Congratulations! This endeavor claws at your heart and soul. One day you review your material and decide you’re a genius and your work is unprecedented in the entire world history of literature.
But the very next day, when you again review your work, you feel nauseous, ready to throw up, ready to burn your book, and publically declare yourself the worst writer in all of history. You seriously consider hari-kari, or law school. Is there really any difference?
I am here to tell you NOT to destroy your work. You are too close to it to judge it objectively. And always remember: everyone’s opinion is only their personal opinion. One person. No more.
I’m going to outline the steps to take if you want to share your masterwork with more than your immediately family and friends.
1. Conventional approach. Get access to a "book book"* published by xxxx called xxxxxxx. Read it carefully and choose agents looking for work in the area you wrote about. Expect numerous rejections. And remember: no matter how much these seem to appreciate your work, if they reject you, they are saying NO.
2. You find an agent who wants to represent you! You rejoice! Surely this will lead to publication and the recognition you deserve.
But no! This is a bogus assumption. Your agent will try to sell your book to five to ten publishing companies. If they say NO, she/he/? will drop you faster than an AIDS infested needle.
Let’s say something magical happens and your agent manages to sell your work. Now it is safe to rejoice! But NO. Publishing companies invest time commensurate with the size of the advance they give you. This will probably be in the 5-10 thousand dollar range. Your royalty will be about 20%, of which you must give your agent 10-15%.
Sad to tell you editors come and go. A project that “excited” the company greatly suddenly, for no apparent reason, is dropped. Companies merge, and purge many, many writers with publishing contracts.
A contract is no guarantee of publication. Further, if you are actually published, you have about six months in the stores to actually sell, or your work will be remaindered and pulped or perhaps sold for one cent on Amazon. It is all a matter of numbers, computations and computers. Nothing else. [What’s 20% of one cent? And don’t forget the agent’s cut.]
No matter how many books you sign a contract for, you can be dropped in a moment. And the company will have the hutzpah to demand their paltry advance back. I advise resistance. Or tell them, if they really want it, to come to your home and get it. Have thugs around if they do show up. They won’t.
I have written ten novels and know literally hundreds of writers, published and unpublished. I know writers who have contracts for four books. Their first one was a success. Yet the publisher decided they didn’t like the second one the writer wrote, and promptly canceled the contract.
In the world of brick and mortar publishing nothing is in our favor; worse, everything possible is stacked against us.
The publisher and editor and maybe even the sales staff whom you may or may not meet, love you and your book madly. Until they don’t. They praise you to heaven on high. Then, a few months later, don’t even know your name.
There are so many heartbreaks along this path that I advise against it; unless your work is very specialized – romance, academic – and speaks to a specific audience that the publisher regularly and successfully sells to. And in terms of technical, expert books, you simply must have credentials including publication in journals and/or an academic background of teaching. And be a generally recognized expert.
You may rationalize and conclude that nothing like this will happen to you. Mostly likely, unless you get a sizable advance—say in the $100,000—range, there is a good chance it will do little good to you. You will have wasted your time, and broken your heart yet again. I would rate the odds against your success—not publication, but success—as a thousand to one.
Unless, of course, you are Steven King or Mary Higgins Clark and already have a proven, unassailable track record.
Further, I will herein state that the more brilliant, esoteric, and innovative your work is, the less likely conventional publishers are to want it. [These creature who inhabit their own universe say they are searching for new and innovative work—but they’re not really. The innovations must be within the confines of what they currently publish.]
Remember: none of this is exactly news. Proust had to publish his own work. Proust was widely known around Paris as a dilatant. Gide reviewed his work as horrible. It was only after Gide actually read it, or reread it, that he retracted his review and called it a work of genius.
Virginia Woolf and her husband formed the Hogarth Press to publish her work and the work of other masterful writers like her. And it is no less than Virginia Woolf who said something like, “Having read Proust, what else is there to write?”
There IS another route. Please refer here to my other article on "modern" publishing, "Writing in the First Century of the New Millennium," and feel free to ask me any questions you want.
The path to success and recognized achievement of your goals is within your grasp. Seize it! Join the quiet revolution.
70% royalties sound pretty good. And no one to share them with. And publication forever, during which you can make any changes you want. A cover and format you want. A marketing campaign you are an integral part of.
I ask you, what’s not to like?
So You Wrote a Book?
Black Lotus by Lita Lepie
"Possibly one of the most artful colloquial narratives of the past decade."
- E. Cohen
"My only criticism is that it wasn’t long enough..."
"...film noir in a book..."
"Awareness of race, gender and sexual orientation shades [Black Lotus] with great depth..."