Sunday, May 28, 2017

Youthful indiscretions in the fiction section of your life

I am grateful for both of your blogs. I check both of them every day.***

On my query letter, should I note that I self-published a bad novel seven years ago that didn't sell because, basically...........

Iwas25anddidn'tknowanythingaboutanythingandjustwantedtosayiwroteabookandnowimreadytotakethisseriouslybutimsuperembarrasedaboutthatbook........

and if so how should I mention it? Or, should I avoid it on the query and address it honestly if an agent brings it up - assuming, hopefully, that discussions get that far?

You don't have to mention this in the query letter.
DO however, make sure that all evidence of your youthful fling are removed from your website, and from Amazon.

Do NOT reference this work you're querying for as a debut. You can be silent on that point until an agent asks for more info. Then you have to reveal the first book.

The first book is NOT a deal breaker at all. As long as you don't want me to try to sell it, we're good.

And truthfully, it's actually a plus for me. Now that you know how hard it is to sell and promote, hopefully you've been in training for the marathon of publishing for lo, these seven years.

Wait, what, you say? Training??

Yes, training.  If you want to write and be published, even though you're still at the early stages,  you should be training for publication.

By training I mean things like building contacts among other writers. Those writers will become your first readers and early champions.  The community that has grown up around this blog's comment section is the perfect example of that.

By training I mean you avail yourself of information on industry blogs so you learn terminology. You read more than the deals section of Publishers Marketplace. You ask your librarian for the copies of Publishers Weekly they keep behind the desk.

By training I mean you read widely in your category.

By training I mean you support your local bookstores. When you are published, they will be your bosom buddies.

You can do all this without a finished novel, without an agent, without a contract.  Then when you have those, you're tuned up and ready to go.


***While this blog updates most every day, QueryShark is much more irregular. 
If you follow QueryShark on Twitter, you'll see when that blog has new content.

16 comments:

Gigi said...

Super interesting. Now, when you say remove from Amazon...how is that possible? Even if a book is out of print, Amazon seems to still have a page for those selling used copies or even new copies that were purchased eons ago. Is there a way to get rid of this? Because dear goodness would I love to say a real ta-ta to that self-pubbed memoir of my twenties.

PAH said...

Amazon can't sell something you don't them to sell, right? That sounds weird and illegal (assuming you kept the thoughts for the book, which I hope you did).

As far as used books, I think you're going to have buy up that inventory yourself.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Phew...wipes sweat from forehead.
NOW I know why I am so tired all the time, I've been in training for thirty years.

Water stop.
Salt water stop.
Shark in the salt water stop.
One more corner...one more hill...almost there...

BJ Muntain said...

I've been in training for this for a very long time. I'm starting to feel like the athlete who wonders why he keeps training for the big leagues, when he can't even get into the minor leagues. But I'm a stubborn SOB, so I'll keep training.

PAH and Gigi: Depending on where it was self-published through, Amazon might have it. Many people self-publish through Amazon. Although chances are there are no print copies of it out there, if the OP only self-published to say she'd 'written a book'. No print copies means no used copies.

I don't believe it's difficult to remove self-published e-books from Amazon. Though I've never tried.

Mark Thurber said...

Sounds like you're in excellent shape, OP!

I'm about a year-and-a-half into the Janet Reid blog-based training program ("Your publishing dreams fulfilled in only 3 comments of 100 words each a day!"), and boy can I attest to its value. Some highlights:

- Until I came here, writing felt like a pretty solitary endeavor. This was genuinely becoming a problem for me. With Janet's comments section and the connections I've made through it, this is not a problem anymore!

- I've been encouraged to read more widely and deeply in my category, which has had so many benefits: confirming it's a category I really enjoy, helping me fine tune my manuscript to find a niche, and connecting with authors (including at author events), among others.

- This blog has really helped shift my mentality from "how do I find an agent?" to "how do I develop a long-term fiction-writing career?" One side benefit is that the immediate trials and tribulations of querying become slightly less all-consuming (though still consuming).

- And then, of course, I can't count all the specific publishing insights I have picked up here.

Cheers and thanks to Janet and all the rest of you!

Craig F said...

The first thing about training is that you have to learn the technique of what you are going to do. That means that you need to minimize your mistakes.

Learn to be a social beast, even if it is just used on the online sites. You have to be willing to help others to get help yourself.

Not only read widely in your genre, read critically. Learn to recognize why certain things work and the logical progression of a story that makes it a compelling read.

After getting the techniques, it is time for practice. Practice until you feel like you are in control. Then you can critically read your own stuff and maybe see it clearly. The hardest part here is divorcing yourself from your story enough to see where things break down.

By this time you will also have learned endurance. You will need that when it comes to hitting the query trenches. Endurance will also help you keep your head above water when it feels like a flood has taken you.

Susan said...

Whether this was published as an e-book or print book, you might have to do some digging as far as how to remove the title from your distribution channels completely, OP. Usually when you unpublish via Amazon, for example, the title still exists, but it's listed as unavailable. I'm not sure if there's a way to fully wipe the slate clean. Check out the KDP message boards to find out more information on this, assuming this is an issue for you at all.

As for third-party sellers for print books--they usually don't keep book stock, but rather order through one of the self-publishing POD platforms whenever someone places an order with them, so I wouldn't be concerned with buying back inventory. Disable your channels and remove your book completely if possible and then move forward with your new manuscript.

I like how Janet calls it training--isn't that true for everything we write? One book leads to the next and we learn through all of them. There are many, many stories I wrote when I was younger that won't ever see the light of day (thank God), but they basically acted as practice runs. I like to think nothing's without purpose or reason--you learned a lot through your publishing experience, OP. Now take all of that and apply it to this next endeavor. And good luck!

"The community that has grown up around this blog's comment section is a perfect example of that."

Just want to take the opportunity real quick to say I agree. This community is amazing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yes Susan, what Janet said, about our common goals and endeavors...

"The community that has grown up around this blog's comment section is a perfect example of that."

And I have to remind myself that this is a community which is truly global. We are a microcosm of word-mongers who write in different languages. How awesome is that?

furrykef said...

Instead of or in addition to following QueryShark on Twitter, you should take advantage of its RSS feed. In Firefox, you do this by clicking the "Subscribe to this page" button on your toolbar while you're looking at the blog's main page. It works for almost every blog on the internet. When you do this with one blog it's only a minor convenience over simply going to the blog's homepage, but when do it with a lot of blogs, it's a godsend; checking each blog for updates is very fast.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

If only something as innocent as self-publishing had numbered among my Goliath list of youthful indiscretions. *sigh*

Luckily, I do not think agents or editors will want to know about my misspent youth. At least, I hope they don't. We'll get along so much better if I remain mute on that topic.

kathy joyce said...

E.M., I think you'll get along better if you write about those topics. As fiction of course!

Lennon Faris said...

Yeah, I'm with 2Ns - training is hard work! Especially not knowing how much further you have to run, and with almost zero validation along the way that there will BE an end. Guess you gotta learn to like the scenery!

Have a blessed Memorial Day, everyone.

Colin Smith said...

This is one youthful indiscretion I have not been guilty of. Indeed, I don't have much of an indiscreet past... despite what some people suggested in yesterday's comments. *ahem*.

Opie: I hope you manage to expunge all traces of that former work, and find a home for your latest soon! :)

Now, you must excuse me. I need to wax the luuurve mobile... ;)

Panda in Chief said...

Colin, also don't forget to wax your pencil mustache. 😆😆😆😆

Yes, what everyone here has said.
I've learned so much here and by being a member of SCBWI.

Huzzah! I really love this community.

Gigi said...

@PAH, I'm pretty sure they can sell all the used copies of anything that they want to. I don't own people's used copies and can't force them not to list them.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Of course it's training. This is what we do as apprentice authors, and does not cease when we become journeymen.