I chuckled. It was the characters from my first novel calling me from a high shelf. You guys are history. It didn't work out, I thought, not wanting to actually talk out loud to those fictional people. I returned to my typing.
They wouldn't leave me alone--kept begging me to give them one last chance.
"Oh, okay," I said softly. My husband, Keith, knows I'm passionate about fiction writing, but I didn't want him to hear me talking to a book. He might think I'm starting to live in fantasy land. Which...?
I stood up, opened the closet door, seized my manuscript and gazed at it. I really did love it--a story from my heart about a married couple who are trapped in the modern American dream and can't figure out how to escape. I plopped onto the couch and started reading it. After chapter four, I stopped. At the risk of sounding boastful, it wasn't half bad. Of course, I wrote it, so my review may be a bit subjective. You may be wondering, Did you try to get it published?
Yes, I did. I must have queried over 100 literary agents. And for anyone who doesn't know, it's almost essential to have an agent in order to get a publisher. I received replies like: "No thank you." "Not for me." "Keep trying." I actually did get several requests from agents to read my full manuscript, but in the end no takers. The basic reason--they didn't feel they could find a home for it in today's struggling industry. I took that to mean it wasn't good enough, which is fine. Many first novels aren't good enough.
With fresh eyes perusing this novel, I re-assessed that conclusion. It's rumored that publishing houses are extremely reluctant to take risks on new authors today, especially in my genre (upmarket commercial), but is it true? I did a little research. First, I went to QueryTracker.com, a site many writers use, as the title indicates, to track the query letters they send out. Here's a stat for you:
Out of the 51,199 members who are trying to find agents, there are currently 744 success stories. For those of you who don't feel like pulling out your calculator, that's less than one per cent. The top three accepting genres are : 1) Young Adult, 2) Fantasy, 3) Literary Fiction. My novel genre came in at number 9.
This wasn't enough to convince me that my first novel was worth bringing back to life. Wanting to be objective, I did some more research. Here's an example of what I found:
Statistics from Kristen Nelson Literary Agency: 36,000 queries received in 2010; 839 requests for partials, 98 requests for full manuscripts. That means that if you queried this agency, you had a 2.3% chance of having them ask for a partial, but only a 0.27% of them wanting to see the rest of your manuscript. This agency made 28 deals, which means, you had a .09% chance of being offered representation.
Conclusion: Chances of breaking into the traditional publishing world are slim. The other side of the argument: if you decide to become an independent author, you're not viewed by those in the "club" as being good enough. I've read that if you self-publish, you're killing your chances of ever finding an agent or publisher. I didn't like that idea, so looked up self-published authors who ended up being incredibly successful. A few include: James Joyce, Mark Twain, Louise Hay, Amanda Hocking and James Redfield. Do you think an agent or publishing house would slam the door in these peoples' faces or roll out the red carpet?
And then, there's the story of 50 Shades of Grey, the bestseller that's been hovering around number one on most bestseller lists over the past couple of weeks. Here's an excerpt from an article written on Book Busters: "Every so often a manuscript, like an impudent toddler, rises on unsteady feet and toddles onto the bestseller list without so much as a by-your-leave to that ignorant publishing foursome. Such a work is E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey, which, out of a teeny e-publishing community in Australia, managed the neat trick of vaulting to the top of The New York Times e-book and print bestseller lists, garnering a seven-figure deal from Vintage, and leaving readers clamoring for the as-yet-unpublished rest of the trilogy, all without ever being in print in the United States at all."
Enough! The bottom line is there are successes in both traditional publishing and independent publishing. I'm not going to begin to speculate what the key to that success is (at least not here).
What I did do was smile down at the 95,000 words I wrote in my first novel, A Stop in the Park. I needed to see it in a book, not collecting dust at the top of my closet. Like a chef who wants eaters for his culinary creations, I want readers for my story. In that instant, I made a decision to self-publish. It didn't matter if I sold a million copies or ten. After all my favorite quote is:
"Don't die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul. Listen to that inner voice, and don't get to the end of your life and say, "What if my whole life has been wrong?"
Dr. Wayne Dyer
I had written my music and it was time to share it. With that, I dropped the new novel I was writing safely into a Word file then also saved it onto my flash drive. It was time to go through my first novel one more time to find any pesky mistakes. After that, I'd call CreateSpace, Amazon's self-publishing division, and put my novel in the hands of one of their professional editors. My story has been written and soon it will be told.
KICK BACK SONG OF THE WEEK:
This scene from Funny Girl where Barbara Streisand tells the naysayers not to rain on her parade, is how I feel about becoming an independent author. I love to write and and don't want to play the waiting game any longer, hoping to become part of the approximately 0.05% who get a contract with a traditional publisher (And my sincere "Congratulations!" for those of you who do).
KICK BACK BOOK OF THE WEEK:
The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien. Of course, this is a current successful self-published romantic comedy about a sex researcher, Leigh Fromme, who falls in love with Prince Roman Habsburg Von Lorraine of Austria. Most reviews on Goodreads report that it's, "Laugh out loud funny." Here's the opening:
"Everyone agrees that my Great Aunt Tina looks fabulous dead. Great Uncle Morris has picked her favorite violet pantsuit for her, the one with gold buttons."
A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA: