Thursday, August 14, 2014

Looking for Hope

I've been Googling YA Genre Fantasy agents and publishers this morning, and what I've learned is that there's a whole industry out there dedicated to helping would-be authors find agents and publishers. It's sad. Not that folks want to tell their stories but that there are so many people trying to tell their stories that a whole industry has sprung up around them to try to make a buck off their desperation to be heard.  A week's subscription to one of the sites that hosts a searchable index of agents is $24.99.  To get access for a year, it's $399.  Prices to attend various "meet folks in the industry" events can be much more, and there are a raft of services beyond that to help you get your manuscript into shape--or even just figure out if it is at all commercial!

This is supply and demand. We have an over-educated populace that's addicted to pop-culture, and in this new century, everyone wants to play.  Social media makes it seem possible and immediate, and even if your book is lousy, the industry would still like to find some way to make money from you, which is why they're trying to sell you a dream and some services to go along with it.

get it.  I just don't want to be part of it.  I also don't feel like spending half my time on a snipe-hunt looking for the one girl in America who's willing to represent my book. As a forty-one-year-old West Point graduate, I don't want to go hat-in-hand to some twenty-four-year-old Vassar grad in the hopes that maybe she'll like my book.  My book is what it is.  Like it, lump it.  That's fine.  Everybody's got an opinion.  I don't personally think my book is great literature or anything.  It tells a story that has some resonance for me.  That's enough.

I aspire to write paperback genre fantasy for kids because, truthfully, those are the kinds of books that I love and because I have kids, and I find them an easy and convenient target audience for my writing. Having now written a book, I'd like to share it with people, but I'm not looking to start a small business around it, nor do I want to invest thousands of dollars in one of my hobbies, albeit my favorite hobby.  I already have an expensive hobby in triathlon, but that one at least keeps me fit. In my head, it feels like I have to choose between a new road bike and spending money trying to whip my book into shape and then find an agent for it, and I'm telling you, the road bike seems like a better value. At least the road bike gives me something tangible--plus hours of enjoyment spent out on the road. With the book, the best part is already over.  The thing is done. Cutting it up for a commercial audience might make it more saleable, but it won't be fun.

I've been telling myself for months to at least give this thing a chance, to put it out there and do something with it.  Most of what I've written has gone straight into a drawer or the burn pile.  I want to do that with this, too, but it's a waste. You can't succeed if you don't try; that's just plain science. But this pay-to-play system that has developed turns my stomach. You can pay to hire a book doctor and self-publish, or you can pay to find an agent, pray a lot, and maybe wind up going a more traditional route.  Either way, you pay up-front because that's the way the market is right now. There are more writers than readers, to the point where a substantial part of the profitability has moved to the writer's side of the equation. 


If I put my book up here two-chapters-per-week, will you read it?  I'm thinking of publishing a chapter every Tuesday and Thursday.   Will that work for you?


  1. I hate this situation, too, Dan. It sucks trying to get noticed. It's not always those who are worth noticing who get noticed, and it's not always those who aren't worth noticing who get noticed, either. And even getting noticed doesn't guarantee getting the sales you deserve. It's such a tough goal to pursue.

    1. It's funny, Tony, because I've been meaning to send you the book just to share it with you. I was gonna hit you up & ask you who you knew.

      At least with comics, if you actually make a comic, people will typically give you the time of day with it. Your odds of getting in at Marvel or DC aren't good, but you can put out a short comic online and people WILL read it. With prose, yeah, you can do it all yourself, you don't need an artist, but trying to get people to read your work is like trying to hand your friends a steaming pile of dog turds. No one wants it.

      I'm starting to think I should just do what I initially planned and put this thing out webcomic-style, a chapter at a time. It still probably won't get noticed, but at least I won't go crazy trying to get people to give me the time of day.

  2. Don't give up man, you just started looking for an agent! It takes some time and hopefully you'll get some feedback.

    I'm a little confused though. You mention going to an agent 'hat in hand.' I don't think they're going to take pity on you if they like your book. They don't get paid, unless they can sell it, and that's a tough nut to crack. They still have to get it up the ladder, and if you're lucky enough to have it looked at by the Big 6, they still have a committee that decides what ultimately gets published or not. Most of my friends with agents are still working their butts off trying to get it perfect. Everyone is working hard. One guy hit it on the 1st try with Scholastic. Another friend got her book in front of one of the Big 6 and it made it to the final round but ultimately, it got rejected. She then did a Kickstarter that hit $50,000 (which she still lost a -little- money on, but now it's been optioned for a movie). I don't know if that makes you feel any better about the book process but an agent should be your advocate and they won't do that if they don't genuinely like your work.

    If you did post your book in increments, it's interesting to note that David Wellington did that with his Zombie and Werewolf books. He got a sizeable following and went to some book publishers and said, 'see, I got a fan base who wants this. Wanna publish me?' And they said Yes. :) I also read 4 of his books that way too. :P

    1. I am definitely not giving up. But I read your stories above, Alan, and the only one I see myself in is Wellington's. For that matter, Rival Angels has done well for you because you've built a following over time, too. If I published the book episodically, and it got in front of te right eyeballs, I could build an audience, too. It might not be legions of fans, but I could see having enough to warrant self-publishing a series of these books to people who like the genres and characters.

      Honestly, this is the only path to success that looks realistic from where I'm sitting right now.

      I think my book is good. The plot works, the scene structure is rock-solid, and a number of people have given some ludicrously nice comments about some of the imagery. But it's still highly-accessible genre fiction, and from the outside at least, that looks like the worst kind of poison to the modern publishing establishment. There's a ton of it, most of it is terrible, and lots of people still turn their noses up at the idea of anything that smacks of D&D. My frustration is therefore with the process. As I said above, I'm afraid folks aren't gonna make it past the first paragraph of my cover letter because of What My Story Is.

      Also: I was really tired yesterday, and that doesn't usually impact my writing, but it does impact my state of mind. I feel a little better about it today, but... I still can't see my book as some kind of mass market best-seller, nor do I think anyone else will see it that way, either.