Please welcome one our TEAM members at Who Dares Wins Publishing: Colin Falconer. We are proud and honored to have him in our ranks. He has agreed to do a guest post here at Write It Forward. Welcome Colin!
His book, Venom, has been selected as a Compelling Read by Nook First this week!
There are some who mourn the death of publishing as we know it, but to me it’s like wishing we could have the plague back, or getting nostalgic for the feudal system.
I don’t hate the Big Six, or printed books, or brick and mortar bookstores; but I hated the old system, as many authors did; (and because I also love reading books, I absolutely loathed it as a reader.)
No less than three different agents, big players with very high profile American authors on their books, have each at different times expressed bewilderment to me over their inability to sell my books in New York.
Now I like agents. A good agent is notoriously difficult to find but, in my experience, once they decide to bat for you they go in hard, elbows and knees. They are passionate people. They take you on because they like what you do and they want you to find an audience for it.
But they never could quite do it for me. It always went this way:
First I’d get a letter (yes I’ve been at it that long) from an agent saying how excited they were by my book. This is going to be HUUUUUGE.
Now we all know how hard it is to get an agent to read a complete manuscript, never mind enthuse over it, so when this happens you think you’re on a good thing, especially when that book is already a bestseller in half a dozen other countries.
Then they submitted; and each and every time the result was the same;
- Step one: ‘We have a rejection from a major house that I was sure it was perfect for.’
- Step two: ‘More said no, I’m very surprised.’
- Step three: ‘We are out of options, I am mystified and/or amazed.’
Repeat this with three major agents over the last fifteen years. Get the picture? That’s just the frame.
I was always told by New York that I was too hard to promote because I was not resident in the US. I understand this rationale. What I could not understand was how I could sell 200K of the same book in Germany in the year following my rejection by the Big Six (and then the Little 17 and then the Absolutely Minute 28.)
My point: I can’t promote in Germany either, I can’t even speak the language. But the publisher could and he invested a few dollars in marketing the book they paid good money to obtain.
It took me ten years to get published in the US. First time out was okay, hardback release, and not a dollar on publicity. It earned out. The second book got the cover from hell, no marketing budget and disappeared without trace. They put Yet Another Career Killed by Bookscan on my gravestone and that was it, all over. I won’t bore you, you have heard this story as hundred times.
Build it and they will come only happens in Kevin Costner movies. If you build it and you don’t put up signposts, you are hitting homeruns with only your mother and the family dog watching from the bleachers.
Ten years ago a major NY literary agent took me to lunch and told me that after twenty years in the business and a stable of best-selling authors she was utterly disillusioned with it. She seemed so depressed I moved the steak knife out of reach. ‘Publishing needs a major kick in the ass,’ she said, unaware she had the gift of prophecy.
‘The trouble is,’ she added, ‘is that it’s being taken over by bean counters.’
It now appears that bean counters cannot count beans that well. Amazon might say to them that they do not even know what a bean looks like.
There was a cartoon in the New Yorker at the time. Two publishing executives talking. One says to the other: ‘I’ve got it! From now on, we’re only going to publish best sellers!’
Fair enough. But what Amazon did was try to let readers say what a best seller was; not someone in a suit in the marketing department. Eureka.
As a writer I can get over bad reviews – well after a couple of bourbons anyway. I know I’m far from perfect, and I will never stop learning or trying to do better. But what really sticks in my craw is the emails from American readers who have stumbled across my books and want to know why oh why they can’t buy them in the US.
On my last outing in NY they told me yet again: we like your book but you’re too hard to promote here. These days that argument makes even less sense than it did ten years ago. According to Google Analytics I get 73% of the audience on my blog from the US, another 8% from exotic faraway lands like Canada.
I am finally learning to build my own signposts.
I am not an apologist for Amazon. I don’t want to see them monopolise the publishing industry; I don’t want to swap the plague for Ebola virus. But yes, this business really did need a very large boot in the fundamental orifice.
From here on I want the reader to decide if I’m midlist or not; not some bean counter staring at an Excel spreadsheet. The writer- reader relationship is what matters to me.
Anyone who gets in the way of that, well, I thank them for their interest, but I am afraid they do not meet my needs at this time.