Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tales of woe

As I dig in trying to promote Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning, I'm starting to see a frustrating trend emerge.

It would seem that as a result of the glut of options now available to small publishing houses and independent authors (in terms of print on demand, small run self publishing, etc), most press outlets with any amount of "real" distribution (say 10,000+) have enacted a complete blackout on submissions of this kind. (And honestly, anything smaller than 10,000 distro / uniques a month isn't going to even put a blip on the radar in terms of sales, which is why I scoffed at that Online "publication" running off of angelfire a couple months ago.)

Several hundred hours - and several hundred dollars - into the process, I have literally hundreds of rejection letters to my queries, and not a single accepted review, interview, or editorial. Before you jump up and down saying perhaps my submissions themselves are the problem, I followed all the guidelines set out in books like the Writers Market '08. I did my research. For once I made a real attempt to color between the lines, which has never - as many of you know - been my strong suit. I figured, let the work speak for itself, you don't need to get avant garde with your submissions. (e.g. when I acted as the agent of a costa rican monkey conveniently named "Morgan Freeman" in an attempt to get him acting work in Hollywood. Anyone remember that stunt?)

The most frustrating thing is that most of the rejections have been stock rejection letters, and most of them have been given clearly without the recipients actually reading the presskit, let alone the novel. The few personalized letters I've received have been from editorial assistants, telling me that the work actually looks really good but their editor-in-chief won't let them touch it because it's not coming through an established channel - e.g. press agency, established publishing house, etc. - and since I'm not already a "phenomenon" - e.g. 50,000+ units sold - they can't really spin a story around small-town boy done good. Catch 22, there.

Ironically, I initially decided to approach the publication of Fallen Nation in this way because I applied to several hundred agents, and to a one they all sent rejection letters - nine times out of ten the reasons where that I wasn't a "genre writer," my work wasn't "easy enough for them to sell," and so on. (Yeah no shit, that's why I came to you guys in the first place. But I know, you want your 15% to come easy and I'm not J.K. Rowling.) Don't get me wrong, for what tiny amount of press Fallen Nation has received it's selling fairly well. But I don't consider a book that's selling less than 10,000 copies a year a breadwinner, and unless if there's some kind of explosion I really don't foresee that happening this year.

It would seem there are still gatekeepers that need to be bought off to move forward with efforts like this. Perhaps I could lie and say that I'm selling millions, and suddenly buzz happens around that, but I'd really rather not resort to parlor tricks like that.

God, I don't want to have to deal with this end of the process. I just want to produce the work and move on. I hate sales, I hate promotion. I even hate marketing, for as much as I've come to learn about it. But I suppose "thems the breaks."

Well, there's my gripe for today. I know it probably doesn't help anything, but there it is. Perhaps some of the other independents out there can share their tales of frustration and woe.

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