Tag Archives: #self-publishing

Indie Publishing: Rejecting the Rejectors

Mini wonders about decision to self-publish.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.

 

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How I First Published: Robin Johns Grant

First time holding a copy of my first book,  Summer's Winter.
First time holding a copy of my first book, Summer’s Winter.

This is the first in what I hope  to be a regular series of posts in which authors tell us about their first publication experience. I’m going first, experimenting on myself, as usual. If you’re a published author–indie, traditional, small press, whatever–and would like to be featured, use the Contact tab at the top of the page and let me know. You would be answering these same questions–and can plug  any current project you would like to, naturally! Your book(s) don’t have to be specifically Christian, but I won’t feature books that are offensive or contrary to a mainstream Christian worldview. Hey, it’s my blog, right?

HOW I FIRST PUBLISHED

What was your first published novel?

Summer’s Winter, which I published in January of this year. I just happen to have the tagline handy: When preacher’s daughter Jeanine meets her obsession, movie star Jamie, his dark secrets threaten her faith and her life.

I call it a love story wrapped in a mystery. When forced to choose a genre for it, I have to choose Christian romantic suspense. There is most definitely love and suspense!

Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie?

After trying to land a traditional publishing contract for literally decades, I finally went indie, although I used Story Merchant Books to do the publishing work for me instead  of doing everything myself.

How did that come about?

It came at the end of an incredibly long and winding road. If you want to know more about that journey, click on the tab at the top of this page that says The Queen’s Archives. That’s my old blog, from the days I was trying so desperately to land a contract and dealing with frustration and particularly with learning to trust and wait on the Lord. This post is my announcement that I had finally decided to go Indie. I was afraid my writer friends would see me as a quitter, but they’ve been very supportive.

But I digress. As I reached one of those points in my life when I was ready to give up on the whole thing and take up knitting or quilting or almost anything other than writing, I went to a Nancy Grace book signing. Nancy is a well-known TV personality and has her own show on HLN, as well as having written two NYT best-selling suspense novels. She is also a childhood friend of mine. She asked about my writing and then, hallelujah!—she offered to help me.

Now, if I was telling any story other than my own life story, at this point Nancy would have gotten me a fat publishing contract and I, too, would be a best-selling author today. I would also have lived happily ever after. Possibly in a castle.

But this is my life story and if there’s one thing God wants to teach me, it’s patience. Nancy referred me to a man named Ken Atchity, who has worn many hats: writer, literary agent,  publicist, even film producer. He suggested major edits to the manuscript of Summer’s Winter, and then when we both thought it was in great shape, he gave me a choice. Choice one, he would represent me as a traditional literary agent. But he warned me that the traditional publishing model was getting harder and harder for a new writer to break into. I should be prepared to…guess what…WAIT. It might take a long time. Choice two, I could go ahead and get Summer’s Winter out there. Based on what he was seeing happen in the publishing world, he believed not only that indie authors can be successful these days, but also that traditional publishers get a lot of their new talent by scooping up successful indie authors. It sort of stinks, but it also makes sense from their point to sign authors who have already proved they can market their books—and write stories that people want to read.

So, I opted to go indie and see what would happen. I was just coming off an unsuccessful five-year stint with another agent and was ready to try something different.

How did this first publication make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?

All of the above! Plus just about every other emotion you can imagine. I have loved interacting with readers who enjoyed Summer’s  Winter.

 

It's a great book. Really. I swear.
It’s a great book. Really. I swear.

I’ve had really exciting times when I was receiving good reviews and selling well. Probably the most exciting thing to me was that John Granger, who writes books of literary analysis and is a Harry Potter expert, read my book, loved it, and interviewed me on his blog! What an honor that was! (I mean, hey, this man is an expert on REAL literature!)

And then there have been times like this past week, when sales and reviews have dried up and I’m incredibly frustrated again. I never would have dreamed how much time it takes to market a book. I have a full-time job as a librarian, and I feel like marketing is another full-timer. And oh yeah, I need to squeeze in family and writing more books somewhere!

When you self-publish, you can feel it’s all on your shoulders, that you’re bearing the burden alone. Fortunately I belong to a wonderful Christian marketing group called  the John 3:16 Marketing Network. Just today, they were reminding me that it’s NOT all in my hands, but in God’s. I should know that myself, but sometimes you need brothers and sisters around to remind you.

Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.

I finished writing my next book, Jordan’s Shadow, which is a creepy gothic young adult novel. It’s still in the hands of two traditional publishers who have shown interest, but the process is just so slow. I’m trying to decide whether to keep waiting on them or continue this indie path. It’s still up in the air right now. I also just started writing the sequel to Summer’s Winter.

 

 

 

 

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