If you’ve read my blog post on 22nd February about my experiences of traditional, hybrid and self-publishing, you’ll know that whenever possible I’ve been trying to send my work to small publishing houses. This is not because there’s anything wrong with Indie Publishing, in fact, quite the contrary; I wish I could do it all by myself. The main reason I have been approaching traditional publishers in the first instance is because I’m a writer; I’m confident at producing and editing a manuscript, but not that skilled at typesetting a book, designing a cover, marketing my work and selling it. Having a publisher helps get my work out into the world. However, there significant drawbacks to traditional publishing and lately I’ve had my fill of those.
The first downside of traditional publishing is that it’s slow. Boy, is it slow! You can submit your work and be waiting for goodness-how-long to get a response and even then, odds are it will be a rejection after all that. But I’m a patient person, and I’ve quietly waited for many a response to query letters, submitting again and again in the hope of success. That’s not the reason why I’m starting to feel traditional publishing burnout, as is the case this month.
You’ll know if you follow my blog that I was given detailed feedback for my latest novel manuscript submission, two pages in fact, with a note from the acquisitions editor of that particular publisher that they welcomed any questions I had. Which I did have. After all, if you are being asked to do significant edits throughout your 90,000 word manuscript with an invitation to make amendments and resubmit for a second read-through, wouldn’t you want to ask details? I’m not precious about my work; I was willing to make most of the suggested revisions, however, I wanted to know specifics on a few parts that would have impacted the overall tone of the story. Pretty important stuff, right? Well, apparently not to said publisher. I haven’t had a response now in eight weeks. Not reassuring, I know. Still, it wasn’t a wasted effort. In the two months since their detailed feedback, I have incorporated most of the changes to my work which I feel has made it more commercial. Less literary, sadly, but more mainstream and at the end of the day, a writer wants their work to appeal to the widest readership, so the changes were necessary – and cost me nothing, except time.
Now, onto my second small press publishing gripe of late. I mentioned recently that my third poetry collection is forthcoming. Well, after a flurry of edits checking for typos and deciding on cover artwork, during which the response time of the publisher was hours, I was informed that my book was going to print. The publisher asked if I would order 10-20 copies to support the press at author discount, of course. I mentioned that I hadn’t yet received my contract and that I would be happy to buy copies later for book signing events, once lockdown is over. Unusually for the publisher, I received no response. After nearly a week I followed this up asking if they still intended to publish my book, to which I received an emphatic YES! (Actually in capitals like that) along with my attached contract. I signed and returned it with a note that I looked forward to hearing a publication date for my book. No response to that one, and as of tomorrow it will be two weeks. Again, as with the communication over my novel above, this cost me nothing except my precious time, which I’m starting to fear has been wasted.
As such, I’m starting to reach the end of my tether dealing with one too many small press publishers who turn out to have unreliable conduct. I am awaiting a few more simultaneous submission responses from publishers that I’m hoping will be more professional. In the meantime, I’m getting clued up about self-publishing. I’ve been learning from Indie author friends about sites that are easy to use to do my own cover artwork and reading up on typesetting. A week or two ago I hadn’t even heard of widows and orphans, so I’ve come a long way! Maybe later this year, who knows, I’ll be taking my publishing career into my own hands. It will be a fun adventure either way.