A Story of Patience - My Traditional Publishing Experience
So, with the first draft of Nightfall complete, I was ready to take on the world. I knew it would only be a matter of time before Nightfall was published, read by squillions and loved all over the world. Maybe, I might even get a movie deal, with a few A-listers begging me to be in the movie.
So far, this has not happened…
My First Experience
I think I started where most others did. I had a look at the web, and found a publisher that I’d heard of. And even better, they had a section for new manuscripts.
Following the instructions (cover letter, synopsis and first fifty pages etc.), I sent in the manuscript. I imagined a young receptionist opening up the envelope and passing it on an Executive’s assistant. Within a few minutes of reading the first pages, said assistant would run in to their boss with a beaming smile on their face and say something like, “I’ve found it… the one you’ve been waiting for.”
All I had to do was wait.
So I waited.
And… after nearly nine months (the time they mentioned on the website), I finally relented and sent a follow-up email. The response was less than encouraging.
“Thank you for your email.
We are not accepting new manuscripts at this time”
After following the instructions on their website, I was summarily dismissed. Despite the abruptness of the email, it did not necessarily annoy me. Rather, their reponse gave me my first indication of how publishers viewed new authors.
But, it was only my first try...
So, I looked at other publishers, and those that didn’t have “no unsolicited manuscripts” had long waiting periods, or specific days only. I did send off the manuscript a couple more times, but I either heard nothing (“if you don’t hear anything after insert days here, please assume your manuscript has not been accepted”), or was rejected within a matter of days.
Not to be disheartened, I decided to put a better-foot-forward.
I went hunting for a local editor. She was great… and she gave me some great advice. Three hundred bucks later, she had proofed and edited the first fifty pages down and they looked relatively crisp.
So I sent it away again. And once again… nothing except for the standard responses.
But I wasn’t about to give up. After all… wifey loved it.
I did some more digging, and found that while traditional publishers didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, they would talk to agents.
Now, in a very basic way, agents are go-betweens. You give them your book, and they take it to the publisher. Then they take a percentage of what you earn. Considering that I was then getting zero dollars, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. Plus, it has and will always be about the writing, and getting my stories in front of as many people as I can.
As such, I tried to find an agent. Now, I could have looked overseas, but I wanted someone local (i.e. ‘Strayan). Someone that was on about the same time zone as me, someone I could relate to and contact by phone when needed.
So I did some more looking. I found a few big and small literary agents. Unfortunately, the story was much the same.
“Not looking to take any new clients at this stage.”
It was at this stage, I started to lose in my motivation.
And then I sent a query to an agent based out of Adelaide. He got back to me asking to see an example of my work. After sending it, and after some gentle prodding, I received the following response:
“I did in fact read your work earlier this week and have been thinking about it since.
Although I find the synopsis intriguing and the sample writing energetic and engaging, I don’t think
I am the right person to take this forward to publishers.”
At first, I saw it as another roadblock, another rejection. But then I thought about it a bit more. Here was an AGENT, not a family member or friend, who found my work energetic AND engaging. He enjoyed it enough to tell me.
With a renewed determination, I once again set off.
Finally… a ‘Yes’
So, again I searched, but rather than looking predominantly in Australia, I decided to branch out further.
I sent of the first fifty to a publisher based out of the UK. As is the expected practice, I only sent it to one publisher, for fear of offending or upsetting one that may provide a positive response.
And what a response I received. The feedback was glowing, and in no time I had gone from down in the dumps to cloud nine. After nearly a year of searching, hoping that someone would see and read my work, I’d finally found them.
In their response, they asked for the full manuscript. Without question, I sent it off for a final review. And the good news was I didn’t have to wait long for a formal acceptance and offer.
They told me to hang tight, and wait for their contract offer.
I could barely contain myself. I was over the moon, and had visions of book signings, movie deals… the whole shebang.
And then the offer arrived.
While the royalty offer was quite good (I’d get around 50% of each copy sold), it was in the fine print that revealed the true nature of the situation. They required an author “contribution” to the editing, marketing and promotion of Nightfall. And by contribution, they meant £2,900 (or roughly $5,500AUD ).
After doing some research, the publisher turned out to be a Vanity Publisher. Essentially, they were a publisher that makes their money from the authors rather than any book sales.
I was a little miffed, to say the least. It was not what I was hoping for.
Wifey encouraged me though.
Money was not the issue, but I was wary. Having read some reviews of the publisher from authors, it became clear that once the cheque had cleared and they had sent out the author copies, the support provided would diminish.
It was at this point that I realised that, no matter how good my manuscript was… it was going to be virtually impossible to get my book published the traditional way. And who could blame them? Why would a business take a risk on an unknown father from Western Australia? From my understanding, traditional publishers get thousands of manuscripts a year, and to get noticed, you either need to be established already, or have someone willing to take a risk.
So far, I had not been able to find someone that would take that risk.
So, after nearly a year of trying, I decided to follow a different route.
Coming Up Next Time
My journey in self-publishing – the highs, the lows and some of the lessons I’ve learned.