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Paul Stewart
02-21-2013, 12:52 PM
Hi Ann
I had similar experiences with publishers, until I got published. After a year of publishing my work all I had to do was phone them to get through the door. At the end of my career, they were phoning me. I was selling mostly to magazines who have a voracious appetite.

This might help a lot and worth it's own thread. Why is it so hard to get published?

Publishers have a lot of trusted reliable submitters already. They have an over supply of people trying to get in who, think they are great, but in truth not as great as the ones they have. Also these people get deterred when the instant riches don't materialise. So submit once or twice. The people they are publishing for are doing this professionally and keep producing, because it's their job.

Publishers are very busy people and don't have staff sitting around waiting for something to do. Odds are the unknowns work is unlikely to even get seen. I know this seems wrong, it's a fact of life.

They have a set output to hit and yes they want to exceed it. Yet they also have an in tray from unknowns that sometimes costs them a lot of money to view, reject and return. They look at the material coming from the known, select what's needed and if they have space for more, start going through the unknowns. VERY FAST.

OK it sucks. Doesn't mean it's any different.

Paul Stewart
02-21-2013, 12:54 PM
Why is it so hard to get published?

I posted this in Ann's thread and I think it merits it's own thread. This is what I've discovered.

Publishers have a lot of trusted reliable submitters already. They have an over supply of people trying to get in who, think they are great, but in truth not as great as the ones they have. Also these people get deterred when the instant riches don't materialise. So submit once or twice. The people they are publishing for are doing this professionally and keep producing, because it's their job.

Publishers are very busy people and don't have staff sitting around waiting for something to do. Odds are the unknowns work is unlikely to even get seen. I know this seems wrong, it's a fact of life.

They have a set output to hit and yes they want to exceed it. Yet they also have an in tray from unknowns that sometimes costs them a lot of money to view, reject and return. They look at the material coming from the known, select what's needed and if they have space for more, start going through the unknowns. VERY FAST.

OK it sucks. Doesn't mean it's any different.

Paul Stewart
02-21-2013, 01:05 PM
What I forgot to mention was later in my career I became an online publisher and retailer. Everyday I had people contacting me to send or sending their work. 95% was not good enough.

The person sending thought it was, some met me at conventions and argued it was good enough and I couldn't see why. Which is true, after 25 years in the business I could not see why their work was good. Neither could the customers.

I even got people asking me how much I paid or they could earn. Without them producing a single thing. How long is a piece of string?

We all want to discover the next JK Rowling, Beatles or iPod phone app. The problem is most submitters think it's them, when it's not. :)

Theo81
02-21-2013, 01:31 PM
Why is it so hard to get published?

I posted this in Ann's thread and I think it merits it's own thread. This is what I've discovered.

Publishers have a lot of trusted reliable submitters already. They have an over supply of people trying to get in who, think they are great, but in truth not as great as the ones they have. Also these people get deterred when the instant riches don't materialise. So submit once or twice. The people they are publishing for are doing this professionally and keep producing, because it's their job.

Publishers are very busy people and don't have staff sitting around waiting for something to do. Odds are the unknowns work is unlikely to even get seen. I know this seems wrong, it's a fact of life.

They have a set output to hit and yes they want to exceed it. Yet they also have an in tray from unknowns that sometimes costs them a lot of money to view, reject and return. They look at the material coming from the known, select what's needed and if they have space for more, start going through the unknowns. VERY FAST.

OK it sucks. Doesn't mean it's any different.

Just to say, that's one of those things the internet likes to think is true because it's preferable to the alternative: the book isn't very good. There is the assumption the work wasn't looked at because - OBVIOUSLY - if it had been the author would be in possession of a contract by now.

I've seen people claim there are publishers who shred the slush-pile unread, but I've never heard it about a reputable publisher from a reliable source. I welcome correction on this matter.

Getting published isn't hard. Writing a publishable book is hard.

Paul Stewart
02-21-2013, 03:27 PM
Getting published isn't hard. Writing a publishable book is hard.

Add to this, paper is getting harder to sell. Shelves are disappearing as Type this online on my tablet. Books made of paper are getting harder to sell. Today's buyer's online and if you are not there, you lose to those who are.

Paul Stewart
02-21-2013, 04:26 PM
What writers need to do is decide what their aim is. Mine was to make money, we were $75k in debt and needed to stop bailiffs moving in.

If your aim is to share your story, start a blog and 1,000s will read it if you follow a few easy rules. You might even be able to put an advert or two on the blog and make some money. Don't plan buying a yacht.

If it's to just be printed and on shelves that's easy, just expensive.

If like me you need or want to make money, ask yourself honestly "What do I have to offer that's better than others?" Then work out how a plan how to make money, I didn't and it was sheer luck I got through. I was actually selling a publishing house a refurbishment and get to see the people I needed to.

As Theo points out writing a publishable book is hard, getting it seen by the right people, at the right time and them investing in it. Is the hardest. Because no one knows who a stranger is and that's what all the people submitting work are, strangers.

Once published, it all changes because you're known and not a stranger. It's like getting your first job, they ask you where you worked before.

Self publishing removes that hurdle. There are bloggers today earning a very good living writing as a profession. Because people come back to read their work everyday. Ask yourself if you can you write something that good?

If you can learn how to write a blog and get people to see it and you're on your way.

Old Hack
02-21-2013, 05:33 PM
Publishers are very busy people and don't have staff sitting around waiting for something to do. Odds are the unknowns work is unlikely to even get seen. I know this seems wrong, it's a fact of life.

They have a set output to hit and yes they want to exceed it. Yet they also have an in tray from unknowns that sometimes costs them a lot of money to view, reject and return. They look at the material coming from the known, select what's needed and if they have space for more, start going through the unknowns. VERY FAST.

Selling articles to magazines is a lot different to selling books to publishers, remember, and it's the latter which is mostly discussed here.

I used to write a lot of articles for newspapers and magazines and once they knew how reliable I was, the editors would phone, asking for a piece from me.

But before I reached that point with those editors, I was unknown to them. They found my work in their submissions heap, just as they found the work of many of their other writers.

Everyone starts off as an unknown: so if it's true that the work of unknown writers doesn't get looked at then editors would soon run out of writers to hire.

It's not being unknown which prevents people from being pubilshed: it's not being good enough, or not submitting appropriately.

It might not be very nice to hear that, but that doesn't mean that it's untrue.

shadowwalker
02-21-2013, 06:39 PM
The people they are publishing for are doing this professionally and keep producing, because it's their job.

I think what you're saying here is publishers stick with their known stable of writers - ?? Which, of course, implies that these writers will keep producing for eternity - never retire, never get sick, never die. Once that happens, the publisher is screwed because they've ignored, shredded without reading, any new unknown writers. Kinda like saying owners of orchards never plant new trees.

Agents and publishers are always looking for new blood. It makes no sense not to, because established writers do retire, do get sick, do die - or do write crap now and then.

As to wanting to make money, writing is not the way to get out of debt. Find a 9-to-5 job and don't spend as much. Write on the side.

Patrick.S
02-21-2013, 06:48 PM
"We all want to discover the next JK Rowling, Beatles or iPod phone app." Whenever I read something like this I think about the number of rejections Harry Potter got before it was picked up. I wonder how many of those editors jumped off a bridge when her sales hit four bajillion.

Barbara R.
02-21-2013, 06:50 PM
Sorry, but writing is one of the worst get-rich-quick ideas EVER. 99% of the people who try it make no money at all---if they self-publish, they can even lose money. Of those who do manage to sell their work, the vast majority could have made better money doing almost anything else. The only reason to write is if you can't help yourself.

Most large publishers don't read unsolicited mss., but literary agents absolutely do---at least, they'll read a query and possibly a sample before deciding yea or nay. It's not who you know, it's how you write. I've had three students in the past year, first-time writers who know no one but write like angels, sell their works to trade publishers, including Random House. Here's one example of a writer who made it through perserverance and talent. http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=123

Barbara R.
02-21-2013, 06:52 PM
"We all want to discover the next JK Rowling, Beatles or iPod phone app." Whenever I read something like this I think about the number of rejections Harry Potter got before it was picked up. I wonder how many of those editors jumped off a bridge when her sales hit four bajillion.

None. If they couldn't tolerate their own (inevitable) occasional mistakes, they wouldn't be in the business.

Sheryl Nantus
02-21-2013, 07:31 PM
Agents and publishers are always looking for new blood. It makes no sense not to, because established writers do retire, do get sick, do die - or do write crap now and then.

Yep.

I get so annoyed when I hear this old chestnut spouted forth - it just doesn't make sense.

Publishers are ALWAYS looking for new blood. Why wouldn't they? It's to their benefit to have others in the wings when the big boys and girls eventually cease to produce.

It's like every other business. There aren't just a handful of boxers, swimmers, MMA fighters, painters, musicians out there. There are thousands and agents/publishers are always looking to increase their stable size because nothing lasts forever.

Nothing's guaranteed to get my blood racing more than this argument. It doesn't make sense, common or business.

kaitie
02-21-2013, 08:49 PM
Just a few thoughts. First, as said before, new writers are picked up all the time. It just requires having written a book that's of publishable quality, and that's what's hard. Once can do that, getting published becomes much easier and is mostly just a matter of time. Basically as Theo said, it's a common myth that authors can't get their work seen because they are unknown because that's easier to believe than that it might be a problem with the book. (For what it's worth, I was completely unknown when I signed with my agent).

As a general rule, if you're having a hard time getting people to look at your work, there are clues as to what the problem is.

First, if you're sending queries but not getting any requests, the problem is most likely the query itself. Writing a good query is HARD, and a skill that takes as much learning as writing a novel. There are a lot of resources to help you, such as the Query Shark blog, or the SYW area here on these boards. You can also read agent blogs and get an idea of what they like and dislike. You generally want to have at least a 1 in 10 request rate (and plan to send at least 100 queries) to, on average, get an agent.

Second, if you're getting plenty of requests, but none of the partials are turning into fulls, then it means that there is something not working in the opening. If you only get form rejections, it could be that the writing isn't quite there yet, or the story might come across as derivative or too similar to other works. If you're lucky enough to get direct comments about what's not working, then you can try to apply those to improve the work.

Third, if you're getting requests and partials and personalized responses, and they're turning into fulls, it's entirely possible that you just haven't sent enough queries yet.

For what it's worth, I found that, personally, I could tell when I was getting close. The comments I got even for queries were much more personalized. I was having agents ask me to submit my next book if I didn't find an agent. I had a couple of requests with "I'm sure you've already found someone for this, but if you haven't..." and that sort of thing. Even the rejections I got were, for the most part, positive.

It was very different from my first query experience, and even then I'd gotten quite a few requests. The thing is, most people don't sell the first book they query.


Paul Stewart;7988429]What writers need to do is decide what their aim is. Mine was to make money, we were $75k in debt and needed to stop bailiffs moving in. Honestly, writing is not a good way to make money period. A lot of people seem to think it is because the assumption is if you're published you'll sell millions of books. I've gotten this sort of comment from a lot of people.

The fact is, the average agented sale of a first book is a $10,000 advance, and you may never see more than that for that book. Unless you've managed to write several books that are all released in the same year, or you manage to get lucky enough that your book is sold for significantly more, the chances of actually making $75k in a single year is very unlikely--at least not unless you have a backlist still making sales to work with.

I think even an agented writer shouldn't expect more than $10,000 for a sale. Of course it happens, but don't plan on it. If it does, you're awesome.

Second, it takes a long time to see money from publishing. I spent months querying the first book, and many more months querying the next. I spent more months working with my agent on revisions, and then it spent almost a year on submission and didn't sell. I'm working on a new book to go out now, and we'll see how that one works.

Some books sell very quickly, granted, but you're still probably looking at months and months just to get a publishing contract. Advances are then usually divided into two or three pieces, one on signing, one on acceptance of the final manuscript, and another on release. It can take well over a year for the book to finally be released, meaning you won't be getting that full advance up front and it might be 12~18 months (or longer) before you see the full amount.

Very, very few authors make enough to quit their day jobs. If you're in debt and worried about bill collectors, you're much better off taking up a part-time job somewhere. You'll make more and you'll make it more quickly.



If it's to just be printed and on shelves that's easy, just expensive. Actually, I'd say this is incredibly difficult and expensive. If you mean self-publishing a book and having it on shelves for sale, that's nearly impossible.

Unless you can afford offset-printing and to take returns and offer the expected discount to bookstores, they won't stock books. Even if you can, they may not if the book doesn't look like it's very good. And even then, you're talking about a couple of local bookstores, not bookstores around the nation.

Most self-published print books are sold by hand. They might be stocked in a couple of bookstores, but most will not sell more than 75~100 copies. In fact, it's probably the most difficult form of self-publishing there is.


If like me you need or want to make money, ask yourself honestly "What do I have to offer that's better than others?" Then work out how a plan how to make money, I didn't and it was sheer luck I got through. I was actually selling a publishing house a refurbishment and get to see the people I needed to.

I'm honestly not sure what you mean by this. Who was the publisher?


As Theo points out writing a publishable book is hard, getting it seen by the right people, at the right time and them investing in it. Is the hardest. Because no one knows who a stranger is and that's what all the people submitting work are, strangers.Well, yes, there is an element of luck to it as well. There's an element of timing, too. But if you have a great book you can find a good agent, and a good agent is able to put it in front of the right people. That's what they do. They personally know editors, what the editors are looking for, and can use those connections to put your work in front of the right people. And often an agent's reputation is enough to have the book considered.


Once published, it all changes because you're known and not a stranger. It's like getting your first job, they ask you where you worked before. Ironically, it actually gets harder to be published a second or third or fourth time precisely because you're a known entity. You have sales figures behind your name. Publishers and book buyers look at those figures when determining future print runs and how many books to buy.

That means that if a publisher prints 10,000 copies of your first book, but you only sell 7,000, they're more likely to order 7,000 of the next, and you might see your advance decrease accordingly. Similarly, if you sell too few copies, you might see a publisher become less willing to take you on at all because they don't believe that you'll sell enough copies to make it worthwhile.

Book buyers exacerbate the problem by ordering books in part based on sales of previous books, meaning if they buy fewer, then there are fewer on shelves for a customer to buy in the first place, meaning you are more likely to sell fewer copies and the cycle goes on until you can't get a book sold anymore under that name.

It's actually easier to be published as an unknown element than it is to be published with books under your belt that haven't sold as well as people had hoped.


Self publishing removes that hurdle. There are bloggers today earning a very good living writing as a profession. Because people come back to read their work everyday. Ask yourself if you can you write something that good? From what I've seen, most bloggers can't. I'd actually guess that the percentage of bloggers making a good living compared to the number of bloggers total is incredibly slim, much slimmer than the percentage of published writers making any kind of money.

That's just a guess, granted, but most blogs aren't followed by very many people because they aren't interesting enough or well-written enough.


If you can learn how to write a blog and get people to see it and you're on your way.If you can say that you have 100,000 people reading your blog, then that might help sell a book. However, a lot of books based on blogs flopped, so I'm not sure if that's still a booming part of the industry.

Now, it can help with marketing, I'm not denying that, but if you had a choice between working your ass off to get 100,000 readers for a blog for the purpose of selling a book, or of working your ass off writing a really great book, I'd focus on the second.

I think blogging is fine as a hobby if you have fun with it, but if you're trying to get a book published, then writing a great book should be the number one focus and everything else is just gimmicks.

Having a popular blog won't do you any good if your book isn't up to snuff. Having a great book when only three people read your blog will still result in the book being published.

bigb
02-21-2013, 10:03 PM
What Kaitie said.

I won't claim to have any experience with agents or publishers,but I will say that in the past three years I've started two different websites trying to draw attention to my writing. Between running a business full time, being a husband, writing articles for a baseball website covering the Orioles, writing fiction and trying to be physically active there was no time for blogging or website maintenance.

Now with no web content to worry about I might actually be able to write some fiction worth reading. It's still incredibly hard to find time and stay motivated.

Old Hack
02-22-2013, 12:30 AM
Why is it so hard to get published?

I posted this in Ann's thread and I think it merits it's own thread.

You should have contacted a moderator, then, and asked for your post to be split from Ann's thread.

I've merged your original post, and my reply to it, with this thread. Please don't make multiple copies of the same post here in future.


I've seen people claim there are publishers who shred the slush-pile unread, but I've never heard it about a reputable publisher from a reliable source. I welcome correction on this matter.

I've never seen publishers do this. Not good ones, not bad. But then I've not worked for bad ones!


Getting published isn't hard. Writing a publishable book is hard.

True.


Add to this, paper is getting harder to sell. Shelves are disappearing as Type this online on my tablet. Books made of paper are getting harder to sell. Today's buyer's online and if you are not there, you lose to those who are.

Those shelves had better not disappear: we'd all lose out if they do.

If you don't have print editions on the shelves of bookshops you're missing out on a large number of potential sales. Around 40% of books bought online are first selected in a physical bookshop.


If your aim is to share your story, start a blog and 1,000s will read it if you follow a few easy rules. You might even be able to put an advert or two on the blog and make some money. Don't plan buying a yacht.

As Theo points out writing a publishable book is hard, getting it seen by the right people, at the right time and them investing in it. Is the hardest. Because no one knows who a stranger is and that's what all the people submitting work are, strangers.

Nope.

It's easy to get your work seen by the people who count in publishing. Write a brilliant query and send it to a bunch of agents.

Agents read queries from strangers every day. You're misinformed if you think that they don't.


There are bloggers today earning a very good living writing as a profession. Because people come back to read their work everyday. Ask yourself if you can you write something that good?

If you can learn how to write a blog and get people to see it and you're on your way.

Hang on, a couple of paragraphs ago you wrote,


If your aim is to share your story, start a blog and 1,000s will read it if you follow a few easy rules. You might even be able to put an advert or two on the blog and make some money. Don't plan buying a yacht.

One minute you're telling us not to expect to buy a yacht from the proceeds of a blog, now you're saying one can earn "a very good living" from it? Make up your mind, please.


"We all want to discover the next JK Rowling, Beatles or iPod phone app." Whenever I read something like this I think about the number of rejections Harry Potter got before it was picked up. I wonder how many of those editors jumped off a bridge when her sales hit four bajillion.

None. Because they rejected the first Harry Potter book because it wasn't the right book for them to publish, or because it didn't sing to them the way it sang to the publisher at Bloomsbury, or because they didn't have room on their publishing schedule for it.

Every good editor has turned down a successful book or two. But it doesn't matter because they've accepted more.

Old Hack
02-22-2013, 01:21 PM
This thread isn't really appropriate for our Self Publishing room, so I'm going to move it to the Round Table.

Theo81
02-22-2013, 03:03 PM
What writers need to do is decide what their aim is. Mine was to make money, we were $75k in debt and needed to stop bailiffs moving in.



Wait, you can make money writing?

WHY DID NONE OF YOU TELL ME?!





Self publishing removes that hurdle.

I'm not sure it does you know. Self-publishing and selling more than 20K diminishes that hurdle, but so does having writing credits, or meeting an agent at a conference and pitching them your novel, or having a reference in your Q. It's all about the novel in the end.

Ken
02-22-2013, 04:51 PM
... personally, I like the fact that it is difficult to get published.
What's the fun of anything if there isn't a challenge?

Cyia
02-22-2013, 05:08 PM
I think about the number of rejections Harry Potter got before it was picked up. I wonder how many of those editors jumped off a bridge when her sales hit four bajillion.


None. They will, and have, said the Harry Potter which was published is not the Harry Potter that was submitted to them. The mega-hit was a version created in revision and editing, with a new beginning that none of the rejecting editors ever saw before publication.

Cramp
02-22-2013, 06:33 PM
Getting published isn't hard. Writing a publishable book is hard.

This looks almost meaningless to me. What is a 'publishable book'? A book that has been, is, or will be published? Then yeah, it's easy to get that published, because that's all it means. How do you know a book is publishable? Because it's published. It's easy to get a book that is published published. There's no content to that statement. And if it is difficult to write a publishable book, then necessarily it must be hard to get published, because writing a publishable book is a condition of being published.

There's also this current of 'if you don't make it, then you aren't talented enough' going through this thread:


Just a few thoughts. First, as said before, new writers are picked up all the time. It just requires having written a book that's of publishable quality, and that's what's hard. Once can do that, getting published becomes much easier and is mostly just a matter of time.

This is the same notion that would say that every talented singer gets a contract, every talented painter sells their paintings, all the good actors get picked up by tv/movies eventually. This does not jive with reality. Vincent Van Gogh was not recognised in his life time... it's not difficult to posit an artist of similar quality that was equally not recognised in their lifetime and was also not discovered after it. There must be endless numbers of them.

Telling people that if they are good enough they will be published is like telling kids that if they work hard at school they -will- be more successful. A bit of a fairytale.

willietheshakes
02-22-2013, 06:54 PM
This looks almost meaningless to me. What is a 'publishable book'? A book that has been, is, or will be published? Then yeah, it's easy to get that published, because that's all it means. How do you know a book is publishable? Because it's published. It's easy to get a book that is published published. There's no content to that statement. And if it is difficult to write a publishable book, then necessarily it must be hard to get published, because writing a publishable book is a condition of being published.

There's also this current of 'if you don't make it, then you aren't talented enough' going through this thread:



This is the same notion that would say that every talented singer gets a contract, every talented painter sells their paintings, all the good actors get picked up by tv/movies eventually. This does not jive with reality. Vincent Van Gogh was not recognised in his life time... it's not difficult to posit an artist of similar quality that was equally not recognised in their lifetime and was also not discovered after it. There must be endless numbers of them.

Telling people that if they are good enough they will be published is like telling kids that if they work hard at school they -will- be more successful. A bit of a fairytale.

I suggest you re-read what you quoted for what it actually says, as opposed to what you think it says.

It sounds like you have an axe to grind - perhaps this isn't the place to do it.

shadowwalker
02-22-2013, 07:05 PM
This is the same notion that would say that every talented singer gets a contract, every talented painter sells their paintings, all the good actors get picked up by tv/movies eventually. This does not jive with reality.

That's not at all what was said. Re-read it. We were talking about this notion that it's impossible or nearly impossible for new writers to get contracts, that publishers rely on their current writers and don't even look at new ones. Which is, as we explained, ridiculous. No one said every good writer gets a contract. Not sure where you think you read that, but it wasn't here.

Toothpaste
02-22-2013, 07:07 PM
Cramp - yes there are other factors in getting published, and luck is a huge one. But I think the point is, there are so many people out there who discourage new writers saying things like new writers never get published (in fact, it's easier to be a new writer and get published, than have a meh publishing track record and get another deal). The point is, if you do have something publishable, and yes, you have a bit of luck, you can get published. You don't need to know anyone, you don't need to pay for the privilege. Anyone can get published. But they need these three elements: talent, perseverance, luck.

Lidiya
02-22-2013, 07:13 PM
Because there's an increasing amount of budding writers, and the publishers have to pick the gold out of the silver. Those other books may be good, but there are going to be some that are better. Sometimes they mistake a silver for a gold, so it seems unfair, but what can you do.

And, now that the holes of the most popular markets are being filled with new books, it's difficult to find an unfilled one.

Sorry for my horrendous metaphors, but hopefully you get what I mean :P

Jamesaritchie
02-22-2013, 07:21 PM
As Theo points out writing a publishable book is hard, getting it seen by the right people, at the right time and them investing in it. Is the hardest. Because no one knows who a stranger is and that's what all the people submitting work are, strangers.

Once published, it all changes because you're known and not a stranger. It's like getting your first job, they ask you where you worked before.

.

No, not true at all. It is tough to write a publishable book, but if you can't do this, self=publishing changes nothing. Either you can write well, or you can't.

If you can write well, nothing is easier than getting the book in the right hands at the right time. There isn't a famous writer out there who wasn't a stranger at one time, and they all managed to break in. If you can write a good book, it stands out like a diamond in a pile of coal. Agents will jump all over it, and publishers will fight for it. The reason it's so "hard" to get published is because most who try can't write well enough. It's just this simple.

If you can write well enough, tell a story well enough, build characters well enough, nothing is easier than finding an agent and a publisher. If you can write well enough, the right person is pretty much every agent or editor out there who works in your genre, and the right time is the moment they start reading.

kkbe
02-22-2013, 07:32 PM
The point is, if you do have something publishable, and yes, you have a bit of luck, you can get published. You don't need to know anyone, you don't need to pay for the privilege. Anyone can get published. But they need these three elements: talent, perseverance, luck.

I'm coming to the realization that I don't write mainstream. Duh. And my genre isn't clear. Okay, so my work is difficult to define. No biggie. So it isn't everybody's cuppa tea--heck, that could be said for anybody. I keep thinking, if I write something good and keep querying, and keep my fingers crossed and keep sacrificing little lambs to the Gods, sooner or later, somebody's gonna take a chance on me. I just need one agent, just one, just one. So I'll keep querying and meanwhile, I'll keep writing and learning, trying to get better. Just keep plugging, that's it.

jjdebenedictis
02-22-2013, 08:17 PM
This looks almost meaningless to me. What is a 'publishable book'? A book of sufficient quality that a trade publisher believes they can make money off it -- emphasis on "quality".

"Unpublishable" is shorthand for "an investment that no trade publisher could make money on", i.e. a book that few readers would consider worth the buying.

Note that brilliant books can be unpublishable. It all comes down to what fraction of the population would be willing to buy it.

Theo81
02-22-2013, 09:13 PM
This looks almost meaningless to me. What is a 'publishable book'? A book that has been, is, or will be published? Then yeah, it's easy to get that published, because that's all it means. How do you know a book is publishable? Because it's published. It's easy to get a book that is published published. There's no content to that statement. And if it is difficult to write a publishable book, then necessarily it must be hard to get published, because writing a publishable book is a condition of being published.


Obligatory link to Slushkiller. (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html)

If you scroll down you'll find the 14 stages of MS rejection.

Publishable, to me at least, means technically good enough - so grammar, plotting (having a beginning, middle and end), pacing, character development, prose. All the basic things which make you want to read a novel.

85% of what's in the slushpile is not publishable. If you have an MS written in standard English and you send it to an agent who represents the correct genre, you are already way ahead of the game. Do not underestimate just how poor the overall quality of submissions is.



There's also this current of 'if you don't make it, then you aren't talented enough' going through this thread:

Talent can only do so much. Working hard, learning and changing will do far more for you.



This is the same notion that would say that every talented singer gets a contract, every talented painter sells their paintings, all the good actors get picked up by tv/movies eventually. This does not jive with reality. Vincent Van Gogh was not recognised in his life time... it's not difficult to posit an artist of similar quality that was equally not recognised in their lifetime and was also not discovered after it. There must be endless numbers of them.

Telling people that if they are good enough they will be published is like telling kids that if they work hard at school they -will- be more successful. A bit of a fairytale.

Van Gogh was 37 when he died. The Granta Best Young Novelists list is for novelists under 40. Van Gogh was gaining recognition towards the end of his life - he would have lived to see his own success. It is a gross misnomer to hold him up as an example of talented people not selling.

If you are good enough you can still be passed over because publishing is a business and business is subjective.

If you work hard at at school you'll find it easier to be more successful because more doors will open, but there are ways if you don't

The only thing I'll tell people is that they're good enough, they've got a 1/10 chance rather than a 1/1000.

Jamiekswriter
02-22-2013, 09:39 PM
I agree that writing as a way to get out of a 75K debt is not your best way to do it. Quite frankly, get a PT job that pays 15K a year and put all the money towards the debt. That's the "sure fire" way to get income and in five years you'll have made a significant dent if not paid it off.

However, if you think that you can do that with your writing, the caveat is it's not necessarily the writing. It's the marketing. You can have the best book in the world up there, but if no one knows about it -- no one is going to buy it.

And in the editing. If your book is rife with typos, you're going to get bad reviews and it will be hard to even give the book away.

And in the cover design. If you don't grab the reader with a clear and interesting cover, there's a chance that they'll pass you by.

The best way to make money writing, is to have a lot of books out there at once. To oversimplify, if your book makes $10 a month, five books may make $50 a month. The more books, the more money. (Assuming, writing, editing, cover design all mesh) And then market the hell out of them.

Then there's genre. What do readers want to read? Better yet, what are they buying? From what I understand, erotica and M/M are your best bets if you want to break in to epublishing or achieve self pub success. SciFi and Fantasy, not so much. Mystery a little better than that. YA a little better than that, especially if there's a romance in there. Of course there's always exceptions to the rules like Amanda Hocking (fantasy) and JA Konrath (mystery).

But if you want to "play the numbers" game and "make money fast"-- if you have the skills to write good and fast --you could do worse than create a group of characters, like say the cast of Friends, and have them do each other. One book per couple. Throw in some kink and away you go. Read a whole bunch before you attempt this though. Writer's like Leia Shaw (her self pubbed brat series), Ella Fox (her self pubbed Hart series), and Scarlett Parrish (M/M epubbed) are just a few that come to mind.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that it's easy to do. It's hard. Writing believable romance and lusty sex that people devour and want to read is a talent. But assuming you have that talent, most fiction sales are romances.

Keep in mind if you self publish, it's a constant game of pricing. Maybe offering book 1 for free so you can get on the free Kindle boards and other websites for advertisement.

Then hope that your writing is strong enough to make the reader buy your book 2 at .99 or book 3 at 1.99. etc. etc.

I think it's very easy to self publish. A few days learning curve on how to upload the files and Voila! Selling books is what's hard. Selling anything is hard, just ask any telemarketer, or outside sales person.

I think it's easier to find an epub to publish your work than a commercial pub. Because the Big Six also have Big Budgets that they have to keep in mind and they really have to believe the book can go the distance before they're willing to risk the advance and take it on. It's harder to get published because the competition is fierce. But it's also about how saleable your book is rather than how good it is. That's why you can look at 50 shades, Harry Potter, or Twilight and call it crap and say you can write better than that. Maybe -- but can you sell like that? Can your book create a buzz and go nova?

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Just my .02

kaitie
02-22-2013, 09:46 PM
This is the same notion that would say that every talented singer gets a contract, every talented painter sells their paintings, all the good actors get picked up by tv/movies eventually. This does not jive with reality. Vincent Van Gogh was not recognised in his life time... it's not difficult to posit an artist of similar quality that was equally not recognised in their lifetime and was also not discovered after it. There must be endless numbers of them.

Telling people that if they are good enough they will be published is like telling kids that if they work hard at school they -will- be more successful. A bit of a fairytale.

Hence the "mostly" in my post. The fact of the matter is, if you have a book that is poorly written or derivative or any of the other things that cause a book to be unpublishable (and there is such a thing--be it because the grammar is unreadable, the story is basically a retelling of Harry Potter, or because the plot is nonexistent or makes no sense), that book will not be published.

If you have a good book, that book has a better chance. Which is what I said. Once you're able to write a book that is well-written, interesting, and original, you've overcome the vast majority of the hurdles. Someone else already linked Slush Killer, but that information is true. 90% of books are rejected because they just aren't good enough yet. Once you can get into that top 5~10%, you've increased your chances of being picked up drastically.

Now, it's still possible that a publishable book won't sell. I have one that didn't. It wasn't done in by quality, but by marketing. And it might still have a chance in the future. Who knows? However, I know that I can write a book of the right quality, and if I continue working and continue improving and continue writing books of the same quality, eventually one of those books is likely to be picked up.

I can't guarantee that every amazing author will be picked up, but I can guarantee that the majority of amazing authors who continues to write and work hard and submit work eventually will be. On the other end of the spectrum, an author who doesn't work hard to improve and continues to put out poor quality books will never be published.

ETA: For what it's worth, I don't think talent is the biggest factor, either. A talented person who doesn't put in effort to become better might rarely succeed, while a person with less talent who works hard to learn and improve can certainly succeed. I'm not a particularly talented writer. I have a couple of elements that I've always been pretty good at (characters, for instance), but there was an awful lot I was downright terrible at when I started. My current level of ability is the result of several years of actively learning to improves those weaknesses.

Barbara R.
02-23-2013, 03:45 PM
I'm coming to the realization that I don't write mainstream. Duh. And my genre isn't clear. Okay, so my work is difficult to define. No biggie. So it isn't everybody's cuppa tea--heck, that could be said for anybody. I keep thinking, if I write something good and keep querying, and keep my fingers crossed and keep sacrificing little lambs to the Gods, sooner or later, somebody's gonna take a chance on me. I just need one agent, just one, just one. So I'll keep querying and meanwhile, I'll keep writing and learning, trying to get better. Just keep plugging, that's it.

You should quit the lamb-sacrificing bit. That may be the karmic problem.

But as for not coloring within the genre lines, your thinking is correct: write a good enough book, an irresistible book (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=327), and no one will object to the genre blurring.

kkbe
02-23-2013, 04:01 PM
You should quit the lamb-sacrificing bit. That may be the karmic problem.

I tried to slip that in there. . .

Rats. Busted. :)

Buffysquirrel
02-23-2013, 06:11 PM
I think what you're saying here is publishers stick with their known stable of writers - ?? Which, of course, implies that these writers will keep producing for eternity - never retire, never get sick, never die.

There is one famous example of this of course--when Prime Minister Thatcher started closing teacher-training colleges "because we have enough teachers."