good sales to good publishers; and who like the sort of book you've written. You could try making a list of books you've heard of, and books you've seen in bookshops and being read on the bus, and books your friends have been talking about, which are similar in genre to your book: then find out who represents the authors of those books.

You can also look up agents on the various listings websites but don't forget to check them on Preditors and Editors and in AW's Bewares room too.


It seems like if you don't have a huge network to market to, and at least 30K to start, self publishing just isn't the right fit for her. I could be wrong, but that's my impression.

AW has members who have self published successfully for just a few hundred dollars. Check out any of the diary threads in our Self Publishing room, especially MerriHiatt's (she's a bit of a hero of mine). If you go with a vanity publisher like AuthorHouse then yes, you will end up paying over the odds: but if you do it all yourself, and pay just the people you need, then you'll find it much more affordable. Marketing and promotion will take a lot of work, though.


Shute, maybe I should become an agent, I always killed in sales, no one could ever outsell me no matter what I was selling.

Please don't become an agent.

You might have a good track record in sales, but good agenting involves far more than that. You need to know publishing inside and out, and to have solid connections in the business--and you don't, I'm afraid.

Betsy, thanks for being such a good sport. You're being told a lot of hard truths here, and you're responding with politeness and interest. That takes a certain amount of resolve and good nature, and I'm grateful to you for it.

Polenth
12-22-2012, 11:13 AM
A lot of writers don't get agents and deals for their first book. It doesn't mean the first book is bad or that it'll never sell, but it may not be the one that starts her career.

BetsyComedy
12-22-2012, 12:20 PM
Before having the query critiqued, have the manuscript critiqued. No query in the world is going to help a sub-par manuscript. Has your Mom had any input from beta readers, other than you? Has she had it critted in any place like the Share Your Work forum? If not, have her post the first chapter here in SYW so she can see if what she has is of publication quality. Worry about the query letter after that question is answered.

Well she had a couple editors edit it, a bad one and then a good one.

I will look into SYW forum for her, thank you. I encouraged her tonight to get back into meeting with other writers too. I will post for her in a forum that allows it and see what people say.

OK I re-read her query letter and really there was just one issue. Trying to hard to find more, but I can't.

Anne Lyle
12-22-2012, 12:26 PM
I don't know if this helps, Betsy, but a while back we did a poll here to find out how many agents our members had queried before getting accepted. Interestingly, the majority either said fewer than ten, or over a hundred. It seems that either you strike lucky early on (you sent the right book to the right agent at the right time), or you just have to kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find your prince!

Generally, though, the people who don't get published are the people who give up. You and your mum don't sound like quitters, but as Old Hack says, you need to learn more about how publishing works and how best to get that book ready for publication and into the hands of people who want to buy it. There's always hope, as long as you're willing to learn and improve.

BetsyComedy
12-22-2012, 12:33 PM
You need to find agents who have a history of making good sales to good publishers; and who like the sort of book you've written. You could try making a list of books you've heard of, and books you've seen in bookshops and being read on the bus, and books your friends have been talking about, which are similar in genre to your book: then find out who represents the authors of those books.

You can also look up agents on the various listings websites but don't forget to check them on Preditors and Editors and in AW's Bewares room too.

It's tough because I can more easily find the producers for my show because I know and understand it. Finding agents and publishers for her genre of book is a challenge. She has no direction, not that I do. But I know she will become so overwhelmed with info. I will try to find time to help her but wish my own stuff was in a better place.

AW has members who have self published successfully for just a few hundred dollars. Check out any of the diary threads in our Self Publishing room, especially MerriHiatt's (she's a bit of a hero of mine). If you go with a vanity publisher like AuthorHouse then yes, you will end up paying over the odds: but if you do it all yourself, and pay just the people you need, then you'll find it much more affordable. Marketing and promotion will take a lot of work, though.

Good to know, thank you. On Amazon you pay a fee to publish and then tons more for them to market your book, make it more visible. Boy does it add up. One really has to have or make time to do it, or money to pay them, one or the other at the least.

Please don't become an agent.

You might have a good track record in sales, but good agenting involves far more than that. You need to know publishing inside and out, and to have solid connections in the business--and you don't, I'm afraid.

I meant agents for the TV and movie world, not that it's easier but I'd be more familiar with it than the book world. I am not rushing to do that just yet hehe, it was just sort of a fleeting thought because so much of many writers futures depend on these people. Hard to believe the 2 biggest tv/movie agents in the country (or world) began the way they did. One in the mail room and the other as an assistant to an agent.

Betsy, thanks for being such a good sport. You're being told a lot of hard truths here, and you're responding with politeness and interest. That takes a certain amount of resolve and good nature, and I'm grateful to you for it.

Yeah you guys are brutal! LOL. Just kidding. Yeah well I'd rather know the truth than waste time doing the wrong things. You guys have taken time to help me and I am grateful for that. It is my goal to do the same once I have some knowledge under my belt to give back.

And thanks also Polenth and Anne for the words of encouragement and anyone I am missing because I should be in bed.

Good night all!

Old Hack
12-22-2012, 12:53 PM
I will look into SYW forum for her, thank you. I encouraged her tonight to get back into meeting with other writers too. I will post for her in a forum that allows it and see what people say.

Betsy, you can't post your mother's work here for her. You can only post your own. If she wants to have her work critiqued here she'll have to join up for herself, I'm afraid.

bearilou
12-22-2012, 04:38 PM
Generally, though, the people who don't get published are the people who give up.

I wanted to tease this out to QFT. It's a hard row to hoe for some. For some, lightning struck fast and hot but for many, nope. The hard long slog of doing the query rounds, reworking the query letter, doing another set of rounds, more reworking, the occasional bite that doesn't turn to interest....it's a cycle that repeats until you either give up or finally land an agent. Perseverance is just as necessary as patience.

You said your mom doesn't mind the hard work, which is great because when she gets a contract, as others have pointed out, the work starts up again, this time in edits.

Is she prepared for that?

Also, something that I've noticed only one other touched on and it's something that you really haven't addressed either. Writers write. That's pretty well known. Is she working on something new? That's the best advice to give any writer. You write, you polish until it shines and you start the query process. While you query, you start your next book. Is she writing her next book? What are her expectations for this book? Is this a one time thing and she doesn't ever plan to write another? These are things to consider.


Good to know, thank you. On Amazon you pay a fee to publish and then tons more for them to market your book, make it more visible. Boy does it add up. One really has to have or make time to do it, or money to pay them, one or the other at the least.

Um...with all due respect, what? Since when does Amazon charge a fee to publish with them and then more to market for you? Is this a new development I haven't heard of?

I agree that you have to have or make the time to do it, but that's true of any dream you're trying to see as a reality. Writing really is no different. The form it takes is all that changes.

Cyia
12-22-2012, 04:45 PM
On Amazon you pay a fee to publish

No you don't. You just upload the book. The lack of fees is why KPD's taken off so quickly as an option.

Also have your mom check out Query Shark. Read all of the archives. I can guarantee you there's more than "one issue" if she only got one request out of a hundred. I can't tell you what's wrong with the query, but sometimes if you read a ton of them back to back things will start to jump out at you in your own.

Katrina S. Forest
12-22-2012, 05:09 PM
It's not that she's not willing to do the work. She did do the work.

What concerns me here is the implication that she's done. Or at least, done until an agent or editor says to change something. But anyone who's serious about finding representation isn't done until they have that offer in hand. Then they're onto the next step of their writing journey.

I'm nine years, seven rough-draft novels, three polished-enough to query novels, more short stories than I care to think about, a few short story sales, over a hundred rejections, a few partials, ten full requests, and three requests to revise and resubmit into my quest to publish. I'm not done. In fact, if the latest R&R doesn't work out, I know exactly what I'm going to query next.

Erm, my point being that you can't put all your hopes for publication on one book and one query letter. (Well, you can, but odds are, unless you're incredibly lucky and talented, it's going to end in disappointment.)

kaitie
12-22-2012, 09:41 PM
Honestly, the best things she can do at this point are a) write a new book and b) find a good, impartial critique.

If she's tired of this book, that's fine. I've hit that point before. I'd edited and reedited and finally was at a point where I had to put it aside. Granted, I came back six months later and looked at it again, and then after a year, but still. Putting something aside is fine.

If she's writing something new, that will help because usually you fall in love with the new story and the old one doesn't matter as much. Yes, you still love it, but you aren't pinning all of your hopes and dreams on one book. And honestly, most first books just aren't that good. If the book has flaws, your mother is probably too close to it at this point to see them (that's where an impartial critique can come in handy). You get it in your head that things go one way, and it can be hard to see it any other way. Then you get a crit that gives good advice but you still can't see it. Then you cry and rant and angrily call a friend about how you can't possibly fix the problems, and then you figure out how to do it and you do it. Well, those are my steps anyway, others my vary. ;)

But point being, if she's too close to it she won't see what's wrong with it and it will be hard for her to see what she's doing. The longer you work on something, the harder and more frustrating it gets to do things like rewrite query letters. I know after about thirteen drafts of mine I was ready to scream at even the thought of writing another one.

In publishing you can't pin all your hopes on one book. You just can't. My first book I thought was good enough (and it was far from my first) wasn't. I worked so hard on that book, I love the characters, and I plotted everything out and got betas and rewrote so much of it so many times, improving it each time.

It was the next book that got me an agent, and my agent has said that first book has too many flaws to submit. I have betas who have read and adored it, but it's still got a few issues that I, even now, haven't figured out how to solve.

As for the book that got me the agent? That one didn't sell. Had a ton of great feedback, no one really had any problems with the book, but no one wanted it, either. That still hurts like hell. I'm working on a new one now, but I have no idea if that one's going to sell, either.

The point is, publishing is a long game for a lot of people. Yes, some people submit to five people, get an agent, and sell overnight. Some people self-publish and a month later have sold a hundred thousand copies. But for the vast majority of us, it's a process that involves writing multiple books before we're even good enough to get an agent, and even then I've heard only something like 60% of agented books sell (which is pretty darn low).

I'm sure you and your mom never thought it was easy, but the fact is, it's not just not easy--it's something that takes perseverance and dedication and a willingness to keep trying and keep working.

If your mom loves to write, encourage her to write. There's no reason she has to be published right now is there? Get her involved here, or stay involved yourself and you can at least help her out. Publishing has changed a lot over the past few years, so you can learn more about the industry, too. But mostly, I'm just afraid that if your mom doesn't start something new, she's going to be disappointed. Even if she self-publishes, most sell very few copies. IMO, self-publishing because you couldn't get commercially published is one of the worst reasons to do it, unless you know the book is at commercial standards in terms of writing and editing and you have the funds and know-how to do it well.

ETA: The fact that the book can't be narrowed beyond "general fiction" seems like a problem to me. I'm a person who writes books that are odd and somewhat genreless myself, but I also know what I'm going for, and I've always found at least one category I can put the books into. What other books out there are similar? What genre are those?

Most books have elements of different genres. You can have a suspense novel with paranormal elements and a romantic side-plot, for instance, but it's still a suspense novel. Even narrowing it down a little more could help with the agent hunt.

aikigypsy
12-22-2012, 09:47 PM
Getting feedback, here or elsewhere, on the query and the manuscript as a whole is probably a good idea. Getting a book (or even a poem or an article) to the point where it's ready for publication seems like a never-ending process. Seven years is a lot of time, but many (including myself) have been at it for longer than that before successful publication.

I am in the process of getting something ready to self-publish, and I'd recommend reading up on self-publishing. Does your mom have an e-reader? I've been reading the Smashwords "Secrets to ebook Publishing Success" (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431) and I think it presents a pretty complete, if somewhat rose-tinted picture of what it takes to succeed as a self-publisher. Spending lots of money isn't an important part of the formula. Mark Coker circles back again and again to the same thing you'll find here and elsewhere: the most important thing is to write the absolute best book that you can, and only then putting it out there.

A friend of mine recommended DeviantArt as a place to get bids for inexpensive cover art and design, but for now I'm doing my own cover design with my husband's help (he went to art college and is a whiz with photoshop).

BetsyComedy
12-22-2012, 10:57 PM
Betsy, you can't post your mother's work here for her. You can only post your own. If she wants to have her work critiqued here she'll have to join up for herself, I'm afraid.

Yes, I read and understood what so many said about not being able to post on her behalf. That's why I'm posting it someplace that allows, not here. Unlike me, it would take her forever to get to 50 posts. Now worries I abide by rules :)

No my mom does not have an e-reader. Will look into what it is.

Hmmmm, Kaitie, I will try to figure out out how to narrow her book into a more specific category. I know the first half is historical, then the next half continues to current time. There is some romance as well. But I don't see it in the history section because that's part of it and fiction too, nor the romance section of books.

Regarding the agent who took your 2nd book but not the 1st; you think your first has flaws and maybe it does, but aren't they worth fixing once you know how? You worked so long on it. To me it seems like there is more subjectivity involved than simply it's good or bad. Not all agents see things the same and not all are equally qualified.The same applies to movies, food, etc...professional critics don't always agree.

Right or wrong, my mom would rather put all her energy in one book going somewhere before starting another, this one was her passion. Like most writers she's made tons and tons of edits. Some people are writers by trade, others have one great idea and that's it. Maybe it's not ideal, but hopefully doesn't mean the one idea doesn't go anywhere just because there aren't 5 more behind it, which may not even be as good. Though she would be more inclined to do more once this goes somewhere. But it would not be a novel, but say, a cook book, because she's a master chef and baker.

As far as Amazon, I recall them making your book more visible costing a lot. I guess I will look into it again...

Thanks all for the suggestions I will compile them everything so I don't forget anything.

BenPanced
12-23-2012, 01:23 AM
Yes, I read and understood what so many said about not being able to post on her behalf. That's why I'm posting it someplace that allows, not here. Unlike me, it would take her forever to get to 50 posts. Now worries I abide by rules
Betsy, as mentioned before, your mother needs to do the work for herself. Period. You doing it for her is a huge disservice and prevents her from learning how the business works and how to navigate her way through it. Helping her is one thing; doing the work for her is another.

Anne Lyle
12-23-2012, 02:32 AM
Regarding the agent who took your 2nd book but not the 1st; you think your first has flaws and maybe it does, but aren't they worth fixing once you know how? You worked so long on it. To me it seems like there is more subjectivity involved than simply it's good or bad. Not all agents see things the same and not all are equally qualified.The same applies to movies, food, etc...professional critics don't always agree.

It's true that it's a matter of opinion - but the agent is looking for lots of different things in a manuscript. Not just good writing, but a book he can sell to the editors he knows. Say you query a book and the agent loves your writing and thinks you have promise, but you've written something that he knows there is no demand for at the moment (for example, there was a real slump in the horror genre in the 1990s). So he asks if you have anything else, and you send him an even better novel in a hot new genre. No amount of editing is going to make your first book commercially viable - it can't be "fixed" because the problems are with the market not the manuscript.

The same could be true of your mum's book. It may be excellent, but the book trade is going through tough times and agents aren't going to want to take on a manuscript they can't sell to a big house in the next 12 months. For books like that, self-publishing can be a good route because there are readers for it, just not as many as the big publishers are looking for.

Addendum: I know Kaitie said her first book was flawed and she still doesn't know how to fix it. The truth is, writing new books is often the only way we learn how to tell stories better. Going over and over the same old ground gets to be unproductive after a while.

kaitie
12-23-2012, 02:36 AM
Hmmmm, Kaitie, I will try to figure out out how to narrow her book into a more specific category. I know the first half is historical, then the next half continues to current time. There is some romance as well. But I don't see it in the history section because that's part of it and fiction too, nor the romance section of books.

I think the best bet would be finding some similar titles and seeing how those are categorized. Sometimes the category might change when it's represented, but it will help to choose agents who are a good fit.


Regarding the agent who took your 2nd book but not the 1st; you think your first has flaws and maybe it does, but aren't they worth fixing once you know how? You worked so long on it. To me it seems like there is more subjectivity involved than simply it's good or bad. Not all agents see things the same and not all are equally qualified.The same applies to movies, food, etc...professional critics don't always agree.

I do plan to go back one day, once I've figured out how to fix the motivation issues and I have some more time. But part of being a writer is also being able to see when something needs to be set aside for awhile. It SUCKS, but it's true. That book isn't my first book, either. My first was written fifteen years ago, and one day I might rewrite that one, and another after that I have no plan to do anything with because it was terrible. I have a couple more that were just for play, honing my skills, and so on.

The thing about writing is that you can always go back to it later. Right now I don't have the skills to fix that book. In a year or two or five I might. I don't mind setting it aside until I can get it right. I also have no intention of letting the one that didn't sell go. I know that book is great and a lot of people would enjoy it. But working on something new doesn't mean I've given up on them, the same as not giving up on it doesn't require me to only work on that one book until it succeeds.


Right or wrong, my mom would rather put all her energy in one book going somewhere before starting another, this one was her passion. Like most writers she's made tons and tons of edits. Some people are writers by trade, others have one great idea and that's it. Maybe it's not ideal, but hopefully doesn't mean the one idea doesn't go anywhere just because there aren't 5 more behind it, which may not even be as good. Though she would be more inclined to do more once this goes somewhere. But it would not be a novel, but say, a cook book, because she's a master chef and baker.

If your mom only wants to write that one book, that's different. Some people only do want to write one. They just want to see that one book published, and if that's the case maybe self-publishing won't be a big deal. But if she wants to build a career, that's a different story.

Honestly, all the reasons you've listed are exactly why she should be working on something new. The longer you work on it and the more effort and time and everything, the harder it is to let go and the harder it is to see it objectively. It's like when you hear people talk about writing as "their baby." I'm pretty sure most of us have been there at some point, but the more work you do, the more you realize that's not the way things are.

I honestly think one of the worst things a writer can do is get so caught up in one book that they can't get do anything else. I get that it's her passion. I've been there, too. I know how heartbreaking it can be to set something aside and work on a new project. But the thing is, the passion is writing. It's in crafting a story, creating characters that you love, etc. It's easy to think that the passion is for one book, one set of characters, one story that you just adore, but the fact is the more you do it, the more you realize that you can adore and love other characters and books, too. You realize that it's the process and the storytelling and the creation that you love, not that book. Does that make sense?

The problem is that the only way to realize that is to work on new projects.

I'm not saying your mom has to give up. Like I said before, the great thing about writing is that you can always go back to an old project.

kaitie
12-23-2012, 02:38 AM
It's true that it's a matter of opinion - but the agent is looking for lots of different things in a manuscript. Not just good writing, but a book he can sell to the editors he knows. Say you query a book and the agent loves your writing and thinks you have promise, but you've written something that he knows there is no demand for at the moment (for example, there was a real slump in the horror genre in the 1990s). So he asks if you have anything else, and you send him an even better novel in a hot new genre. No amount of editing is going to make your first book commercially viable - it can't be "fixed" because the problems are with the market not the manuscript.

The same could be true of your mum's book. It may be excellent, but the book trade is going through tough times and agents aren't going to want to take on a manuscript they can't sell to a big house in the next 12 months. For books like that, self-publishing can be a good route because there are readers for it, just not as many as the big publishers are looking for.

Sadly, I know this first-hand.

Cyia
12-23-2012, 02:47 AM
Please, please don't think I'm picking on you, but I need to ask you a couple of things:




No my mom does not have an e-reader. Will look into what it is.


Are you saying you don't know what an e-reader is?

Kindle, the means by which people read ebooks uploaded to Amazon, is an ereader. So is Barnes & Noble's nook, Sony's Sony-Reader and Kobo, among others. If you mom wants to try one out, Kindle has a free reader app you can download to your (or her) computer that works just like a Kindle, but without the portability.



Hmmmm, Kaitie, I will try to figure out out how to narrow her book into a more specific category. I know the first half is historical, then the next half continues to current time. There is some romance as well. But I don't see it in the history section because that's part of it and fiction too, nor the romance section of books.

"Mainstream" or "commercial" fiction might fit better than "general" depending on the intended audience.




Right or wrong, my mom would rather put all her energy in one book going somewhere before starting another, this one was her passion. Like most writers she's made tons and tons of edits. Some people are writers by trade, others have one great idea and that's it. Maybe it's not ideal, but hopefully doesn't mean the one idea doesn't go anywhere just because there aren't 5 more behind it, which may not even be as good. Though she would be more inclined to do more once this goes somewhere. But it would not be a novel, but say, a cook book, because she's a master chef and baker.

This could be a problem / roadblock. If the book is awesome, them she should still be able to find an agent, but most agents want career writers. Going from novels to a cookbook isn't a common trajectory, and unless your mom is a well known chef or baker, or has some new twist on classic recipes, it's not likely that a cookbook is going to appeal to most agents. I'm not sure how many agents out there even rep both novels and cookbooks.



As far as Amazon, I recall them making your book more visible costing a lot. I guess I will look into it again...

That's a separate deal from just publishing. Yes, enrolling in a special program can (likely will) cost money, but base publishing is free through Amazon.

Whatever road your mom chooses, I hope it works out well for her.

CrastersBabies
12-23-2012, 05:39 AM
Echoing what others are saying, you need to figure out the genre. Where will it go on the bookshelf. If you don't have that, how can an agent sell it? "Well, it has history in it, but then it takes place in modern time. There is romance too."

Kind of wishy-washy. A hard sell. Remember that the query is not just how she will sell herself and land an agent, but also what an agent might use to sell it to a publishing house.

valeriec80
12-23-2012, 08:50 PM
The following is only my opinion.

If your mother spent seven years writing one book and has not written anything else since, your mother is not a writer, she is a person who's written a book.

What does your mother want from the publication of this book? If it's to financially support herself, that's unlikely. Very few people can support themselves with only one book. If it's only to have a book published and make a little money, I'd honestly recommend self-publishing. It can be very rewarding, and it ends the cycle, you know? You publish it. It's done.

I do make my living self-publishing fiction, so full disclosure there, but I'm not necessarily rah-rah about it. It's hard work if you want to be a career, and you have to wear a lot of hats. But to just publish one book, it's not necessarily that taxing. If you can learn how to query properly, you can learn how to publish your own book.

Again, only my opinion, and I wish your mother the best of luck.

MMcDonald64
12-23-2012, 11:47 PM
Well I asked about the agents that grossed the most because I've heard of agents that don't do anything for you. She is very hard working and motivated, it would be nice to work with an agent who is the same. Sales is the only way I thought of to be able to narrow the search down and work outward. Thank you for the search terms!

She only called because the one agent actually asked her to call in a few months in case he forgot. He had requested her manuscript. That's one out of a few hundred, and it was 6 months into waiting that she called, then once again at the 2 year mark. They did more snail mail than email then. She never called anyone else. But then he stopped working there so that never went anywhere.

It's not that she's not willing to do the work. She did do the work. But it's naturally disappointing when it goes nowhere. I know someone who sent 10 queries for her book and is waiting around for something to happen. That was *not* my mom. It's just difficult to start all over after hundreds of query letters were sent. If someone took an interest, she'd be open to making changes like she was with the editor, she would be open to writing more potentially, she would be open to a lot. She'd have hope. A flower won't grow without a planted seed. She's not looking to make a killing on the book but after everything, yes, she would like to make a little money on it naturally, selling to an actual audience, not family and friends as that is no measure of success nor worth so many years of work.

Her book is general fiction which is so broad, there is a little bit of everything in it.

I do wish she could quit working her day job to focus on this because she is retirement age. I know she can't though and neither can many, but it makes it much harder no doubt as she has much more fatigue due to her health issues. But she's very passionate and she pushes herself. Many of her friends are housewives looking for things to do, it's so very backwards lol.

It seems like if you don't have a huge network to market to, and at least 30K to start, self publishing just isn't the right fit for her. I could be wrong, but that's my impression. I don't want to talk her out of anything, she just doesn't seem to think she has a choice because she tried the traditional route. Whereas I want to see if there is still a shot there.

Since I can't post her query here, which I do understand (ironically I can post my own yet I am not read for that like she is), I will try to get her query to some local writers for an opinion, I'd pay for it, I just have to get some advice since like you guys said, maybe it needs some changes. She did go to book writer groups before and they all said her query was perfect, so there is some sort of disconnect.

I don't get what was meant about receiving a lot of undeliverable mail saying a lot about the writer, and the poster hadn't ever received any? She found out many of those agencies had gone out of business and she was using up to date resources to find them. But I don't think it's any reflection on her...

Shute, maybe I should become an agent, I always killed in sales, no one could ever outsell me no matter what I was selling.

Thank you all for your help!!!

I'm not sure where you got the $30k amount for self-publishing, but I don't know anyone who has spent anywhere close to that. You can spend a lot, but it certainly isn't mandatory and not a guarantee of sales. I uploaded my first book a few years ago and spent nothing. I even made my own cover. It was a crappy cover but six months later, I had networked enough and made some good friends. One day in a brainstorming session, one who had some Photoshop experience came up with the cover for No Good Deed, which you can see in my siggy. That cost me about $12--the price of the stock photo. So networking can really pay off.

I could give you links to several cover artists who sell gorgeous pre-made covers--some as low as $25 for the ebook version. A little more for both ebook and print.

MMcDonald64
12-24-2012, 12:07 AM
As far as Amazon, I recall them making your book more visible costing a lot. I guess I will look into it again...



I don't know where you read or heard that information, but it isn't true for self-publishers. It's possible that trade publishers pay for advertising books with Amazon, but I've never heard of the option for self-publishers. There are many blogs like Kindle Nation Daily and Ereader News Today who have advertising spots and some are fairly expensive, but those are options to use if you want. There are also some free options or low cost ones.

I have uploaded 6 books on Amazon and haven't paid a cent to do so. CreateSpace is also free, although I decided to use the expanded distribution option as well as the free option, so that cost me $25 per book.

James D. Macdonald
12-24-2012, 01:12 AM
A better Google search to find the agent of your favorite author is "Name of Author" + "represented by"

Susan Littlefield
12-24-2012, 08:19 AM
:welcome: Besty!

Others have given great advice. You sound like a wonderful daughter trying to help mom out. Why don't you send her over here? Even if she doesn't feel like joining right away, she can still peruse the site and get plenty of information.

BetsyComedy
12-26-2012, 04:46 AM
Thank you everyone for your responses, thank you Susan for the compliment. Please someone tell me if there is a setting somewhere where I can choose to get instant email notification for posts I've made and private email? But without changing the setting each time? It defaults to no notification each time and I don't always remember to change it, then I miss out on important messages.

Mmcdonald please share with me the links you mentioned for my moms book cover. She paid someone to do it and it didn't look like what she requested at all. Thanks!

Ok so I will admit I am not great at keeping up on technology. So while I am aware of what a kindle is, I didn't recognize the term e-reader. I know now :) OK so that 30K to market your book on Amazon so it's seen by more people was suppose to be 3K, apparently I had my information wrong 10X over. Sorry about that.

Yes I agree and my mom will also, not a writer by trade, but wrote a book that is hopefully compelling.

I don't know how that housewife wrote such a popular book (one book at that) with her 50 shades of gray, but my mom does not expect that kind of success at all, she is very practical. I think I said above that she'd like more than her friends to buy it though, most people do.

As far as the book sounding wishy washy, I don't really know what to say about that. It's unfortunate that will make it a hard sell as was mentioned. Maybe not every book fits nice and neatly in one specific category? Maybe that's what makes it interesting too though? She does have a little bit of this and that, but it goes together, it flows rather than anything being out of place. It's like seeing a movie that has a little bit of everything, but still has to be put into some category.

My show idea is really easy in comparison as far as categories go, a lot of comedy with a little drama.

Anyway, I asked my mom to join, at least just to read and gain some knowledge for now. I need to ask her if she has done so yet.