Looking for a publisher!
The internet is an absolute treasure trove of information, that is until you actually want to do something useful. Look up the date of the Battle of Hastings and twenty-three million websites will guide you to the year 1066, two million will provide the date as 14th October. Look a little deeper and you will find it was a Saturday the weather was not too good and maybe King Harrold died in the battle or maybe he escaped and become a hermit. Quite why we need twenty-three million answers is debatable but there is no doubt that an answer can be sought. Practically every subject one might care to research has a plethora of results……
Many people dream of buying their own house, starting a business or getting a good job and suddenly the internet becomes a minefield of click-bate, regurgitated ideas and unscrupulous companies trying to take advantage of our dreams and inflated egos. They try to convince us that maybe our true abilities are compromised as we do not have a great business plan, the best financial adviser or our “resume” does not reflect our true abilities.
All these potential problems can be resolved for a fee, when in reality maybe the problem lies elsewhere. I will probably never be the CEO of a multi-national, live in the Playboy mansion or create a revolutionary business model. It is not because I didn’t seek the advice of experts or I had a missing apostrophe in my Curriculum Vitae, quite frankly I am just not that type of person. I have had a little luck and a great set of adventures supported by good friends and sometimes wrecked by adversaries. It is great to have ambition but at some stage, we have to realise that there are limitations.
The author Christopher Hitchens once said, “Everybody has a book in them, but in most cases, that's where it should stay.” He is probably right but vanity, self-belief, a culture of blind encouragement and easy access to technology has led to an explosion in the number of books written against a backdrop of declining sales. Enter the internet experts who will publish for you, recommend writing courses or review your work and make recommendations …….. all for a “reasonable fee”. Don’t forget “50 shades” was turned down by mainstream publishers they will tell you, implying it is not your fault the mainstream agents don’t like your work. They will avoid examples such as Edgar Allen Poe or Marcel Proust on the basis that either they or their intended audience would have no idea who they were.
Ultimately some will go the vanity route and others will look at the traditional publishing process, the instructions are pretty simple. Find a suitable list of agents, send a submission in-line with a varying set of criteria, accept that if they do not respond within an unreasonable timeframe they discarded your work or could not be bothered to read it. I found an updated list of forty publishers, around ten were no longer in business, a similar amount had changed their focus and now assisted with self-publications. The remainder could not guarantee they would undertake even the smallest evaluation of any authors submission as the volume submitted was so high. The implications of this research suggest that fifty percent of the list were unable to make a living as traditional publishers and had given up or redirected their efforts. One famous author who had inspired me to write told me that the industry had changed so much over the past two decades that writers might just as well self publish as they are now expected to market their own work. I wrote to the remaining agents on my list, a third responded professionally, a third offered paid services and the rest did not reply. I guess I need another list.
There are now over a million self-published books added each year to the thirteen or so million titles already available, less than 1% find their way to a bookshop*, what are the real odds of success, how do you know if your book is the next bestseller or is more suited to Hitchens quotation. My initial actions have been to ask a select number of critical colleagues to take a read through, the results have been overwhelmingly positive but most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities*. How do you gain a more representative view from the public at large without paying an “expert” who will probably see more profit in vanity than constructive criticism?
Maybe as aspiring authors we should have some sympathy for literary agents and the speed of change they have endured. There are no excuses for the arrogant nature of those who believe that common courtesy is below them but for those that work diligently with their potential authors and publishers it must be difficult. Technology has turned the industry on its head, it is not alone and many other industries suffer the same fate. On the surface choice increases exponentially but in reality the quality of choice declines. In a sea of endless competition greater efforts are required and produce diminishing returns.