Saturday, October 22, 2016

I'm a special snowflake, I am I am

 As a rule, publishers and agents want only previously unpublished work; I get that.
But, like everyone else, I'm a special snowflake!
I have a collection of children's stories that is being provided to a small (~30) group of friends. This edition will not be publicly available. It will not be advertised.
Does this disqualify the book in most agents' and/or publishers' eyes? If not, would I mention the private edition, and if so, at what point in the process?
A Special Snowflake Thriving in the Texas October Heat

Will it have an ISBN?
That's the kicker.
If it has an ISBN, it's published.

If it does not, it's not (for our purposes here anyway.)

Where you need to be careful is not with publishers and agents who can do anything they want (including taking on books that have already been published) but with contests and awards. Those entry requirements may specify what "published" is, and it may not be as loose a definition as I have here.

You don't want to find out the hard way about this.

I will never forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my sharkly stomach when a book I loved and publicized as hard as I could was not eligible for the Oregon Book Award because the author had done a small print run the previous year.  I had to drown my sorrows for a week.    


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Huh, I still worry about one of the most beautiful pieces I've written being published on a museum's website years ago as a final project related to a memoir course I took. I can't find it on their site now but it's out there.
BTW, I got an A++.

Donnaeve said...

I'm thinking no ISBN. I could be wrong, but OP doesn't say that, and it's possible, but just the way it's worded.

In OP's case here, it's good to ask this question now. For instance, I was quite paranoid about anything/everything I'd ever put out on the internet after there was a contract in place. There was a part in the contract that talked about not having previously published the book in any format/way (loosely put) and that section immediately sent me in a panic over a paragraph I'd allowed on a site that was discussing Food In Fiction. They'd put together a very nice little display with my title, the page out of the book, etc. I asked they take it down - which they kindly did. I wasn't taking any chances.

I'm still flummoxed over library books and some indie bookstores not counting with regard to sales numbers.

CynthiaMc said...

I feel like a snowflake! It's 55 degrees in Florida. Somebody close the fridge!

I'm noticing a curious thing. I used to be very regular with my blog. Now whenever I think about working on it, a little voice in my head says "Work on something you can sell instead" - so I am.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Janet Reid said...

Donnaeve, libraries and some indies don't contribute to Bookscan; they very much count as sales and will appear on your royalty statement.

Bookscan is a private company that collects sales information from a variety of sources.

Your publisher knows how many copies of your book they sold, generally down to the last 1. They report that information to you on royalty statments, and pay you from the royalty statement.

Bookscan numbers and sales figures are two DIFFERENT numbers, although
in casual conversation the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Does that help?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I feel more like a special bat out of Hell myself. Although, it's nearly cold enough for a special snowflake. What were we talking about?

Oh yes, what is published? I worry about this with my online workshop where a bunch of people are reading my early drafts. I fear editors and agents might spy them there (they do peruse the workshop now and again) and decide I must be carted off to Carkoon along with any queries I write in the future. But I am sure that':s just me being super tired. I hope. I will at least avoid ISBNs for now.

Andrea said...

When I worked with a writing instructor on my first novel (worked with him in a novel writing workshop and then decided to continue working with him individually), at some point he said my writing had reached the level of being publishable, and because he thought some of my scenes could stand on their own as short stories, he recommended to try to get them published in magazines. I then asked if that wouldn't be a problem when I'd be ready to query the finished manuscript, but he said he'd had several novel extracts published in magazines before the novels themselves were.
(I never did send anything off to magazines because I had no idea how to turn any of my scenes into short stories. In my head they were all connected and couldn't be read independently)

Donnaeve said...

Ms. Janet, :)

Yes, it does - I was reading about it from that link you supplied yesterday, and I think the biggest issue (at least with regard to indie bookstores) is their systems may not be compatible with BookScan, and they're not really inclined to report, i.e. it's not an easy task to do without a handy system that synchs up to an engine like BookScan. So, that makes sense...but then, I read somewhere else (because ya know how it works, one tends to find oneself buried ten sites further on the subject matter) that it can impact the true story of how one's book is doing. I guess the important takeaway - my publisher knows. That's the one to care about.

Thank you!

nightsmusic said...

I was once told, early on, that if it's posted on your site (excerpts/chapters), it's considered "published" and should be either taken down or not shopped. I removed all of my little snippets and that was that. I never quite understood that, I too thought it needed an ISBN to be considered as published, but what do I know? I'm not. Yet...

Beth Carpenter said...

There was some confusion after one publisher, who wouldn't accept anything previously published, had a major contest in conjunction with Wattpad where all the stories had to be complete on Wattpad in order to enter. Nobody was sure if they should nuke their stories immediately after the the contest or what.

Craig F said...

SSTTOH, make sure you take a very hard look at the contract from your publisher. There aren't all that many of them(publishers with this capability) and they can be very protective of their work.

I don't know if they can pull an ISBN but they can make other things hard on you. If there is anything that infers exclusive publishing rights steer clear of them. It is easy to transfer the rights to someone but very hard to get them back.

OT: the outside world feels air conditioned this morning. I need to get out in it before Florida comes back.

RachelErin said...

nightmusic, I know many writers seeking representation have the first five or ten pages on their blog - considering it a "be ready" situation. One friend in particular won a well-regarded award, so her blog is linked from the award site, and she has her pages there in case an agent is poking around and curious about the winners who aren't published yet (many of them have gone on to be published).

Putting my first five up is a priority when I start querying - other thoughts or feedback on that? Is my sample size too small? There are several online first five workshops where the pages are publicly critiqued, and I haven't heard about it being a problem for either contests or publishers.

Colin Smith said...

Reading through the comments so far, the one line that rings a bell like Quasimodo is this from Andrea: at some point he said my writing had reached the level of being publishable. That's what I'm looking for right now. My wife likes my writing, and you all have said some nice things about what work of mine you've seen. But probably my #1 insecurity at the moment is, "sure it's good, but no-one has yet made a decision to actually pay money to read something I wrote." To me, that's the litmus test. My work may be good enough to be readable. But would you actually part with hard-earned cash to read it? I will gladly receive most books people want to give me. But I will spend hours wandering B&N choosing a book to buy. Which is why I've sort-of eschewed competitions (aside from Janet's--goodness, how could I give those up?!) and began concentrating on writing stuff to sell (i.e., short stories). That first sale will be a big confidence boost for me. The boost may not last more than a week, but that's where I'm at right now with regard to publishing and contests and stuff. As far as stuff I've put on my website, I don't think I've got anything out there that I would consider publishable. It's good (I think), but publishable...? I'm not too worried about it, to be honest. Sure, I could make an anthology of all the flash fiction and try to sell it. But if I deserve to be published, I ought to be able to come up with more and better material, shouldn't I?

Was that on-topic? Not sure... but thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Welcome to Therapy Saturday with Dr. Shark. ;)

PS: Just for full disclosure, I did enter a contest last week, but it was more for the challenge than anything else. And it was late, I was tired, so I wasn't thinking straight... :) Here it is if you're curious.

RosannaM said...

This is all so frightening! It's like playing a game in Alice in Wonderland, where there are unwritten rules, and nuances to rules, and exceptions to rules. It is so easy to make mistakes.

OT--it has been raining like crazy for a week. More to come. The duck has to nip at the chickens to get them out of the coop. Great weather for reading, writing and drowning my sorrows a la Ms. Janet.

John Davis Frain said...

One part confuses me:

"I had to drown my sorrows for a week."

Is that supposed to read "I got to drown my sorrows for a week."? I thought, maybe, that was the bright side of a bad situation.

Don't worry about answering. I have a little experiment already planned. I'm going to write a scene today which, like any first draft should be, will be horrendous. Then, later this evening I'll drown my sorrows.

I'll decide tonight if I "get to" or if I "have to" drown my sorrows. Tomorrow morning, I may reconsider my choice.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Colin ... Whoa. I was grimacing the entire time I was reading your entry on Ink After Dark. In a good and creepy way. Terrific imagery. And terrific writing, sir.

OT: Perfect weather here at the sanctuary. Cool and crisp with brilliant blue skies. Just finished taking a load of hay to the herdies. Everyone was feeling frisky - running and bucking - a sight to see.

Dena Pawling said...

We had two weeks of beautiful fall weather, including morning dew, and last Monday we even had measurable precipitation! It was the first rain in probably eight months. But for the last several days, summer came back with a vengeance - wind, 90+ heat, and yesterday a major fire.

I want fall back.

Colin – I have a dentist appointment on Monday. THANKS for that story =O

Unknown said...

I'm dreaming of some special snowflakes over here in Arizona.

While I don't readily post excerpts, snippets, whatever else you want to call them of my works in progress, is it a good idea to avoid doing so in the future? Even if it's just on my blog?

Joseph S. said...

I’m a bit surprised to see contests and awards are big deals. I realize a few (to me a very few) are prestigious and real attention-getters. But I’ve considered them the cherry on the top - nice but not critical.

Karen McCoy said...

Caitlin, you're in AZ? Whereabouts? I lived in Flagstaff for four years.

Colin, I've been where you are, many times. Remember your accomplishments--for example, you have gotten some of the most mentions in Janet's contests, especially lately. And remember, you don't have to try so hard. Your stories have good bones. Get rid of the words you don't need, and let your natural style shine through.

JulieWeathers said...

I would be leery of publishing any book and thinking it would not be considered published. Sort of like being a virgin, you know.

At Surrey last year, one of the keynote speakers and I don't recall his name right now. He's a Canadian author and was an excellent speaker. He finally got an agent for his novel after seriously considering self publishing. Then he decided to enter it in a prestigious contest. Everyone pretty much laughed at him, including his agent. "You can't win that! Do you have any idea what kind of books and authors you'd be competing against?"

At that last minute, he decided they were right and ran down to the receptionist to snatch his book back before the postman picked it up. The elevator was malfunctioning, so he dashed down the stairs. Rats. He just missed the postman, but maybe he can still catch him.

Breathless from his run down the stairs, he flies out the door and around the corner where he sees the postman disappearing. Legs pumping, he skids around the corner just in time to see the postman drive away.

Bent over, hands clasping his knees, weeping bitter tears of defeat, and gasping for breath, he curses his luck and that damned elevator. Now everyone is going to be able to say, "I told you so. You aren't that kind of author. What were you thinking?"

He'll call the contest.

No, sorry. Once a submission is received it can't be withdrawn. So, he's wiped out his bank account for the entry fee to be humiliated.

"Mr. New Author, you're one of the finalists. You'll need to attend the awards if you can where the winner is announced."

"Well, that's great that you made the short list, but don't expect anything else. Have you read the other books? Do you have a clue who you're competing against?"

He doesn't even bother to prepare an acceptance speech. It's enough to make the final round and he's proud as he can be.

"And the winner is Mr. New Author."

"What? I wasn't supposed to win. I don't even have an acceptance speech."

Long Suffering And Ever Faithful Wife, "This is where you stand up and go to the podium, dear. Here's your acceptance speech. You'll be thanking me for all my help among others."

The book went on to become a best seller due to winning the award.

Yes, contests and awards matter.

JulieWeathers said...

It's a bit late in the year, but I'm thinking of entering some contests and possibly event he Tor novella invitation. I wrote a Native American children's story many years ago that might fit the bill.

Re posting excerpts on you blog, most agents asked about this say it's all right and is not considered published. Here's the rub, though, you're normally posting rough draft. Agents read your blog if they're interested in you. Is this what you want representing you?

I have snippets up from Rain Crow and will probably leave them as they are part of the A-Z, but I'll go back and edit and revise them.

Diana Gabaldon posts snippets from her works in progress with generous spoiler warnings.

Zach Recht, as I've said before, serialized his novel on his blog and got enough of a fan following Permuted Press offered him a contract. He had to take down all his writing from his blog. He went on to break all sales records for them.

It can happen, but not often.

Colin Smith said...

Melanie: Thanks. I'm no Laird Barron, but I'm quite pleased with it. Especially since I totally pantsed it. Not even an outline or an idea of how it would end, which is not how I normally write. Like I said, it was late... :)

Dena: Mwwwahaaahaaa! >:]

Karen: Thanks for the encouragement. I do take to heart every compliment and kind word, and they mean a lot. Right now, I feel like I'm standing at the edge of the chasm between amateur and professional, unsure of whether I have what it takes to make that jump. I feel like the only way to know for sure is to offer work (i.e., short stories) to the marketplace and see if there's an editor out there willing to bite. Some of the Reiders have already done that, and successfully, which gives me hope. :)

Anonymous said...

Jeez, Colin, remind me to never go to the dentist alone. *shudder*

About the "but is it publishable?" feeling, I've been struggling with that a lot myself. Particularly when I get encouragement. I fight encouragement at the moment. It's gotten beyond "you're my friend, you have to say that" into "but you haven't read my writing, what do you know?"

I'm astonished anyone bothers to encourage me anymore.

I think we'll both make it as long as we don't let that uncertainty stop us. Maybe not now, maybe not this story, but all we have to do is keep writing them and keep trying.

I don't have anything to say on topic. The closest I have is that the Texas October heat has abandoned me. I dread the oncoming cold the way the people of Westeros dread the white walkers. Can't fight a cold front, though.

Cheryl said...

Julie, I absolutely needed to hear that story about the contest today. I've been beset with anxiety over a writer's retreat--complete with big name author--I signed up for. I'm not a literary writer, although I'd like to think I could be. I haven't published so much as a short story.

It's nice to hear that sometimes it doesn't matter.

AJ Blythe said...

Eek, Colin!!! Thanks for that. I went to the dentist two weeks ago (thank goodness) because if I was Dena I'd be cancelling right now.

We've passed the mid-point of spring and our nights are still near freezing (there were frost warnings for this morning) and our days (if I've converted 15'C correctly) about mid-50s'F. I'm desperate for some heat. Roll on summer =)

Craig F said...

On the thoughts of posting you first five and then taking them down after a while. I am against it. Post it and leave it up. That way you have a digital time trail that says it was yours first.

The is a First Right of Publishing Act somewhere in the American legal system. It says that if you can prove you published it first it is yours. You can use a digital time stamp for that proof.

Colin: I think you could have helped the story by making your patient a mobster of some sort. Make you dentist a gibbering fool with sweat running into his eyes for a while and then have him realize that the bottle wasn't Novocaine after he had done the drilling.

My early vomment said publishing. I meant printing but was in a rush. Use of the software to turn a doc into a print run ready document can be expensive in more ways than just pocket money.

MA Hudson said...

Janet, I reckon if you compiled all your know-how into some kind of an Unpublished Authors Roadmap you'd have a runaway bestseller on your hands.
The only question is, would you act as your own agent?

Colin Smith said...

Craig: Thanks for the thought, but that would be a different story. Who said the dentist intended to use Novocaine...? :)

MA: I've said for a long time that Janet and Barbara Poelle should team up and write SNARK AND SHARK'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING. I agree, it would be a runaway bestseller. :)

MA Hudson said...

Colin - That's a great title... although 'The Treasure Chest' could work too ;)

Gypmar said...


I'm SO curious to know what the book was that you wished you could promote for the Oregon Book Award!