A good friend just emailed me a day or two ago telling me bout all sorts of typos and grammatical errors in the books she was reading. Thinking about this made me contemplate the radical changes in the publishing industry itself. I have blogged on other sites about the stiff criteria, submission guidelines, and abundance of authors. The song, if you will, goes something like this:
With the advent of the computer age, many people who would have never considered becoming an author have tried their hand in it. This means massive amounts of submissions to those who put out books. Were as this is a good thing for most publishers, it can also be a nightmare too. It reminds me about the “needle in the haystack” comment you’ve all heard before. IMHO large publishers flat out refuse to accept “unsolicited” manuscripts from new authors. Others pile on the workload in the form of submission guidelines to deter those who don’t wish to “jump through so many hoops” to send anything in. This IMHO is where the weeding out begins.
I had the pleasure of trying to submit something to a certain publishing firm devoted to a certain lifestyle currently undergoing a Renaissance (not the publishing company but the Age of Mankind) in sales. The work I had to do was absolutely staggering as far as anything I’ve ever encountered since. The manuscript had to be printed out with a specific font and format. It had to be sent along with the completed eight page author bio, author questionnaire, the cover letter, my synopsis, and a full blown marketing strategy. In addition to all this I was required to send the book on CD with it dated, signed, and printed signature as well. Being the bulldog that I am, I completed all the work and sent iti in. And waited… and waited… and waited. For all my troubles I received (as usual with many publishers due to time and amount of submission) a carefully written form letter rejecting it. No, I wasn’t devastated, I expected it.
So how does this apply to the first paragraph? Authors are now required to turn in an almost flawless manuscript, professionally edited, and ready to go. This saves IMHO the company money since it doesn’t have to employ more than a proof-reader. The exception to this rule (explaining mis-spellings and bad grammar) are when a writer is so popular he/she can get away with such inconsistences due to the nature of character, storyline, or audience. Read Stephen King’s “Lissa’s Story” for an example. No one tells Mr. King how to write, he even explains it all in the forward of the book.
I’ve heard talk of authors getting agents, personally I can’t get even one to speak to me directly. I stopped wasting my time by sending them emails and letters. Most of the people I know personally don’t have an agent. If you CAN get one, by all means snatch up that opportunity. They will do a lot of the work I’ve discussed for you leaving you more time to actually sit down and write.
It is, I am told, a well established fact that only 3% of all authors do it for a living. The odds are not in your favor you will ever become as popular as others, but don’ t let that deter you from trying. The bonus to all this change is the fact that there are smaller publishers, both traditional and e-book, more than willing to take the chance on you. But be prepared to do a lot of extra work. Self-promotion, review submissions, blogging (as I am now), website construction, and much more is necessary to generate interest in your body of work. I hate to say this, but I’m lazy. I’d prefer not to have to do all this to sell a copy of my books but I cannot find a better way of doing it. The “good old days” of publishing is gone, you are now required to spend hours in front of the computer not writing but generating fans and reviews. But if you love it, you will do it. Me? Well I’m hoping to be that lucky 3% on day…. but I’m not holding my breath.