Out of Options?

I got this email while I was away. The subject heading was "What to do after you’ve exhausted every resource in writing?"

Greetings.  First off, I am a potential author.  I say potential cause I’ve yet to get anything published.  Have about four finished manuscripts under my belt and I’ve exhausted
agents, publishers, some even overseas.  I’ve found nobody willing to take a chance on rookies (and I’ve got so many rejections that I’m thinking about wallpapering the bathroom).

You discourage the use of POD’s, but what’s a person to do when no other options are available?  Self publishing, perhaps, but cost of DIY is astronomical for some of us.

Could you give some insight that would light the darkness?  Any help will be appreciated.

I have some insight, but I don’t think you’re going to like it. You haven’t "exhausted every resource in writing," you’ve received some rejections. Big deal.  If you can’t handle rejection, you aren’t cut out to be a writer. It’s part of the job and certainly doesn’t end once you are published or produced.

The painful truth is that your rejections probably have nothing to do with people being unwilling to take a chance on a rookie. More likely, your novels aren’t marketable, they weren’t right for that publisher or agent, or they simply suck. What do you do? If you have confidence in the manuscripts, keep sending them out and start writing something new. POD self-publishing isn’t really an option, it’s just a way to spend hundreds of dollars printing your rejected manuscript in book form for your relatives to buy (if you nag them hard enough).  But if you have the money to waste and your goal is only to see your manuscript in something resembling a book, then go for it. You won’t have to work so hard and you certainly won’t get any more rejection letters. 

14 thoughts on “Out of Options?”

  1. I heard Marion Zimmer Bradley say something along the lines of “How do you get to be a writer? Write a million words. The next million should be publishable.”
    And this guy is not without resources. He can keep on writing. He can find a writer’s group. There are some blogs that will accept a sample and critique it.
    If publication is the sole goal, he can post it on the Internet. Scalzi did that and actually managed to make some money with it.
    Perhaps this guy is simply asking the wrong question. It shouldn’t be “how can I get this novel published?” It should be “how can I get something I’ve written published.” Then he can work on what really matters: getting good at it.

  2. The classic route is to meet an editor at a genre fiction convention. They do remember faces and people. But you’ll have to have something worth their attention. I remember meeting Sara Ann Freed at a convention of Western Writers of America in the early 1980s. We just sat at an outdoor table in Santa Fe and talked; no business, no pressure. Later, I wrote and asked whether she would look at a manuscript. She would. She read my story, bought it, and exclaimed on the phone, “You’re really a writer!” The book was a Spur Award finalist.

  3. Oh, come on, Lee. As you know, self-publishing isn’t always fruitless. It can be right for some authors and their work, not for others.
    It worked for me. 🙂 And, as I’ve heard recently, it worked even better for Kathleen McGowans…….
    Heard about this? Cha-ching.
    Kathleen McGowan’s The Magdalene Line, three thrillers that fictionalize her two decades of research into a gospel written by Mary Magdalene, beginning with her originally self-published THE EXPECTED ONE for publication in August 2006, to Trish Todd at Touchstone Fireside, in a major deal, for seven figures, on an exclusive submission, by Larry Kirshbaum of LJK Literary Management (world). Film producer Michael Grais brought the project to Kirshbaum, and is attached to produce when the movie rights are sold.
    Rights have been sold Bruna in Holland (in a pre-empt), Editions XO in France, Piemme in Italy, and Damm in Sweden, reaching into high six-figures already.

  4. Good timing on this post–just got another reject from a lit journal on my latest “masterpiece–this one’s the best I’ve ever written” short story. I’ve been through rejection, and while for a day or two I may salve my ego with “what do they know?” I’ve learned to recognize that what was rejected two years ago, in view of what I’m writing now, was wisely passed upon. Which means, of course, that what I wrote today is nothing compared to what I’ll write two years from now. So then, they likely know what they’re doing. All I need do is catch up to my potential!

  5. Oh, Mark. What is it about someone that would motivate them to make such a mean-spirited comment? Your whole post dedicated to insulting and discrediting lil ‘ole me.
    Gosh. I’m shaking my head as I type this.
    BTW – In 2002 – I used Infinity Publishing to self-published. It was a very smart move on my part. It was right for me. I stand by that position today.
    But – now – I think you can find me a tad more easily here: http://www.penguinputnam.com
    And I hope you feel like the jerk your insolent comment illustrates you to be. But don’t worry – I won’t put a pot to boil waiting for your apology.
    ::Still shaking head, Millenia clicks “Post”. Then uses both hands to proudly clap herself on the back::

  6. Mark – I’m not big on self-publishing either, but the shot at Ms. Black is misplaced. Her point was that she started in self-publishing and moved on. NAL (division of Penguin) published her September 2005 release. So, yeah, she’s arrived. We may not agree with the road she took to get there, but that doesn’t make her current publishing accomplishment less valid.

  7. Thanks for the defense, Helen. 🙂 For a minute there I actually felt like I needed one. Ouch. What’d I do to him? LOL
    No, but really, I do disagree with the idea that self-publishing or POD should be completely removed from the option pool. That’s what helps fuel the stigma and makes it hard for the really good work to circumvent the unpredictable and hellacious system of agent-querying.
    Not everyone has the temperment for waiting around to find the right agent. Essentially waiting around for them to make something happen.
    Sometimes it’s wise to place yourself in a position that makes them come to you.

  8. POD may have worked for you, Millenia…I don’t know your whole story. But if POD self-publishing led to your current contract with a real publisher, then you’re the rare exception. The vast majority…99.9% of aspiring novelists who go the vanity press route…will achieve nothing but a large debit on their credit card. The biggest customers of vanity presses are the so-called “authors” themselves. The fact is, vanity presses are largely a scam to take advantage of writers. There’s a reason most books aren’t picked up by agents or publishers, because they are crap. Telling a person that paying $500 to print it in book form makes them a published author is a lie. Every now and then one in a million will find some success … like yourself… and it’s that slot-machine/lottery/sweepstakes mentality that keeps driving suckers to the POD conmen.

  9. Well congratulations, but that wasn’t apparent from what I found. If that’s the case it is “despite” self-publishing not because of it. That’s always the case with this route. Even a broken clock is right twice a day and all that. The droves who seek self-publication look to the handful of exceptions. It’s what drives the business.

  10. The writer of the email, who thinks there’s no one willing to take a chance on a rookie, should go to a message board or active blog populated by people who read books similar to the books he writes. He should ask, without any explanations, for a list of new books by first time authors published in 2005 or later.
    He’ll get a good-sized list. There are people out there who are breaking in to the industry. He should read those books and figure out what they are doing that he is not.

  11. Obviously, I didn’t delve deep enough into the history of this particular book, but my methodology consisted of going to Ms. Black’s website and to Amazon where under the “Look Inside” feature I found “infinity publishing” for the aforementioned novel and hence my ascerbic response. Nowhere did it say Penguin/Putnam. I had NAL on the front going in so…
    We’ve seen this sort of Vanity press triumphalism before, along with the same self-praise found on Ms. Black’s website. She may want to upgrade her pitch to using others’ rave reviews instead of her own. I was at the typical vanity press author’s realm from my experience, which is extensive. It still is my view that encouraging the use of vanity presses as a legitimate path to mainstream publishing is unwise and deceptive. I agree with mink.

  12. It’s nice to cast aspersions from ivory towers, but the fact remains that there are many people who do get overlooked amid the sheer numbers of aspiring authors, agents, etc. There is no guarantee that even if you have a perfect story and manuscript that it is going to be published, which appears to be the assumption in the reply to the inquiry. I.E. Just because he has been rejected by agents and/or publishers, something MUST be wrong with the work.
    Maybe it is nice in the interim to be able to get a few things rolling. To be able to have your work in book format so that it is easier for others to digest. It is good to warn about the downside of POD and Self-Publishing, but it is also nice to have those options if you believe strongly in your work.


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