We're aware of an issue with converting some DOC, DOCX, ODT, and RTF files to EPUB through our Ebook Wizard.
We've created this Forum Thread with some workarounds and advice to assist you in publishing you ebook.

First-time authors

For whatever it’s worth, The Week magazine recently published its list of the five best works of fiction published in 2018. The list, as every year, is based on a summary of critics’ choices from numerous sources. Of the top five titles, the first and third are by first-time authors.


__________________________________________
Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/

Comments

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    I might also add that these books were published by well-known traditional publishers, in light of the too-often-repeated old wive's tale that publishers have no interest in first-time authors.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    You mean here? >>  http://subscription.theweek.co.uk/about-the-week

    It's not possible to see who or what they wrote, or any contents at all, without subscribing to it in one way or another. So can you paste those five in to here?

    I have just looked at another list of top 5 novel sellers 2018, and they are not first time writers, which can make a big difference, so it's not an old anyone's tale.  wink: 

    Here's another list (they all differ!) https://www.amazon.com/Books/b/?ie=UTF8&node=549028&ref_=sv_b_5     I say no more. smiley:


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 9
    Sure, the lists all differ. What sets the list published by The Week apart, however, is that it is compiled from dozens of lists and reviews that appeared over the past year. That is, it is a consensus rather than a list created by an individual reviewer or critic. Some of these sources are quoted in the descriptions of the books.

    https://theweek.com/articles/812491/best-fiction-2018
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    To take just the first book on the list... Assymetry by Lisa Halladay.

    It made these lists, for starters...

    TIME and NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK of the YEAR
    New York Times Notable Book and Times Critic’s Top Book of 2018 
    Named one of the best books of 2018 by ElleBustle, Kirkus Reviews, Lit Hub, NPR, O-The Oprah Magazine and Shelf Awareness.

    The author worked as a freelance editor and translator in Milan. Her short story "Stump Louie" appeared in The Paris Review in 2005. Asymmetry is her first novel.

    The other first-time novel is There, There by Tommy Orange.

    It made these lists....

    One of the Ten Best Books of the Year--The New York Times Book Review

    Winner of the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize 

    One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, Time, O-The Oprah Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, The Dallas Morning News, Buzzfeed, BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews   

    The author, who is 36, apparently has no prior publication history at all, though he eventually studied writing at college level. In his words:

    "I didn’t grow up a reader or a writer. I didn’t do well in school and wasn’t particularly encouraged to read. I was pretty good at sports. I played roller hockey on a national level from the age of 14 to 24 and I became a musician when I was 18. I earned a bachelor’s of science in sound arts and after I graduated, I got a job at a used bookstore, Gray Wolf Books, just outside of Oakland, and totally fell in love with reading and then writing. Then I felt like I was playing catch-up. I got pretty obsessive about it and tried to put in as much work as I could from there."

    He has this advice for aspiring authors:

    “Write as much as you possibly can—when you feel awful; when you feel good; when you hate yourself, or your writing, or both; when you don’t think what you’re working on is worth anything. When you can’t write, revise. Read your work out loud.”

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Let's look at the first one.

    Lisa Halliday >>   "Lisa Halliday has worked as a freelance editor and translator in Milan, … "

    Not new to the world of writing, or those within it, then, and you cannot tell me that makes no difference.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Anyway, it's not unheard of for first time novelists to get published, it's just rare, very very, and often a very hard long slog to become so (and often with the use of a very good agent.) I have not heard the Old Wives Tale that says it never happens. The list of even classics that were refused publication, and a lot, is quite long, before it eventually happened. It often does not matter how good a story is, and how well written, at times getting a mainstream publisher to take it on can seem like a lottery, and it's unfair to give the impression that it's not.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 11
    Let's look at the first one.

    Lisa Halliday >>   "Lisa Halliday has worked as a freelance editor and translator in Milan, … "

    Not new to the world of writing, or those within it, then, and you cannot tell me that makes no difference.

    And I didn’t try to. But few people write in a complete vacuum. Even belonging to a writing group provides experience. Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that this novel was her first. When she submitted it, she would have to have gone through the same processes as anyone else. I know people who have been in the industry longer than she was who will still have a hard time placing a book. Knowing the ropes will help you avoid making mistakes and taking missteps, but it is no guarantee of selling your book. 

    What seems to to have gotten both of these books published are new ideas well told.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Indeed Ron, but other lists of top sellers seem to be full of well-known people. Everywhere seems to have their own Top (fill in here.) 

    It's good to encourage new novelists, but let's not make them delusional. For every new writer taken up each year there's countless 1000s who are not, and it's not always because their story and English are rubbish. And not just that, even those that do get a contract don't often end up as top sellers.

    This only seems to be UNESCO publications >>

    http://www.worldometers.info/books/
  • Indeed Ron, but other lists of top sellers seem to be full of well-known people. Everywhere seems to have their own Top (fill in here.) 

    True enough. But, as I explained, one of the reasons I took special notice of the list in The Week is that it was compiled from many individual lists of top-reviewed books. And, as you can see for yourself, each of the two books I singled out made more than one "best" list.

    (By the way, The Week list wasn't a list based on sales but rather on reviews. These were the best books of 2018, not necessarily the best-selling books.)

    It's good to encourage new novelists, but let's not make them delusional. For every new writer taken up each year there's countless 1000s who are not, and it's not always because their story and English are rubbish. 

    The point is one that I have reiterated many times in these forums, and that is that it is worthwhile making every effort to find a place for your book with a traditional publisher before throwing oneself body and soul into self-publishing. And by "every effort" I mean doing one's homework and doing things right. As you know yourself from all the time we've both spent in these forums there are any number of mistaken ideas about traditional publishing that make authors shy away. Among these is the idea that publishers have little or no interest in new writers, the idea that you have to know someone or have an "in" to get your book noticed, and the idea that publishers will take over a book and rewrite it. None of these things are true. 

    No one is ever given a guarantee that their book will be a best-seller. Even top authors will sometimes find their books on remainder tables. But the benefits of traditional publishing are so great that it is worth the time and trouble to at least give your book a fair shot at it before resorting to other avenues. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing your own book---far be it from me to suggest otherwise---but I do think that in spite of the gauntlet that the author needs to run, and the long odds they face, the potential benefits---both to the author and the book itself---of being traditionally published warrant the effort.

    And not just that, even those that do get a contract don't often end up as top sellers.

    Indeed. But there is this: they get the benefits of professional editing, copy editing, formatting, marketing, advertising, etc.---all at no cost. And an advance payment they get to keep even if their book doesn't sell a single copy. I might add that for a new author, the benefits of working with a professional, knowledgeable editor is invaluable in itself. Even if the book eventually sells poorly or not at all, the author's writing can only have improved through such a learning experience.

    (And do not overlook the fact that a book does not have to be even a remotely a best-seller or even a top-seller to make a profit for the publisher. And all it has to do is make back its advance in order for the author to earn additional money for themselves. I collect royalties every six months from half a dozen books or so that never became anything at all like top sellers but have still managed to earn back their initial advances and get me additional money.)

    And keep in mind that while many current best-selling authors were best-sellers from their first book, many others struggled their way to the top after any number of books failed or did not do as well as expected.


    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    (By the way, The Week list wasn't a list based on sales but rather on reviews. These were the best books of 2018, not necessarily the best-selling books.)

    How is that valid then?
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Indeed Ron, but other lists of top sellers seem to be full of well-known people. Everywhere seems to have their own Top (fill in here.) 



    The point is one that I have reiterated many times in these forums, and that is that it is worthwhile making every effort to find a place for your book with a traditional publisher before throwing oneself body and soul into self-publishing.


    True, but "every effort" is hard work and can seem fruitless after trying for many years.


     And by "every effort" I mean doing one's homework and doing things right. As you know yourself from all the time we've both spent in these forums there are any number of mistaken ideas about traditional publishing that make authors shy away.


    Indeed, but they often gain that idea from personal experience but often that of others.

     Among these is the idea that publishers have little or no interest in new writers, the idea that you have to know someone or have an "in" to get your book noticed,


    But so many do, and for anyone new to the creation of fiction they have to come up with something truly exceptional to gain any interest.

     and the idea that publishers will take over a book and rewrite it.


    It's certainly not worth their time.

     None of these things are true. 


    Not 99.99% true  :)

    No one is ever given a guarantee that their book will be a best-seller. Even top authors will sometimes find their books on remainder tables. But the benefits of traditional publishing are so great that it is worth the time and trouble to at least give your book a fair shot at it before resorting to other avenues.


    They do indeed have the cash and the marketing clout to get a new book attention.

     There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing your own book---far be it from me to suggest otherwise---but I do think that in spite of the gauntlet that the author needs to run, and the long odds they face, the potential benefits---both to the author and the book itself---of being traditionally published warrant the effort.

    Yes, but the writer has to have a decent product to begin with, and unfortunately far to many do not realise they have not. (Hence why quite a number of self-publishers state that trad publishers have no interest in new stuff at all, because none took up with their story.)

    And not just that, even those that do get a contract don't often end up as top sellers.

    Indeed. But there is this: they get the benefits of professional editing, copy editing, formatting, marketing, advertising, etc.---all at no cost. 


    Well true, which I would assume they can take away and self-publish when or if the contract runs out. Which is an interesting point, the story is the writer's copyright, but what about what the publishing team did to it (formatting, cover, etc) who's is that?

    And an advance payment they get to keep even if their book doesn't sell a single copy.


    Indeed, which can vary greatly. (An agent is always handy in such instances, even if they take a percentage.)

     I might add that for a new author, the benefits of working with a professional, knowledgeable editor is invaluable in itself. 


    No doubt it is, but many publishers hope their editors don't have to spend too much time on it, especially a first time novelist.

    Even if the book eventually sells poorly or not at all, the author's writing can only have improved through such a learning experience.

    One would hope so.

    (And do not overlook the fact that a book does not have to be even a remotely a best-seller or even a top-seller to make a profit for the publisher.


    Well, they do get the lion's share.

     And all it has to do is make back its advance in order for the author to earn additional money for themselves. I collect royalties every six months from half a dozen books or so that never became anything at all like top sellers but have still managed to earn back their initial advances and get me additional money.)


    You need to get on to your publisher's marketing team   :)

    And keep in mind that while many current best-selling authors were best-sellers from their first book, many others struggled their way to the top after any number of books failed or did not do as well as expected.


    Quite so, as they say, dont give up your day job.



  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 12
    (By the way, The Week list wasn't a list based on sales but rather on reviews. These were the best books of 2018, not necessarily the best-selling books.)

    How is that valid then?
    A best-selling book is a popular one. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is a great book or even necessarily a good one (see anything by Dan Brown for example). McDonald’s is best-selling food. That doesn’t mean it is good.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • By the bye, again the result of compiling a consensus of nationwide critical reviews, the Novel of the Week in next week’s The Week magazine is another debut work.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    A best-selling book is a popular one. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is a great book or even necessarily a good one (see anything by Dan Brown for example).

    That's true, but it's often how they are judged as successful. The greatest book in the world could remain unknown if few buy it!
     One would hope that great stories sell very well. Then again, they sell a lot over many decades because they often don't get deleted.

     McDonald’s is best-selling food. That doesn’t mean it is good.


    It's not that bad in the UK after they were shamed in to creating actual food, and a greater choice. I still prefer fish and chips though
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    By the bye, again the result of compiling a consensus of nationwide critical reviews, the Novel of the Week in next week’s The Week magazine is another debut work. 

    Well that's good, perhaps The Week's publisher publishes them?  :)  Many newspaper publishers in the UK also publish books, and use their newspapers to promote them.

    https://mirrorbooks.co.uk/

    http://www.expressbookshop.co.uk/index.html
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 12
    By the bye, again the result of compiling a consensus of nationwide critical reviews, the Novel of the Week in next week’s The Week magazine is another debut work. 

    Well that's good, perhaps The Week's publisher publishes them?  :)  Many newspaper publishers in the UK also publish books, and use their newspapers to promote them.

    https://mirrorbooks.co.uk/

    http://www.expressbookshop.co.uk/index.html
    Nope. The book, The Water Cure, was published by Doubleday. (The Week magazine is published by Dennis Publishing, a British company.) The other two books I mentioned in my original post were published by Simon & Schuster and Knopf.

    By the way, the latest edition of AARP Magazine lists its Top Books of the Year. The first title in Fiction is a debut novel: Family Trust, by Kathy Wang. The story of how she came to write her first novel and get it published has a great many good lessons in it.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Kathy Wang certainly knew how to become published, she turned it in to market research and then a campaign! It possibly became impossible for publishers to ignore her, all the same, she is one of the very very rare ones.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 13
    Kathy Wang certainly knew how to become published, she turned it in to market research and then a campaign! It possibly became impossible for publishers to ignore her, all the same, she is one of the very very rare ones.
    I hope that anyone following this thread actually reads the article I provided the link for. The point it emphasizes throughout is that Wang did exactly what any author aspiring to becoming published should do: her homework.

    Please note, too, that she did not take the route of trying to approach publishers directly, but instead was methodical in her efforts to find and interest an agent (though the processes are much the same in either case). Here, quoted from the link, are the most pertinent parts of how she went about doing this:

    Wang didn’t diagram a plot or outline, but she did look to books she admired to study how authors make action emerge effortlessly from the characters and worlds they create. She read up on what defines an appropriate novel length and, hearing that 110,000 words is too much, cropped herself to 109,000 in the submission draft. She researched the market and knew if she wanted to query agents, she should hit a mid-June deadline before offices slowed down over the July 4 holiday.

    Online sites such as AgentQuery and QueryTracker and profiles on Publishers Marketplace oriented Wang to the matchmaking process of finding potential agents with interests compatible to her work.

    Wang made a spreadsheet of agents who’d handled books she liked, gleaned from acknowledgments pages and online analysis of what agents revealed of their preferences. She studied the art of the query letter, a cold intro that has to be written like a job applicant’s cover letter.

    While a great letter doesn’t necessarily correlate with a great manuscript, the methodical research that goes into writing an informed, well-targeted query can pay off.

    “Being polite and conscientious goes a long way,” she added, noting that if an agent likes your letter, he or she might want to see a few pages, a partial cut of a manuscript or even the full document. “Every agent is a person, they have personal taste, and they like to know that you researched.”

    If an agent asks to call you, you have a decent chance of getting offered representation, or at least a request for you to revise and resubmit. An agent typically takes 15 percent of an author’s revenue, and in exchange navigates an author through the book deal and publishing process...agents serve as a first line of vetting who can vouch for the manuscripts they bring to the table...After making a verbal agreement with an editor...the real revision process [begins].

    And here is a sobering observation from near the end of the article...

    Nearly three-quarters of books don’t ultimately earn more than an author’s initial advance...

    (I should point out, however, that that may affect the author more than the publisher. That a book failed to make back the author’s advance doesn’t necessarily mean that it failed to make a profit—or at least broke even—for the publisher.)
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 13
    The point of both Wang's and Orange's stories is that while it is indeed a difficult trek getting published traditionally (though I would argue that it is not "rare, very rare" for first-time authors to get published*), one only stacks the cards against oneself by not taking the time and trouble to do the proper homework. Following all the steps she did is no guarantee of success, but it will increase your chances...and regardless of the outcome you will know that you did all you could.

    Authors who misread the potential market for their book, who don't pay any attention to the special interests of a publisher or agent (such as submitting an erotic lesbian vampire novel to a publisher of Christian children's picture books), who refuse to follow the proper submission requirements...all they do is make things more difficult for themselves than they already are.

    --------
    * Picking a major publisher more or less at random, I just took a browse through the latest list of Algonquin Books, one of the largest independent publishers of literary fiction in the US (it is an imprint of Workman Publishing). Of the first thirty books listed, thirteen were first novels. That's slightly more than one-third. Of these thirteen authors, nine had previously published short stories, articles or essays. Of the remainder, their novels were their first experience in publishing. Even if you want to only count those authors, they still represent a significant fraction.


    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Kathy Wang certainly knew how to become published, she turned it in to market research and then a campaign! It possibly became impossible for publishers to ignore her, all the same, she is one of the very very rare ones.
    I hope that anyone following this thread actually reads the article I provided the link for. 


    I did indeed read it.

    The point it emphasizes throughout is that Wang did exactly what any author aspiring to becoming published should do: her homework.

    More than that! It would put off most first time novelists who think they only need to send out a few synopsis. Kathy used her business training to undertake full marketing, as one would do with any product.

    Please note, too, that she did not take the route of trying to approach publishers directly, but instead was methodical in her efforts to find and interest an agent (though the processes are much the same in either case). Here, quoted from the link, are the most pertinent parts of how she went about doing this:

    Wang didn’t diagram a plot or outline, but she did look to books she admired to study how authors make action emerge effortlessly from the characters and worlds they create. She read up on what defines an appropriate novel length and, hearing that 110,000 words is too much, cropped herself to 109,000 in the submission draft.

    Basically, she researched the product, then created a potentially saleable one just like them.

     She researched the market and knew if she wanted to query agents, she should hit a mid-June deadline before offices slowed down over the July 4 holiday.

    Then she researched the right ones to approach and at the right times.

    Online sites such as AgentQuery and QueryTracker and profiles on Publishers Marketplace oriented Wang to the matchmaking process of finding potential agents with interests compatible to her work.

    And I am sure she did not come across those sites by accident.

    Wang made a spreadsheet of agents who’d handled books she liked, gleaned from acknowledgments pages and online analysis of what agents revealed of their preferences. She studied the art of the query letter, a cold intro that has to be written like a job applicant’s cover letter.

    It's a wonder she had time to look after her child.

    While a great letter doesn’t necessarily correlate with a great manuscript, the methodical research that goes into writing an informed, well-targeted query can pay off.

    “Being polite and conscientious goes a long way,” she added, noting that if an agent likes your letter, he or she might want to see a few pages, a partial cut of a manuscript or even the full document. “Every agent is a person, they have personal taste, and they like to know that you researched.”

    If an agent asks to call you, you have a decent chance of getting offered representation, or at least a request for you to revise and resubmit. An agent typically takes 15 percent of an author’s revenue, and in exchange navigates an author through the book deal and publishing process...agents serve as a first line of vetting who can vouch for the manuscripts they bring to the table...After making a verbal agreement with an editor...the real revision process [begins].

    And here is a sobering observation from near the end of the article...

    Nearly three-quarters of books don’t ultimately earn more than an author’s initial advance...

    (I should point out, however, that that may affect the author more than the publisher. That a book failed to make back the author’s advance doesn’t necessarily mean that it failed to make a profit—or at least broke even—for the publisher.)


    Meanwhile.




  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    The point of both Wang's and Orange's stories is that while it is indeed a difficult trek getting published traditionally

    I would hope not as much of a task as Wang made it.

     (though I would argue that it is not "rare, very rare" for first-time authors to get published*),

    But it is. Novelists that is. When you look in to their backgrounds few are new to writing.

     one only stacks the cards against oneself by not taking the time and trouble to do the proper homework. Following all the steps she did is no guarantee of success,

    If Wang put as much effort in to promoting her book once published, it should have been a top seller, although all those awards will help.

      but it will increase your chances...and regardless of the outcome you will know that you did all you could.

    It's true that it's pointless approaching publishers and agents that have no interest in one's type of book, but Wang did indeed turn it in to the type of thing a Corporation would do when considering a new product, and then who would want it. It's doubtful most people have the knowledge or the time to do that. It's also depressing that someone would look at what's the trend, and then write a story to match.

    Authors who misread the potential market for their book, who don't pay any attention to the special interests of a publisher or agent (such as submitting an erotic lesbian vampire novel to a publisher of Christian children's picture books),

    What if it's a story about a Christian lesbian vampire, who looks 10, but is really 500?

     who refuse to follow the proper submission requirements...all they do is make things more difficult for themselves than they already are.

    Quite so. However, one recommended method is to use what almost amounts to spam. Send out 100s of approaches a week, and send to the same places the following week, keep doing it until one lands on the desk at just the right time to be opened. A bit like a Readers Digest's mailshots.  :)
    --------
    * Picking a major publisher more or less at random, I just took a browse through the latest list of Algonquin Books, one of the largest independent publishers of literary fiction in the US (it is an imprint of Workman Publishing). Of the first thirty books listed, thirteen were first novels. That's slightly more than one-third. Of these thirteen authors, nine had previously published short stories, articles or essays. Of the remainder, their novels were their first experience in publishing. Even if you want to only count those authors, they still represent a significant fraction.

    You looked up all of their backgrounds? Well, anyway, just taking one, Hilary Jordon >>  "She received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University." which I have often said, helps when writing anything a publisher would be interested in. And what is this all about?  >  "It won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded biennially to an unpublished work of fiction that addresses issues of social justice," but whatever that award is (there seems to be so many!) that also stood her in good stead with a publisher.



    But the bottom line must be, Lulu is a self-publishing. Some may have already done what you are promting, but with no results, or why would they be here? To answer for myself, because I am lazy  :)





  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 14
    The point of both Wang's and Orange's stories is that while it is indeed a difficult trek getting published traditionally

    I would hope not as much of a task as Wang made it.

    She actually made things easier for herself by doing exactly what anyone hoping to sell a book ought to do.

     (though I would argue that it is not "rare, very rare" for first-time authors to get published*),

    But it is. Novelists that is. When you look in to their backgrounds few are new to writing.

    That is something you bring up often which always seems disingenuous. Unless someone writing a novel has sat down for the first time in their lives to put words on paper, of course they are not new to writing.

    When I say, "first-time author" I don't mean someone who is a first-time writer but rather someone who is being published for the first time. "Debut author" is another term used. 

    A newly published author may be seeing in print their first-ever efforts at writing a book or they may be someone who has spent years writing hundreds of thousands of words before they finally see something in print. Either way, they are an author who is new to publishing. And that is exactly what I mean when I say "first-time author": that they have had a book published for the first time.

     one only stacks the cards against oneself by not taking the time and trouble to do the proper homework. Following all the steps she did is no guarantee of success,

    If Wang put as much effort in to promoting her book once published, it should have been a top seller, although all those awards will help.

    I am not sure how you know she is not doing that, but in any case the book came out only this past Fall and seems to be doing very well.

    (By the bye, Wang is promoting her book. She has been doing print, radio, TV and online interviews, for one thing. Her next scheduled public appearance will be on February 21 at Kepler's Literary Foundation in Menlo Park, CA)

      but it will increase your chances...and regardless of the outcome you will know that you did all you could.

    It's true that it's pointless approaching publishers and agents that have no interest in one's type of book, but Wang did indeed turn it in to the type of thing a Corporation would do when considering a new product, and then who would want it. It's doubtful most people have the knowledge or the time to do that. It's also depressing that someone would look at what's the trend, and then write a story to match.

    She didn’t go into the project already possessing that knowledge, as the article makes clear. She did the same research anyone could do. And this is neither difficult nor time-consuming. And what she did could be applied, to a larger or smaller degree, to any book, large or small, fiction or non-fiction.

    But the assumption you made that causes you to be so depressed is wrong. As the article very clearly explains, she began writing her book before she started any research into the best ways to sell it: “Wang began with the premise of writing what you know, following an Asian-American family, partly set in Los Altos. Multiple points of view follow different family members. The first character she began to write, a frustrated Harvard MBA, isn’t autobiographical – he’s a man, for one thing – but his sense of chagrined, early midlife deflation may be familiar to many local careerists.” Other than saying that she was aware of a marketable word count nowhere does the article suggest that she “wrote a story to match” a trend.

    Authors who misread the potential market for their book, who don't pay any attention to the special interests of a publisher or agent (such as submitting an erotic lesbian vampire novel to a publisher of Christian children's picture books),

    What if it's a story about a Christian lesbian vampire, who looks 10, but is really 500?

    :D

     who refuse to follow the proper submission requirements...all they do is make things more difficult for themselves than they already are.

    Quite so. However, one recommended method is to use what almost amounts to spam. Send out 100s of approaches a week, and send to the same places the following week, keep doing it until one lands on the desk at just the right time to be opened. A bit like a Readers Digest's mailshots.  :)

    That sounds like at least ten times more work than spending a few hours doing a little research in Writer’s Market. For one thing, you could probably narrow that "100s of approaches" to a dozen. Writer's Market also, by the way, often tells you exactly who, by name, to address your query to.
    --------
    * Picking a major publisher more or less at random, I just took a browse through the latest list of Algonquin Books, one of the largest independent publishers of literary fiction in the US (it is an imprint of Workman Publishing). Of the first thirty books listed, thirteen were first novels. That's slightly more than one-third. Of these thirteen authors, nine had previously published short stories, articles or essays. Of the remainder, their novels were their first experience in publishing. Even if you want to only count those authors, they still represent a significant fraction.

    You looked up all of their backgrounds? Well, anyway, just taking one, Hilary Jordon >>  "She received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University." which I have often said, helps when writing anything a publisher would be interested in. And what is this all about?  >  "It won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded biennially to an unpublished work of fiction that addresses issues of social justice," but whatever that award is (there seems to be so many!) that also stood her in good stead with a publisher.

    Of course I looked up their backgrounds and like I have said countless times before, the rare author is the one who has never before in their lives written a single word. And while, yes, a background like Jordon’s lends credibility to a proposal a book still will be judged—and accepted or rejected—on its own merits.

    One of the first rules in writing a query letter is to mention any previous writing experience, no matter how slight it might be.

    I might point out that having a successful self-published book or two in a bio does not hurt one's chances at all.

    I hope you also noticed that there were at least two Algonquin authors who apparently had no prior publishing experience at all.

    But the bottom line must be, Lulu is a self-publishing. Some may have already done what you are promting, but with no results, or why would they be here? To answer for myself, because I am lazy  :) No doubt. 😉

    What I hear all too often from many hopeful authors, to whom my original post was directed, is that they either tried to submit their books to publishers and agents in all the wrong ways, or that they didn’t try at all for all the wrong reasons. If an author’s goal is to give their book the best shot they can they need to be honestly aware of the pros and cons, do’s and don’ts, realities and fantasies of both traditional and self-publishing. I would never discourage someone from self-publishing a book (for goodness' sake, I have friend who just bought a new house from the proceeds of their self-published books!), but by the same token I would not want them to not give their book a fair shot at traditional publishing simply because what they may have heard about the process is wrong or misleading. They can give it a pass but it should not be for the wrong reasons, just as many go into self-publishing with unrealistic expectations or without having done their homework first and then are disappointed or unhappy with how things turn out.

    My original post was meant to address something I have heard all too often: That traditional publishers have no interest in new authors. This is demonstrably untrue.



    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Well, anyway, perhaps there's just me and you reading this thread, and the others.
  • *cough* Coney Cavities.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    We do try to keep him out of them ...

  • SeamusSeamus Creator
    Are you kidding?! I saw "Christian Lesbian Vampires" and now I'm hooked!
    Tim Reinholt Author of Pow, a ski bum heist adventure
  • Seamus said:
    Are you kidding?! I saw "Christian Lesbian Vampires" and now I'm hooked!
    I'm working on it...  >:)
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited February 16
    By the bye, the “Novel of the Week” in the latest The Week magazine is another debut novel, 99 Weeks in Logar, by Jamil Jan Kochai (Viking). It has been enthusiastically reviewed by Time and The Observer.

    A Southern Living Best New Book Coming Out Winter 2019
    TIME Best New Book to Read in January 2019
    Buzzfeed Book Coming In 2019 That You'll Want To Keep On Your Radar
    Vulture Best New Book You Should Read This January

    And, yes, I realize that while Kochai is a first-time novelist he is not a first-time author. In fact, the story upon which this novel is based won the 2018 O. Henry Prize. But this only underscores the value of working hard at your writing and trying to get your work into print, whether it be short story, essay, article or poem, in any professional venue, whether that be newspaper, magazine or literary journal. Even Margaret Mitchell, whose 38 rejections of Gone With the Wind is the standard model for perseverance, was a professional journalist before writing her first novel. 

    There are two points to bringing up books like 99 Weeks. The first is, of course, that publishers have no prejudice against first-time, untried novelists, something too many hopeful authors believe. The second is that it pays to work hard at your craft and part of this entails getting experience working with editors and publishers at any scale, from the smallest literary journal to the largest magazine or newspaper. This can not only help hone your work to a fine edge but also provides you with at least something to point to by way of experience when writing your query letter...even if it's nothing more than saying "I wrote a weekly column on gardening for the Plunkville Gazette."

    "Weeks in Logar," the basis for Kochai's novel, was originally published in Public Space, a relatively small "literary, arts, and culture magazine" founded in 2006. It was this story that won an O. Henry Prize last year. Most of the other O. Henry Prize winners last year also first appeared in small literary magazines and journals, such as Fence, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, One Story, New England Review, Threepenny Review  and others. A very great many writers have used publications like these as springboards. One Story, for instance, has published the work of 200 writers since the magazine was founded in 2002 while Prairie Schooner is "a national literary quarterly [that] is home to the best fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews being published today by beginning, mid-career, and established writers." [emphasis mine]

    Venues like these---and there are scores of such magazines and journals---are an excellent way for an author to hone their craft as well as get the experience of working with knowledgeable editors. The feedback received from the latter can be invaluable. The fact that these outlets specialize in short fiction (in addition to essays, poetry, etc.) also enables the burgeoning author to do this without investing the time required to create novel-length works. The practice, training and lessons learned in producing the shorter pieces will go toward making their longer works better and, hopefully, more successful.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited February 16
    This should be pretty inspiring...
    https://apple.news/AFgy-IfmpQW-hy-V-Hu-H1Q

    Again, it is an example of someone writing their first book after having previously honed their craft by writing for whatever professional and semi-professional venue they could find.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
Sign In or Register to comment.