I’ve got to warn you, this post will come off as pretty whiny, I’m certain. It’s not that I’m, in actuality, this whiny about the situation, as should be understood, I typically use exaggeration to make a point. But at the same time, since I like to take some time here and there to attempt to showcase the emotions of an author, I figured this makes for a really good example of that.
I sent out my first query letter ten days ago…and I’m already ready to be done with the process. (quick side note for those of you not into the lingo…a query letter is a letter sent to literary agents or publishers in order to cause them to have interest in your book so they will want to read more and possibly hand you gobs of money someday). It’s really dumb…believe me, I know. I mean, the majority of agents take at least a week to respond at all, and generally take a lot longer than that, if they have any interest, as it usually goes through some sort of intern-type person who marks it as possibly interesting before it goes on to the actual agent (this is all depending on size of agency, mind you) who has much more important things, like taking care of their actual clients, than reading little letters from wannabe author millionaires.
Like everything in the publishing industry, patience is very, very important.
Unless you want rejections. Those come fast.
Now, I’ve only sent 15 queries thus far (a very small number compared to what most authors send out before deciding all is lost) and received a mere 4 letters back (rejections, of course). The 4 rejections received (a small number compared to what most….you get the idea) don’t stray from the standard rejections (side note for the uninitiated: although many agents today no longer send any response if they aren’t interested, many others yet do send something, typically a form letter response that contains absolutely nothing regarding your book in its contents…using starting with the words “Dear Author”), meaning there’s absolutely nothing to take personally here…it’s really hard to not take things, in at least some small way, personally. I mean, seriously…these people just don’t seem to care that what I’ve written is pure brilliance? How is that even possible?!?
Obviously, looking at the numbers of queries these agents claim to get on a daily basis…the fact that your e-mail or letter didn’t just get completely lost in the pile is pretty darned amazing.
The early portions of the process of getting traditionally published are horribly impersonal. You, as an author, want to stand out from the pile, and there are all hosts of things about what you can do in those stupid little letters to get ears (eyes?) to perk up right off the bat…most of which involve doing a great deal of research on each agent so you can find some way to connect with them personally within your query letter to make it seem like you’re different than all those other people.
It’s a lot like courting the hot chick in high school when you’re the guy who spends a lot of time stuffed into a locker. You know everything about that girl. She couldn’t care less.
The sheer ratios involved in actually getting someone to even read a portion of your masterpiece is staggering. You put hours and hours into just trying to find the right people to market your book(s), knowing full well that they will take only a second or two to decide whether or not they want to even give your letter a full read (much less the manuscript you’ve poured your heart into).
I’m not saying it’s unfair…although there’s definitely a part of me which wants to scream it :-)…I’m merely stating that it’s pretty damned depressing. Especially when you realize that many authors who go through the traditional publishing route today just don’t do that much noticeably better than many self-pubbed authors. Sure, if they get into the big 6 (which I don’t think is even 6 anymore (side note: the big 6 are the largest of the publishers, the ones that are names you know, like Harper Collins, Random House (which you might not know is now Random Penguin…at least I think that’s what they’re calling themselves now) and the like)) they might have a chance at getting their books on the visible shelves inside of the big box book stores…but publishing is a game of small margins nowadays. People don’t read as much as they used to now that we can carry our phones around in our pockets and watch TV all day long.
What I am trying to say is that, the actual chance that a person, like me, who has a little book written with the non-readers in mind, a book that uses a simple tone and steals a lot from hollywood in its storytelling methods, doesn’t really stand much of a chance when everyone’s looking for the next huge book like Gone Girl or Twilight or Harry Potter. Gone are the days when the little fun books can actually be seen for what they are…or, you know, at least when attempting to explain them through a simple little query letter.
That’s not to say that such books don’t succeed. But it’s difficult…and many times, the authors of those books have already built a name for themselves…possibly through being an actor or musician (did you know that Henry Winkler has a young adult book series?).
It’s a lot of effort to try and find a way into the publishing world today. A lot of effort that could ultimately go to waste. In fact, considering how many published authors today are currently lamenting their lot in life as published authors, one might question why anyone would even consider going down that path, especially considering the amount of work that goes into just finding someone who is even willing to read the first couple pages.
I’ve questioned that for myself for quite some time now…or…you know…at least during the last 10 days while I research agents and anxiously/eagerly (I’m not sure which one I am at the moment) await their responses.
Without the big publishing houses (or even the little ones) or anyone else really backing me up except for my amazing family and friends, I’ve watched my readership grow at a rather exponential level…sure…the early part of an exponential level is pretty insignificant…and it may taper off quickly and not be so exponential next year. It’s actually pretty incredible how much my readership has grown, considering how little I’ve found my marketing attempts to actually make any noticeable difference (if any).
And considering the vast majority of my readers seem to at least not hate my books…some might even be willing to say they downright enjoyed them…it might be safe to say that a couple of them might even tell their friends about them and keep things moving forward even further.
So…why waste the effort on something that should probably end up being absolutely nothing more than another pile of, well…wasted effort?
In case you’re not paying attention, I can lay this out for you a little more directly….I mused on precisely this idea just yesterday.
I don’t expect the big 6 publishers to come pounding down my door anytime soon…heck, I’d be pretty darned surprised if they ever even lightly rapped on it. I might foresee finding representation before too long, but it’s another item where I’m very well aware of how highly the odds are stacked against me.
But here’s the thing. I’m writing these books, whether anyone wants to read them or not. I plan to continue to publish these books, whether anyone will actually read them or not…because why the heck should they just get lost in the back corners of my hard drive? Considering how much time and effort I put into these stupid books, and how much time and effort I plan to continue to put into them, I’ve come to the realization that I should probably do something to find more readers, more people who might find these books entertaining or insightful in some way…because that’s kind of what a book is for.
I’m putting in the effort under the hopes that it might make tomorrow just that little shade better.
Only problem is…it has the tendency to make today just a shade darker, because there’s not much worse than waking up to an e-mail in your inbox says, “Nope, don’t care, see ya”…or, you know…”While I appreciate the opportunity to review your work, I’m afraid it’s just not for me. Of course, this is a subjective business and other agents may” actually be willing to read more than the first couple sentences of your boring query letter…because, let’s face it…even the most exciting of query letters are boring…at least from my research on what makes for a good query letter.
Alright, this has been a much longer post than usual. Just getting out my demons. I’m not giving up on the process yet, although I realize that it will probably need to be given up on at some point in the future…that’s the nature of the beast. Good thing I’ve got a new book I’m working on that is proving to be loads of fun to put together…and something quite a bit different than anything I’ve written before.
Have fun out there, and have a great weekend. I know I will.