Twilight Times Special Feature


A Cautionary Tale



Kate Saundby

This true story from a successful print published SF author is one of the main reasons why I bypassed the conventional query route and turned to e-publishing instead.

When his book was accepted by a big name house, the writer was estatic. The publisher told him the first print run would be five thousand copies. It wasn't large but it was a start, or so the writer thought. This was not his first book and he had done well in the past. To his delight, the run sold out within weeks of its release. The booksellers wanted more.

But the publisher decided they didn't have enough orders to justify another run. So there things sat.

It gets worse.

The author's next book was rejected by the same publisher on the grounds that his previous title had only sold five thousand copies.

(Scout's honor, cross my fingers and hope to die, this is exactly what they said.)

A rejection for poor sales is a kiss of death in the print publishing industry and the author's agent couldn't find a taker anywhere else. His career was dead in the water and that was that.

As an aspiring author, I took this story to heart.

If such a publisher would do this to an established name, what would they do to the likes of me?

Not wishing to take such a risk, I turned to the Net instead.

Please note, this was an SF author. Before someone jumps on me to say I'm all wet, I'll say this.

The romance genre operates somewhat differently and it appears to have an entire set of rules of its own that don't apply elsewhere. I'm not a category romance author and the following does not apply to that portion of the industry.

My advice to an aspiring writer in any other genre is, don't waste your time and money looking for an agent or a conventional print publisher. Even if you sell your first book, it's just too risky.

Instead, study the e-publishers' guidelines and offerings, get on lists like this one, join an online critique group or two, and when you feel ready, start submitting your work to the e-publisher(s) whose needs best fit what you have to offer.

If enough new and midlist authors do what I have done, the volume of submissions to established print publishers and agents hopefully will diminish and there will be a notable reduction in quality in those that they do receive.

Even now, the major publishers are scouting independent bookstores for promising small press offerings and it's only a matter of time before they start scanning the Net.

Except for the National Writers Union, established writers organizations have been giving the cold shoulder to both the small press and e-publishing. That's why, even if I were to qualify for membership in any of them, up to and including the Authors Guild, I would hesitate to support such a group with either my money or my name.

This is a case of "we hang together or we hang separately" and some of these people would do well to remember that the only difference between them and someone who has not been published by a "name" house is one sale.

The author in question was not only a member of such an organization but he was even, at one time, its president. That still didn't help him when the chips were down so, in the final analysis, what good are they?

Okay, I'm off my soapbox now.



Author Bio

Visit Kate Saundby's web page to learn more about her books.

Or visit her web page at her publisher's web site

The Wages of Justice ISBN#158345-014-9 -- available now.




Copyright © 1999 Kate Saundby. All rights reserved. Published by permission of the author.
This page last updated 4-24-99.

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