The Growing Popularity of Self-publishing

Soul_Nebula
The Soul Nebula from Wikipedia

What’s Up With Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select Program?

Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select seems to be gaining popularity with a growing number of authors and more importantly…..also with readers. However, it should be noted that various publishing companies and some literary agents do not share the same opinions.  Following is a quick glimpse at a few writers who have opted for participation in the Amazon e-book program and how they have done with their literary titles.

DutchMasters-adjusted

 

Submitting to Curtis Brown

As a literary agent for Curtis Brown LTD, Nathan Bransford developed one of the most widely read literary blogs around. Large numbers of prospective authors followed followed his timely remarks and comments, hoping to obtain the right piece of advice that would propel them into the fast lane of literary success. I was one of those people and I even went as far as to submit a query letter concerning a completed manuscript. All I got was a “Not For Me” rejection, but the general insight on the submission process that he provided was most helpful.  This was information published on his blog that could be read by everybody.

SF_From_Marin_Highlands3
San Francisco as viewed from the Marin Headlands, from wikipedia, photo by Paul.h

From Literary Agent To Sub-published Author

While a literary agent, Nathan began  publishing his Jacob Wonderbar series of sci-fi space travels aimed for younger readers. Not long after Mr. Bransford left the West Coast agency and took a job writing for CNET. He still writes the Wonderbar books and blogs as an author instead of an literary agent. As a result his posts are less frequent but still very informative. The development that has caught my eye was a recent announcement that he is writing a novel which will be self-published in the near future. This is a most interesting turn of events that illustrates how quickly digital self-publishing is making inroads into the mainstream publishing world. This is just one example, but I think it shows how important digital e-publishing is becoming to authors.

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“One lazy man is a disgrace, two is a law firm, and three is a congress”.

The Outer Shells of Centaurus A
The Outer Shells of Centaurus A
Image Credit: E. Peng and H. Ford (JHU), K. Freeman (ANU), R. White (STScI), CTIO, NOAO, NSF

The Literary Agent

The above quotation comes from John Adams in the play entitled, 1776. This ear-catching quote appeared on Michael Larsen’s blog, yesterday in regards to the Fourth of July. If you have not heard of Michael Larsen, he is a highly regarded literary agent with the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. I am particularly fond of this small organization because one of the agents asked for a partial on my novel. Unfortunately, all I got was a form letter rejection after I sent the written material, but that was enough to endear me to the agency.

1776

In case you haven’t heard of 1776, it is a Broadway musical that ran for over a thousand performances beginning in 1969. The show also received a few Tony nominations and awards. Today, it is kind of hard to imagine guys like Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson singing in unison, but perhaps forty years ago this made more sense. Also of note the quotation seems so 20th century and in fact upon doing some preliminary research, I could not find any such collection of words attributed to the famous patriot. Still, the words make for interesting banter on this summertime holiday.

Quotes From Movies, Plays and Musicals

Still, the quote from the New York show got me looking around to see what other quotes I could gather up from the make-believe world of theatrical performances. Following are some of my favorites.

“I’m the only “cause” I’m interested in.”  Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca

“I once asked a literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said, “Ransom notes.” – Gene Hackman as Harry Zimm in Get Shorty

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “  Yoda in Star Wars

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.” Marlo Brando, as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront

And here’s another one from Rick in Casablanca,  “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Hope you enjoyed these and have a great Fourth of July weekend, which doesn’t really get started until Friday.

Nathan Bransford Moves On

NGC 4452: An Extremely Thin Galaxy Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA
NGC 4452: An Extremely Thin Galaxy Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA

In transition:   “It’s with a huge mix of emotions (insert: wonderment, excitement, sadness, nostalgia) that I let you know that this is my last day as a literary agent. I am leaving the world of publishing to work at the tech news/review site CNET, where I will be helping to coordinate social media strategy.”  Nathan Bransford on announcing his exit from Curtis Brown.

The big news in the literary blogging world concerns the sudden departure of Nathan Bransford from the Curtis Brown Agency.  Nathan has decided to leave the world of agenting literary masterpieces and will now work for CNET reviewing electronic equipment and software.

Here’s what Betsey Lerner at “The Forest For The Trees” had to say;

“Anyway, Mr. Bransford, agent and gentleman, we will bid you adieu from the dark side of living off the backs of writers, au revoir to 15% percent commish and enjoy a real salary.” Actually these comments were a little bit tongue in cheek for she continued with these words:

“Your generosity is as infectious as is your love for books and the writing process. I wish you well in your new endeavor. I’m sure your clients will miss you enormously.”

And then there were some comments posted by J.N. Duncan, a client of Mr.Bransford, who has now been picked up by another agent at Curtis Brown;     “It is a sad day today. Today we say goodbye to Nathan Bransford, literary agent. He is leaving us for greener pastures……Secondly, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to work with him and be his client.”

All in all the move seems to be a wise one for the most widely-read, blogger among prospective authors, but his departure does seem to point towards the rapidly changing world of publishing. Maybe Nathan just had a good opportunity that he couldn’t pass up, but I suspect he took a look at the rising success of e-books and the diminishing returns on print and decided it was time to go.

Personally, I think for a person that was already a published writer and likely entertained more ambitions as a writer than as an agent, the move might even be a bit overdue. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading his blog and even got a kick out of the the two “Not for me” rejections he sent me. All in all, I think he just took a big step in the right direction.

The Cat's Eye Nebula Credit: J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA
The Cat's Eye Nebula Credit: J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA

Can Self-publishing Get You A Book Contract?

Cat's Eye Nebula:  Credit; J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA
Cat's Eye Nebula: Credit; J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA

Walt Whitman self published his first book of poetry. So did Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. And you can add Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau to this list of self-published authors also.

And the 20th century saw many self-published writers turnout successful titles. Some of the more noteworthy are Ulysses by James Joyce, Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust,  The Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Peter Beatrix Potter, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Robert’s Rules of Order and the  Joy of Cooking.

So how do things shape up for the 21st century. Ten years into the new century and it appears that self-published authors are doing well with obtaining book contracts.

“A successfully self-published book can propel you down the road to a book contract at a commercial publishing house.” At least that’s how Alan Rinzler, a consulting editor, describes the situation over at his blog, the Book Deal. On his most recent post he goes on to list two self-published authors, who have recently received book deals and then goes to list some reasons why self-publishing is a good prelude to a book contract. Reasons include proof that a writer can market the title and a signal that the author has the confidence and courage that is needed in today’s literary market.

So for all those writers who feel obligated to finding a literary agent(that includes yours truly), maybe there are other ways to go.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad E-book

a glass of beer
a glass of beer

Last week I had the privilege of attending a Mediabistro function in downtown Boston. The get-together was held at a popular watering hole. right in the center of Boston’s financial district. It was the first time I’ve ever attended such an event, but I have taken several classes through the organization, and so for a good hour or so, I got to hob nob with some of the professional writers, who make their living around the great city of Boston. No great superstars here, just some entertaining and hardworking people , who seemed to know what they were doing and were fun to talk to.

New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov
New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov

Now Mediabistro is a national organization, for they are also active in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other major American cities. In fact, other places around the country had a seasonal party that occurred about the same time that the Boston party happened. Their website is fun and informative, especially their award winning  blog called GalleyCat.  Also check out their other blog, eBook Newser, which is entirely devoted to the up and coming e-book.

And just this week in New York, Mediabistro sponsored an e-book summit, an event which drew speakers and participants from all over the country and beyond. Anybody who wants to know how the conference went can find a very nice twitter transcript here, but this is really not necessary because the subject of e-books is all over the internet, especially if you follow the blogs of some of the more popular literary agents.

For example, Nathan Bransford recently undertook a survey among his readers to see how the e-book was faring. And guess what! The new format is gaining popularity. You can see the poll results for the last three years here . Also from Nathan is this post on November 23 of this year entitled, “The Top Ten Myths About E-books”.

Here’s another agent blogger, Agent Sydney, discussing e-book deals on the very informative agent blog, “Call My Agent”. Basically, this agent is saying that if you have already published an e-book, it might be more difficult to find a literary agent, because you have taken away the possibility of allowing the agency to handle e-book rights. And finally here is some advice from Jessica Faust at Bookends on the subject of something called e-publishing.

But the question of the day remains; is the e-book going anywhere with its limited commercial success and increased popularity? I am of the opinion that it is not, but I will be the first to admit that this assumption is anywhere from an educated hunch to a wild guess. Best of luck and good searching.

Truly, Everett Autumn.

Boston Public Library
Thinking of Escher, photo of Boston Public Library by E. Autumn

Adding To The Slushpile

Roadside in Halifax, England

In snowed yesterday here in northern New England, then turned to a heavy rain and left a real big mess. One big slush pile is what I would call the deposit that Mother Nature made on our fair city. Further inland, the ski resorts and mountain residents received a good hefty amount of snow, while further to the south, our good New England neighbors got nothing but rain. However, this pile of slush that we received yesterday is now frozen solid, but at least the rain followed in ample amounts to wash the streets and side walks clean.

Strange that this real-life, slush dumping would arrive almost exactly at the same time that I had finished my six month contribution to another proverbial slush pile. That is the one accumulated by editors and especially literary agents, as they wade through the weighty stacks of paper and endless lists of e-mail submissions that eager and ambitious novelists and writers, like myself, have so graciously sent their way in hopeful anticipation of that ever-so-elusive intangible object, known as the book contract.

Fortunately, by time this latest snow event had come our way, I had called it quits on my contribution to the literary slush pile. Nearly 100 queries and only two real requests for written material have left me in the same boat as sports fans everywhere, who can be heard around the country uttering the famous words, “Wait until next year!”.

pile of paper
A pile of paper

I think I have given my fair share to the ideas of literary quest during this year, but have I learned anything from my unsuccessful endeavors. The answer to that timely question is a definite yes. And here’s what I have gathered in from events.

Some writers do succeed in becoming authors via sending large numbers queries to one of the many literary agents, located around the country, but they are few and far between. I think it is fair to say that submitting unsolicited queries is a long shot, but there might be better ways to achieve the impossible. Here are a few of my suggestions.

1 – Getting to know agents at conferences and other similar gatherings will greatly improve your chance of finding an agent.

2 – Finding a referral from an established writer or other important literary person will also open doors for you.

3 – Getting an MFA in Creative Writing will not get you a book contract, but it may get you a teaching job or some other kind of similar employment.

4 – Bitching to an agent about a rejection slip is a complete waste of time and energy.

5 – Publishing short stories in well read and admired literary journals can be of great benefit.

Skiers in slush
Skiers attempting to navigate the slushpile

And for those of you who are so inclined to undertake such an endeavor, here are two links that list literary agents and provide some basic info about each one. You can find Query tracker at this address and there is also Agent Query, which can be located here. They both are very good and inclusive, and also free, but I have a slight preference for Query Tracker. This is partly due to their blog and partly due to the way they organize their site.

And finally for those of you who like to keep tabs on what literary agents are up to and how they operate, here is a partial and incomplete list of some of the more popular blogs put out by agents. Probably the post popular blog is that published by Nathan Bransford, who is an agent for Curtis and Brown in San Francisco. You can check out the blog here and find out why for yourself why he is so popular. Another interesting blog is Call My Agent, which is put out by an Australian literary agent, who goes by the name of Agent Sydney. I have also mentioned the blog put out by Query Tracker. This daily (weekdays only) posting actually involves four bloggers, who post on a rotating basis. And then there is Guide To Literary Agents put out by Chuck Sambuchino, which is always a good read. And of course, last but not least is the fabulous rant once published by a fictitious Miss Snark. She hasn’t posted since May 2007, but her fabulous and humorous comments are still worth the time and effort. Be sure to check them out as the whole blog can still be read online.

Good day and I hope you find this post helpful, Everett Autumn