Happy 2012! Forgive the writerly post, but I feel the need to add my words to the maelstrom (and also to remind you that I am not dead, just writing!). I read writers’ blogs from time to time, and a message I read with increasing frequency is “If you’re getting a lot of agent and major publisher rejections, you should self publish or try small press! This New York Times bestselling author did that and it worked wonderfully for her/him!” I don’t understand why this seems like such a good idea to unpublished writers.
I love writing. I don’t want to spend seven hours a day selling my book. You have to work hard to market your book when you’re published by a small press, and thrice as hard if you self publish. And how do these people think that the New York Times bestselling author became what s/he is today? Certainly not through self publication, because the New York Times doesn’t consider self-published books for their list. I was curious about how the current New York Times bestselling authors got started, so I looked at some folks who are on the list today and were not published before 2005:
- Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help. Her book was rejected by 60 literary agents, then Susan Ramer agreed to represent her because of Stockett’s excellent query letter (source article).
- Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. The first of the series was originally published in Sweden by Månpocket. That seems to be a major publishing house, so I’m sure he had to query them if he didn’t have an agent or journalism connections. Google Translate isn’t very helpful with the Månpocket website because the header is in image format, but if you read Swedish you might be able to figure out what their submission process is like.
- Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants was initially published by a small press. She acquired representation from her first agent after a whopping 129 rejected queries. Water for Elephants was plucked from a slush pile.
- Mark Greany, author with Tom Clancy of Locked On. If you have Tom Clancy’s name on your book, it will do well. That’ll top my list of marketing strategies.
Sure, any one of those people could self publish now and have great success. They got name recognition by writing at least three books, one or more of which was truly amazing, and querying persistently. That route makes the most sense for unpublished authors who aren’t especially interested in the business of publishing. As agents and editors will tell you, “write a great book.” Don’t strangle me through the internet, they really say that.