The Saga of Greene Newbie -- pt. 2

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When last we left our erstwhile writer, he'd given up on the craft. Actually, he hadn't even crafted yet, he just wrote and gave up at the first hiccup.

That's Lesson #1 -- there WILL be hiccups.

*Most people want to write, few start.
*Of those who start, few finish.
*Of those who finish, few make the book saleable.
*Of those ready to sell, few succeed - mainly because they fold too soon or don't recognize that their vision may need corrective lenses.

Greene Newbie's pal, Friendly Writerman, stands outside the door ringing the bell. When Greene doesn't answer, Friendly slips the key out from under the mat and lets himself inside for a long talk with the wannabe novelist. He starts by telling him that what happened with the not-so-nice publishers doesn't mean he wrote a bad book -- or a good one. It just means he wrote a book, and that in itself is an accomplishment to be proud of.

But Greene didn't want to hear it. None of the "real publishers showed any interest at all. It had been days and not so much as a blip.... that's when Friendly had to explain that most likely his emails were either languishing in a spam filter somewhere or deleted outright by an editor's assistant.

"Greene, you are a writer, but not yet a novelist," he says, then tries to set his friend straight on a few things.

Greene listens, still slightly shell shocked from the downfall of the alliteration-laden letters as Friendly lays out a few points.

1. ALWAYS check out a publisher you haven't heard of. There are millions of wannabe writers out there, and 99% of them fail. That's a huge pool for the less than honest to cull marks.

2. Realize that honest and successful aren't the same thing. Check the track records for publishers. Most new presses fail in a matter of months even if the guy running it has no evil designs in mind. There's no reason your MS should be his learning curve.

3. Find out how copyright works - and how it doesn't. Legit publishers won't steal MS because they're too busy. Fake publishers won't steal MS because it's too much work and they want the easy money.

4. Money ALWAYS flows to the author. Costs are paid by the publisher, not the author. The publisher pays the author for the right to publish their words. The author does not pay the publisher for the privilege of being in print. This is YOG's law. YOG is smart. Listen to YOG.

5. Call your local bookstore and ask if a publisher's books actually make it to shelves. If they say
"No P.O.D.", then don't go with the POD* press.

6. Commercial publishers don't have author testimonials on their sites. Random House, Scholastic, none of them. They don't need them; they're not trying to lure new authors. They sell their product to consumers, so that's where their sites' focus will be.

7. It's a business, not a dream. Publishers are in it to make money - for themselves and the writer. That's all. They don't have the vested emotional attachment the author does. All they want is the best possible product. Sometimes that means a book isn't right for them, and sometimes it means the book needs to be tweaked. It's not a personal attack when they say no.

8. Publishers prefer agents. Since they have no emotional attachment to the work, they like that buffer zone between them and the very emotionally attached writer. Get an agent, then the agent will handle the publishers - they have sharper teeth.

Greene Newbie scribbled furiously in his notebook as Friendly Writerman gave him the finer points, and was shocked at just how little he actually knew. He, like most of his friends and family, thought it was just a matter of finishing a book and handing it over... this is actually kind of scary.

Greene heads back to Google and looks up "American Literary Agents", and after applying Friendly's [name]+[scam] formula weeds out the less than stellar candidates. By the end of the day, he's got himself a list of ten names he's certain will jump at the chance to represent him.

(to be continued...)

*POD = Print/Publish on Demand. The book is stored as a text file to be printed when an order comes in. There are no print runs - which is why the books cost so much.

2 Chiming In:

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Can't wait to hear the continuing saga...

I just recently beta'd a story where a writer had a fantastic (fantastic I tell you! it must have been) premise and the publisher sent her such a large advance (before she had written the book) that she immediately went out and bought a new car ... and then began to think about how to turn her wonderful (wonderful I tell you!) idea into a book.

I was hoping it was brilliant satire. Alas, not so much.

dolorah said...

Very informative, and actually encouraging. Thanks Josin.


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