Sunday, June 20, 2010

High Ho, Sparkles! Away!

The question that I have is about query letters. I know that you need to put in any published work that you have. My question is, what really counts as a published work. My first novel "Redacted" was published by PublishAmerica. I have know come to realize that I got caught up in a trap. So should i mention that in my letters to agents. Or should I just not mention it? It is hard enough trying to get a foot in the door, I don't want to do anything to hurt my chances farther.
Look, you wouldn't put your career as a unicorn trainer on your resume, would you? Even if the High Unicorn Shaman had conferred the title on you? Even if you'd paid a lot for the harness and horn polish?

Self publishing is imaginary publishing. It's as much a career credit as that time you traded your cow for those "magic" "beans".

Don't mention it.

13 comments:

Livia said...

Well, imaginary unless you sell 15-20k copies. Then it'd be a credit...

Julie Dietzel-Glair said...

I really appreciate the bluntness of your response. I've been avoiding the vanity presses and now I have even more reason to do so.

Steve said...

I just want to point out that not all self=publishing enterprises are scams of the sort referred to by your questioner. There is reputable self-publishing in which the Author owns the ISBN of the work, and which is not the same thing as subsidy or vanity publishing - although many subsidy houses refer to their enterprises as "self-publishing" to muddy the water. Some legitimately self=published authors achieve respectable sales figures, and I think those credits would be appropriate to list in a query. (If not, why not?)

-Steve

Adam Heine said...

Steve, I'm not sure what you mean by "reputable self-publishing". If the author pays to get their book published (a requirement to buy copies of their book counts as paying), then it is self-published.

It doesn't matter if the publisher was up-front about it, or the author owns the ISBN, or whatever; anything self-published basically doesn't count and should not be mentioned (as it can sometimes even count against you).

Unless, like Livia says, the sales numbers are fan-freaking-tastic. But that's far and away the exception.

Rachel Aaron said...

But... the magic beans worked! They grew a beanstalk to the giant's palace and Jack ended up a hero and filthy rich. I've yet to hear of this happening at PA.

LOVE the blog! Just picking on your analogy <3 <3 <3

christine tripp said...

I agree Steve and there are a good number of hard working Authors out there self publishing their work and selling and it's also worth stating that difference between publishing your own work and being caught in a scam. If Self publishing Authors book sales are at say, the 10,000 mark, I would consider mentioning it in an Authors bio or resume.
Thing is, they are SELF publishing, using a printing service and that is not, of course, what Publish America is, as we hopefully all know by now. In this posters case it's PA and EA's advise is perfect. I wouldn't bring up PA at ALL. Very sad but, I think, the correct career move.

Mark Herr said...

Recently, the local news had a feature about an 11 year old published author. My daughter was very excited to see this story. Of course, the feature says she wrote her novel, her parents edited it and then, after getting “good feedback” from some publishers, they decided to self-publish it. I had to explain to my daughter that this was not the same thing as an 11 year old getting a book deal. This was two parents spoiling their child. I was surprised that the news station either misrepresented things for the sake of their feature or they didn’t understand the difference.

Steve said...

Hi Adam and Christine,

Adam, I was trying to make the kind of distinction Christine is referring to. Since I'm not familiar with the details of the process, I didn't describe it as well as she did.

Christine, thanks for clarifying.

-Steve

Deirdre Mundy said...

Mark-- the news does that all the time. Someone sends them a press release "Local Man publishes his Book, makes school visit!" and they act like he's JK Rowling's second coming, but living in OUR TOWN. No skepticism. No digging deeper.

This is why the legacy media is going to die, honestly.

K.L. Brady said...

As someone who has self published and recently accepted an offer from a big six publisher, there is not one blanket answer to this question. It really depends.

First and foremost you must have a a well-written and well-edited book. Without that, the rest is moot.

I would say if you have promoted your book exceptionally well, if it has received consistently postive reviews from 3rd party reviewers (book clubs, Midwest Book Review, customer reviews that are NOT family and friends), won an award, and sells well (in the thousands of copies in a 3 to 6 month period - even on Kindle), you could potentially mention that and it won't count against you.

From experience, editors at publishing houses don't frown on self-publishing as much as literary agents do if you can demonstrate your book is well promoted and has a market they can sell to.

Unfortunately, a lot of self published author believe that by virtue of transforming their book into a physical product, that agents will be impressed by it and that's not the case. You really have to get out there and promote and sell it.

Anonymous said...

Mark Herr @12:41 brings up an issue that I've seen over and over.

I had one YA pubbed by a major house. When I contacted my local paper (mid-sized city) they said they didn't have any room to mention it (they had a small book review section, done by outside review sources). I was disappointed, but shrugged it off because that's how the world works.

Imagine my surprise when, a few months later they ran a huge feature article (with half-page photos) on the front of the lifestyle section about a gifted 18 year-old local "author."

The article quoted her as saying she couldn't "afford" to get an agent, so she just decided to self-publish. Oh, and the cover they chose for her historical prarie-girl story was inaccurate, but that was just "the way it works in publishing."

It's one thing for someone new to publishing to not understand the difference between self publishing and REAL publishing, but apparently reporters -- who work with words for a living, for fuck sake -- don't know, or even care.

I hold no ill-feelings toward the "author" in question, but HOW do these people get that kind of publicity for self-pubbed crap?! In this case she was a very pretty, homeschooled girl. The amount of photos and raves were staggering -- quotes from her family, friends that had read her book, etc.. I remember one photo in particular (there were MANY) of her feedng her horse, with her long hair flowing in the wind.

No wonder writers drink.

Adam Heine said...

That makes sense, Steve. The difference between self-publishing intentionally and getting scammed into it. Thanks for the clarification (you too, Christine).

christine tripp said...

>Mark-- the news does that all the time. Someone sends them a press release "Local Man publishes his Book, makes school visit!" and they act like he's JK Rowling's second coming, but living in OUR TOWN. No skepticism. No digging deeper.<

Exactly the same thing happened with my City paper a few months back. A huge 1 and a half page article, complete with colour photo's of the author, books. The reporter also sited the authors reasons for going the self publish route as, she couldn't afford an agent (OMG!) and there are no publishers that accept unagented children's picture books (O double MG!!!)
This sort of reporting, not checking out "facts" before printing them, is what then leads readers (perhaps hopeful authors) into believing that this is the way the industry works. Our paper (big City, capital of Canada for G sakes) never reports on Commercially published children's book authors, certainly not our local ones!!!
Self publishers know they have to promote themselves, and as Deirdre says, they need to flood the media with press releases. Most published authors and illustrators do not. They are busy working on another project. I think the only time I've seen much promotion by a published author or illustrator is when the book looks like it's going to be a hit, it's with a good sized publisher and then it is worth the effort and perhaps expense, to hopefully make it a best seller. Otherwise, we are a fairly insecure lot and have a hard time with self promotion and beating our own drum.
I've seen some self published authors stalk Editors at conferences, waving their badly illustrated book in the ed's face, hunting them down every chance they get through the day. Yet, the published authors never approach the editor other then to say hello, loved your talk, etc.