Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sad Truth of Publishing or, Why I Only Look at a Chapter

Dirty Secrets
I'm going to tell you the sad truth of publishing -- and that is most editors don't bother reading past the first few lines.  Fewer still read past the first paragraphs, and fewer still read past the first page or even the first chapter.

There are several reasons for this, many of them understandable.  Editors don't have time and if the book doesn't catch them right away, isn't what they're looking for, or the writing isn't at the level required for publication, it's a form rejection and off it goes.  A huge number of unpublished novels are that way -- like 90%.

Guardians of the Gateway

This is why publishers have looked for agents to be the guardians of the gateway.  That's why it's so damn hard to get an agent.  Even those authors who are well-known in the field have trouble.  Until you get picked up by a major house, it's unlikely you'll get an agent.  Not impossible; just unlikely.  Many excellent writers I know do not have agents; many also have had agents and parted.  Some in disagreements; some when the numbers dropped.  It happens.  It happens a lot.

How I Roll

I don't really care about an agent.  In fact, your agent is unlikely to even consider selling your work to me because 1.  the royalties I offer are higher than the majors offer at 50%  and 2.  I don't offer an advance.  Agents love advances, and I, as a writer love advances, but advances aren't the entire story of how the book makes money (more about this in a later blog) -- it's royalties.

No Slush Allowed

I don't do slush.  Seriously.  Instead, I look for authors that I know and people who I have heard about.  People who have gotten published and are working up the writing ladder; paying their dues, so to speak.  When I talk to folks who are interested in having me publish them, I warn them up front I want three books, preferably in a series.

I ask for a full chapter -- not because I will read the entire thing, but because if it's that interesting, I'll keep reading.  Most people lose me with their writing quality.  Not a catchy enough beginning, passive voice and narrative description are all ways to make me say, "uh, no thanks..."  If you don't know the basics of writing, start reading books on how to write a novel.  One excellent book is How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey. 

How to Get Noticed 

If you really think you have something I'd like, the best way is to meet me at cons and give me a quick elevator pitch.  If I'm interested, I'll have you send me your creds and the first chapter.  I read until you make me stop, or until the chapter stops.  If I want more, you send me the entire manuscript by email.  And yeah, at that point I make a decision.

Yes, you can send me a quick note via email with your name, accomplishments, books and rights for sale.  If I know you or you have met me, say so.  At 3 am things get bleary.

What I'm Looking For Currently

I am actually looking for people who will work with me on a contractor royalty-basis.  This includes cover artists, graphic novel artists, and editors.  If you fit this description and you're familiar with Science Fiction and Fantasy, contact me via Sky Warrior Books.

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