Sunday, April 22, 2012

Orla's Code Update

Imagine my excitement on hearing from a publisher who liked my synopsis and was interested in reading my manuscript! Well, you'd be wrong. I was not excited at all. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, telling me all was not as it seemed. This is because I had heard back from them the day after my submission, congratulating me on "taking initiative" and promising to help with whatever my goal. You can see the stance they're taking here. And I only have one problem with it. If you're offering support to people who want to self-publish, then just say that. If you want to charge them $1000, as I subsequently learned, in order to "share the financial risk" then allude to it on your website, if you think it's such a great idea. A week after submitting my MS I received another email of congratulations and I knew the nature of the publishing contracts "tailored for me" before reading them. But there was one sentence I found more alarming than the email pick-pocketing that was going on. It was this: "In your case, we believe that what you have submitted to us shows promise specifically but only in terms of commercial sales potential. We do not critique submissions for any other opinion or determination." What in the world does that mean? In grappling to understand I interpret it to mean: "We do not stand over quality". And this alarms me because I then make the leap to shit-peddlers. Is this why self-publishing has a bad name? Because some companies will take your money and publish your work no matter what the standard? This gets me all riled up because it reminds me of the Dark Lords who bring us marketed pop music. Don't even get me started... Part of this deal was that if I made 1000 book sales I would get my money back. But where is the incentive for them to help with book sales? The answer is, there isn't any. They win either way. But self-publishing doesn't have to be like that. There do appear to be self-publishing houses that will work with you to improve the quality of your MS before publishing it. And there's always print-on-demand which gives you greater control and doesn't cost all your savings up front. Well, maybe, as an international company, their marketing clout would have provided essential support but it's the shady way they went about revealing their intentions, hidden beneath this motivational marketing speak that meant, no matter what they had to offer they were never going to be my type.

Other than that, in my quest to find an audience for Orla's Code, I fill out agency submission forms trying to figure out if I've written a novel or a novella. Depending on what website you visit, a novel can start at 40,000 words, 50,000 words or 70,000 words. If we take content rather than length as a measure, I would say a novel reveals itself completely; telling all the stories that contribute to the main story. A novella tells a self-contained story. So, in a way they are opposite things and I have written a novella. And then there's the genre. It's funny that in a lot of industries, thinking "outside the box" is a good thing. In writing - one of the most creative professions - we're encouraged to fit inside the box. Well, I'm a cirangle. Yes, I just made it up. There isn't a box for me. My story is through the eyes of a woman but most of the characters are men. It's about the emotional landslide that takes someone when they feel persecuted but it's set in a highly technical world. It's fiction but the roots of most things are real. Incidentally, doesn't this sound like the perfect pocket-read for your commute? It's understandable though that outside the box falls through the cracks. No publisher is looking to publish random work. They have a relationship with their readership. They build a name through consistency. Like Starbucks, you know what you're getting. This is how any business works. It's how sales work. Hell, even if you look up tips on blogging, you'll be told that's how blogging works - consistency. This is also why we have independent movies, alternative music, the word indie and Mr. Frothy. Which begs a question:

Why is it that indie-music/movies are cool but self-publishing has a bad name? It's like the former is considered a noble act and the latter is dismissed as vanity! My initial thought is it's because self-publishing is just so easy. But, it wasn't always as easy as it is now. And anyway, it's never easy to write a book! So, here are some multiple choice suggestions: (fun, right?)

A) Indie music/movies are usually a collaboration so it means a few people have to think it's great before it goes anywhere.
B) Indie music/movies actually cost quite a lot of money. Kevin Smith's Clerks cost $27,575. I think we'd all think twice about publishing our memoir for that.
C) Self-publishing is relatively new and we need a few more talented authors to make it through before it really starts to establish itself.
D) The aforementioned companies that are willing to publish anything.
E) None of the above. Suggestions please?

I'm also taking suggestions on genre...


  1. I've wondered about the genre issue as well. On my own personal writing I'd have to agree with you on the novella issue. Male perspective with equal amount of female perspective (jokingly not taking his crap). I've decided on the self-publishing route, and it's pitfalls, for two reasons; (1) to get it done and quit wasting time, and (2) "It's Bucket List time!"

  2. Hi, thanks for your comment and good luck with your book! Perhaps provide a link to it sometime...

  3. It's definitely a puzzler why our culture considers indie music and movies cool while indie books are not, though I think the ease of self-publishing has a major part to play. However, I think that the similarities end up outweighing the differences. All indie products suffer from the condition of being islands in a vast ocean of garbage; i.e. there are so many products that the odds of a random selection yielding a quality product are very small. On the other hand, if someone does discover a quality product, he or she will typically share it with friends and then it won't matter that it's independent; all that will matter is that it's good.

    Like you mentioned, one of the wonderful, largely unrealized aspects of self-pubbing is that you don't need to be restricted by genre. Not only do I typically write outside of any genre, but I'm turned off by books that fall neatly into the metaphorical box. Every book, regardless of label, has an audience; the challenge is in finding and connecting with that audience.

    What do you think about these ideas? Have you come to any new conclusions since writing this post?

    1. Hi Aaron, thanks for your comment!
      I think you're right about the similarities, certainly. But, yes, it's a lot easier to self-publish a book which means less effort is needed, less conviction etc. It's likely to be a more polluted market.
      I think cross-genre work should be a category on it's own, inviting the random - surely there's a readership for it and readers are missing out due to the publisher insistence on streamlining.
      As for whether or not I'll self-publish, it really will depend on why I get rejected. If a weakness emerges, I think I'd rather address it than throw it on to Smashwords. We will have to see, in a few months time I think.
      Thanks again. Good luck with your work.