This morning I was so inspired by Valerie Brown’s Endless Edits blog ‘First Draft Writing Tips‘ to write for at least 20 minutes per day that I sat down to do it NOW… but then this fabulous idea about publishing hit me. I had to stop and share.
Here it is:
Publishing For Writers, By Writers.
What do you think?
I’m thinking of a kind co-op, or consortium, or partnership. Something where a few writers work as a group to market and sell their combined self-published catalogue of books.
Not convinced? Sounds too hard? Let me back up a step.
I recently went to two different Open Houses by publishers. The first one, a boutique publisher who set up their House after the GFC when they realized the market had irrevocably changed; the second one, a large arm of a world-renowned, long-established House with international clout.
Both Houses are filled with wonderful people. Both know what they’re doing. And I’ll guarantee neither are going to sign me up. Why? Not (I hope) because my product sucks, but because persistence, competition, good luck, and timing are key.
I’ll call House One ‘Tiger’ because they’re out to get ’em tiger. They love books so much they aim to sign up not books, but authors. Someone who will write and write and be part of a family-style, win-win, ongoing partnership.
And I’ll call House Two ‘T-Rex’ because they already have got ’em. They love books so much they own one of the four corners of the world market.
Tiger are a small team. They read every submission to the end. It will be a long wait til they get to mine. Tiger are new and fresh and everyone is submitting to them. I will be competing against a lot of writers (some of whom are my friends) for a very limited number of available book deals.
T-Rex is a much larger team. They operate to strict budgets and intense deadlines. Last year they took on about 3,000 new titles. Only 80 of those were Australian. For the mathematically-challenged like myself, this means the remaining
2,020 2,900 2,920 books are international.
In this, the Australian market, 0.027% of T-Rex’s books are not written by Australians, but are books already picked up by publishers elsewhere and re-printed for the Australian market (they’re mostly printed in China by the way, but that’s another story).
So it’s clear that either way, I need to make my submission perfect if I’m to stand out from the madding crowd. Which brings me to the dreaded query letter. Hands up who’s ever heard this:
You wrote a full-length novel, a 500 word query letter should be easy.
Well, no. I don’t think it is. I’m not a short-story writer (although the urge does take me every now and then) and I don’t write copy. Here’s copywriting as defined on a Copywriting 101 blogsite:
Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.Copywriters are some of the highest-paid writers in the world. To become a proficient and profitable copy expert, you’ll need to invest time and energy in studying the craft. To truly excel as a copywriter, consider investing in a copywriting course that will provide you the intensive training you’ll need to enjoy a lucrative career.
Sounds like a-whole-nother skillset to me!
And if you’ve ever sifted through hundreds of job applications, you’ll know how quickly you learn to judge the applicant within the first few words, and discard them. One spelling mistake and you’re out. Written in comic sans and you’re out. Wrote ‘dear sir’ to a female reader and you’re out. Wrote ‘good’ and ‘morning’ and it’s neither and you’re out.
And this is before you get to the book itself. Because then, who wants to take a risk on a mish-mash of genres? Or on another Twilight even if this one is unique and exciting? Who wouldn’t sign up an author with a CV that can state ‘proven track record’ of overseas sales over an unknown first-time author who may be difficult to work with?
Worse, what if your excellent and perfect book conflicts with one they’re already committed to publishing? Because that happens. A lot. Call it synchronicity.
For Tiger, publishing is a business. For T-Rex, publishing is a business. Rejection is not an indictment on us as authors, but it does, in all its dubious glory, exist.
Self-publishing looks better and better now, doesn’t it? Sure, vanity publishing still exists, and I’ve bought some really crappy self-published books that I just could. Not. Finish. But there are an increasing amount of gems.
Have a read of this interview with Silo’s Hugh Howey and this interview with Robert Bryndza, both of whom are superstars after self-publishing incredibly good books. Both of them talk about the enormous amount of time involved in finding an agent and then even more time spent doing the publishing house rejection rounds.
But they also talk about self-publishing neither being an overnight success nor a seamlessly easy process.
And that’s where a group of like-minded individuals can come together. Maybe a crime writer, with a historic fiction writer, with a fantasy writer? They’re not in conflict with each other. Together they form an enterprise and make sure whatever it is that self-publishers need to do gets done. Starting with finding out what needs to get done, because I don’t know. Yet.
What do you think? Is there room for Publishing By Writers, For Writers? Does something like that already exist? Would you want to be a part of that? After all, the next big thing in books will probably languish in the rejection process for the next three years. Doesn’t the world deserve to read it?