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Chris Slatter

My Blog


Be Damned and Publish

Tags: writers publishing 
This will be apparent to most writers, but for those who are not aware, the fact is that it is extremely unlikely that you will get your new book published, at least, by a conventional publisher.  Why is this, you ask? Your book is well-written and you have had it professionally edited. You paid a designer a lot of money to create a cover and worked long into the night for many months to create something that you believe people will want to read.
And yet, publishers won’t talk to you. In fact, publishers won’t even allow you to send your manuscript to them. Instead, you must find an agent to put your book before a publisher. But because UK publishers have off-loaded the vetting process onto agents, each of these agents now receives upwards of three hundred book proposals a week. In general, agents are either sole traders or at best have a few people on their staff. Their response is probably the same as yours would be if you were presented with a mountain of manuscripts to read and evaluate every week.
So, after six weeks you receive a note from the agent telling you that they’re unable to accept you and your book for representation. There are several stock reasons and if you persist in sending out synopses and three chapter proposals, you’ll eventually encounter them all. They go like this: we receive a huge volume of manuscripts and sadly cannot publish them all, including yours; you’ve sent your romance manuscript to a publisher of science fiction (the ‘you fool!’ is usually omitted but always implied) and my personal bête noir, the manuscript failed to excite us. Apparently, agents have to find themselves in a paroxysm of elation, a literary high of such massive size that it’s almost certainly illegal, before they will even consider your proposal. You go through this process perhaps thirty times, on each occasion receiving a brush-off, until there are no more agents to approach.
You fold yourself onto the sofa in despair. You open the wine and then consider your life and decide that you have totally wasted it. You will never write again; you have never suffered such humiliation before. The fat lady has sung. That’s all there is. It’s over.
This is the moment when you are confronted with the true reality of being a writer and the horrible realization that this is not an artistic pursuit, but a commercial one. So you ask yourself why you set out on this voyage of pain and rejection? Few writers, I submit, will have interrogated themselves on this subject, so let’s use me as an example. I have had my work rejected so many times that if an acceptance letter should actually arrive, I would expire from shock right there on the doormat. In any case, I would almost certainly consider it to be a fake - a cruel joke perpetrated by a mean-spirited acquaintance.
So what is it you can do when faced with universal rejection? The first thing you should acknowledge is that the rejection is not in reality universal. One person has decided not to take the risk of publishing your book. Even if every agent has rejected your work, this only adds up to thirty people in total. Thirty people out of a literary population of several thousand. And don’t forget, if you’re here in the UK then no publisher has seen your work yet. This is not the time to give up.
Of course, the next thing you should do is publish electronically. Amazon says that more electronic books are sold than physical copies. Sign up to Kindle or Smashwords or any of the numerous ebook outlets and upload your book. By the way, this is not an easy process and the formatting of your e-manuscript alone will send you running for another bottle of wine. Stock up, because you’re going to need gallons of the stuff. But persevere, because there is nothing like the thrill of seeing your book’s cover for the first time on the Amazon website.
This is where, for the first time, you face the commercial realities of publishing. People buy books (in fact, everything), because they believe they will get pleasure from owning it. They want to be romanced, seduced even, into buying your book. Acquire some marketing skills and try not to give in to the temptation of hiring other people to do it for you. There is no need; and they charge a lot of money to do it.
Next, you can if you wish physically publish your book and have it available for sale in bookshops. That option is available to you, most easily through CreateSpace. Lots of work involved here, of course, but take it slowly, top up the wine stocks and prepare for more rejection. The first bookshop owner to whom I offered my first book sneered at me and the glossy offering I placed in her hand, but agreed to take a couple of copies. They sold that afternoon, but I never received any money from her. So learn to be tough – have an agreement ready to be signed and insist on a signature. Do this and you’ll have left the heady world of literature and entered the arena of the street trader. Congratulations.
Lastly, if you really want to take control of your books, you can become a publisher yourself. This is the ultimate step in the writer’s journey, where you attempt to control everything. I have just embarked on this. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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