A few weeks ago, I wrote about a decision I would have to make about my next step in publishing: pursue a possible opportunity with a small press or try to continue building momentum with indie publishing. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but for the first time ever, I’ve turned down an invitation from a traditional press to send them more of my manuscript.
Awhile back, I sent a query letter to a small press that I thought might be interested in my next novel, Jordan’s Shadow. After a wait of several months, I got a message from them that they were interested in seeing a proposal. They had instructions asking me for a lot of things: marketing plans, one-sheets, bios, sample chapters.
For those of you who haven’t spent decades trying to publish a book, let me tell you how the process of traditional publishing is supposed to go. When you identify a publishing company that might be a good fit for your book, you send a query letter, giving them a brief description of your book and yourself. It should take a month or so for them to let you know whether they’re interested. If so, used to be, they would ask for sample chapters and a synopsis. It should take two or three months to get a yay or nay at this point.
If they like your proposal, the next step would be a request to see your full manuscript—reading and considering of which should take four to six months.
Even if all these steps work ideally, you can see that the process from query to getting an answer on your full manuscript could take nine months to a year.
But the process doesn’t even seem to work that well anymore. Summer’s Winter, which I self-published in January, is technically still under consideration by two traditional publishing companies. One has had the full manuscript for about a year and a half; the other has had the proposal for over a year. No definitive response from either, and no response to follow-up questions.
Another company requested the full manuscript of Jordan’s Shadow but said to expect a response in one to two years. Sure enough, it’s been about seven months so far.
And the companies ask for more and more work from the authors in their submissions. The days of a simple synopsis and sample chapters seem to be over.
I’ve gone through all these steps MANY times—always ending in rejection. One after another after another—sure that this time is the perfect match, this time will be it. Sure that I must NEVER turn down any publishing opportunity offered to me.
And yet, after praying and thinking for three or four weeks (yes, this time I let them wait!), I had to write the small press and tell them I was going to continue with my plans to self-publish Jordan’s Shadow, hopefully sometime this fall.
I hope my response was gracious. I’m so grateful for the encouragement, for the good things this new company is doing. Having seen first-hand how much time it takes to market and publish, I’m sure that the turn-around time on queries and proposals and publishing can’t be helped on their part.
But I actually turned them down. Briefly, this was my reasoning:
- I’ve done this already. Not for years, but for decades. Perseverance is good, but if you persevere without learning anything or trying something different…well, isn’t that the definition of insanity?
- Even if this company gave me a contract, they’re such a small press that I would still be in charge of my marketing, and there would be no advance.
- Also, Jordan’s Shadow probably wouldn’t be out for three or four years. I’m learning that self-publishing is all about momentum and building a following. I need another book out soon, and this is the only one close to being ready to go.
Summer’s Winter has been a great start in indie publishing, so now that I’ve started it, I think I need to commit to it. (Unless somebody out there at a top publishing company wants to offer me a six-figure advance and a fat contract. Maybe even a five-figure advance. I can be flexible.)
But I gotta tell you, writing a rejection letter to a publishing company instead of receiving one feels just…weird. Maybe tomorrow the sun will rise in the west.