Still Holding Out

Sunday February 14, 2016 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging

f5325-you-should-be-writingI’m about six years into this writing adventure. I have two novels that I feel are completed and ready for sale. I have four other novels in various stages of development. Trying to figure out which one to work on has been challenging. Well, really, the hard part is still making myself sit and write. I usually write when I get that far. I’ve settled on which one to work on, so that problem is solved for the short term.

Not selling these books or getting representation from an agent is disheartening, so I try not to think about it and just focus on writing the next story. There is freedom in not being locked into a contract at this point and it gives me hope. In the meantime I keep on writing. Once that first deal is made I think the pressure increases to write at a certain speed. Of course that’s all hearsay right now. I am getting quicker with each book and may eventually get to where I can do several in a year, but that’s not today. Your take away: keep writing while you’re waiting for a response. You will have more to offer when the time comes.

I’m still holding out for a book deal with a major publishing house. The only way to do that is to get an agent. The big four, don’t take unsolicited manuscripts. The big four are:

  • Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of CBS Corporation)
  • HarperCollins (a subsidiary of NewsCorp)
  • Penguin Random House (a subsidiary of Bertelsmann and Pearson)
  • Hachette Livre

They each have a bunch of different imprints that specialize in various things, and except for the electronic first imprints they all require an agent.

I have sent to Angry Robot and Baen, which are maybe one step down the rung in size. Baen is a big name in my genre. Daw and Tor are next. One reason is exclusivity and snailmail versus electronic means. These are all reputable and distinguished publishers and I’d be ecstatic to get any of them. After these are the boutique or small press publishers. A lot of my friends have gone this way with success. Nothing wrong with that, but they get limited exposure in brick and mortar stores. Your take away: get an agent if you want to publish with the big four publishing houses.

Maybe I’m a fool for not trying the small press path as well, but here is where our paths diverge. I am not in a hurry. I know that success will come. I’m not going to quit. And really that is all it’s going to take. There is a real comfort in knowing that down in my gut. I get better with each page I write. My editing improves and my perspective widens. My confidence grows along with all of these things. My actual skill is also sharpening. Your take away: keep writing. It’s the best way to improve your writing acumen.

One of the things I’ve noticed is the books are never finished. I can keep polishing them and they get better with each pass. I am already shopping the first two and once in a while I pick them up and go through them and make more revisions. I have them both in a place where I like them. I’m actually happy with their shape. There are things in both of them that I’m proud of and they read now the way I intended when I set out. But until they go into print they are living things. When the time comes, if these are picked up by a publishing house and my editor wants to make changes I’m still very open to that. But the point is I like where they are right now. I’m satisfied that they’re ready to be seen by a buyer. If these particular books end up being self-published they will go through more scrutiny and I will have to hire a cover artist. I’m prepared for that. But I’m also not ready to settle for that. Your take away: Don’t settle. Write what you want the way you want.

I’m reticent to actually give the advice to simply write what you want the way you want. I don’t want to give you the impression that there is no arbiter of quality. Your book may actually be ready to release into the world. But for crying out loud have it professionally edited at a minimum.

I have a friend and mentor who is extremely successful at self-publishing. She has an established career with traditional publishing as well, but her real success has been on the writer-as-publisher route. I trust her advice and she says to wait until you have three books to publish if you decide to go that direction. The way the algorithms work it will pay huge dividends to wait until you can do a timed release of all three. It will give you a boost to launch your career on the right foot.

So, with this advice in hand I have a timer running. Two timers really. One is my pending retirement from my day job. I have two pensions, so I am not completely dependent on making money right away as a writer, but I will be writing fulltime at that point. The second timer is finishing my “vampires in space” trilogy. If I don’t have an agent by then I will invest in a cover artist and a professional editor. I’m fortunate to have a lot of friends in the industry now so that will be the easy part. Self-publishing doesn’t have the same stigma that it used to, assuming you prepare properly, with a good cover and a polished product. Maybe I’m simply wasting time when I could be earning a good return right now. I have nothing against self-publishing or small press publishing, I just have this dream to be doing the thing the old school way. At least to start. I have the luxury of a good paying job and a pension coming. I have time to wait and keep honing my skills. Your take away: Have a plan and stick to it.


Back at it. Clear Ether!

4 Responses

  1. Persistence is the key! Keep querying. Don't give up and you'll find that agent. One of these days I'll get back to querying for an agent. I really believe they'll help me get a better deal.

  2. I absolutely agree. All my research says they will pay for themselves with a higher advance pretty much right away. The real trick is the passport to the big leagues though. Thanks for the comment Stacy! Great to hear from you!

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth! Productivity seems to ebb and flow, but as long as the trajectory is forward it's all good. I really look forward to writing full-time.

I would love to hear from you!