Monday, June 07, 2010

Why can't I send you my printed book instead of a query?

I would have sent this as a comment on your blog, but it didn't seem to fit on anything recent and I guess I'm a little clueless as to starting a new conversation via blogspot, if there is a such thing.

(there isn't but sometimes, when I'm too frustrated by my rendezvous with machinery and the computer age to do anything but snarl, I answer questions)

Anyway... in one of your older blogs you mentioned not sending you a bound book with an ISBN, etc. You cited "for obvious reasons." Well it is not so obvious to me, I guess.

That's ok. No one is actually born knowing all this stuff so here's why: if you send me printed book, who exactly is going to retype it? (Answer: not me)

Almost all editorial and production work is handled via electrons these days. Even on days (like today!) where I despise that, it's still true.

Even if it were not true, the first thing an agent or an editor does on a manuscript they're thinking of buying is run it through the xerox machine to give to other people to read. Impossible to do that with a "real" book.

And think simply in terms of aesthetics: I know it's a manuscript for consideration because it's on paper, or in a .doc. You send me a book and it's not instantly clear this is a submission. Trust me, those stupid details do count.

I self published my novel and it is on Amazon, but that is not to say I wouldn't love it to be traditionally published. Is that not an option now that I have gone the self-publishing route? I am curious because I have other work waiting in the wings and if self-publishing is the end of any book's publishing options, I want to know that.

There is no such thing as traditionally published, and I wish people would stop using that phrase to mean "published by someone other than a template printing press masquerading as a publisher."

The term was started by those in that business, and has been picked up by everyone.

Do I sound cranky? I am cranky. To say something has been traditionally published is meaningless. All major houses use print on demand technology when they need too. Some small presses offer no advance.

What exactly does traditionally published MEAN? I'll tell you what it means.
It means you didn't print it at AuthorHouse/exLibris/PublishAmerica or some of those other template printing presses.

Rant over. Well, ok, rant adjourned.

What you mean is you've self published a book, and now you want to have someone else publish it and get the added value of an experienced publishing team working on your book in exchange for them keeping a chunk of the earnings. Not quite as snazzy as "traditionally published" but if you've got a better term, let me know.

I am honest enough with myself to know when I want to just get something out there and when I feel something really has mass market potential and I should hang on to it, query away and be patient.

I can't answer that since I've never seen your work, and even if I have, my crystal ball has a big old dent in it and all I can predict is yesterday.

I was considering sending you a query for a cookbook/relationship, non-fiction book, trying to be a good little writer and pouring over your requirements. So, what is a "platform/established presence?" I hope that doesn't apply to me, since I am then thinking the chicken and the egg. How can I get an established presence without publishing something?!

I think you mean poring; at least I hope you do, but if it's a cookbook and you are pouring, can you not get it on the new computer? I've had enough computer troubles to last a lifetime as of today.

Platform is not published books. For more on what it is get the excellent book GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina Katz.

I hope I am not rambling or sounding ignorant. I especially hope this doesn't end up a post on "why you didn't respond to this nut." :)

You're in luck.


Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I've got the same crystal ball. Love this post. I needed a good laugh.

Spiced Apple Eye said...

I've often been confused by that platform thing too. Sometimes writers/agents/editors talk like you have to do this and they go on and on about establishing blogs etc. Then I find out it means creating an audience for your work before it's published which isn't really possible if you're writing fiction.

Other times I'm told oh no you have to have a platform even if you're writing fiction. Although for the life of me I can't figure out how. It's historical fiction should I become a lecturing expert on this history?

I hear network, make connections, attend conferences. The problem is, those things don't do any good if my writing isn't publishable.

Sometimes I think the reason you're supposed to create a platform is to learn what will and won't be publishable. When I meet writers at conferences I can often tell if they're good or not by the way they talk. Are they ramblers or concise? Are they responding to my signals or talking to a wall?

DeadlyAccurate said...

Not quite as snazzy as "traditionally published" but if you've got a better term, let me know.

Commercial or trade publishing.

"Traditional publishing" makes my teeth itch. I loathe that term.

Ricky Bush said...

Glad you did respond to this nut (because we all have a bit of a nut in us). Glad to hear your take on the term "traditional" publishing. Seems that plenty of folks are trying to make distinctions to seperate vanity/subsidy/self publishing from the "commercial" modes. Or, actually, I guess all publishing seeks some sort of commerce, which means commercial. Oh, hell, now I feel like some sort of nut pod.

Alan Orloff said...

I heart this blog.

Don said...

Platform is a much bigger deal for non-fiction than for fiction, for obvious reasons, viz, a cooking book will be an easier sell if the author has a fancy restaurant, a radio call-in show and/or regularly appears on the Food Network. On the other hand, none of this is necessary for a novel about a chef (although having a base level of fame does help, which is why John Lithgow's children's books sell more copies than yours do). For a writer of fiction, platform most likely means having a blog or twitter account or somesuch which gives you some visibility, but I doubt that lacking one will keep you from sales or that having one (unless it's a big huge monster deal with tens of thousands of readers) will help.

laughingwolf said...

you tell em, janet! :O

other than the possible exception of milking alligators, writing well is the toughest job in the world

suzie townsend said...

I like when you're cranky with someone other than me :)

Unknown said...

That Christina Katz book is worth it.

I love that the Shark takes time to answer questions with plenty of humor and, umm, bite ;)

Josin L. McQuein said...

Every time I see "traditionally published", I'm tempted to ask them how long it's been the tradition in their family. Because if they've got family ties to publishing and still wound up as a Published Author!!!! (note the capital letters that make it sooper speshul), they've got problems.

Keep your traditions. I want to be commercially published by someone who will pay me.

Charli Armstrong said...

I thought I was the only one that didn't care for the term "traditional publishing."

Cherilyn David said...

Thank you Janet!! You answered everything and didn't make me feel stupid!

I will never say T*** P**** again!

Zoe Winters said...

I admit I use the term "traditional publishing" as a form of shorthand cause I'm too lazy to make up a new term. I can't run around saying I'm "published" because someone will whine and call foul since I self-published. (And intend to continue doing it forever.)

While I agree with DeadlyAccurate that commercial or trade publishing is good terminology... that assumes everybody who self-publishes has no profit interests. I can assure you, I'm all about the bottom line and profit. It's not like I'm publishing as a hobby here.

Also, commercial publishing makes most people think of large NY publishers but leaves out small presses. And lord knows that my publishing imprint can't be seen as on par with a small press even if the financial and readership endpoint is exactly the same.

So I'm at a loss. I don't know what to call it. I wish people didn't feel like they had to have separate "groups" to define themselves as "really published" and me as somehow "fake published" but until the snobbery goes away most people feel it's important to clarify between the two.

And to be clear, I can understand why the snobbery is there, most self-published books are crap, and most self-published authors want respect they have yet to earn. But I think if someone starts their own imprint and is taking their publishing journey seriously, we're a little past lumping them with Xlibris and AuthorHouse.

Just my 2 cents.

Ronda Laveen said...

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. May your computer problems soon be over. I'm just coming out of a year's worth of problems. I feel your pain.

Nicole said...

little confused.. so should the person who has e-published attempt to get it published via a publisher?

Janet Reid said...

If your book was published electronically it WAS published by a publisher.

Unless you did it yourself and then it was self published.

Christine Tripp said...

Once upon a time I said "Traditional" and thought it a sign of respect and said "Trade" to show the difference between the ed books I did and the, well, Trade books (does TRADE come from TRADITIONAL???)
A year or so ago I was educated via a blog (I do believe it was EA's) to apply the term "commercial" to what I do.
Now, I am thinking I would like to call the act of being published by a company that is NOT a printer, "Professional". I think it says it all, has a very impressive ring to it.
The best part of using the term PP is that I can then turn it around and call printers such as PA "UnProfessional" Pro, UnPro:)

>Some small presses offer no advance<

Don't get me started. I know it's happening but not to me! This is a hard enough business money wise without waiting a year and a half after 4 months of straight days illustrating to get a first payment in the form of a royalty cheque! What if the book pub date is delayed a year or more, what if the project is scrapped all together? Is there still a kill fee for the art but then what is it based on if there is no advance offered. Agents can't be happy about this either. In what other industry are services rendered years before a payment is made? When the publishers talk the printers and staff into waiting till a year after the book release for their cheque, I'll go along with it too. Hey, I'm a team player:)

Anonymous said...

This post makes me want to send you an email and hope you have technical difficulties in the near future. But then, you probably wouldn't post the email with attribution, so I guess that's not a sure-fire way to blogospheric fame, is it? Oh well. Comment spam on your blog is the closest I'm getting, then.

Anonymous said...

Here's why I use the term Traditionally Published.

I'm a traditionally published author (sorry, DA's teeth). I often meet other Published Authors. I seldom meet other people who have been paid for their work. The latter I'm always eager to talk to, share war stories and knowledge, etc. In the course of conversation, it's nice to be able to figure out which is which.

To say, "When you say you're published, do you mean a Real Publisher?" would be rather rude.

Worse: "So is it a vanity press?"

Of course, usually the writer will happily explain that it's a new system where you share the expenses with the publisher, giving new writers a chance to break in... and then I can get the idea without having to ask anything.

Still, the term Traditional Publisher is useful in a writing world that is drowning in Untraditional Publishing.

Nothing ever needs a name until it has to be differentiated from something else.

Dale Bishop said...

I always thought the term "traditionally published" originated because the "traditional publishers" didn't take e-publishers or e-books very seriously. At least not until they (traditional publishers) started paying attention to sales and the way digital publishers were attracting new readers almost daily :)

But I can see how the term is losing ground and you make a good point. I'm still going to use it any way I like, though :)


So, regardless of the correct terminology, I'm still not clear whether or not the actual question got answered: Does one stand less of a chance of getting published through an "experienced publishing team" after using one of those "template printing presses"?

JS said...

"Traditional publishing" is a phrase coined by vanity presses/subsidy publishers. It long precedes the creation of e-books.

Commercial publishing, trade publishing, trade/university/small press publishing, what have you: all of those work.

Using "traditional publishing" to people who are in the trade/university/small press publishing industry is a bit of a negative shibboleth, so one might want to avoid it in that context, even if it is helpful in other contexts.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Ooh, I like the term "commercially" or "trade" published now. I've used "traditionally published" as a descriptor in the past just because it is so prevalent and I never thought anything was wrong with it. I always took it to mean you queried, someone bought your book, someone published your book. That was the "traditional" path. Except nowadays it's not so traditional, and in the future, depending who you listen to, it may be even less so. I could see some writers objecting to "commercial" if they publish literary fiction (I'm not one of them, though), so I think I'm going to stick with "trade publishing" from now on.

ray said...

Janet, you'll never rep my fiction, but I follow your blog daily and love your humor. Specifically, I just had to send applause for today's only being able to predict yesterday.

Ray Rhamey

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yes Ray...Janet's only being able to predict yesterday...deserves applause.
Problem is I already forgot yesterday so I'm looking to tomorrow so I can make sense of what I did today because what I did today doesn't make any sense as related to what I did yesterday.

Loretta Ross said...

Alaskaravenclaw, when someone I meet tells me they're "published" I simply ask them politely who their publisher is. They usually answer with either something like "Penguin" or "Univeristy of Michigan Press" or with something like "Publish America".

Marjorie said...

"You're in luck." LMAO I am actually jealous.

Christine Tripp said...

>I could see some writers objecting to "commercial" if they publish literary fiction<

Your right Kristin, some Authors and Illustrators will balk at the term "commercial". In the visual arts there are a lot of self inflicted categories, two of them are "Fine Art" and then "Commercial Art". It was assumed that the first was a more respectable path, done for the sheer love of art without any thought to it selling (or so they keep saying:).
The Commercial artist worked for pay (such as animated movies or advertising)
The term Commercial was, by many, looked down on because it was produced exclusively for that dirty, dirty stuff.... MONEY!:)

Zoe Winters said...

@Loretta "Who is your publisher?" seems to be an obsession among writers like "What church do you go to?" is the obsession in the bible belt.

I've had the same person ask me three different times who my publisher was. Every time I said "ME!" Maybe they were going to ask until I said another name or a vanity press name. Meh.