Friday, November 13, 2015

On Submitting That Novel.

Louis Shalako

This is not criticism. I’m not complaining. I’m not bitching, or whining, neither am I pissing and moaning, or grousing or griping or any of those sorts of things.

Basically, I’m kind of doing my research, which is vital as an aid to thinking.

That’s all—just thinking.

I've been reading all these literary agent’s websites. The ones that might represent mystery or crime fiction are looking for 'upscale' works. I’m not too sure what that means. It has been said that authors rarely know what genre their own book fits into. My new book is a literary/crime/romance/suspense/satire/smack in James Patterson’s face kind of a book.

Hey, fuck, what am I supposed to say.

But that’s why I wrote it.

One agency wants a list of works that might be in competition and an explanation of why a book might be different, etc, etc.

The old, “Please read a few of our books and please tell us how your book fits into our catalogue,” sort of thing.

Regarding some publisher's submission guidelines, I saw at least one or two that are asking for the author's marketing plan. If I had a marketing plan, I would probably follow it.

What, you don’t have no fucking plan for my book?

Years ago, I went to the library and used something called the Media Market Guide and copied out, longhand, a bunch of addresses. There were dozens of Canadian publishers in there. 

Some of them are still around. 

It seems to be a shit-load of work to put together a simple query. It's not something that can be done in five minutes, that's for sure. As for the literary agents, this list is strictly Canadian and there aren’t very many of them. Not all of the listings have clickable links.

Quite a few of the names ring a bell. I would have been submitting to these agencies, somewhere around 2006, perhaps earlier or later.

When I looked at the list of Canadian publishers, I found quite a few dead links. Quite a few of the imprints belong to a couple of publishers who dominate the landscape in this country.

They’re not accepting un-agented submissions.

Ralan has a list of book markets. Quite a number do not accept un-agented submissions. 

Quite a number will be closed to submissions at any given time. One listing that has always bugged me is Poisoned Pen Press.

When they say, “Self-published and POD authors need not submit,” I’m inclined to take them at their word. Please understand, I’m already published under some pen-names. But I’m not going to lie to them and say I’ve never been published. We’ll let somebody else take the moral low ground. They’re currently closed to submissions anyways.

It can take the most excellent writer years to get an agent or place even one single book with a major publisher.

I’ve only spent a few hours at this, maybe three or four hours today, and I started off by looking at Canadian publishers. (Duotrope costs money, so I don’t use it. They have a free trial. If you don’t opt out by the end date, the odds are your credit card account will be charged until you terminate.)

It’s not that I can’t write the query. I would think that each and every query would be individually tailored to the agency in question, although the building blocks, i.e. the first three chapters, the author bio, might be common to other submissions. Some markets probably do accept simultaneous submissions. My expectation is that a 60,000-word ‘literary mystery novel’ is going to be a bit of a hard sell. I’ve never seen myself as anything other than a pulp-fiction writer. It is, in fact, what I set out to do all those long years ago.

My first six manuscripts netted me about a hundred and twenty-five rejection slips. I’ve had a few books rejected since then. On the more positive side, I got three contracts from what I can only describe as an aggregator, back in about 2006, before anyone really knew what that meant. That publisher at least had a two-year contract, (ostensibly). One well-regarded Canadian publisher of sf/f asked for a partial of Shape-Shifters, but declined after reading chapters four to seven. They were sort of considering Time Storm, (as an ebook, which I hadn’t even heard of at that time) but I screwed that up. I think I was petrified with fear or something—that was a long time ago, and basically, I just screwed it up. I’ve never blamed them for that fuck-up, for I clearly wasn’t ready for that big a change in my life…

It’s not a big surprise that when I did learn more about digital self-publishing, I gave it a try.

When the money doesn’t roll in like the surf, when it seems almost impossible, (using any sort of rational and recognizable means) to build sales and build what is (theoretically) a business, it’s pretty easy to get discouraged.

Is that why I’m submitting?

Of course not.

I wrote my nineteenth novel to be submitted. It might be a good thing that I wrote the book before taking any kind of look at possible markets. But I wrote this book, for better or for worse, to be submitted and that’s what I’m going to do.

I will submit the thing somewhere, and then write a few short stories. The odds are I will start my twentieth novel by about the middle of December. I never quite know what I’m going to do next until it just happens one day—a short story going a bit long or something.

Other than that, it really is a bit of a game. The more you learn about it, and the more you study it, and the more experience that you gain, the better the chances of winning. Fuck, at least once in a while.

I’m not going to turn this into sheer drudgery.

(If I wanted a fucking job, I’d go out and get one. – ed.)

Oh—and if all you want is money, there are a million better ways to earn it.

We play games to amuse ourselves. Anything else is just bullshit.

Let’s just say that I have my price and I have my concerns. I don’t know how much I’m willing to do for you.

If we’re not making a lot of money, at least we’re doing what we want and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

Wish me luck, that is, if you believe in that sort of thing.