So now I’m writing a blog, and I have no idea what I’m doing.  Of course, I could say that about a great many things I’ve done in the last few months.  Independently publishing a novel brings with it a series of learning curves with falling rocks around each one—falling rocks which must be driven around, drilled through, climbed over or tunneled under.  So why should a blog be so different from anything else?  (Or a “blob” as I seem to keep typing it.)

It began with a series of negative responses to e-mail queries.  In the old days, I sent out five letters a week—including synopsis and/or sample chapter(s) depending on requests—with the obligatory SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and then waited, sending out another five the following week.  Without access to an agency’s web site, an author had to rely on what the current year’s guide said about them. 

These days, one researches the agent, peruses her recent sales, studies the submission guidelines, and learns, in all too many cases, that one agent seems to sell only ethnically oriented books, another seems to handle very little or no fantasy even though the guide says they do, and a third has shut down accepting submissions for an indefinite period of time but “please do check back with us in a year or two.”

The good news about this is that the writer can reject many, many agents who don’t fit her needs.  It does, however, limit the hope factor.  It also limits how many queries go out because so much time gets spent on eliminating the hopeless.  The one thing it does not limit is the response time.  Some rejections arrive within hours of the queries having been sent.  In the meantime, the psychology of juggling queries—of always having several out as the rejections come in—that psychological incentive gets lost when the negative response is so final in its immediacy.  I quickly became discouraged.

One day in July, I woke up to what I really wanted for this book I’d pored so much energy, time and love into.  I wanted it read, in its entirety, by someone who felt no imperative to like it.  No imperative to hate it either.  I couldn’t get an agent to read it.  For some reason, my queries fell like the great silence that overtakes a stadium when a player is injured.  My book was hurt, and I had to find a way to resuscitate it.

Enter independent publishing.  Enter print on demand (POD).  And enter contests for self-published books which guarantee a full read by an expert—agent, publisher, writer, whatever—someone who has no need to like me or my writing.  Literally, ENTER those contests.  This would require doing more than preparing the manuscript for digital publication; I would have to prep it for paper and binding. 

Luckily, I came to this with skills already in place.  I’d self-published twice before—once doing all the set-up myself and even binding the books with my father’s guidance, and once via a POD publisher for whom I had to prepare the document, but I did not have to make decisions such as type face or the size of the book and I did not have to design the cover.

Near the end of July I began prepping my manuscript.  I proofed, and two readers pointed out a few errors as they read the book as a document on their Kindles.  I made some changes and then performed a series of edits on each chapter to accommodate the differences between manuscript and book.  I will get into these in the second part of this blog, but it was an intense process. 

It was also a satisfying process, one which gave me control over everything, and nothing can beat that.

4 thoughts on “Beware of Falling Rocks along the Learning Curve (Part 1)

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