Friday, June 26, 2015

Query Question: more on waiting time

I signed a book contract with a small house a few months back. At the time my editor raved about my manuscript and said she had numerous marketing ideas to make my book a best seller. This was four months ago. Since then I have not heard word one from her. I sent her an email about a month ago to ask what I should be working on before my final due date November 1,  but again, crickets.
I do not have an agent, so my question is: is it normal for several months to go by before we have initial contact from an editor concerning revision? If not, what is my next step?

Since my clients with small presses have always been agented, I'm not sure if my experience will be applicable to you.

It's entirely normal for some months to go by before receiving an editorial letter, even in publishing companies with large staffs.  The piece of information you're missing here is your publication date. If the pub date is this year (ie 2015) and you don't have an editorial letter, it's a problem that requires IMMEDIATE action. That means you email once a week until you hear something.

If pub date is 2016, you're not in trouble yet. If it's the second half of 2016, you're not in trouble at all.

But, I'm puzzled why your editor is the person you're talking to about marketing ideas. Does this small press not have a publicity or marketing person? If they don't, you should assume you're on your own, and not cause this press is a bunch of slackers. Most likely your editor has more than enough to do with just editing (ie she's behind on books ahead of yours in pub date, thus the silence.)

Of course if she raised your hopes and expectations by telling you she had "numerous ideas to make your book a best seller" she did you no favors. Most small presses can't print enough books to make anything a best seller. Maybe she meant digitally, although most of the books I see on those list look self-pubbed.

In other words, my guess here is she over promised, and is now going to under deliver.

That happens a LOT. It happens a lot with small presses (and inexperienced editors) who are just sure that traditional publishing is a bunch of mouth-breathing sluggards who, if they would just get off their asterisks and do these Very Simple, Very Obvious 738 things, Every Book Would Be A Best Seller!

Which means they just haven't been around enough to actually see how sales work long term.

And such lack of knowledge isn't a sign of moral failure, or bad character. It's just a sign of inexperience.

But, you're in bed with these guys now, and this is your book, and you want to know what to do. This is what you do while you're waiting for the editorial letter:

First, plan for NO assistance of any kind.  Plan that you will be doing ALL the work. If you don't, well, so much the better, but better to plan for it and not have to do it than get caught flat-footed.

Second, start sending your manuscript out for blurbs right now. (If you don't know any well-known writers this can be a problem.)

Third, start meeting your local and regional booksellers. Visit their store with a one-sheet of information about your book. Mention you're a local author. Mention you're NOT self-published.

Fourth, build your mailing list. Plan to email every single person on that list INDIVIDUALLY with a  personal email about your book.

This means no "Hi Gang, forgive the form letter" crap. If you want this book to sell, you'll invest time in making PERSONAL contact.  That means "Dear Janet, I've been reading your blog for years and Query Shark really helped me hone my query. My debut novel is coming out X, and I wanted to give you a heads up.  Pre-ordering really helps me out if you're so inclined.  Thanks again, love and kisses, you."

See the difference? One gets me to the order site. The first one gets you to my trash bin.  Yes, it takes MUCH longer to do these one by one. YES, it's worth it.

Small presses are great places to be but most of the people there have a lot more on their plate than they should and the polite squeaky wheel does get the grease. 


AJ Blythe said...

I have nothing to offer the Opie, not having anything published. BUT reading QOTKU's response just cements my belief that I need an agent!

DeadSpiderEye said...

' ideas to make my book a best seller' from the girl with sensible shoes and fluffy toys on her desk? Sounds odd, should be coming from the girl nail varnish and the BMW in the car park.

Tony Clavelli said...

Working with a publisher without an agent sounds hard, but it also is interesting to see that it's possible. Do any folks here have experience working unagented with small publishers? I'm curious about what your story was (if you went to them first because you like what they make, or if it was after querying didn't work out, or whatever the case).

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I was planning to post first comment to beat Captain Brian *hehe* but I'm only fourth.

Like Tony, I'm curious to know more. I wonder where the small publisher is, if it is in the US or another country?

Kitty said...

Remember the old days when people used to ask why they needed an agent?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Tony, I have a non-fiction book published with a small press from the U.K. I worked with two people (publishing manager and project editor) who were wonderful. They accepted it in spring 2006. When it came out in October 2007, I was living in the U.K. and working for the publishing company's sister community (Iona Community), so there was a small gala affair at the island bookstore and I sold 500+ books in those first 3 months.

Since then my book features in their e-news and I've sold a little over 1200 so at this point. One of the difficulties I deal with in promotion is that because it's a U.K. press, I've not been able to get my book into Barnes & Nobles because they are not one of B&N vendors. Didn't matter that I was a local. So I've promoted it in small independent places. And I'm not good at doing my own sales. I bought 100 books to have over here to sell locally to colleagues.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Sorry, need more caffeine. I'm now back in the U.S. I queried with the small press first instead of an agent. I knew nothing of publishing at the time. But I knew of the small press, liked the books they published, and a friend recommended I submit to them.

Tony Clavelli said...

Thanks Lisa--this is interesting to see. I know it's a typical woodland-creaturely concern, but it's hard not to wonder what happens if/when I exhaust my queryable agent list and no one offers representation. I know I can always shelve the book, wait 'til next book (Chicago Cubs-style publishing), but I really want this one to get some eyes.

The only books I've read from small presses fall into two categories: books by people I know personally, and books from sort-of-giant, not-really-small presses (Graywolf, McSweeney's, or graphic novel publishers like Drawn and Quarterly). So it seems weird to consider querying places I don't regularly read. I might need to change that. I definitely will keep trying for an agent, but for a first book it sounds like you did pretty okay for yourself with that route.

Unknown said...

My un-agented experience with Divertir Publishing, a small press in New Hampshire, was excellent. I dealt with Ken the Publisher (the first words out of mouth when I got THE CALL were 'I loved your book'), right from the beginning and he was up front about the fact that; I would be in charge of promotion; it would be a year before the book was ready; he would personally work on the cover and I'd have full say in the final version. He sent me a contract, I had a mentor from my Break into Print course, who morphed into my editor, look it over. She gave me some tips, I discussed them with K the P and we signed the contract. Great day.

I have no idea what an editorial letter is.

It took the full year to get the book ready, but I worked with two editors from Divertir and I was happy with the result and the cover. Ken the P made sure it was listed with Amazon, B&N, and The Book Depository (U.K). Also Powell bookstores, which I understand is big in the U.S.

Downside is the money. Fair money, for a first time, unknown author, but if I want to grow (and who doesn't?), I need an agent. I'm hoping by book three, I'll garner some attention.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Tony, I've been happy with them. With their small press staff, they were responsive even responding to my emails while at the Frankfurt Book Fair. But I went in having no idea what to expect. Small expectations, big happiness! I have different expectations of my WIP, a novel. I always expected to write a novel but never in my life dreamed I would write a nonfiction book.

Opie, best of luck in your publication journey. I like the plan Janet has outlined here. Good food for thought. Lots of work but, hey, writing is lots of hard work too.

DLM said...

Tony Clavelli, Tom Williams is an online author friend of mine who works directly with a small publisher, and he enjoys the experience very much. Accent have provided him support for a career and editions he's really pleased with, and I've seen a few other of their authors through networking with him online, who feel similarly about working with them.

Tom and I have non-publicly discussed my own journey to publication, and he gets me thinking about the merits of different options; but my work is probably far, FAR too bulky for Accent to consider. They're also UK, and I have looked across the Pond more than once (I might have an easier time selling to a European audience, especially with Ax), but a domestic (hee) partnership with an agent is what appeals to me consistently. If you're interested in what Tom had to say privately, I'd be willing to share his thoughts if you want to use the "contact me" in my blog. It's very good food for thought.

As to exhausting the queryable agent list - I've pretty much done that. So Ax is lying fallow, and I'm working on a new piece. I peek around occasionally for new agents - and just last night got another form R on a query from March 5. I want Ax to get some eyes too, but maybe that can happen if I come up with a more easily marketable debut in the WIP. I know this from those who've done it, I am NOT well suited to self-pub. And fat histfic is not a super self-publishing product anyway - it may be a worse product for that than it seems to be for traditional. So I'm just keeping on, trying not to feel like I WASTED ten years of my life on Ax, and the next one, I think, will be the charm.

Tony Clavelli said...

DLM--no way was it wasted. I've had those thoughts too--it's just the brain's weird little self-destructive poison (I'd be interested in knowing why brains do this--I can't imagine the evolutionary benefits of self-sabotage!). I'm checking out Tom's blog now and it seems vastly different from what I do (sci-fi), but it's encouraging to see alternative paths to success. Thanks for the link. Also I got a form letter this morning too. Living on the other side of the planet means I get to wake up to my responses--a roller-coaster way to start the day. I wish I could convince myself not to check until evenings. As we say out here-- 화이팅! (which sounds vaguely like "fighting" and means "you can do it!" Sort of.)

Anonymous said...

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, color me shocked. Someone trying to sell you something exaggerated. Sorry, I'll leave off the corny sayings now.

I would have been running backwards as soon as I heard, "At the time my editor raved about my manuscript and said she had numerous marketing ideas to make my book a best seller."

Lots of money is the only way to guarantee a best seller. Having a great book helps.

The last time someone offered to make me a best seller was when a guy offered to pay me to appear in a porn magazine. Seriously? I come in to a cafe covered in sh!t from working cows in the sale barn and you're going to ask me that?

Like Janet said, it's time for your to dig in and start developing your own marketing plan. As authors, we should all do that anyway. Unless you're G.R.R. Martin or Diana Gabaldon, I wouldn't count on a tremendous amount of marketing help from publishers. Even so, if you know Diana, you realize how much time and effort she puts into promotion. She works just as hard as most rookie authors to keep the word out about her books. No shrinking violet she.

Bob Mayer, I believe has some ideas on marketing that are pretty good. If you don't follow his blog, you should anyway. He's an excellent teacher.

Good luck with your book. Congratulations on publication.

Craig F said...

The well oiled spiel, gotta love 'em. They get that way by being practiced. Always do your research, especially when being promised a best seller. The closest most small publishers, especially those trolling conferences, gets to a best seller list is the Boise Review list of the fifty top books published in Idaho. That book would have hit 25 but ANIMAL HUSBANDRY DURING A PINK EYE EPIDEMIC made a sudden surge because of a pink eye epidemic.

Maybe it was all above board but your genre got de-emphasized. It happens but most of the time it is a phase and in a few months or years it will swing back around.

In the mean time it gives you time to write something new and find an agent. It is at least something good to put in the housekeeping area of your query.

To me the perfect world is to get a book or two out on a small press and then move up to the big leagues. Best of luck.

DLM said...

Julie: you ARE a biscuit. With butter and homemade strawberry jam. And please oh please do not leave off the corny sayings, because - DUH we love them and you.

And Tony, thank you so much, really. You are right, it wasn't wasted, and it's odd but - as heartbreaking as it was at first to let go of Ax (for now), thank Maud and Greyhound, the WIP really has saved me from the poison.

Julie, that time and effort is exactly what I can't WAIT to put in to support my work once I've found the partner(s) who can help me get it out there. I know the organizations bookstores and schools and churches and blogs/communities and colleagues past and friends I will someday to reach out to. I have a friend on one state's Arts Council. I am eminently WELL suited to that sort of work (as opposed to the demands of self-pubbing). I've had ideas on that front for years. Now just to get the right product that will give me the opportunity to get started.

Tonight, we research. Tomorrow: we RIDE!

DLM said...

Oh, and as to what the evolutionary advantage of self-sabotage are - if we hedge for a less-than-best outcome, if we GET that outcome, the feeling of relief and gratification are all the greater. I think we have turned a healthy human need to PLAN for the worst into EXPECTING it, which maybe isn't surprising given what a neurotic lot so many of us have become. :)

Theresa said...

Amanda, an editorial letter is a list of strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript, which is used as the basis of revision. I like to get a pretty yowza one, telling me bluntly what doesn't work. Whatever leads to the best, most highly polished book....

Anonymous said...


I'd strongly urge you to keep querying as long as you can. Yes, I know it can get discouraging when you're racking up rejections like mailers for funeral services. Then again, that may be just me getting those things daily.

It's worth it if you can get a good agent. I've had one. Life is so much better. It doesn't mean you can sit back and coast, but it does take a huge weight off your shoulders.

Amanda Hocking set the world on fire with her self-pubbed books, and when you go with a small publisher, you often have to promote like you are self-pubbed. She's sold a million copies of her books and she completely burned out due to the stress of promotion. She said she didn't even have time to write any new material because she spent so much time being a salesman.

Obviously, you have to strike a happy medium.

I'm not anti small press or self-publishing, I just think people need to be aware before they enter the lion's den.

Colin Smith said...

"Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!"--I don't think I've heard that one before. Wonderful!! :)

Regarding the "I have so many great ideas about how to make your novel a bestseller spiel"--hasn't Janet said before that when you talk to an interested agent (i.e., "The Call"), you should ask for specifics. Which publishers? What market? What ideas? An agent with a plan is an agent who doesn't just SAY she likes your book, but is serious about its potential--I think that's the idea, anyway. My guess is that same thinking can apply to small press editors. My wife can tell me she loves my book, but she can say that just to stroke my ego, and there's no foul. But if I'm looking for her to invest her time and talent into making that book a success, I want more than platitudes. Agent/editor: don't just say you love my novel; tell me how you're going to express that love. :)

Caveat: I have ZERO actual experience with this. I'm just extrapolating from what I've read on this topic from others (esp. Janet).

Megan V said...

Does the QOTKU have any tips(or any adjustments for point 3) for authors whose nearest booksellers are, for all intents and purposes, on Carkoon?

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

My takeaway from this post is that I should e-mail Janet personally when my next book comes out.

DLM said...

Colin, where I came from, biscuit actually used to mean "cute boy." If we had a crush, he was either a yum or a biscuit. I don't recall its being used for girls nor by boys at all.

But Julie's usage is clearly much more mature and non-romantic. :) And, if calling her a biscuit denotes affection and respect, we can undoubtedly agree: she's all that AND one.

Now as to the rest of your comment - remember, Janet's told us there's really no such thing, per se, as this "The Call" we keep talking about!

Stephen Kozeniewski: me too! :)

Colin Smith said...

Diane: And "biscuit" means something completely different in the UK. :)

True--Janet has tried to disabuse us of this concept of an agent "Call" that means s/he wants to offer representation. That's why I described it that way in parentheses.

DLM said...

I am reminded of Douglas Adams' biscuit tale, Colin - but I suspect you have a slang usage in mind? :)

Scott Sloan said...

Julie M Weathers –

"Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit…"

Now THAT'S a Southernism for you…
God, I miss things like that.
Huckleberry Hound was always good for one or two, as well…
My favorite of his was:

"Well stuff my mouth with corn pone and call me hush puppy…"

Donnaeve said...

Weelll. Don't I wish I'd been around yesterday for the topic. At any rate, speaking of the south briefly, I'm in Mississippi, relishing all things the deep South has to offer.

Short list:
Stewed okra
hush puppies (I've had at least three varieties - all YUM)
Blackberry pie
Peach flavored sweet tea

Coyotes were howling last night, and that's always exhilarating and chilling at the same time.

The magnolias are about done blooming, but still fragrant.

(I dropped g's in my dialogue, but not the narrative in my first book).

Today's topic? I only have a question for the Shark..., is this very succinct to do list something you believe all writers should do pending publication - i.e. those with a bigger publisher?

Colin Smith said...

Diane: Classic tale! :) And no... I'm thinking about that very same biscuit/cookie thing. And the fact that tea and biscuits in England is VERY different to tea and biscuits in the US--especially in the South!


Anonymous said...

Small presses can be lovely to work with, but they are small. That means something that wouldn't pause a large press can literally 'stop the presses' in a small press. A friend of mine is publishing with a small press (she's published with other small presses for other genres), and her book is supposed to be launched this summer.

She got a call about a month ago, though, to tell her that the editor had become very ill and that all publishing dates (and releases and launches) were being put on hold indefinitely. Which, as you can imagine, caused a bit of consternation. But the editor managed to catch up, and the launch will be as planned.

Not the editor's fault, by any means, but just an example of what can happen with a small press.

As for going the small press route unagented - that's the way most publishing is handled anywhere but the US. And even in the US, small publishers don't require agents.

Anyone going the unagented route would, of course, need to get some legal advice somewhere. Around here, copyright lawyers are available through the local writers' guild. If I remember correctly, I think organizations like RWA have lawyers that members can consult with.

This summer, I will be talking to some small Canadian publishers at a conference (most Canadian publishers are small, by the way. Unless they're Harlequin or Penguin Canada). I might even pitch them, if it seems the right thing to do at the time (I will be pitching an agent or two there). While my goal has always been to publish big, it might be possible to get lots of readers - even internationally - if I market it correctly. That's a big 'if', I know. That's still more readers than I'd get if the novel never got published.

But, while I'm aware of contract traps and I can read legalese fairly well, I'll be getting the writers' guild lawyer to look over any contract I might get. Because knowledge and experience are not the same thing.

And yes, it's rare to get a bestseller out of a small press, but it's not easy to get a bestseller out of a large press (since it's so hard to get on with a large press these days.) At this point in time, I think I've probably got an equal chance at either of them.

While many small presses tend to have small runs, if a book is doing well enough, they'll make another print run. Or three.

Some pros to publishing with a small press:

- The author often has more control. The author also has more responsibilities - as the Janet noted, those probably include some marketing. But these days, most authors need to get involved in their own marketing.
- A higher royalty (sometimes).
- More flexibility.
- More personal contact.


- Small (or no) advances.
- Probably limited distribution (less a problem these days, with Amazon and with e-books. If you can get people to buy your book, they can find it online).
- More sensitive to problems (like editor illnesses or changes, or a financial shortfall). Which means there's more risk for the author.
- Often, inexperience (as Janet pointed out.)

While looking for information on small presses, I came across this great resource:

Small Presses (Writer Beware blog)


Publishing with a Small Press (Jane Friedman's blog)

Of course, then there are 'medium-sized presses' - not one of the Big 5 (4?), but not a small press, either. Most 'large' publishers in Canada are considered 'medium-size' in the US.

There are a lot of options out there. While my first choice would be to get an agent to help me get the best deal possible for my novel, I'm not afraid to tackle the smaller presses on my own. I'm not ready to self-publish, though. I want to have the weight of a publisher behind me. That's my choice. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)

Anonymous said...

And by copyright lawyers, I mean publishing lawyers. I'm not awake now, I'm sorry. I know they're different stripes. Publishing lawyers can usually do copyright law, as well, but they know publishing contracts. Copyright lawyers may be publishing lawyers, and they may know publishing contracts, but their specialty is copyright.

So many stripes, so much confusion in my poor morning brain. But there are experienced lawyers who know publishing contracts at my local writers' guild. And I know just enough about publishing contracts to ask pertinent questions. I highly recommend authors learn that much about publishing contracts, so that they know what they want to negotiate and what they're okay with not negotiating. These are things your literary agent will probably ask you about when they negotiate your contract.

I attended a lovely session on contracts from Lisa Rodgers at JABberwocky Literary Agency at the last Surrey International Writers' Conference. Very educational, and very well taught. Most of it pertained to American publishing, but there were bits about Canadian publishing thrown in by her and by a couple Canadian authors in the audience. And while Lisa talked about what was usually negotiable and usually not negotiable, she was very clear that it was your agent's job to negotiate the contracts, and she gave specific comments as to what JABberwocky would negotiate and what that agency considered deal-breakers.

Kate Larkindale said...

I was published by a small press. It wasn't bad experience. I had a great editor who I enjoyed working with, but the turnaround between signing the contract and getting the book ready to go out was extremely tight and I ended up having to do a couple of intense overnighters to get through the edits and copyedits.

It was e-book only publisher, but we could buy hard-copies for promotional purposes or to hand-sell at conferences and book fairs. Unfortunately, because I live in New Zealand, the cost of shipping a box of books here was greater than the cost of the books, so I never got any hard copies.

They didn't do a lot of promotion, and any reviews I got from book bloggers were as a result of me researching and approaching them. Sales weren't great, even though reviews were pretty good for the most part. From things I've seen around the inter webs, my sales number was actually pretty high for this particular press. Which I found disturbing given the number of books they put out each week.

Earlier this year they went out of business and the rights to my book reverted to me. Now I have an agent and hopefully she will be able to re-sell that book at some point….

Unknown said...

Thanks, Theresa!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This sounds terribly naive but I am. What is a small publisher compared to a 'large' publisher? I've read in many book jackets names of publisher that I don't recognize and Janet has mentioned in past posts the advantages of small publishers for her clients. Obviously the difference here is no agent. What does a large publisher do that would be different? I imagine they rarely, if never, take unagented manuscripts.

BJ listed pros and cons for going with small houses.

I also wonder how much self publishing affects small presses and if the OP has to do all the work why is not POD or self publishing (print on demand) an option to consider for OP. Is it for the publishing credits or because said editor suggested best-seller status? Authors can be plucked from the monstrous Amazon and made best sellers. See Amanda Hawking, as Julie mentioned. Personally I'd rather query until I drop than publish unagented or especially self-pub with Amazon because I have belligerent sentiments regarding their practices. I feel it's a hostile buy out, all around. My next WIP is about that.

I'm an avid follower of Janet's blog because I want to learn the pros and cons about publishing. Every post makes roots my idea that I would rather publish with agent representation. Reading all the comments of by the veterans is a plus. Not a small one.

Diane, I'm intrigued to read your hisfic, just the title The Ax and the Vase intigues me. Seems fantasy is all the buzz but it's starting to blend in my brain. Especially all the names, Phian, Flan, Flix, Jasper, Jaspen...

DLM said...

Angie, I'd be happy to let you read it ... but you might hate historical names even more! Ragnachar, Pharamond, Merochar - and in the WIP we're up against Audofleda, Amalasuntha, Traguilla, and more ...

Ly Kesse said...

This is a wildly fascinating thread for me.

I am very frustrated at finding an agent and am mindful of what Craig said. (I've been at it for a while.) The small presses are the minor leagues, and that probably is where I need to be for now. There maybe I can learn to write better books as I will be getting better feedback than that from the writers' circles for now. (Don't get me wrong, those are good. It's just that pros are operating on another level.)

Unfortunately, I don't look forward to the self-promotion. It's just that someone the other day mentioned waiting two years for an agent. Two years is FOREVER. (Did I mention that I am bad, bad, bad at waiting. Especially when there is no indication of forward progress. No mile markers.) Plus I am no longer young.

I guess I would rather make forward movement. Right now, I'm in a holding pattern. And even though I know I should be working on the next book, what is running through my head is "What am I doing wrong?" instead of "How can I improve the plot?"

Without feedback of some kind, I keep going in circles. I need to break that pattern.

So if it means small presses and agentless, so be it.

I concur with Amanda Capper, thanks Theresa. I had no idea what an editorial letter is.

DLM said...

Oh, and - the title comes from this legend (and from the fact that the Franks' name itself derives from the *francisca* the name of the throwing ax they carried with them; the root of which is also related to the Frankish word for liberty - if you look at that as a metaphor, then both King Clovis and Queen Clotilde could be "the vase" as a vessel for their God, through the Catholic Church).

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Diane, I'd be honoured. I have much to learn from your writing. After living 21 years in Italy I'm used to historical names. Many southern Italians name thier children, mostly the girls, with old family names. My daughter has a latin name.

Where's Brian? I 'd love to hear his insight and read his antecdote.

Anonymous said...

Hi Angie

A small publisher is one that only puts out a few books (maybe 3 to 15? This is not a researched number. I have to run soon, so don't have time to do the research right now. I'll try later) per year. You can contrast with the biggest publishers, who probably put out hundreds per year. (Again, not a researched number.)

Very few large publishers do accept unagented submissions. They also have more money for advances and PR (although how they choose the amounts they offer can sometimes seem random), big PR departments, lots of people (editors, sub-editors), and better distribution relationships. Think Random House (which contains Penguin, as well as many imprints).

Some reasons why going with a small press might be more advantageous than self-publishing:

- even if distribution isn't as wide as with a large publisher, they probably do still have a distribution network (this needs to be researched for each small publisher)
- you have a publishing professional backing you up - that is, people don't have to take your word for it that your novel is worth reading. An industry professional has invested money in it.
- they will often have some way to help you promote your book
- they will pay for the publishing and the pre-publishing (cover art, etc.)

That said, for some people self-publishing is a better option. As I think I said (unless I erased that part before posting the comment), I'd rather not self-publish - at least, not without some industry advice behind me.

I know of several authors who started with small presses, but I can only think of two names right now: JK Rowling and Tom Clancy. Publishing with a smaller press is not a guarantee of best-sellerdom, but it's also not a guarantee that you won't do well.

Just remember that it is as important to research small publishers as it is to research agents. Not just so you know to query the right genres, but so you can see that the press - though small - is trustworthy and legit. Preditors & Editors lists publishers, too.

Ly: Even with large presses, you'll still be doing much of the promotion. They don't bring out the big promotions for someone they don't really believe in. If you're not Patterson or King, you might have to do quite a lot of your own promotion.

I won't say how long I've been shopping my novel. I'll just say that it has improved many percentage points from when I first started shopping it around. And I am also no spring chicken.

DLM said...

Angie, feel free to hit me up on the "contact me" on my blog. :) Of course I ask that the MS be shared with nobody else, but I'd love to share.

Anonymous said...


"Two years is FOREVER. (Did I mention that I am bad, bad, bad at waiting. Especially when there is no indication of forward progress. No mile markers.) Plus I am no longer young."

I'm a card-carrying member of the NaNoWriDec society. We churn out a novel every ten years come devil or the deep blue sea. Then we gather on the veranda and drink sweet tea and talk about agents and querying. Eventually we do get around to querying. Some of us even get published. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it's been a while for several of us.

If there's one great truth in publishing, it is that you will wait. You might as well get used to it. Preserve your sanity and stay so busy you don't realize you're waiting.

Amy Schaefer said...

Completely off-topic insertion, here. I'm back from my boat delivery, and just wanted to give a friendly wave around the place. I have unshuttered FPLM Paradise, swept the stray coconuts in 2N's direction, and am ready to start writing again.

Our sail across the Coral Sea was full of excitement - strong winds, three meter waves, a mysterious leak in the aft bilge and the joy of two broken toilets. Magic all around. But the boat is safely stored on Oz now, and I'm back on my teeny tiny island where I belong.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. One of my standard phrases (aka words my kids are so tired of hearing) is "you have to be your own hero." I like Janet's positive spin on doing your own publicity. If nothing else, self-marketing this book should build some good skills for the next go-around. Good luck, OPer!

Anonymous said...

Amy, glad you're back safe and sound. Yes, we all should be our own heroes and too often are the opposite, becoming our own villains and impediments to success.

Every writer needs three plans:

1. A plan to finish your book and polish it to the best of your ability.
2. A solid marketing plan.
3. A good zombie plan.

As the old axiom goes, a failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Amy - Nice to see you back commenting again and totally agree with "You have to be your own hero." Totally! If you can't, who will be?

Unknown said...

Angie -

My take? I'm honored!

I really only have one thing to say on this topic. An inexperienced musician trusts a venue owner to promote their show. An experienced one promotes it themselves.

I don't care if Queen Sharkyness herself signs me on and gets me a six figure deal with Penguin, and they throw a cool million into my promotion bucket --- I will be emailing every human I know personally regardless... And that'll just be the start. If I wanted to be a good writer, I wouldn't do any promotion for myself. I'd trust the smart people for that.... But I want to be truly great... And that requires everything I have and more. I'll be promoting my debut with everything I have, and when it happens, you all will know. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm home, and did some quick research.

Small press (on Wikipedia) - gives the general definition of 'small press', at least in the US.

The Big Five Trade Book Publishers (on In case you want to know who they are.

Some information on publishers at AgentQuery

In contrast, and for an idea as to how big the Big Five are, this from the Penguin Random House about us page, says they "bring you over 70,000 digital and 15,000 print books each year."

As for Harlequin, noted as a 'mid-sized publisher' on the AgentQuery page, they publish "more than 110 titles a month in 34 languages in 110 international markets on six continents", as per their About Us page. So only about 1320 books per year. That's assuming that the 110 is all the titles in all languages, though it may be 110 in each of 34 languages... I can't count that high.

Hope this is useful.

AJ Blythe said...

Julie - having a shocker day and you're comment(s) made me laught out loud. Thank you!

Donnaeve - in Australia, hush puppies are a brand of shoe. But you eat them in the south? Gosh you guys are tough!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...


I see what I was missing thank you for the explanations. Janet has said over and over but I need a hammer to crack my skull. Research the small press, research the heck out of it.

Brian, sound advice as usual.

Panda in Chief said...

You are totally right about the individual emails to people. When I was running my (very successful) kickstarter campign, i got much better results sending individual emails to people. Yeah, you want to have a basic message that you can copy and paste, but each person was addressed by name and emails were sent one at a time. Definitely worth the effort.,

CynthiaMc said...

About preparing for the zombie invasion - shortly after my son graduated from Marine Corps boot camp I took him on a tour of a model home I really liked and asked him what he thought. He said "It'd be a b***h to defend." I've never been able to look at a house the same way since.

Donnaeve said...


Yeah, they are a shoe here too, but the term hush puppy as food comes from dogs in the company of soldiers in the Civil War. Cornbread was tossed to keep them quiet.

Ly Kesse said...

BJ, Julie,

Thank you.

I guess yes, promotion is what it's all about. *sigh*

As for waiting, I can do my fair share. I guess I'm just not able to wait two years with no feed back. I need to get into a position where I can grab on to something. Some tip as to what I am doing wrong.

Like they say, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is foolish. I need to try something else.

So here's to swimming in smaller puddles.

Anonymous said...


There are a few places you can get feedback. I've been on Compuserve Books and Writers Lit Forum for years. I think there's a critique forum on GoodReads and QueryTracker?

Yes, you need feedback.

Good luck.


Anonymous said...

Also, Ly, if you're at all able, I highly recommend in-person conferences and workshops. There's nothing like being around motivated writers to get the juices flowing and the excitement back into the writing process.

You can find them almost anywhere. (I say 'almost', because Saskatchewan does not yet have a writing-centric conference yet. But Calgary does, which is only an 8-hour drive from here.)