Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Yellow Brick Blank Wall of Despair

Dear Editor, Do you review submissions via this blog? I have self-published (yes – self published) a children’s book. Local children have great things to say about it and I think it would be a commercial success if given the opportunity.

No, I don't. I get enough of that at work to want to do more in my spare time.

Local children (not to mention children not at all local) do not have a great deal of money to spend on books. Moreover, children always have nice things to say about books they've been specially read aloud or have authors who made a special trip to see these children. Does this sound like what's happened in your case? If so, you can reliably discount anything the children have said to you.

And in terms of its being a commercial success if given the opportunity: alas, I think there are many people who feel this way about their self-published book. But the opportunity you're hoping for—the one that would get the book in front of lots of people—is called being published by a publisher with a marketing department.

Either you've
(a) decided to forego that option or
(b) didn't try hard enough to get it published at a normal publisher (and by hard enough, I mean sending it to everyone it could work for) or
(c) looked at an enormous pile of rejection letters and decided it couldn't possibly mean that your manuscript would not, in fact, be a commercial success if given the chance.

I don't want to jump to conclusions; I don't know you or your book. But in my experience, the people at publishers know a hell of a lot more about what makes a commercial success than writers do. And we're looking for those books.
In the case of any one manuscript, the person who sees the manuscript at a particular publisher could reject it mistakenly or short-sightedly, but if absolutely no one wants to publish it, I would take that as a Sign of some kind.

You've embarked down a path that for most people goes nowhere. I hope you've brought along a grappling hook or something.


eluper said...

I can't help but be curious about what this writer believes will be a commercial success!

Anonymous said...

Too many new writers don't understand how HARD it is and how LONG it takes to get published, that there are NO shortcuts and that this is NORMAL. If you're in a hurry to get into print, be prepared to pay for publication, never sell enough to recoup your costs, and end up with a book that probably hasn't received the editing it should.

Many also seem to be of the opinion that self-publishing a book is a good stepping stone to getting same commercially published. Not.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Hey-- since we should discount all criticism from children, does that mean that when I test a story on my 4 year old and she says:

"Mom, that's really boring. Can you read me another Narnia chapter instead?"

then I can discount her criticism as worthless and uniformed and just trying to be nice to me?

I didn't think so... =(

Anonymous said...

My son has two published parents, and tends to be glib at best, patronizing at worst, whenever previewing drafts or sketches of our work. So I was pretty surprised the other day when he asked to take my galley to read in English class.

Walking back from school the next day after reading the first two chapters, he confessed to his mother: "Well, I thought it would be good -- I just didn't think it would be THAT good..."


Stephanie J. Blake said...

My 5 yo and my 16 yo are my very first readers. Of course I have to pay the oldest ($100 if it sells)and bribe the youngest (with the millionth reading of something he likes: No David!).

Anonymous said...

People operate under the assumption that what THEY have to offer has never been done and that there is nothing out there to compare to their book ideas, so they owe it to themselves, their children and the needy public to get those suckers published.

Can you imagiine such naive thinking?!? I mean, really, what publisher in its right mind would fall for that?

Oh, wait....that was what Madonna said.

Anonymous said...

I'll go you one better and let you in on a secret -- lots of PUBLISHED authors think, too, that their book could've been a commercial success if just given the opportunity, too. You know, like some publicity support within their publishing company.

CJ Omololu said...

That is about the nicest I've ever heard it said.

Sarah Miller said...

This is why I love this blog. Bless you, you gutsy broad.

Anonymous said...

A publisher with a what? A marketing department? What are those?

Anonymous said...

As somebody who's been published by publishers (commercial, not self) with and without a "marketing department" -- even if you think the marketing department does nothing, at least that publisher will get your books reviewed. That means a whole lot right there.

Christine Tripp said...

at least that publisher will get your books reviewed.

And so they should, as it is their book too. This made me wonder, we think of books as ours, do publishers think of the same book as theirs?

Kidlitjunkie said...

Whenever I’m in a bookstore with friends, I always can’t help but proudly point out the books I’ve worked on, using just that language. “This one is mine, that one is mine too…”

So in short, christine_tripp, I can’t speak for other editors, but for me, definitely yes :). We may not work AS long and hard as you did on it, but we still work pretty damn long and hard on it!

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