Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is the worst advice you've been given that set you back?

Someone posted this question recently in Amazon's Gold Box forum, and here is my answer.

I'm a writer. I've been banging my head on the wall trying to get my books traditionally published, which is what every agent, editor, and writer's organization tells you to do. I have an English degree, a Theater degree, and I've worked 12 years as a journalist. I was an arts-and-entertainment writer for a couple of years, reviewing comedy and children's entertainment, so I know what audiences like. I've even won third prize in a national novel-writing contest. And yet  no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get an agent. Last year, I got seven requests out of ten to see the full manuscript of one of my novels, and, except for one agent I never heard back from, all seven turned it down. The most common reason given as to why? "I enjoyed it very much, but I didn't feel passionately enough about it." There's nothing I can do with that.

People keep telling me to just keep writing, editing and submitting my work, and it'll happen. Right now that sounds as silly to me as, "Just click your heels, and all your wishes will come true." I've been writing, editing and submitting for nine years with seven different novels for kids and teens, and I'm getting nowhere.

So I'm starting to think that maybe what everyone is telling me isn't the best advice. Maybe I need to give up on going the traditional route and epublish my books instead.

Is this bad advice I've received, and has it set me back? It's not bad advice. It works for some writers. But for some it doesn't. It's like playing cards at a casino. Knowing the game and how to play it helps, but it's still no guaranty you'll win. I've been sitting at this table way too long. I've done nothing but lose. It's time for me to walk away.

I don't really know if this advice has set me back. I have to see how well my ebooks do. But at least that advice has pushed me to hone my craft, which might not have happened if I had never tried to publish traditionally. And maybe I had to go through all that so technology and the world could get to the point where I could epublish my own books successfully.

The tide in the publishing industry is just starting to turn. Will it carry me on this new adventure? I haven't charted the safest course, but before today the safest course has been so hard, and it's led me nowhere. It's time for me to see what else is out there. If I can't get an agent to believe in me and my work, at least I can believe in me.

And I'm not giving up on getting traditionally published. I'm going to epublish my first novel first, and I have six more to go through. Maybe all my wishes will come true in the end.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shevi, Years ago I talked about publishing a book on grief, mourning and healing with publisher/book packager/ designer Joost Elffers. He suggested a book on grief in general, but I insisted on a book focused on infant loss. Since that would not be interesting to a large enough market (he thought) he said I ought to publish the book myself (so I wouldn't get stuck in the routine of sending out proposals without any luck) and gave me instructions how to go about that. The book turned out great and I'm still proud of it. What was the bad advice? That he, someone I actually consider to be the quintessential self-publisher, said I shouldn't tell people I did all the work myself and that I stood for Paseo Press.
    In a way I missed out on the kudos I deserved for wearing all the different hats. And at times I think I really should have tried to interest another publisher. After all, there are many Small Presses that don't expect to sell hundreds of thousands of copies...