There is No Path

The hardest thing, I’ve decided, about publishing is that there’s no path. A lot of people are trying to do a similar thing, but everyone kind of figures out their own way to do it and the way they did it may or may not be available to the people who come after them.

I read a post today by an agent who was answering a question from a writer. The writer had had pretty good success with her first book at a smaller publisher which then went out of business. But the success had been good enough to put her on the radar of her second, bigger publisher, but bigger publisher didn’t promote her second book and it didn’t do so great.

The writer asked if she was done or if she should query under a pseudonym.

The agent’s advice was basically, yes, she was done and she should find smaller presses because no agent is going to want her. Her only choice, if she wants to stay in the big fish pond, is to write a blockbuster that will force the industry to change their minds about her.

It just has me wondering how long I should query agents on the novel or if there comes some point when I should start looking at small presses. I mean, frankly, I want to write the kinds of things I want to read. I don’t need to write books as my career and I’m not looking to be a full-time writer at this point.

I read a book this weekend, which I’ll leave nameless, which I liked a lot, that came out of a smaller press. I think my novel is that good. Should I send it to that publisher?

How do people decide what kind of press to approach? Am I doing it wrong?

Ha ha ha, lord, that’s the question that just permeates publishing–Am I doing this wrong?

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2 thoughts on “There is No Path

  1. I was looking at these very same questions a couple years ago. I decided to try the agent first. I didn’t want to navigate contracts by myself. So I made a list (of, what, 50?). I went down that list. I swore and cried a lot in so doing…and then I got lucky (because luck matters, damn it all) and found an agent somewhere near the end of the list. If I hadn’t, I’d’ve tried again with the next book. And then I’d’ve aimed at small presses. YMMV, of course.

    I have to say–my agent is also a very hands-on editor, and she helped the writing level up. Something else to consider.

  2. Yeah, I would really love someone to help me take it up a notch. I know this is the best thing I’ve ever written, but I also am sure it could be better. And as much as I piss and moan about the process of getting better, I like the end result. I feel like my short-story skills have taken a massive jump every time I write a novel, even if nothing comes of them. But this one I think is good. I want other people to read it.

    I just sometimes feel like the right way to do things is only obvious after you do something and it works or you do something and it doesn’t.

    Also, on a side note, thanks for being so willing to talk about this stuff. I feel all the time like I’m floundering and it’s nice to hear from folks who’ve also wrestled with these same things.

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