Pub Rants

Ever The Optimist

 17 Comments |  Share This:    

As I mentioned in my last blog, I really do look at the glass and see it half-full. There have been many a fabulous story told of an author who self-published and then later had the book picked up by a traditional house. (I think Laurie Notaro and Christopher Paolini come to mind.)

Remember, those stories are amazing because they don’t actually happen often.

Still, I’m an optimist, which is why I’m one of the 18 agents who signed up to receive the information concerning the Needle awards by POD-DY MOUTH.

I do want you to know that I have yet to take on an author via this medium. I didn’t keep exact stats but over the course of 4 years (my agency opened in 2002), I’ve probably considered about 50 or 60 self-published books. Peanuts really.

My Stats:

2 books came close as I read more of them than I normally would. Ultimately I passed because even though I liked the writing, both stories were outside the realm of what I do.

5 books had average writing

For the rest, the writing was terrible. In fact, I contemplated writing each author a nice note suggesting they engage the skills of an English Teacher for any future writing they might consider.

All had bad covers.

Still, I’m optimistic.

The ground rules still apply. Please don’t send me your self-published book without querying me first. (I’ve received at least 5 books in the mail that didn’t even have a cover letter attached to the book. Those got pitched.)

If you do send it, it’s the only thing I request that you include an SASE with so the book can be returned in the event I can’t get past the first page. You paid for these books. Please let me, at the very least, return them to you.

17 Responses

  1. Faith said:

    I have a friend who paid 1st Books to publishe her novel. It didn’t go well. Her novel is so great, and when I found out that it was available, I asked her if she’d be interested in publishing it as an e-book for WCP.

    I just read your article at Great piece. I am a firm believer that persistence pays off.

  2. Simon Haynes said:

    I self-published three books in the same SF/Humour series, but only after modest success with my short fiction.
    Last year I signed a three book contract with a publisher here in Australia, (a contract for those original self-pubbed books, not three more). They approached me on the strength of the sales of my books through a single local store.
    Okay, so I only submitted the first book to one agent (who never replied) and three publishers (two told me there wasn’t a big enough market for SF/Humour, one still hasn’t replied five years later).
    I didn’t bother submitting books two and three anywhere – you can see why. And yes, I followed submission guidelines and included SSAEs for the responses 😉
    After all that, I still believe self-publishing fiction is a bad idea in 99% of cases.

  3. makoiyi said:

    I am still confused over the difference between pod publishers and e-publishers. Because, don’t e-publishers also print on demand? I wouldn’t ever pay to have a book published, unless it was for family only or something, but I didn’t think all pod publishers were vanity presses.

  4. Douglas said:

    I am always interested in what bad writing means. Especially in regards to POD work.

    Are we talking about something I might expect from a Junior High essay with cumbersome run-on sentences and a wandering plot? Poorly thought out topics with stale themes? Or just plain spaghetti logic with scene transitions that only a junkie could appreciate?

  5. Simon Haynes said:

    All of the above and more. You know when you’re reading it, because your focus switches from the telling of the story to the execution of the english language.
    (I used to read slush for a magazine.)

  6. Anonymous said:

    Don’t toss them! At least donate them. The authors want to be read. Maybe this way someone gets to read them.

  7. M@ said:

    Book covers are mentioned, and the cover is definitely something that screams “self-published”. What can one do to avoid this? I’m sure I’m not the only author who would be willing to pay for a good cover design but doesn’t know where to get one.

    I assume there are designers who specialize in this; are they mostly in New York? What does a good cover design cost? How does one pick a designer?

  8. December Quinn said:

    Are we talking about something I might expect from a Junior High essay with cumbersome run-on sentences and a wandering plot? Poorly thought out topics with stale themes? Or just plain spaghetti logic with scene transitions that only a junkie could appreciate?

    It vaires. If you’re really curious, check out a website like Lulu and read some excerpts.

    And makoiyi, yes, a lot of epubs also do POD. There’s nothing inherently wrong with POD-but it has become a blanket term for “vanity/self published” or scam publishers like Publish America. So usually when you hear someone talk about pod, they’re talking about those places, not legit epubs.

  9. The Beautiful Schoolmarm said:

    As for cover designs, I would think it’s a matter of contacting an artist with a graphic design background and the skills needed to create a great cover.

    I read Eragon, and I think Paolini would have benefitted from some editing and critique. When the reaction of most readers (including my 13-yr-old students) is, “It gets better after page 200” that might indicate that the large amount of backstory shoved into those pages needs some cutting.

    Of course, he’s on the bestseller list with movie options and I am not.

  10. Cindy Procter-King said:


    Yes, most epublishers publish their print books using PoD technology. I’m published with an epress who does this, and I haven’t paid one single fee. My book was edited, and I love the cover art. Epubs are great for actually reading Art Fact Sheets. 🙂


  11. makoiyi said:

    Thanks Cindy. I wondered because I had an offer from an e-publisher yet I’d heard about all these POD markets, and agents seem to be put off by them, not counting them as a ‘credit’. The one I dealt with was a no fees and I was actually quite impressed. They seemed just like any small print publisher. In the end I chose to try for an agent first, but I wonder now.

  12. Lisa Hunter said:

    I knew a writers group who pooled resources to self-publish an anthology of their work. Then, whenever one of them gave a reading, he or she would sell these books, which also helped promote the other writers.

    The stories had all appeared in literary magazines previously before, so the book didn’t have the “taint” of self-publishing.

  13. Cindy Procter-King said:

    Makoiyi, I chose to go with an epress for a number of reasons, but, I’ll admit, I went through two stinker epubs with my book before hitting upon a company that actually does what it says it’s going to. The first publisher, I got out of the contract before one speck of work was done on my book (and with good reason). The second publisher *seemed* on the up-and-up, however, in the end, they weren’t. People much more knowledgable in the industry than I were taken for a very bumpy ride by this publisher. They did publish my book, did a first rate editing and cover art job, but I barely received any royalties and in fact am still owed some. I raced out of that contract as soon as it expired! No way was I going to give them the benefit of the doubt and renew. A lot of authors did renew their contracts and suffered more than I did as a result.

    I LOVE my current epublisher, which re-edited the book to their house standards and re-did the cover, and I do think of them as a small pub. I’ve held off on contracting another book with an epublisher b/c of my first two horrid experiences, but my current pub has renewed my faith in small pubs, so I’m considering trying again with a manuscript that would dovetail nicely with the first book.

    One of the refugees from my second publisher is now a client of Kristin’s and is doing very well. I haven’t a clue which eds and agents in the industry think epubbing is hokey and which do consider it a credit, but, frankly, publishing through an epub gave me READER response, which was fantastic, rather than “just” ed and agent responses. There were very limited markets for my short romantic comedy in traditional publishing, and I don’t regret for one second that I went with an epub, despite the two stinky experiences. I’ve learned a ton.

    For what it’s worth, I think you were smart to try for an agent instead of accepting an epub offer straight off. I love small presses and I love epubbing, but I believe in always reaching for the brass ring first.


  14. makoiyi said:

    MM, that’s really interesting, Cindy. I get plenty of reader response from the workshop I belong to, and it was they who advised me to go the agent route, that my work was too ‘good’ for the smaller publisher. But i haven’t had any luck yet in capturing an agent. It’s so difficult when you are new to the game. I’m not desperate to get published. I’m prepared to wait until my skills reach my ideas and keep working at it, but even within a workshop one doesn’t really *know* when one is ready to be published.

    The question is interesting too, because alot of folk believe e-publishing to be the future. I’m not sure. Maybe quite a few years down the road. I for one won’t give up my paper in a hurry.

  15. Heidi said:

    After all that, I still believe self-publishing fiction is a bad idea in 99% of cases.

    I agree.

    The reason so many authors go the route of self-publishing is not because agents and editors are “out to get them” but because agents and editors have turned their projects down because they’re not good examples of great writing. Ergo, much of what gets published is, frankly, crap that didn’t make it with traditional publishers.

    But self-publish does not guarantee bad quality.

    What Simon failed to mention about his success story was that his novel placed highly in a prestigious contest before it got published. Unlike so many other self-pubbed novels, it was never crap to begin with.

    His novel series is pretty good stuff. He simply chose to go the self-pub route instead of heavily pursuing trad pubs.

    If you ask nicely, Simon might tell you his adventures in cover art. 🙂

  16. makoiyi said:

    Thanks, Simon, that was interesting and very brave. I don’t think I would ever go that route, but it’s real good that it worked for you. I think I remember you now from oww and am sure I critted you once. Or could be the failing memory. Best of luck now you’ve got in with the ‘real’ publishers 🙂