Monday, December 1, 2014

Publish or Perish

... though the two are certainly not mutually exclusive.

While no clear cut statistics are presently available, there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that the process of getting a book published can be fatal to writers.  Time alone is frequently a critical factor.

Typical Agent Guidelines:  "Response time on initial query: six to eight months; on a partial or full manuscript: three to eleven years."

*In all fairness, literary agents have also been known to pass away while considering a writer's submission. Which of course leaves the writer wondering if his or her writing was in any way directly causative of the agent's demise. Hard to perform at your best when you're constantly worrying about who your writing might kill next.

** Note:  If the worst happens and reading your novel kills the agent reading it, it's probably not a good idea to resubmit to another agent in the same agency.

"Hi. My novel apparently gave your colleague a fatal brain aneurysm, but I'm wondering if you'd like to take a crack at it?"

Mentioning the potential lethality of your book to another agency, however, might very well get your foot in the door, so to speak.

Other not-easy-to-swallow-literary-agency-factoids:

Most U.S. agencies continue to employ the standard disclaimer:  We receive several hundred submissions a week, so be patient. Also don't be surprised if you never hear back from us in this lifetime.

So figure a couple of thousand agencies operating at any given time, each getting several hundred submissions a week. Do the math, come up with a conservative estimate of ten million submissions a year. And you're thinking wait a minute, the vast majority of the planet's population are semi-illiterate dumbbells, so who the hell is writing all these books?  Are these the same people who can't sing, yet feel justified auditioning for American Idol?

Or you may hear this from an agent:

"Absolutely loved your query, was up all night reading it - actually I read it 137 times - but unfortunately, after near-infinite soul searching, am forced to conclude that your project is not a good fit for my current list."

And, of course, one of our personal favorites:  

"Don't be discouraged by this rejection. The publishing industry is entirely, overwhelmingly - some might say pathologically - subjective."

Which is a blatant lie, or possibly an inside joke. The publishing industry is actually a monolithic object. Perusing a random selection of literary websites we discover that the object most sought after by an overwhelming majority of agents is something called YA  NA. Which leaves us then having to figure out what YA  NA might be. It could be the name of a Chinese ping pong player, or possibly a Chinese panda, but that would only be relevant if the Chinese had somehow secretly taken over the US publishing business.

In which case the absolute best thing you could be at this moment in time is a Chinese female writer, willing to toe the party line for a profit, but not above the occasional dissident-sounding paragraph, with a penchant for historical, family-oriented romance fiction (no incest, please), as long as no one actually takes off any clothes and all kissing occurs with mouths closed.

Turns out YA NA actually means Young Adult / New Adult, referring to teenagers and people in their early twenties.  So basically you can be a YA or a NA, but not both. Although there are a large number of NAs who continue to behave like YAs.
 Still, one cannot resist the obvious question:  When was the last time any of us have witnessed anyone in either of these age brackets reading a book? 

The equally obvious answer:  YAs and NAs do not read, but they do shop, often compulsively.  As with their  OA (older adult) counterparts, the thrill is in the buying of the thing, not so much the having and / or using of it.

 This also explains why, for example, an 850 page tome on the Franco-Prussian War can become an instant N.Y. Times Bestseller.

I absolutely have to have this thing.

It's called a book, and you will never read it.

So ... what's your point?

It further explains why I'm currently working on a Dystopian Paranormal YA Romance about two fifteen-year-old Chinese junior high school students whose budding love for each other is only overshadowed by their desire to reconnect with the extraterrestrial parents who abandoned them at birth on planet Earth.