Friday, June 11, 2010

Attention Angry Writers - Publishing IS a Business!

In the last several days, I have seen Tweets, posts and blogs from writers that are apparently angry. What about? According to them it is the way the business of publishing is set up, the way editors and agents deal with submissions, and any number of issues dealing with publishing. In my humble opinion though, I honestly think most of the complaints are coming from writers that seem to think that anything written is worth being published.

Hmmm, let me think about that.

Last time that I checked, publishing was a business. That means that a publisher looks at what the market is buying now, they look at trends, and they target their "product" toward the customers. They take the same approach that all the other businesses out there take when it comes to marketing. Parachute pants and Members Only jackets are not selling right now, and I don't think anyone cares if you have a case of each of these to sell, the product is not in demand. The same goes for writing.

You may have put your heart and soul into a book, but if it isn't marketable, then it will simply not sell and you can't blame anyone else for this. It may be well written, it may have interesting characters but if it is something that people just don't like, you will get no where in the business.

Oh I know that most people with stories like this will then cite the millions of books they have sold independently, or reference the number of people that believe the same thing that they do, but this does not demonstrate marketablity. Are there some people who have sold things this way? Sure, I am not going to deny that. But for the most part, this is simply not the way the business works.

Again, let's go back to the guy with the parachute pants and Members Only jackets. Could he sell these on the street or on a website? Sure, but is it going to be a full blown business. The odds are no.

The deal is this. Publishing is a business. We work with the same basic fundamentals that every other business operates with, namely supply and demand. I don't care if we have a supply, if the demand is not out there, the product does not sell.

So, it's time to return to what started all of this. Those writers that have been out there on the net compaining about why their books are not being picked up, or why the rejection letter they received was "unfair", or why they are tweaked that an agent that doesn't represent their genre rejected the, or the agent or editor didn't read their full manuscript even though the guidelines only said to send a proposal, please stop and think. What are you really angry about? My bet is that a little introspection might provide the answer.

Oh, and as for the writer out there that thought I was negative, I did send out requests for over 50% of the last round of submissions that came in. Seems to me, that's pretty dang positive.


  1. Wow, I agree with every word here. I know a lot of unpublished authors who feel they deserve to be published only because they wrote something. I don't feel that way. Those friends of mine are very naive. It's also egotistical to think someone should spend their hard earned money to read or publish your drivel--either it's good enough to invest in, or it isn't, but anger isn't going to fix anything.

    I write to write; I hope I'm getting better. I might be published one day--I think I will--but I'm in no hurry and wouldn't want to do it prematurely. Most romances are bad. I'm sorry, I love the community, I love some of the books, very much, but most of them are really badly written. I want to be proud of my work. I'm not sure I want a 3 book contract, with everything due in 6 months--my life would be miserable.

    Is there room for someone who doesn't want to compromise herself? Maybe not.

    (I am the same Anonymous from the prev. post. I do think you're negative.)

  2. I was thinking, the other day, that I needed to thank the agents I submitted to who rejected me. I won't because I don't want to fill their inboxes with drivel, but I should. When I finished my first novel, I thought it was great. I thought it was perfect and wonderful. And because I was new, I bought a Writer's Market book, looked up some agents and their two page summary on queries and sent it out. Then while I waited, I read online, found some agent blogs, read a little more, and updated my query because obviously I'd done it entirely wrong and sent it out a few more times. I read more and readjusted and sent it again -- and got some requests and some feedback, but still the answer was no.

    But they had some good points and I could begin to see some flaws in my perfect baby. It allowed me to have an honest conversation with my husband about perfection. "No, it's not perfect, but it's better than this one." I grump as I hold up an already published book I was disappointed in. "And that's what you're going for?" He asks.

    Right now my baby is in a drawer, on hiatus while I work on novel two -- because spending three years or more years on nothing but novel one isn't enough unless I only ever want to publish one novel. And I follow a number of agent blogs that speak a language I understand, even a few that will probably not be the perfect agent for me, but will help me get to the point where it makes sense to query again. --When my story is perfect in itself, not just better than the last book I read.

    But I never would have gotten here without bugging a few agents and using their feedback to the best of my ability and I think, eventually I will be published and then, because of these agents, I will be worth being published. So, prompted by your post I'll put something out there that isn't often said, but probably should be -- Thank you to all the agents who rejected me. (and the ones who didn't get to read my beginning attempts can take this to heart too because there's almost certainly someone somewhere in your rejections feeling the same thing). That you have made them better for it.

  3. Anon,

    I think there is certainly room out there for writers that want to tell a really strong story and if it takes them a long time to write it then fine. You don't have to compromise yourself for that. Write the best story you can.

    It is a decision each writer has to make for himself or herself.


  4. Clothdragon - I think you are seeing things from the right point of view. Rejections are something we can all learn from! The approach you are taking is certainly one that will get you a long way in this business!


  5. As someone who is just starting out, I want to thank you. Your blogs are always helpful and informative. As someone whose work you passed on, I want to thank you for taking the time to read it and let me know exactly why you chose to say no. You conduct your business in a helpful and professional manner, and that is all anyone can ask.

  6. On the whole, I agree with you. The only thing I don't agree with that I'm dealing with now is the "no response means no" method of rejecting. If I follow the guidelines, personalize my query letter, and write a professional query, I feel like I deserve at least a form rejection so I don't wonder if my query was lost.

    I don't know if this is just due to a time constraint or there are other reasons for doing this, but it burns a bridge with me and is soul-sucking. Waiting eight weeks just to see if you've been ignored makes me feel like Oliver begging for gruel. "Please, sir, I'd like some more" rejections. Rejections make it a clean, easy break and I can move on.

  7. I'll admit. I did go through a bitter stage with the publishing industry. Not so much about my work being rejected (that just put me in the slumps for awhile :)) I understand publishing is a business. My annoyance came from the snide comments some agents posted or tweeted about aspiring authors.

    A lot of writers step into the industry knowing virtually nothing. I for one had no idea there was so much I needed to know. I'm big into research--it sucks me in. I could spend all day researching and getting side tracked here and there with minute facts. It's just who I am. Still, there are bits and pieces about the industry I don't even know I don't know. Just when I hit a eureka moment, something new comes my way and I realize I don't get it. :)

    I'm sure there are plenty of others just like me. Does that mean those in the position to teach should mock those who are learning? I don't think so. Yet there are. And the idea that the same agents I looked forward to querying were some of the major offenders irritated me to no end.

    But that's okay. Like one commenter mentioned, blog posts and tweets are like interviews. Once I stopped following those blogs and twitters with negative spins, my anger faded. Then I started checking out individuals with newbie friendly messages such as Query Shark (Janet Reid), Rachelle Gardner, Nathan Bransford, Donald Maas, here, etc.

    It's okay to rant. In fact, many agents are ranting about many of the same things. That's great! It provides more resources for new writers. Where a writer might miss one blog, they might find the information on another. Still, there's a nice way and a mean way to do it. Pointing out the errors of ones ways can be constructive. But telling people they're idiots because of a mistake is not so helpful. So many agents AND writers sink to a personal level at times. It's just not necessary.

    In a way, I think it's created an us versus them mentality. And that's not the way it should be. Ideally, I think agents and writers should be partners. After all, aren't we all working toward the same goal?

  8. @Wendy Sparrow

    I love (I mean hate) rejections. I know what you mean by wanting a clean break. I'd rather get a one liner "Not for me" than silence. Even worse is the message that following up on a query is a no go. If I apply for a job and wanted a definitely answer after hearing nothing, I could call the company and find out.

    One thing which has helped me though, is making my own clean break. Determine for yourself what is an acceptable time limit. When the time has passed, assume it's a rejection and move on. Out of sight, out of mind. :) If the agent responds later, you get another closure.