Part of the process of publishing a novel traditionally is querying. This involves sending a three paragraph teaser letter to agents and publishers describing your novel. Ideally, they will like what they hear and decide to read the full manuscript. I am in the process of querying for my first novel, The Battlefield Abductions, and, as expected, have received several rejections.
Reminds me of dating
This isn’t surprising. According to J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter was rejected “loads of times”, and its initial print run was only 500 copies. Similar anecdotes exist for many best-selling novels. Most advice I’ve read says to keep trying 70 times before giving up.
I understand the conundrum. As an agent or a publisher, you likely receive piles of query letters every week, and you need to be able to quickly identify the novel that you think you can sell. It’s impossible to read all those manuscripts. So you have to decide based on a two minute read of the three paragraphs whether it’s worthwhile investing any more time on the book. Most of the time, the answer must be “No”. Besides, if you can’t get excited about the work based on those three paragraphs, how can you expect anyone excited enough to purchase it in a bookstore?
A 10-year old attending a school for wizards? Heck no.
What this means for me
I understand the math. So well, in fact, that a decade ago, I wouldn’t have even bothered writing a novel. The probability of impressing these gatekeepers even with an extraordinarily good book is low. It’s a lot of effort writing a novel, so why bother doing something where you need a huge amount of luck to even get to the point that people can acquire your book?
For me, the thing that changed is Kindle Direct Publishing. It means that, even if I’m unable to break through with traditional publishers, there is a way to get my book out there. Gatekeepers cannot prevent me from publishing my novel. It becomes even more of an entrepreneurial endeavour. But that’s not a big deal. I’ve already founded several businesses. This is just more of the same.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that I’ll try the traditional route for as long as it takes me to write the next novel. If not, I’ll go with KDP. Self-publishing works best with highly productive writers, so that there is always a new book for the audience to buy. I’m not sure yet if I’m a highly product writer, but I’ve been that way in other jobs, so it’s reasonable to believe that I can do it here as well.
It will be an interesting journey.