Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday's Wanderings: Looking Back...and Forward

The year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven is over, and I for one am so glad! It was not the best of years for me and my family, so I think 2012 can only be better.

I learned some things this past year, however, that are probably going to change the way I look at the future in terms of my writing. I received a lot of rejections last year, but the "good" part of that is that most of them were personal notes of rejection. I learned that for the most part, agents like my writing. They like my characters, they like my plots, they like the way I develop the story, how I arouse emotion from sympathy to anger in just the first few pages, how vividly I paint an imaginary picture. But the answer is still a 'no.' For a variety of reasons: just accepted one similar; not quite what I am looking for; don't have the "stomach" to go down the road of slavery right now; and the one I liked best: I loved it but didn't "fall in love" with it. And there were other reasons.

What does that tell me..or you? I think agents are looking for a SURE thing, and how can they be "sure" of that with a new author? All of the agents I queried were ones who were looking for new clients, at least according to blog interviews and Query Tracker. But it seems that new clients doesn't equal new authors, in many cases.

Publishing has changed drastically in the last couple of years, due to the bad economy and to the advent of ebook publishing. The "Big Six" publishers in New York are only going to publish those books that are going to bring in a lot of money, and possibly make the New York Times Best Seller list, and very few new authors are going to do that. Well, unless you're the next JK Rowlings or Stephanie Meyer, that is.  And most of us aren't, even if we'd like to think we are!

Consequently, agents have to deal with publishers who are being extremely choosey about what they publish, so agents also have to be extremely choosey. Most of them are no longer willing to take chances on new authors, unless they truly believe you have a blockbuster of a novel. The exception to this 'rule' is the few agents who are aiming for the smaller, less-well-known publishers, rather than the Big Six or  any of their imprints.

(Big Six: Hachette Book Group, formerly TimeWarner, many imprints including Little,Brown, and Co; HarperCollins, with 50 imprints; MacMillan Publishers, dozens of imprints including St.Martin Press, Tor, Farrar,Straus, & Giroux; Penguin Group, second largest trade publisher in the world; Random House, largest English-language trade publisher in the world; and Simon Schuster, with dozens of imprints.)

From what I've been reading on several published authors' blogs, the Big Six are looking for younger writers who are truly outstanding, who are writing series instead of independent novels, and with whom they can have a long-lasting relationship. So where does that leave the, er, not-so-younger writer? Are we all nothing more than chopped liver, in terms of our writing? According to the personal rejections I've been getting, I'm not exactly chopped liver, I'm a "brilliant writer" but I don't have the demographics the Big Six are looking for, so I'm not what the agents are looking for, either.

That was then, this is now. 2011 is over with, 2012 has just begun, and for me, that means changing my direction, changing my thoughts, and changing my career path. I'm a grandmother, and proud of it! And if I have to frame all of those "glowing, thanks but not thanks" personal rejections, and hang them up in my study to prove to myself that my writing is "brilliant," I will do so. But I'm not giving up, just changing things around a bit.

This year, I'm going after the small, independent publishers. NOT, repeat, NOT the vanity-type where you pay them to publish your book, but the smaller, less well-known publishers who do a lot, if not most, of ebook publishing. Why not? Ebooks are now being published from picture books to middle grade, young adult, and adult. Ebook publishing no longer has the stigma that it did when it first came out, and although you don't get an advance, your royalty percentage is quite a bit more than through traditional, print publishing.

You do have to do a lot more of the promotion yourself, but in today's economy, you also have to do much of it even with the Big Six. Websites, blogs, interviews, school visitis, smaller independent book store signings ( if you get into print), are all easy and inexpensive ways to promote your book.

Another thing I'm going to look into is self-publishing. Again, not the kind where you have to do all the work and pay someone else. But I've been reading about highly successful authors, including some who have made the NY Times Best Seller list, whose best-selling books are self-published. It can't be all that bad. At least, it's an option to look into.

Does that mean I'm going to stop querying agents? Not at all. But it does mean that I'm not taking days and days of doing research on them, it means I'm sending out queries to many at a time instead of only a select few, and it means I'm not going to be heartbroken over rejections, personal or otherwise.

And in the meantime, I'm going to be querying as many ebook and smaller, independent publishers as I can for the coming year. I'm looking forward with a smile to 2012. 2011, you're in the trash can!

Are you looking forward to what this new year will bring? What are your feelings about ebook publishing?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.