Joel Stickley of How to Write Well Badly (very funny) says writers write books that they think agents will buy; agents buy books they think publishers will publish; publishers print books they think supermarkets will stock; supermarkets stock books they think customers will buy; and, finally, readers wonder why the shelves are full of celebrity books.
I wrote I, Phone in 2009 and dutifully I sent it off to publishers. I’d talked to the editor at a convention, so I was hopeful (it was a warm call) but realistic. Two years later, after some reluctant pestering, they admitted they’d lost it. I resubmitted and, after another year, they said it wasn’t their cup of tea. Fair enough. So, time to go cap in hand to another publisher to beg pathetically.
Wait a minute – no, it isn’t!
Now Indie Publishing is here, the rose-tinted glasses I used to view Traditional Publishing have fallen off. To send a manuscript without receiving an acknowledgement is rude, to take longer than a reasonable time to make a decision (say 3 months) is unprofessional and to lose a manuscript is plain useless. You wouldn’t get it in other professions.
I, Phone predicted Google Glass. I’m sure others did so before me, but you know, I was in the game, but 3 years twiddling my thumbs meant that that cutting-edge prediction became passé. If it had been accepted then it would have been another 2-3 years before it reached Waterstones. A development process that takes 5 years means that near-future SF is not a sub-genre that exists any more.
You may think I’m just ranting due to sour grapes and a chip on my shoulder. You many think that, and you’d be right. But I have a point.
So, the following don’t exist in traditional publishing any more:-
Near-future SF. (Traditional publishing is too inefficient.)
Novellas. (Too short, even if you could get twice as many on the shelf.)
Poetry. (No market for them, apparently.)
Local interest books. (All decisions made at head office.)
Books in more than one genre. (Where do I put this? Ah, yes, the returns bin.)
Books the marketing department doesn’t know how to market.
Books by authors, whose previous two books in the trilogy sold well, but not in the J. K. Rowling or E. L. James league.
Books that you really, really want, but you’ve been busy and missed the three month window of opportunity and they’ve all been returned to the publisher on a sale-or-return basis and have now been pulped.
So, if you want to read anything above – tough: enjoy your celebrity books.
Or try an Indie Publisher.