mysteries and motorcycles

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Hardest Part of Writing

Actually, once you get the hang of it, writing isn't really so hard. Well, good writing might take a little work but it's still the easy part.

Selling your work, now that's hard!

I was new and innocent when I sold "The Unreal McCoy," my first book. I had tried unsuccessfully to find an agent and so when I stumbled on a publisher who would deal directly with the author I began frothing at the mouth. An email query, request for manuscript, and acceptance took about a week. A couple months later I had a one dollar advance and a promise that my book would be available "From sea to shining sea." Of course they didn't tell me that the book would be obscenely overpriced, carry equally obscene shipping charges, be non-returnable, and edited with "Word spellcheck."

The burden of trying to sell a POD book from a publisher who is terminally slow in the shipping department and has a shoddy reputation among booksellers can be a very frustrating uphill battle. And you can forget about reviews in any major venue.

I was lucky though, because I was too naive to know just how impossible the task was. I somehow managed to sell over a thousand copies (didn't know I had that many friends) and, for a time I became the best seller out of that publisher's fifteen thousand title catalogue. By twisting a few arms, I was also able to get a few reviews, some of them even in newspapers. The critics were kind and very complimentary, however several of them mentioned the "second rate" publisher.

When my second book, "Turn Left at September," was finally ready I still couldn't get an agent to read even one word of my manuscript. I shopped it around for close to two years, learning as I went. I eventually quit mentioning my first book in my query letters because a POD credit can often be more of a detriment than a help.

I began networking and belonged to a few Internet writer's forums and it was at one of these sites that I found my next publisher. Still no agent! My new publisher was like a breath of fresh air. They did print runs like the big guys and followed standard industry pricing and marketing procedures. They even managed to get some advance reviews and a real live blurb from a successful author. Again, my work garnered praise from the critics. But it still isn't enough. My publisher's only problem is that they are a small house with just a handful of titles. Even though they do everything right, they can't begin to compete with the big New York boys for shelf space at Barnes & Noble or Borders. My book is available everywhere, but you have to order it.

With "The First Domino," in the can and at the advice a few writers whose opinions I respect, I'm going to make sure that this book is represented by an industry professional. I want a publisher like Simon & Schuster or Harper-Collins. The big publishing houses don't deal with authors. I must find an agent. And once again I am counting on the power of networking. I attend writer's conferences and sign up for pitch sessions with agents and I try to stay visible on the Internet. Oh yeah, and I lean on my friends.

I guess if you're gonna be a successful author, you gotta be willing to do the "Hard Part" of the writing business.

Posted by The Unreal McCoy :: 3:57 PM :: 0 Comments:

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