The Story Of (Publishing Today)


I started writing fiction in earnest about a decade ago. I was lucky, it only took me a couple of years to be published. A short story here, a short story there. Validation by the inch.

A couple of years later, my first novel was submitted to a literary contest in manuscript form by my writing instructor without my knowledge. I arrived at the awards ceremony with no idea that my work was up for a prize. I was astonished when it won. The validation grew by a foot.

Again, luck shined and an agent popped up. Validation, extended.

Then came the slog of rejection. Every letter whittled away the length of validation I had garnered. “Too literary”; “not literary enough”; “we don’t know where this would be placed on the bookstore shelf”; “who wants to read a whole novel told from the point of view of a dog?”.

You get the idea.

I worked with three separate editors of BIG legacy houses for approximately 2 months each over the last five years. All were very “doggish” and loved the book. Just wanted a few tweaks. I complied, happy to do so. My motto: Simply tell me what you want and I’ll do it.

In the end, none of them could sell it to their acquisitions board (one editor loved it so much she sent me a picture of her dog and asked me to please let her know who finally picked up the book). Consensus denied. I forged ahead and, blessedly, so did my agent.

Five years passed. Two more novels were written. Neither of which my agent thought she could sell. In fact, she’d had such a difficult time with fiction she decided to concern herself with only non-fiction. Still, she continued to seek a home for my little dog story. She solicited new publishing houses, some barely start-ups, with the idea that they might be hungry for something different; something new.

I admired and appreciated her perseverance, at the same time I began to consider self-publishing. SHE even suggested I do so. No longer the dirty word of the literary world, it was easier than ever and, much to the consternation of the big legacy houses, it was catching fire. The success of self-published authors was on the rise. Even J.K. Rowling had decided to do it. Of course, she could afford to do it.

I let the idea of being published by a REAL publisher slip away and concentrated on the fact that this “little dog story” had the validation of a best-seller author (my instructor), a nice award and a good agent (not to mention a couple of GREAT blurbs from distinguished, best-selling authors who had given it a read). I started research the self-pub world with a vengeance.

The results: As soon as I let the idea of traditional publishing go, the novel was picked up to be released in June. Granted, not by a legacy house but by a fairly new publisher with a golden (it seems to me) model: Place good marketing behind an ebook and if it takes off, let it be taken to hard copy. The risk is diminished for the publisher and MORE first-time authors are given a chance. Win-Win in any book, so to speak.

MY thought: What in the world is stopping the legacy houses from doing the same? Testing the literary waters seems like a no-brainer. So much more great writing would rise to the top; so much more diversity of topic. The legacy houses think they know what the public wants. Really?

Is that why they pass on those that make sensations as self-published ebooks? They are so sure they KNOW what the public wants? I see the model changing. And, if the big houses are smart, they do, too. Let’s hope they move like a deer and not a sloth to embrace it. If they don’t, they may lose there relevance all together.

Do you have a publishing odyssey? Please share if you do.

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~ by rfgainey on May 16, 2012.

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