The Saga of Greene Newbie

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I couldn't think of another topic at the moment, so I'm going with "New Writer Pitfalls".

We now embark on the tale of Greene Newbie as he navigates the dangerous waters known as "The Road to Publication". It's a treacherous journey where sharks can be your friends (they're great at shredding bad queries) and there are deceptivly friendly snakes and rats that will actually sink your boat before it leaves the docks.

/boating metaphor.
(I have to. I know nothing about boating other than water is involved.)

Greene Newbie is a writer - an excited writer.

You know the type. He's one of those wide eyed innocents that has just put the last period on his masterpiece/opus/overly-enthusiastic descriptor of choice, and is certain that it's destined for break-out success. He's sweet (at least in public), smart (also in public), and full of nothing but hope and joy for the fate of his baby.

Greene doesn't bother with a beta, as he's never heard of such a thing. He'd never think of allowing someone else to read his book because that's how people's work gets stolen. The only copy in existence beyond the final product on his hard drive is the one he slipped into a large manila envelope and mailed to himself. (Believing, of course, that this is how one establishes ownership of their masterwork.)

Now Greene Newbie is ready to get his baby "out there".

He heads down to the library for a copy of Writer's Market and promptly gets cross-eyed from all the lines of names and information, so he leaves the library and heads home to Google where he types "American publishers" into the search engine. He's relatively certain that there are other publishers in other countries, but he's only interested in the US variety for now. Not knowing that most publishers won't work directly with new writers, he doesn't think to look for agents. After all, only famous people have agents. So he zips off twelve e-mails... with attachments.

By the next day, there are three e-mails waiting in Greene's in-box praising his prowess with prose. These emails use annoying literary devices like alliteration, because that's the mark of a real publisher... yeah...

These emails are also plain spoken and questionably edited, but they all say that his MS was a thing of beauty and depth and they'd love to not only read the whole thing, but they're certain they want to publish it. Greene's not quite sure why they've asked him to submit the MS, since he already did, or why they occasionally refer to him as Ms. Newbie instead of Mr. Newbie, but he chalks it up to them loving his words so much they were too excited to type straight.

He hurries over to the linked websites of these lovely publishers who want his book and finds testimonials from others published with them. Promises of publication and fame anchor themselves in his brain, and the best part is that the "dream" is now a reality for him. He's one of "those" authors. The ones who skipped obscurity and went straight to the top because he really is as good as he thinks he is. And... according to these websites... he got lucky. These publishers aren't like the shady ones that "take" his copyright. His baby stays his baby.

But, now he's got a problem. How to choose between these three awesome publishers... or the forth that showed up in his in-box while he was browsing the other 3's sites. This 4th publisher, he realizes, is nothing but a vanity press. They want him to pay upfront for his book to be in print, so he sets that one aside. He doesn't want a vanity publisher. He wants a commercial one.

Looking for advice, Greene Newbie takes his offers of publication to a friend who is also trying to get published and waits to see what advice the friend can impart. What he hears isn't what he expected.

Friendly Writerman takes one look at the offers and asks Greene if he's checked these companies out. When Greene replies (happily, and now a bit defensively) that he went to their sites, Friendly asks what other research he did. Greene is confused - what other research is there?

"Knowing that no reputable publisher "takes" the copyright, for one. Knowing the difference between available "in" stores and an assurance that the book will be "on" shelves, for another. The former means the book's in a database and if someone already knows it exists, they can go in and ask for a special ordered copy, the latter means someone browsing will find the book on the shelves already. You also want a publisher with a real editor who will make your book as strong as possible and market it when it's done"

Greene's in a tailspin. How could his friend say these things? He's attacking his "baby". (Notice, however, that the MS was never mentioned or questioned, but Greene took the questioning of his potential publisher as a personal attack on his own abilities. It was an attack on his "dream"; i.e. "the fantasy" version of getting published.)

Friendly tells him to go home, get back on Google and check out each publisher by name plus the word [scam]. Greene snatches his offers back and huffs off, shocked that Friendly Writerman would be so jealous as to suggest that his wonderful opportunities were anything less than the end of the rainbow. He sits and stews for a while before opening up his web browser... just to prove Friendly wrong.

Three hours, and pages of complaints later, Greene is crushed. His "dream" turns out to be a farce. All 3 of the responses he considered are back end vanity presses that most likely didn't even read his book. They take almost anyone, pay them almost nothing, and still want him to buy his own book. Had he signed with them, he'd never have seen his book on a shelf and would have been humiliated by having to explain it to the friends and family he was waiting to impress.

He shuts his door and turns off the light, tosses his "poor man's copyright" into the shredder and refuses to come out of his house, convinced he's a failure and that his writing stinks.

Then Friendly Writerman comes knocking....

(to be continued)

2 Chiming In:

Terry Towery said...

I resent this ... this attack on my privacy!

Much love,

Greene Newbie


Susan Quinn said...

I want to read on! :)

I'm so glad I found agent/publisher/writer's blogs before I finished writing my MS. Not that I would ever be a Newbie - I'm not green enough!

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