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A few more thoughts on publishing

Thank you everyone for your generous feedback on the last post – I loved your responses and was completely fascinated by the opinions some of you expressed about the Icelanders and their communication skills [or lack thereof]. It’s always interesting to hear what ‘outsiders’ say about ‘us’. [Or ‘them’, as the case may be … of course I identify with the positive aspects of the Icelandic national character only, as some of you will already know.]

I was also extremely touched by your proclamations that you’d like to read my book – if and when it came out. And also by your tips and suggestions and concerns – thank you, for example, for being worried about my manuscript. Or for suggesting that this might be a good time to approach other publishers, since somebody is at least remotely interested.

The truth is – I’m in a conundrum. I would like to come out with a book, but I really really despise the hoops you have to jump through to get published; I can’t stand the grovelling at the feet of some literary agent, hoping he or she deem me worthy, in the vague hope of getting my manuscript seen by a publisher. I’ve been there, done that, and it was degrading. I don’t want to do it again.

Thing is, a couple of years ago I got into a wee bit of money – enough to sustain me, if I scrimped, for about six months. I decided I wanted to see if I could actually write an entire book. I’d wanted to do it for ages, but the biggest obstacle was having the time. My experience has been that writing a book is virtually impossible when you’re in the daily grind. A project of that scope requires laser-like focus and absolute absorption: a beautiful thing when it’s achievable. But when you’re trying to carve out an hour at the end of each day to write, or scrambling to meet deadlines that actually pay real money, or writing in between assignments and then having to stop for maybe a couple of weeks, it’s just not possible. At least not in my case. Sad but true.

Anyway, I proved to myself that I could write a book, with a beginning, middle and an end, and I even got great feedback on it. So I set about jumping through the hoops, did all the crap that you’re supposed to do when you’re vying for the big break. I sent query letters to agents, according to a standard formula. Some never responded, others asked to see samples and a synopsis, and then never responded. Some had very set guidelines: print everything out in hard copy, double-spaced with X wide margin, and do not forget the self-addressed stamped envelope [you could forget about getting an answer – any answer – if you didn’t include that]. Others were more lenient and accepted electronic submissions. Of those, many never responded. So sending out parts of a manuscript and not getting anything back is not an anomaly – I’ve sent pages and pages of manuscripts all over the world and never received a response. [Mind you, this was the first time I’d been invited out for coffee, practically had a done deal, and then not received a response. It took publishing industry non-responsiveness to a new level.]

Anyway, eventually an agent did pick up the manuscript, and we worked on it together for several weeks before she decided it was ready to be shopped around. Then came the next eye-opener: she shopped it around only to the big publishers, because she only stood to make money from the big publishers. She didn’t bother with the small indie publishers because it wasn’t worth her time. Of the big publishers, none were interested in publishing the first novel of an unknown writer who lived in Iceland [of all places!]. The agent was very condolatory and even encouraging [‘lots of people don’t get their first novel published…’ etc.] – but I also noticed a subtle shift in her commitment to the project with each new rejection. When she had exhausted her cache, her disinterest was palpable. Over succeeding months, I presented a couple of other proposals, but suddenly she was responding to emails very sporadically and took no calls, despite her assurance that her ‘door was always open’. A few months later I met a successful American writer at a dinner party and told him of my dilemma; his advice was GET A NEW AGENT.

Anyway, you get the picture. There was more to this, but the bottom line was that I was completely put off by publishers, agents and their ilk. And – obviously – this latest experience has done nothing but reinforce my disdain.

So what’s a girl to do? ~ Well, if she’s afflicted with YT’s nervous compulsion to be constantly spilling words, she could start a blog [a novel idea!] ~ She could also write a book and self-publish … and yet, maybe not, because apparently the immense effort you need to put into distribution and promotion will eat you alive [or so my friend B. tells me, who’s been down that road]. ~ She could write for the drawer, and hope that posterity will be kind. [Rapidly becoming an option.] ~ Or, she could do what Hugh over at Gaping Void suggested a while back to a friend – publish her book on her blog, and he guaranteed she’d have a book deal within six months.

In all honesty, I have been considering Hugh’s option rather seriously, not least because I’m such a huge fan of the Internet and its renegade possibilities [read: its aptitude for sticking it to THE INDUSTRY.] And yet, if I’m completely honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of giving something away for free like that – something that has cost me blood, sweat and tears. Plus, I lack his faith in the industry’s responsiveness – for obvious reasons.

And so, in the meantime, the drawer just keeps filling up – at least when I manage to carve out that hour at the end of each day.


Here are the bare bones, seeing as how this has gone on far too long: -2°C [28F], sunrise 8.06, sunset 7.11.



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