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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

PPeterson

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Long story short(ish).

Back in 2014 I wrote and self-published a book titled "Snake Eyes Lie". Despite the handful of friends and family telling me it was wonderful, it was hot garbage, so I pulled it from the market. Shortly thereafter, my life fell apart. Hard. So I gave up everything and moved to Mexico.

Years later, I'm back in the States, I've got my life put back together, and I decide that I want to rewrite that book. So I did. Determined to do things right this time, I rewrote the manuscript from scratch. I didn't even look at the previous version. Once I was happy with the result, I set out to find the elusive agent.

Halfway through that little quest was when I discovered that agents will almost never represent a book that has been previously published. It was suggested that I change the title. The old book sold less than 100 copies and it was no longer available. This new manuscript was an entirely fresh piece of work, so why not?

Then I was looking into PitchMad. Among their list of things that are considered "previously published" are:
  • Any piece of work that has been assigned an ISBN or ASIN, even if the title has changed.
  • The above applies to previously published books that have been since edited or revised.
Combine this with the 10 form rejections I've received and the zero anything else, and the picture becomes pretty clear. I've screwed myself. I'm in my forties and the flagship of the stories I wanted to tell is a non-starter. That's it.

I won't use the phrase "giving up". I know I can still self-publish and I can bark at the internet about how great I am, but it seems that my dreams of becoming a published author (let alone a best seller) are dead in the water.

So... that sucks.
 

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Long story short(ish).

Back in 2014 I wrote and self-published a book titled "Snake Eyes Lie". Despite the handful of friends and family telling me it was wonderful, it was hot garbage, so I pulled it from the market. Shortly thereafter, my life fell apart. Hard. So I gave up everything and moved to Mexico.

Years later, I'm back in the States, I've got my life put back together, and I decide that I want to rewrite that book. So I did. Determined to do things right this time, I rewrote the manuscript from scratch. I didn't even look at the previous version. Once I was happy with the result, I set out to find the elusive agent.

Halfway through that little quest was when I discovered that agents will almost never represent a book that has been previously published. It was suggested that I change the title. The old book sold less than 100 copies and it was no longer available. This new manuscript was an entirely fresh piece of work, so why not?

Then I was looking into PitchMad. Among their list of things that are considered "previously published" are:
  • Any piece of work that has been assigned an ISBN or ASIN, even if the title has changed.
  • The above applies to previously published books that have been since edited or revised.
Combine this with the 10 form rejections I've received and the zero anything else, and the picture becomes pretty clear. I've screwed myself. I'm in my forties and the flagship of the stories I wanted to tell is a non-starter. That's it.

I won't use the phrase "giving up". I know I can still self-publish and I can bark at the internet about how great I am, but it seems that my dreams of becoming a published author (let alone a best seller) are dead in the water.

So... that sucks.
Were your dreams to become a published author and best seller of one book and then never write anything else? If so, then....yeah, maybe, not looking so good.

If you planned on a writing career, though, you'd need to write more than one book. More than one series. Which you can still do. Once you're selling like Danielle Steele or JK Rowling or Wossname Fifty Shades of Grey, publishers will be very happy to resurrect and republish Snake Eyes Lie (as well as its sequels Snake Eyes Roll, Snake Eyes Blink, Snake Eyes Wink, Snake Eyes Slit, Snake Eyes Weep, and Snake Eyes Get Little Red Xs Over Them When Snakey Dies).
 

PPeterson

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Were your dreams to become a published author and best seller of one book and then never write anything else? If so, then....yeah, maybe, not looking so good.

If you planned on a writing career, though, you'd need to write more than one book. More than one series. Which you can still do. Once you're selling like Danielle Steele or JK Rowling or Wossname Fifty Shades of Grey, publishers will be very happy to resurrect and republish Snake Eyes Lie (as well as its sequels Snake Eyes Roll, Snake Eyes Blink, Snake Eyes Wink, Snake Eyes Slit, Snake Eyes Weep, and Snake Eyes Get Little Red Xs Over Them When Snakey Dies).
Well, I did have plans to make this a 5 book series. And of course I have other books I intend to write. However, that's why I included the "in my forties" bit.

This series alone will take years to finish and, while lots of inspirational posters say "It's never too late to start!", those same folks tend to mutter and clam up once you hit 50. Then it's more like, "Yeah, maybe that's a little late."
 

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Then it's more like, "Yeah, maybe that's a little late."
Anne Rice still writes books, and she's eighty. If you write one book every year until you're eighty, that's thirty books you can get published. You still have plenty of time to become rich and famous!

Better avoid cigarettes and alcohol though.
 

lizmonster

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Well, I did have plans to make this a 5 book series. And of course I have other books I intend to write. However, that's why I included the "in my forties" bit.

This series alone will take years to finish and, while lots of inspirational posters say "It's never too late to start!", those same folks tend to mutter and clam up once you hit 50. Then it's more like, "Yeah, maybe that's a little late."
I was 51 years old - almost 52 - when my first book came out.

Honestly, it really is never too late.

Do you know for a fact that your rejections were because a version of the book had been previously published? I ask because I don't think "revised" is the same as "completely rewritten."

Also 10 rejections is nothing. Seriously. Workshop your query letter, and try again.
 

PPeterson

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I was 51 years old - almost 52 - when my first book came out.

Honestly, it really is never too late.

Do you know for a fact that your rejections were because a version of the book had been previously published? I ask because I don't think "revised" is the same as "completely rewritten."

Also 10 rejections is nothing. Seriously. Workshop your query letter, and try again.
I don't know anything for a fact. All I ever receive are form rejection letters. But even if I do get a full request, and even if that turns into an offer, I'll still eventually have to tell them about the previous version of the book.

I just feel like my clock is ticking, and I don't want to be wasting my time if I have no hope of getting published.
 
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owlion

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I just feel like my clock is ticking, and I don't want to be wasting my time if I have no hope of getting published.
I think it's important to write because you enjoy it, then even if you're getting rejections, you can still get something out of it. I do understand the feeling that time's running out, but it can run out at any age, so it's better not to think of having a definitive time limit and more focus on doing the things you want, which make you feel fulfilled. Otherwise it's like how people can spend all their time working, preparing for a retirement they might never reach - it's important to enjoy the now as well as planning for the future.
 

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I just feel like my clock is ticking, and I don't want to be wasting my time if I have no hope of getting published.

A lot of writers struggle with this. Maybe we all do.

And the answer is nobody can tell you you're going to get trade published. No matter how hard you work, no matter how much you produce, no matter how good you are nobody can tell you you're going to get trade published.

It's a guarantee, though, that if you don't keep trying it will not happen. So you need to decide what your time tolerance is.

You're worried about disclosing that earlier self-published book. I don't know, honestly, how much of an issue it would be. If it really did vanish without leaving breadcrumbs, an agent might completely shrug off its existence. I've seen some against-the-accepted-rules stuff happen with books that have been previously published, even when those books haven't been substantially revised. If you hook an agent with this one, I think it's not outside the realm of possibility that they'd consider the existence of the earlier volume an entirely manageable issue.

But I do think it pays to properly set your expectations, and--if your goal is trade publishing--maybe pick a timeframe. Give yourself five years, or ten, or one, or whatever feels right to you. Commit to trying until that time is up, and then re-evaluate where you are.
 

PastyAlien

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This series alone will take years to finish and, while lots of inspirational posters say "It's never too late to start!", those same folks tend to mutter and clam up once you hit 50. Then it's more like, "Yeah, maybe that's a little late."
Pfft. It's not like you're trying to make the NHL. That's the beauty of being a writer: we don't have best-before dates. Lots of people don't even start writing until after they retire. Besides, how would an agent even know how old you are when you're querying? And if they fall in love with a book and find out the writer is over fifty, do you think they're gonna get all Logan's Run on their ass and kill the project?
 

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Well, I did have plans to make this a 5 book series. And of course I have other books I intend to write. However, that's why I included the "in my forties" bit.

This series alone will take years to finish and, while lots of inspirational posters say "It's never too late to start!", those same folks tend to mutter and clam up once you hit 50. Then it's more like, "Yeah, maybe that's a little late."
Dunno who you're talking to. I plan to start writing novels when I retire -- in a handful of years. Why would that be too late? Meanwhile I practice with short stories.

If "get rich writing novels" is your business plan, it's not a very good one. If "write fiction as a fun enjoyable hobby and try to make some money off it" is your business plan, it's wholly viable.

If you're getting form rejections and you haven't mentioned the book's prior publishing history, the agents aren't rejecting it because it's already been published. Agents don't have crystal balls.
 

mccardey

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Agents don't have crystal balls.
:Ssh:

PP - quite often people come into writing thinking that it's going to pay off somehow, but the fact is - unless you are already well-situated in a writing-adjacent career - it's far, far better to write simply because it's a Thing that you do. It's deplorably tricky to make any kind of money from writing novels, it really is. It would be dangerous to plan a financial life on writing. That said - you have words, and story ideas and characters floating around in your head - even better, from memory, you have an interesting personal history that might help when you start to sell books. Write because no-one can stop you.




ETA: Could everyone please note that in my quest to be a better person I did that whole post without referring to the fact that most agents are women (I counted) and therefore sans balls of any kind.

ETA2 : damnDamnDAMNDAMNDAMN!
 

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Combine this with the 10 form rejections I've received and the zero anything else, and the picture becomes pretty clear. I've screwed myself. I'm in my forties and the flagship of the stories I wanted to tell is a non-starter. That's it.

Not for nothing, but 10 rejections is pretty small. Besides that, you could build a name for yourself with *another* book and then use that buzz to promote your other book.

I won't use the phrase "giving up". I know I can still self-publish and I can bark at the internet about how great I am, but it seems that my dreams of becoming a published author (let alone a best seller) are dead in the water.

Very few people become a bestselling author with their first book. Those tend to be outliers or people who heavily revise after repeated rejections.

Well, I did have plans to make this a 5 book series. And of course I have other books I intend to write. However, that's why I included the "in my forties" bit.

This series alone will take years to finish and, while lots of inspirational posters say "It's never too late to start!", those same folks tend to mutter and clam up once you hit 50. Then it's more like, "Yeah, maybe that's a little late."

You could become a bestselling author at any age. Later just means less of a long-term career, and that's assuming you don't keep going.

You previously mentioned having a bit of spare time and wanting to make a career of this. There's really no reason you couldn't aim to write at least four books a year.

And while I might call it quits on writing if I hit 70 (that's 70 years of age, not just 70 books) and neither trade nor self-publishing has worked out for me, I expect I'll write until I'm physically unable to if things are at least moderately working out.
 

frimble3

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You are in your forties and you are giving up on your ambitions?
I am in my sixties, and the vultures are not yet circling!

If you stop writing, what are you going to do with your time? Sit quietly and wait for wrinkles to appear? Drink until you stop noticing the wrinkles? Can't make a run for the border again, 'cause COVID, so you might as well stay where you are and write. And submit to publishers, etc.

And, don't worry about that one book. It shows that you can complete something, but not much else. It's been a long time, I doubt many people will bother looking it up, and if they do "I was young and foolish, and I learned from the experience" pretty much covers it.
 

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:Ssh:

PP - quite often people come into writing thinking that it's going to pay off somehow, but the fact is - unless you are already well-situated in a writing-adjacent career - it's far, far better to write simply because it's a Thing that you do. It's deplorably tricky to make any kind of money from writing novels, it really is. It would be dangerous to plan a financial life on writing. That said - you have words, and story ideas and characters floating around in your head - even better, from memory, you have an interesting personal history that might help when you start to sell books. Write because no-one can stop you.




ETA: Could everyone please note that in my quest to be a better person I did that whole post without referring to the fact that most agents are women (I counted) and therefore sans balls of any kind.

ETA2 : damnDamnDAMNDAMNDAMN!
It's like painting, or making pottery, or knitting jumpers, or making yourself all pretty in the mirror. To make the leap from "I like to do this for fun" to "I am wasting my time because odds are I will never be Picasso or Whoever Is Famous for Pottery or House of Dior or Ella McPherson " is -- well, if those are the goals, then yes, the plain numberical odds are you won't get to that level, so you probably are wasting your time. And everyone else's who is trying to help or advise you.

If you're happy actually doing the thing, and happy with the paintings or mugs or oven mitts you're producing, that's pretty damned important. Because if you're not enjoying it, and then you do get an agent and have a book published, the only way to continue on that path of success is to keep doing that thing you didn't enjoy doing in the first place.....
 

mccardey

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In fairness, some people can produce reasonable quality that fast. Or so I'm told.

I am not one of those people.
How could they? A first draft, perhaps, but I think the people who look like they produce that much successfully, usually turn out to have stopped being One Writer some years ago, and are now That Writer And A Team. A franchise, if you will.

I could see doing the occasional book that quickly - my first trade pub (mg) took 14 weeks from go to whoa - but ongoing? I'm side-eyeing that.
 

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Lots of folks on 20booksto50K write amazingly quickly and sell steadily. Like ten books a year. This is more common in certain genres.

The output works in their favor to keep the amazon algorithm happy. I think their books tend to be of the 50000-word variety, so a fantasy writer's 200000 word book would equal four of those books, word-wise.

Some readers, not all, prefer shorter books. And, these writers are now supporting themselves with this income. It's a different goal--not NYT bestseller, but 'write for a living.' (It's still not guaranteed though, b/c a lot of folks on 20booksto50K never gain the traction they are seeking.

I'm retired, PPeterson, and older than you, and I'd be hard pressed to write a book I was satisfied with in less than 2 years. But novellas and short stories are not so tough... and those can count too. I never expected to be spending my days doing this, which may be why I'm not horribly disappointed to not land a big deal, because until about five years ago the plan was completely other-than-this, but I'm finding enjoyment in parts of the whole writing process.

Enjoy the ride, if you can. You're among friends.
 

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Lots of folks on 20booksto50K write amazingly quickly and sell steadily. Like ten books a year. The output works in their favor to keep the amazon algorithm happy. I think their books tend to be of the 50000-word variety, so a fantasy writer's 200000 word book would equal four of those books, word-wise.
I've read quite a few of those. Every one has been pretty much the quality of unedited slush.
 
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lizmonster

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I could see doing the occasional book that quickly - my first trade pub (mg) took 14 weeks from go to whoa - but ongoing? I'm side-eyeing that.

Honestly, I do, too. I have read some pleasant novellas by writers who put things out several times a year. 15-20K words. Maybe that could work? I wrote one of my short stories in about four days before handing it off to an editor - 2500 words, and I had maybe three back-and-forths with the editor before it was finished. So call it two weeks, start to finish.

I can draft a book in 3-4 months, depending (although it's been a while since I've done that). Revisions and edits generally take anything from 1-4 years.
 

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I've read quite a few of those. Every one has been unedited slush.
But if that author's goal is to support themself, and they are reaching that goal, then they have succeeded by their definition.

(I have not read any of them.)
 
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