Big doings recently in the publishing industry. First John Scalzi and the folks at the Science Fiction Writers of America got their hands on a copy of the contract terms offered by Random House’s recently-created eBook-only Hydra imprint. This led to a couple of scathing blog posts from Scalzi and the formal announcement from SFWA that Hydra is no longer a qualifying publication for membership, and the recommendation that authors stay away. The same goes for Alibi, Hydra’s sister imprint for mystery works, and presumably for all the Random House eBook imprints, though SFWA wasn’t willing to make that official because they hadn’t actually seen contracts.
There followed a letter from Allison Dobson, Random House’s digital publishing director, in which she assured SFWA (and prospective writers–this was, after all, an open letter) that Hydra, and Random House, aren’t trying to rip anybody off, that it is in fact a “different – but potentially lucrative – publishing model for authors: a profit share,” and also can’t everybody just talk about this? Continue Reading
The first literary agent I queried about my new book is the agent I would most like to work with. Here’s an excerpt from my query letter:
I am a fan of several of the authors you represent, and I will not be shy in saying that you are my dream agent, and I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you. Should you be interested, you may reach me at this e-mail address or by phone at any time, at XXX-XXX-XXXX.
I won’t name names, but let’s say this gentleman has a very impressive catalogue of clients, and a bio on his web site that strikes the perfect balance of expertise, modesty, and commitment to the art and business of writing.
Less than eight hours later, I received a response:
Dear Mr. Keelty,I love the “dream agent” line but I am not currently seeking authors in this particular sub-category unless they already have interesting publishing credits.Best wishes and good luck,XXX
First off, I’ve been down this road once before. Between 2005 and 2009 I shopped my first novel to no fewer than seventy agents and publishers. I got a few partial requests, and even one request for a full manuscript, but no one was buying. So I’m by no means under the impression this is a sure thing. That said, I do think this book is better than my first. I’ve learned a lot in the last few years, and I’m crossing my fingers that this book will sell.
In a best-case-scenario, reader comments are overwhelmingly positive, my editing brain fires on all cylinders, and I have a polished, ready-to-market draft in October. I start shopping it out, and within a month (okay, let’s say two months – this is best-case-scenario, not Fantasy Dreamworld) I find an agent who agrees to represent the book. From there we need to find a publisher, agree on a contract, go through the publisher’s editorial process, design a cover, shop the book to book store buyers, print and ship. I’m probably forgetting a couple of steps there.
In all likelihood, the earliest any bookstore would stock the novel I “finished” on June 1 is mid- to late-2013. More likely, if the book sells at all, it would make its way to bookstores sometime in 2014.
That’s assuming, of course, that bookstores still exist. It’s possible the only shelf you’ll ever see my book on is the one on your iPad.
In a time and place not very far in the past, perhaps ten or fifteen years ago:
A boy, not yet a man, has completed his first novel. It’s a sword-and-sorcery fantasy epic that took him six years to write. In that time he has found the how-to books about publishing in the library and in the tiny writers’ section of the book store. One of them is written by his favorite author of science fiction and fantasy. It recommends that a first-time writer try to hook a publisher, then see about getting an agent before signing any contracts.
The boy pours over the details in these magical books and learns how to properly format a query package: one inch margins all around, last name/title/page number on the top right, no staples or paper clips – no one mentions 12 point Courier font because the authors of these books assume that writing happens on a typewriter. He learns of the holy grail of publishing, mentioned in every how-to book: the Writer’s Market.
The library’s three most recent volumes are never in, so he goes to the book store and he spends $65 on his very own copy, which for this young man is a substantial investment. He spends more money on stamps and printer paper and just the right kind of envelopes. For hours he pours over the tiny print in the Writer’s Market to learn each publisher’s personalized requirements, and spends hours more assembling sample chapter, synopses, and self-addressed-stamped-envelopes according to each publisher’s particular tastes. When this ritual is ended, he carries the weighty stack of sealed envelopes to the post office and mails them off to the submissions editors, those faceless judges who preside over some secret court reachable only via the postal service. In three months he begins to receive rejection slips, but the last will not arrive until fully a year after the query was mailed. He gets three requests for partials and two requests for a full manuscript. Though all end in rejection, the editor who requested the full responds with a couple hundred words of constructive criticism and asks him to revise and resubmit. By the time he does so the kind editor has left her job. The publisher is in financial straits and no longer interested.
Fast forward now to the present day. The boy is now a young man. His how-to books are outdated, the one written by his no-longer-favorite author preserved on a shelf only because of the personalized autograph. The young man has finished his fifth revision of that same novel, and it’s time to consider publication. His plan now is to find an agent, because the two remaining publishers who still accept unagented submissions have already declined. The Writer’s Market is no longer the definitive compendium it once was – in fact, it’s quaint and pretty much defunct at this point. The young man goes where the action is: the internet. Continue Reading