by Renee Miller
Sometimes I wonder what the Christ I’m doing. Here I am, starting a collective of authors, which, in case you’re wondering, is a lot of work that doesn’t involve even a single pat on the back or anything, and I’m working the day job, and I’m writing, and I’m marketing, and I can’t even afford a goddamn island. I’ve been at this writing and publishing shit for almost ten years. What have I got to show for it? Well, not much on the surface. I still work a day job, as I mentioned. Still fight for every single book review, both good and bad, still agonize over how to sell a goddamn book. Still dream about one day, getting up, leaving my jammies on, and writing from sunup until sundown, while my adoring fans eagerly await the dropping of my next title and my maid, Julio, massages my poor, tired shoulders. Yeah, Julio, right there… Oh! Julio, you’re so bad.
Oh, the dream…
Where was I? Oh, right. You guys see very little forward movement in my career, except, perhaps, for the mounting number of titles on my Amazon page. Hell, I don’t see much movement either. It’s depressing. It’s soul shattering. It’s fucking infuriating.
WHERE IS MY FUCKING FAME AND FORTUNE?
Actually, I’ve achieved a great deal behind the scenes. So have many other authors. This site, DDP, is new, but none of its authors are. We’ve been around the block, some of us many, many times. Bunch of publishing whores. That’s us.
The thing is, smart authors know publishing isn’t a quick payoff kind of game. It’s a long, arduous process with few rewards and a shit ton of bullshit.
The key to success is baby steps.
And an addiction to unhealthy things.
Maybe a bit of ego.
And baby steps.
First, learn how to write. Anyone can write a book, but it takes skill to write a GOOD book. You have to learn that first. Me? I started with a couple of children’s books. Awful children’s books. Then I moved on to horror. Awful horror. Then I wrote a romance. It was also awful. Then I said, wait. I need to figure this shit out. I spend a few years learning instead of just vomiting the shit from my head.
It was a lot of hard work. I spent at least five years JUST LEARNING. I didn’t publish my first book until about three years ago. And I did that myself. I had a traditional contract once upon a time, but it didn’t pan out. This up and down world of publishing is like that sometimes. Give you a series contract, publish your book, put you through the agonizing process of writing a second book you never even planned, then the edits, sobbing, and then, “sorry, we’re closing” and you never hear from them again.
Where’s my fucking money, man?
Another tangent. I apologize. I admit, some days, I hate this fucking industry and contemplate packing it in. But I don’t.
Baby steps, I remind myself.
I hear so many authors bitching and moaning about all the hard work they’ve put in. Why aren’t we seeing a payoff? Why aren’t my books selling? Why isn’t this agent making me rich? Why the fuck can’t I get anything but a small fucking press contract? Why don’t the agents love me? Aaaaageeeeennnnntssss!
Slow down, buddy. Just breathe. Let’s look at the bigger picture.
How many “big” publishers are there? That’s right FIVE. Used to be six, but shit happens. Anyway, there are five major publishers for all the wannabes out there.
- Hachette Book Group
- Macmillan Publishers
- Penguin Random House
- Simon and Schuster
Each of these publishers have a shit ton of imprints and divisions, but many of them don’t accept unsolicited or unagented manuscripts. So, here we are. What are we left with if we can’t land an agent, which is a fucking nightmare process that doesn’t even guarantee your book will be published before your grandchildren are born?
We have small presses. Sure, they’re small and sure, you won’t see a shit ton of sales or forward momentum, but sometimes success requires taking a chance and being willing to sit back and watch what happens.
Yeah, you say, but I’ve already worked with small presses. ANOTHER small press would be a lateral move.
You need the RIGHT small press. The reality is in today’s traditional industry, our best chance is with almost entirely small press, boutique press, new press, etc. Very few big names are offering new talent a shot, agented or not. If they do give you a chance, odds are you’ll see mediocre results. Is that a tear? Stop being a little bitch. This industry isn’t for crybabies.
What’s a girl to do? Well, first you get a few books published with respected small presses, maybe release a couple on your own, and then you work to achieve some decent sales and reviews, and then you network. Maybe you sign a not-so-great deal just to get yourself lined up for that no-so-great-but-slightly-better-than-the-other-one deal. It’s okay. We all have to kiss a frog now and then. Maybe blow him. No judgments here. Just don’t spend the night. Network again. Market. Oh, look, more networking. Some writing. Writing. Queries. Crying. Hello unhealthy addiction to booze, food, and/or narcotics, and back to writing.
Lather, rinse, and repeat.
Once you’ve done this a few times, for an undetermined number of years (the actual number is a vague calculation based on the tide, the phase of the moon, alignment of the stars, the weather in Spain, and what you had for dinner last Tuesday), you get a better shot at an established or at least respected agent and then maybe, MAYBE, a shot at impressing the bigger publishers.
Long game, baby. Buckle up. It’s not a smooth or even very fun ride.