Going Hybrid: Rethinking the road to publishing

I’m proud of my indie roots. It took guts for me to go out on my own and self-publish and by god I made a go of it. I found readers by beating my own drum. I’ve sold books and yes – I’ve made a little scratch to line my pockets (actually buy a couple of Coach handbags, one very beautiful pair of boots, and fund my Roth IRA – I’m not totally irresponsible!)

There was a long period of time in my writing career during which I couldn’t get arrested if I’d shown up at an agents door with a gun and a copy of manuscript. I think I’ve been rejected by every agent in the Writer’s Market. Some more than once. Some more than twice.

I accepted a long time ago that this constant rejection was part of the business. I didn’t have to like it, but I accepted it. So I kept on writing and writing and writing some more. I joined critique groups and listened. I attended workshops and conferences and listened some more. I worked to improve my writing.

Then I wrote Poor Man’s Pantheon.

It’s good. Really good. I’m very proud of this book.

If you’re a reader of mine and wondering why you can’t find it online it’s because it’s never been published.

I sent query letters to every agent in the book.

I received rejections from each of them or was just ignored.

In most of the rejection letters there was a line about personal preferences and market demands and blah blah blah. Fine – Poor Man’s Pantheon wasn’t what they were looking for. It doesn’t mean it was bad or unreadable. It just meant it wasn’t what they were looking for.

So I wrote another book.

Claire Takes a Lover.

Again – not available anywhere other than in a file on my computer.

I wrote Grand Duchess, Mail Order Bride, The Phoenix (this is a trilogy), All At Once, Three Wishes, Fifty Ways to Meet a Man, The O’Hara Sisters, The Highway Man, A Marriage of Convenience… There are actually more but I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed writing out this list. I can’t believe that I have this many manuscripts gathering digital dust. In my defense this proves that I’m not someone that just sat down one day, pounded out a story, self-published, and voila decided to call myself a writer. I actually work at this.

I hit all of the agents again and again and again and again… Round after round of rejections. I couldn’t understand why I was still routinely getting rejected. I knew my work was good. But yet I was still getting rejected.

I’m not the best at writing a query letter, but I figured there had to be something more. So I started to think around corners. I asked myself questions. Then I got mad. Then I just made the decision to get off my ass and be proactive.

I self-published.

I’d been playing around with the idea for Memoirs for sometime. I didn’t want to put out any of the novel sized manuscripts I’d written. That just seemed a bridge too far.

But Memoirs on the other hand was a different animal. Something I could put out into the world so I could at last have the satisfaction of being published under my own name. I work I could play around with as I saw fit.

It was also my way to test the waters.

I’d received so many rejections I was starting to think I might really not have talent or ability. I needed readers that weren’t part of my critique circles or friends to tell me what they thought.

Out of the gate Memoirs took off like a shot.

l think a few factors contributed to the early success of Memoirs.

The serialized format has appeal. There was a reason why it was so popular for as long as it was. The rise of the paperback brought about the downfall of the serialized novel. Maybe serialization needs to make a comeback.

It’s written from the heart. I wrote what I wanted to write for me. My own toy to play with written for me without the needs or demands of the marketplace in mind. I haven’t written a word of Memoirs for anyone other than me. In this I am blatantly selfish. I’ve written everything else with the reader in mind. This one was for me.

I found the right way to bang my drum. I see a lot of writers trying to bang their drum on the internet. I see the mistakes they make and how their methods are not sustainable over the long run. I’m gathering readers with content not book marks and ball point pens. This is another blog post.

What happened next after those first few weeks of self-publishing success was unexpected. I learned backwards what Kevin Costner tried to teach us all in Field of Dreams:

If you build it they will come.

I built it (it being a base readership) with Memoirs and they came to me. The agents that had rejected me, suddenly wanted to make sweet love to me. Funny how these things work. Not all of the agents that rejected me – certainly none of the top shelf agents I secretly longed for in my heart – but enough of them to massage my slightly bruised ego.

It was my turn to do some rejecting. I followed standard procedure and just ignored the emails. After all – if they don’t hear back from me in six weeks they should just assume I’m not interested.

I liked the power self-publishing gave me over my work. For certain I wasn’t going to give up Memoirs.

Then came the offer I really couldn’t refuse. Publishing with a new company headed by industry leaders that have been in the business for years. Riverdale Avenue Books. These people know books. For certain they know a whole lot more about publishing than I do.

It would be a lie to say I don’t have big dreams for my career as a writer. This is how I want to make a living and the truth is it’s been a long time coming.  If I want to sell a lot of copies of Memoirs then I need to team up with the right people. These are those people.

So I’ve traveled the long way around to get to where I wanted to be in the first place: I’m a published writer on the road to making a living off of my books. I want to publish those manuscripts I have sitting on my hard drive. I’ve learned the benefit of pushing a book out into the world.

Will I sign with an agent or am I done beating myself about the neck and shoulders with that exercise in futility? I’m actually looking for an agent for my middle grade work. That’s a totally different market than contemporary romance and literotica. To get into middle grade I actually do need an agent. But will I sign with an agent for my adult focused writing? I don’t know. I’m sort of like the woman that’s been burned too many times going on blind dates. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a nice person that I sort of hit it off with then we can talk about getting into bed together. Otherwise, I’m sort of enjoying being single.

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