Authors, agents, publishers, self-publishing, marketing, editing and god knows what else.

Ye gods, that title’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Now contemplate attempting to think about all of that all the time. Contemplate trying to make all that into a tidy package in your head, so you can unwrap it and find the road plan to doing something with it, all the time.

Yeah. It’ll make your brain look kind of crazy, let alone what it’ll drive you to do. Those of you reading this are probably at least peripherally aware I count myself as an author. Seven different things that one can procure from various sources carry my name. That’s cool, and I’m proud of them. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t screwed up (a lot) or that I wouldn’t like to do something better and bigger with them.

Fellow indie authors (and possibly quite a few others, as the publicity train keeps rolling, especially through Bloggerville) are likely well aware of the scamland that is Author House. Astute folks might also have noticed that little iUniverse logo on the cover of Darkness of the Soul. Yes, I’m one of the dupes who shelled out over $7,000 (that I sorely wish I still had now, I’ll tell ya) just to see his baby in print. Spending 16 years tinkering with it, diddling it, trying to make it something good but then hitting a brick wall of utter non-comprehension when it comes time to do something with it, well. Wasn’t my best moment, I’m sure, but I did it.

Admittedly, I felt pride in it. It was done. It was real. I had finished something. And holding the first copy of it in my hands gave me a sense of satisfaction. Not denying any of that. But at the same time, it didn’t feel like much. Some folks, not seeming to get it, said things like “Well, they published it, they must think it’s good,” not thinking it was relevant when I’d counter with “I suspect my $7,000 is what looked good to them.” I’d note, so far as I am aware, none of those individuals bought a copy, asked for a copy, or have read it.

Round 2. Not having another few thousand to throw away, I opted for self-publishing via CreateSpace. It’s a great program, don’t get me wrong. And for someone who’s unemployed, in poor health, and still getting nothing but silence or scam ads in response to queries or requests for info or cries for help, the price and structure is right. I like it enough that I put out my third and fourth books through them, and (once I was done dancing with iUniverse on getting out of their labyrinthine maze of publishing hell) republished a revised edition of Darkness through them, then did some short fiction via their digital-only partner, KDP, which likewise was enjoyable enough.

Then we get to the rub; I am not a marketing whiz. I am a terrible, horrible, evil and sadistic grammar nazi… but all too often I fall into the trap of being entirely too close to my own work and voice, and thus reading what I think I meant instead of what’s actually on the page, which means errors. I’m not absolutely terrible at cover design (twelve years working in video production taught me something, at least), but they’re certainly not up to what they could be, I suspect. And given that I suffer from diarrhea of the word processor, I am atrocious at doing back blurbs, author blurbs, or synopses.

I’m particularly proud of this one. Not bad for $10 on foap and a couple hours spent with GIMP, right?

Again, given my situation and limited circle of acquaintances, those are unfortunately things that realistically I need a publisher, agent or other outside angel to assist with. It’s also possible I am utterly incorrect in believing that cover design, marketing and at least a quick-pass edit are part of the “standard” publishing process. I am known to suffer from episodes of stupidity (see the part above where I gave iUniverse seven grand, and am still waiting on the delivery of my $24.52 in royalties.) So, if any of that’s wrong, feel free to correct me.

I can only assume that I am equally terrible at writing a query letter, though my attempts were guided by numerous “approved” posts from places like the SFWA, the HWA (at least, I believe that’s its acronym these days) and dozens of blogs and forum posts. I can’t even say I’ve got a stack of rejection slips, which would give me a perverse sense of pride. I have one around here somewhere, informing me that their company no longer represents authors who are not producing YA romance and a whole lot of crickets chirping for ten years or so. I can thus assume that those queries just disappeared into the ether, somewhere… and likely rightfully so.

A lot of that probably sounds like whining BS. I don’t mean it to, really. I’m just reaching the end of my mental rope, feeling as though I’m beating my head against a wall again and again. I’m not going to stop writing… I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. And so long as I have something finished, it’ll probably get tossed up, be it here, on CreateSpace or through some other medium, because I’m insane enough to think that if I found it worth writing, someone, somewhere will find it worth reading. But those don’t defeat the thoughts of “I could be doing better; There must be something I’m missing; My work deserves better than lurking in the corners of Amazon, not because I think I’m better, but because I love my work and think it deserves the chance.”

There’s always the wonders of the internet, of course; unfortunately the internet – or rather, the sites on it – are typically a business like any other, meaning money talks. Big money means more talking. So if one tries to Google publishing, submissions, agents or the like, the first three (if not more) pages are guaranteed to be filled with links that ultimately lead back to Author House, Writer’s Digest, “agents” either affiliated with the above or demanding ludicrous fees to glance at your work while promising awards and Twilight-size advances. Asking in most of the forums I’ve been exposed to either reveals the shills of those companies, folks who are equally as lost as I, mockery, or folks who “got there,” but can’t quite put their finger on how they did it. (Or those forums are, themselves, ultimate roads back to the devil. Ever been to Authonomy? Yeah. You probably don’t want to. *shudder*)

So, then, I throw myself at the mercy of the internet in this space, which seems to be populated with more sane, intelligent and giving people than the average, and ask: What the hell do I do? Does anyone out there have suggestions for cheap (like… really cheap. Not trying to sound like a beggar, but yeah. Unemployment, bad health. Terrible combo for being able to buy a can of tea and a Lunchables, most days, let alone hundred+ dollar expenditures) or free editing, marketing or awareness? Suggestions on how to make a query letter at least garner a rejection or two, so I can feel like someone read it? Suggestions on small or indie publishing houses or agents that’re looking for horror, humor or fantasy? That’s a long laundry list, I know. But a pointer or two in the right direction would be incredibly awesome, and while I’m sadly poor, I’m a determined, antisocial insomniac with no life, and certainly willing to work, tell the world (at least the part of it that follows me on Facebook, Twitter and here, anyway) how awesome you are, or give back and foot rubs. XD

So, if anyone has got suggestions, advice, or just wants to comment on my stupidity/mistakes (or, if there is indeed a Flying Spaghetti Monster and Rebel Wilson or an awesome agent or representative of Hollywood or the Big 6 is reading this and wants to talk), please use that little box below. Thanks for reading, and for those more interested in my weird delusions, I’ll probably start posting Rotten Apple: Three Little Pigs tomorrow or the day after, depending on scheduling. ‘Til then… TTFN, as Tigger might say. (I am now sad, as for some reason the picture of Tigger I had there screwed up the formatting on the whole blog, with no apparent rhyme or reason. Still trying to sort out this whole WordPress thing. :/)

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2 responses to “Authors, agents, publishers, self-publishing, marketing, editing and god knows what else.

  1. o.m.g., Kaine, your post makes scary reading for someone like me who’s just starting to take writing seriously. Your frustration comes over loud and clear and I wish that I had just the right advice or suitably soothing remarks on hand (would an Indian Head Massage do?). However, I wouldn’t presume to suggest any books, actions, etc., since you’ve probably read them all and tried everything you can think of and, as I’ve said, I’m just a total beginner on the road to authorship (I’m still at the entering competitions stage). All I can think of for you to try now is a bit of cosmic ordering …… ouch! I felt that virtual slap! Seriously though, Kaine, you have confidence in your work so keep going.

    • I don’t know that I’m quite sure what an Indian Head Massage is… hmm. Going to have to Google that later, I suspect. XD To be honest, I don’t think any input is presumptuous. I’m sadly NOT that guy who sits there with tech support, nodding impatiently and muttering “What kind of idiot do you think I am.” I’m the one who says “Okay. Did that.” and tries to acknowledge that the individual dispensing the advice is at least attempting to help. I know, it’s very silly of me to think that way – or so I’ve been told – but I yam what I yam, as Popeye once said. Still, every bit of input is helpful, one never knows who might be helped, beyond just the person originally asking the question.

      I do appreciate the kind words, and don’t THINK I gave any virtual slaps, though my internal Andrew might have done it when I wasn’t looking. A bit of a monkey, that one is, popping out when I’m trying to be rational and whispering that the razors are better… ahem. I think I’m entirely too in touch with some of my characters, sometimes. But if he did, I will chastise him and offer apologies on his behalf. Though now “cosmic ordering” is also on my list of “To Googles” for later, though I suspect I have an inkling, and you’re probably right on more levels than you know.

      Also, good on you as regards your own trials and tribulations on the road; the competition stage is, sadly, not an angle I’ve really been able to pursue (very limited venue for my brand of work, exorbitant entry fees and the ever-present threat of scams), but for those who fit the bill, it strikes me as a great place to start drumming up interest. I suspect you’ve got a future ahead somewhere in there, as your “voice” and demeanor carry well, and you know the golden rule(s). (Throwback to the two rules: Read a lot and write a lot. XD). Hopefully you’ll keep us posted on how that’s going, because I suspect sharing the journey (and pointing out the pit traps, tiger dens and cannibalistic natives) is the only way most of us are going to find our way through the maze that seems to segregate the “writers” from the “real authors.” (Not that I particularly believe in such divisions, m’self; Did you write something? Was it readable and did someone enjoy it? You’re an author, in my book. But again, I’m told I’m silly for such thoughts.)

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