Monday, November 14, 2005

Is it unpublishable?

Anne Merril asks in a comment have you ever considered that maybe the book just isn't publishable? That it is too flawed, too out there, or maybe just not what editors are buying? How is your second novel going? Are you having trouble with that one, too?

No, I'm one of the psychotic who is convinced there's a conspiracy against me.

There isn't a writer who's ever received a rejection who doesn't question initially "is it me?" F. X. Toole, the author of the series of short stories that were made into "Million Dollar Baby" (and whose collection has been renamed to fit the movie title) described on NPR's "Fresh Air" once that rejections were like the broken noses he received boxing. The only time they don't hurt is when the previous letter your opened up was an acceptance. But even then, you ask yourself "why doesn't the whole world like me?"

It's because writing fiction is one of the most-personal things we do. The only human creative activities that seem to come close are writing poetry or acting (where you can be Sir Laurence Olivier and Dame Edith Evans rolled into one, except that the director is looking for a young blond with huge knockers and a silky voice).

Unfortunately Ms. Merril's questions are too broad to be answered succinctly in one sentence. And what writer doesn't welcome the chance to wax prolix? So here goes.

1.) Is Beyond You & Me unpublishable? The simple answer is "no." I'm currently in discussion with a start-up POD erotica company. My reluctance stems from the relative newness of POD (print on demand), and the small track record of the company. But the owner has been very patient with me while I have sown my wild oats in the commercial publishing arena. One way or another, the book will find its way into print.

2.) Is it too flawed? Hard to say. Interestingly, the criticism from agents rarely falls into a coherent form. In other words, it's not like everyone hates the characters, or finds the plot weak, or the ending unbelievable. But we always assume if the agents don't want it, the reason must be a fatal flaw in the book itself.

3.) Too out there? Hmmmm. Yes, novels about serial killers aren't out there, but a woman finding herself by losing her lovers is. Forgive my sarcasm, I'm just trying to get a hold on that one. It's a fair question. Read around in the samples under "if you're new, start here," and tell me if it's out there.

4.) Just not what editors are buying? Apparently not. I don't fault the agents for wanting to rep a book that will sell. What does trouble me is the fact that editors are buying books that don't sell. At least not well enough that writers can earn enough money to establish a career. I'm not bitter about it, I'm an agent of sorts in another field. I understand that agents want to get paid. But the system sure isn't turning out quality fiction, at least not from what many folks say. But I could be wrong, and this is a real Golden Age of literature.

The good/bad news is that another agent has asked to see a few chapters. She'd be a good fit, since she represents women's fiction. If this book isn't about women's issues, I'm not sure what is. Stay tuned. If history is any indication, she'll just be another statistic.


Blogger Anne Merril said...

Thanks for your response; I was interested in your thoughts.

I didn't realise the book was erotica; you've certainly chosen a narrow field to enter. From my bookstore trollings I know that the erotica section is maybe 6-10 books at the top of a shelf, usually near the romances. Maybe I just go to the wrong bookstores?

What sort of responses do you get frmo agents? You mention that "criticism from an agent rarely falls into a coherent form". Are the majority of your agent responses form letters? How many times have you received a request for the manuscript?

Enquiring minds (i.e. me) would love to know. These are serious questions by the way; I'm not taking the mickey.

11:13 PM, November 14, 2005  
Blogger Anne Merril said...

Also, have you really queries 756 agents?

11:28 PM, November 14, 2005  
Blogger Lindsey said...

See the whole writing thing is so scary. Makes me really nervous about trying to write some of my own stuff to get it out there.

4:43 AM, November 15, 2005  
Blogger W. S. Cross said...


I'm not sure the book IS erotica, though its sex scenes are graphically explicit. It's really a journey of personal discovery-- with some hot sex.

The agents rarely say. They don't want to look foolish if someday Beyond You & Me turned out to be the next Tropic of Cancer.


Don't let the bastards grind you down! Write and never worry about whether there's a market for it. Markets come and go all the time.

10:33 AM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger Tara Tainton said...

That's just silly! Nothing is unpublishable, there are only those who choose not to publish. Where are the agents and publishers willing to risk fulfilling a currently empty niche in the marketplace or perhaps appealing to an entirely new audience or even offering such entertaining reality that the subject matter appeals to everyone across the board?

2:13 AM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger anonymous said...

Lets face it, most literary agents and publishers are lazy, backwards, paper-pushing half-wits that dont have a creative or risk-taking bone in their body.

(and this is from somebody that managed to get a contract from a literary agent, but still didnt manage to get my novel published)

7:43 AM, March 26, 2006  
Blogger Rubypearl said...

I'm writing like crazy but I haven't really started to try to find an agent or do it professionally. Your website is really funny and interesting, but it's depressing as well. Is it really this hard? I didn't realise it. It seems like the more I read about getting your work out there the more it seems like actresses going to Hollywood and expecting to become the next Angelina. Statistically Improbable.
I don't even care about making any money, I just want to be a part of something bigger than myself and share what I write. Is there a blog or website that helps people figure out how to send work to magazines or literary journals? Maybe that would be easier.
I feel uncomfortable sending anything unsolicited to anyone because everything I read makes it sound like they will set it on fire and beam waves of hatred to you.
If no one is interested in reading anything unsolicited then how does anyone ever get started?
The whole process confuses me.
I guess i am just happy to write my blog and write for myself.
thanks for writing about your experiences,

11:07 PM, December 10, 2008  
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