If you’re counting on Random House to jump on your book, offer you a fatty advance and slave over marketing, here’s a tough little eye-opener: It’s not gonna happen.
Well, okay—technically it could happen. According to Bookseller.com, 275,232 new titles were published in the U.S. last year by traditional publishers. That seems like a large enough number; surely your book’s good enough to make the cut, right? Maybe. But consider this: Those books are among the 1% that commercial publishers choose from the millions of submissions they receive each year. And that number doesn’t even represent the number of books that were submitted to agents, 98% of which are rejected! With that in mind, how should you proceed?
Yes, okay, you can be persistent. You can pore over the latest Writer’s Market and compile lists of agents who could each be The One. You can compose query letters and synopses and stuff dozens of envelopes with shaky hands and a hopeful heart. Then you can wait. For months, you can wait. If you’re among that 1%, congratulations! But chances are more likely that you’re trying to go through the front door of the agency, which means that when they read your manuscript, they are looking for reasons NOT to take you on. Do you understand what that means? It means that they are not looking at your work with the intention of seeing the value in it. This stacks the cards against you at an incredibly high rate. I learned this lesson in the film world. When we go out to see a film by a known director, with known actors, we go in hoping to enjoy it. But when our spouse comes home one night with a DVD of a film we’ve never heard of, with a cast we’ve never seen, we often actually want it to stink and so we look for reasons to tear it apart. That’s what agents and publishers are doing with your work if you’re a first time or still relatively unknown author. They might “say” that your manuscript needs a little more work, “just doesn’t fit” what their looking for, or that the market “isn’t ready for it”—and then you’re left at square one. I hate square one. Square one is a time waster!
So what can you do to help ensure your book’s success? Believe in it enough to take its future into your own hands. Do not wait for permission to get your work seen!
Consider this: 285,394 books were self-published last year—a 132% increase from 2007.
Self-publishing—not to be confused with vanity publishing—is an investment. It requires time, money, and a stubborn, unwavering dedication to your book, your dream. Self-publishing is a venture…and an adventure, when you partner with the right people. The best part, though, is that how far your book goes is up to you, not some faceless editing and marketing team that’s only there to do its job while assuming that you’ll only be one of the properties that loses money this year.
Publishing has changed. That means you have an opportunity to change as well.