Self-Publishing Means Never Having to Say Goodbye

 

cry

Manuscripts that are written for only traditional publishing have a sell-by date. It doesn’t matter how long you spent writing the book. Once you’ve exhausted the lengthy yet finite list of literary agents and publishers to submit to, it’s game over if nobody bites. All that work and the book is shelved forever, never to be read again.

When it’s time to permanently shelve your unpublished novel.

It’s a hard thing, letting go of a story. Nobody but the writer will ever really know what it was like to write the book. What it was like to come up with the idea – that moment when you light up and realize you’ve suddenly been grabbed by your next big idea. The hours that it took getting to know the characters and breathing life into them. The songs that you listened to that fit with your story and will always remind you of that book whenever you hear one of those songs for the rest of your life. The moments of the story that made you laugh, made you cry, made you feel.

It’s hard when the day comes and you’re forced to accept that the characters you loved and the story you slaved over are destined to exist only in your mind and heart. The final agent has rejected the story. There are no publishers left on the list anymore. It’s time to say goodbye to that book forever.

I’m preparing to go through that with my latest middle-grade novel. It’s nearly impossible to market a book to younger children online via self-publishing, so it’s traditional publishing or nothing for this one. There is one literary agent reviewing the story now, but I’ve been doing this writing thing long enough to know how this story is going to end. And it’s going to end soon. I was working on this baseball book last summer as my son played little league for the first time. It’s a baseball novel about a female coach managing a bunch of lovable misfit players, and I had a blast watching my son play and feeling inspired about my book. There were lots of great baseball songs I loved to listen to, as well as general rock songs that fit well with my book. The main character’s theme song (in my mind) is SHE’S SO MEAN by Matchbox Twenty. It’s been wonderful listening to those songs while I went on long walks, brainstorming about my book. It was especially fun blasting those songs at full volume in celebration of finally completing the novel. Now, hearing those songs is tinged with sadness. I’ve sent out 70 queries with one acceptance and 21 rejections. Many of those other agents will simply reject the novel with their silence.

It’s almost over for this novel. My son starts baseball again soon. As I watch him play, I’ll remember my novel, the characters, the story, the experience, knowing that few other people will ever know anything about it.

Very special thanks to my parents and sister who are always quick to read my books. My mother, in particular, breaks speed records when it comes to reading my novel the moment I send it to her. She pretty much gets the final draft, since I know she will tell me it’s wonderful no matter what and won’t tell me the truth about it (that’s okay. That’s her job as my mom, and I love her for it!).

My husband and kids are a different matter.

My wonderful husband is generally supportive, but hates to read (odd couple much??) and won’t even make an exception in my case. Seriously, this last book is for nine-year-olds. He can’t even handle that? I read my last middle-grade novel, RAIN ON THE WATER, out loud to my son and daughter. Though they claimed they wanted me to read this one to them, when the time came, they decided they’d rather play Minecraft…

Not gonna lie. I cried over that. A lot. My husband comforted me and told me “They’re just children”. I don’t care. It hurt. When I wrote this novel, I had my kids in mind. There are jokes in there that I knew they would get when I read the book aloud to them. Now I’ll never get that chance.

Times like this make me want to shake my husband and children by the shoulders and cry out “Don’t you get it? You might be the only people who will ever read this! All that work and now it’s all over!”

They just don’t get it and they never will. I have no choice but to accept that and move on.

I get tired of saying goodbye. QUEEN HENRY was the first story with characters who really grabbed me by the heart and absolutely refused to let go. You are not shelving us, they told me. Not this time. QUEEN HENRY was the one story that I just could not let go of.

Why I decided to self-publish my novel. 

That’s why was my debut published novel.

I’m pretty sure THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX will be my last middle-grade novel (unless, by some miracle, an agent decides to represent it). From now on, I’m going to focus on writing adult fiction.

It is my hope to never write another novel that I don’t plan to publish. Stories are meant to be shared, so thank goodness for self-publishing. I’ll do my best to promote my books and get them read as far and wide as possible, but if only a handful of people purchase and read them, at least my stories have reached out to others in some small way.

I don’t want to say goodbye any more.

 

–       Linda Fausnet

 

There is a P.S. to this story : Since writing this article, my son decided to start reading THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX. He is supposed to read for 20 minutes a day for homework, so now he’s reading my book. He’s read the first chapter so far. He sat at the kitchen table reading it, and then looked up at me with surprise and said “this is funny!”

So I guess there is kind of happy ending to this after all…

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So Here’s What Happened This Week (December 7, 2012)

What I Did: Starting sending queries for my novel SINGLES VS. BRIDEZILLAS, which means I have already gotten rejected. Two so far….

What I Read: Fortuna by Joshua Martino

Cool Links I Found:

 An Actor’s Reflection on Day Jobs

Trust Your Audience

My Favorite Writing Advice : Write 15 Minutes Every Day

So Here’s What Happened This Week (February 17, 2012)

 

What I Did: Conducted research, outlining, and character work for my new novel, SINGLES VS. BRIDEZILLAS.  Began actually writing  the novel – 2600 words so far.

Got five more rejections on my novel, QUEEN HENRY.

Sent out more queries.

What I Read: Plot and Fiction by James Scott Bell.

                                 His, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox.

Things I Need to Vent About Right Now…

Anyone who follows my Facebook and/or Twitter feed knows that I keep a running tally of the rejections I receive for my current novel. Right now I am querying literary agents (that is, sending out a query letter detailing the novel and asking them to read it). 

As of this writing, it’s  Agents: 22 Me: 0.

There are several reasons that I post publicly about my rejections. One, I have lots of writer, actor, and standup comic friends that are right there in the trenches with me. They know what it’s like to get kicked to the ground – repeatedly. Relentlessly. I post my rejections as a reminder to them that whatever they’re going through, they’re not alone.  Two, I post my rejections because I’m proud of every damn last one of them. Every one of them means I TRIED. Third, I’m even more proud of the fact that even if I get ten rejections in one day, I’ll be up at 5am the next day sending out more queries and working on my next novel. That’s what true Wannabes do. We don’t take no for a final answer. Ever.

Okay. All that being said, here’s what’s pissing me off about agents and querying right now:

  1. Conventional wisdom says you must research each and every agency carefully before you query. Read up on all the agents, Google their names, find interviews with them, find something, ANYTHING you have in common with them, and personalize the letter as much as you can. I’ve tried this tack, and I hereby call Shenanigans.  My advice, based on extensive experience in the field of rejections, is that ALL that matters is the quality of your query and whether or not the agent is interested in your idea – and your writing – enough to ask to read some or all of the full manuscript. Even though agents themselves claim they like to see personalized letters, I find that spending a lot of time personalizing the letter is a waste of time. The reality is that agents don’t really seem to care how long it took you to research him/her. They reject you just as fast- and usually with a standard, NON personalized query –  as if you sent them a form query (that being said, ALWAYS read the agents descriptions of what kind of material they represent, address your query to an individual name, and CAREFULLY read and follow any stated submission guidelines. To do otherwise is amateurish and wastes everyone’s time).
  2. Many agents work by referral only or only through people they have met in person at conferences. That’s great – IF you can afford to go a conference. I am currently unemployed and, even before that, was struggling greatly financially. Conferences are not an option right now. Poor people can’t afford that luxury, and it’s not fair to count us out because of it.
  3. Just like most nice, cute guys are married and/or gay, many of the “good” agents are closed to queries. I cannot TELL you how many times I have found an agent who represents just my kind of quirky novel (as opposed to heavier literary fiction), only to find that they are closed to queries. Or work only by referral. Or only with people they’ve met at conferences. Or are married. Or gay. Which would actually be perfect for the gay romance I’m currently shopping…
  4. More “conventional query wisdom” says to only send maybe 1-2 queries a week and see what happens. Seeing as many agents specifically state that you can expect to hear back from them in 2-4 weeks, perhaps by the year 3000 I can hope to have an agent. This is particularly ludicrous when you consider that agents reject 99% of the queries they are sent. My advice is to query early and often. The rejections will flood in quickly – often barely giving you time to mentally recover from the last one – but at least you are making some progress. Every NO brings you closer to a YES. Right?!

Okay, so let’s be fair. Many agents aren’t evil. In fact, I’d venture to say that most of them are actually pretty cool. Here’s some nice things I can say about them:

  1. The rejections I have gotten are actually very nice. Even the form letters are quite kind. Some of them pretty much come right out and say I know that I am ripping out your heart, crushing your dreams, and spitting on your soul but I’m actually not thrilled about it. Most of the letters contain some kind of variation on “remember, publishing is very subjective, and just because this isn’t my thing doesn’t mean somebody else won’t go nuts over it.”
  2. Many agents are just too damn busy to respond and, believe it or not, writers like me totally get that. Sometimes no answer at all is actually a NO. Though I prefer to get some kind of response, I understand that agents get hundreds of queries a week and, believe it or not, they have other things they have to do in addition to responding to wannabe writers.
  3. Ummm, I’m sure there’s more than two nice things about agents, but right now that’s all I got. Maybe if I could get an agent to represent me, I could think of some more…

What about you? What do you need to vent about this week?