Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm a whore


Okay, before anyone gets all up my grill for the title of this post, I'd like you to know that the word "whore" appears in the Christian bible 59 times!

Okay. I just made that up. I really have no idea how many times the word appears, but I know it does. A lot.

So anyway, about that "I'm a whore" thing.

Most of you know I wrote a novel, called The Devil You Don't Know. It's pretty good, I've been told. It took me three years to write and revise it. Three complete revisions, actually. It's been professionally edited. Not once, but twice.

It has garnered attention from some of the top literary agents in New York, two of whom told me I was among the best debut writers they had stumbled across. The managing editor of Writer's Digest Magazine critiqued the manuscript and pronounced it one the best he'd read. I've had requests from agents, but no offers.

I don't say these things to brag. These are facts.

I am almost done with my second novel, which I believe is exponentially better than the first. It's certainly more commercially viable.

And therein lies the problem with TDYDK.

It's a pseudo-Christian/mainstream thriller. It doesn't preach (much). It has very adult themes, including rape, pornography, alcoholism and promiscuity. See, what I wanted to do was rewrite the Bible the way Stephen King rewrote Stoker's Dracula.

I wondered what would happen if the Bible IS true. And what would happen if things predicted in the Bible started to happen today? In this secular world. To real people, not cardboard cutouts from poorly written Christian novels.

You know, it sounded like one hell of an idea back in college, when I thought of it after a long night of booze and dope.

And it turned out to be a damned good story. One person who read it said it reminded them of a weird cross between Stephen King and Saint Paul. I took it as a compliment.

Sadly there is no market for such a hybrid in today's fiction market, I have been told. I wish I had a dollar for every agent and/or person in the business who has told me privately that they loved it, but just knew in their heart that they couldn't sell it because of its "Christian stuff."

To which I say: Bullshit.

Has anyone ever read King's The Stand? That book has more religious imagery in it than mine does. Really. I mean, if you sub the name God for Mother Abigail and the name Satan for Randall Flagg, you have The Book of Revelations. Classic Good versus Evil.

I don't recall that causing any sales problems for Mr. King. Do you?

All of which brings me to my point (and yes, I can hear your sigh of relief out there!).

You see, I'm sitting on TDYDK. It's gathering electronic dust on my computer -- still edited, sleek and ready to be read and enjoyed.

So. Do I leave it there and call it a practice book?

Do I start another round of queries (I've sent 29 so far; most were unanswered)?

Or do I find a way to publish the damned thing myself?

For some reason self-publishing (or e-publishing, or Indie publishing. Are they all the same? Hell, I don't even know) scares me to death. For several reasons.

1. It looks like a lot of work.

2. It requires me to do all the PR work. I don't HAVE that many friends and I hate to pimp myself on Twitter and Facebook (although I will if I have to. See the title of this post).

3. I don't want to screw up any chance I have to traditionally publish the new book, or any future books.

Because as much as I love writing fiction, I also want to make money at it. There. I said it. I am a literary whore. I don't do this for the hell of it. I do it because I believe I have something to say, and because I want people to read what I write. And pay for it.

I write this with no apologies. I mean, you CAN be an artist and make money at it. Just ask JK Rowling. Or Stephen King. Or Amanda Hocking. Or (cringe) Dan Brown.

I'm not saying I'm in their league (well, except for .... oh never mind). You get my point.

So I'm writing this to get your opinions. I know they will be all over the place. I know that some have tested the self-pub waters and found them to their liking. Others, I suspect, have the same fears I have.

So if you were me, what would you do?

11 comments:

  1. First your numbers --

    1 - self-publishing IS a lot of work

    2 - if the guy from Writer's Digest liked it, maybe he'd mention said liking in said digest (definitely couldn't hurt)

    3 - You won't. At most, all it would do is knock "debut" off your first sale.

    Now that that's out of the way...

    The Stand wasn't King's 1st novel, nor was it his first sale. If you believe your new book is superior to TDYK, then lead with that one and see if your agent can't sell TDYK as a 2nd book (or self-pub it once you've got an audience in place).

    How did you pitch it? As Christian? As a thriller? Have you tried subbing it to agents that handle literary? Because the way you're describing it here might fit a literary publisher perfectly.

    And, most importantly, none of this makes you a whore. It makes you a writer trying to convince people who already love his book that they aren't the only ones who will love it.

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  2. Hey Josin.

    Yeah, I was trying to point out that King's book had more Christian imagery in in than mine, even though I've been told people won't read books which posit that God is real. Perhaps the market, not to mention the world itself, has changed since 1978? :)

    I pitched TDYDK as a thriller, which was probably a dumb move. It's really just a mainstream/commercial novel, but that's hard to articulate in a query.

    I hadn't thought about literary, although to be honest the thought of pitching it that way in today's market scares me to death. Literary books are even harder to sell than non-YA adult fiction.

    But it's a thought. Hmmmm.

    Thanks for chiming in. I swear, you've got the fastest trigger finger on the Interwebs!

    And thanks for telling me I'm not a whore (although I DO have a heart of gold).

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  3. You would be crazy to keep querying. Self-publish it and never look back. The industry is changing to digital right now. Borders has gone under and Barnes & Noble just changed its policies -- instead of 3 months, they will keep a book 45 days before they return it to the publisher (to be pulped). Scary.

    You can format it yourself (a pain, but it can be done) or pay somebody about $150-$200, plus you should have a professional cover ($200 on up). Get it off your hard drive, make some money, and get on with your life.

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  4. Publication isn't a selection process...its a survival process. Don't give up on traditional publication...if that's what will truly make you happy. Otherwise, go for it. :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

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  5. FYI, unless you get a gigantic advance for your book, chances are you'd have to do a lot of PR yourself anyway for traditional publishing. Sad, but true.
    In any case, sounds like you have a really good book in hand. I wish you luck, no matter which direction you take!

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  6. You queried only 29 agents? Common wisdom I'm hearing is to query 60 before you give up. Why not re-slant and re-pitch? Aim for less than top tier agents, because they might be more apt to take a chance on you and your book. You've got nothing to lose except a few hours' time. You could get lucky.

    Also--have you posted your query here? I haven't been a reader for terribly long, and I don't want to spent the next two hours finding out. But I've read other blogs where people post their queries. I find it very interesting, and readers comment on whether the author managed to write something irresistable.

    Maybe your book is 100% saleable, but you simply didn't manage to nail your query ... (?)

    Just throwing out suggestions--

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  7. I agree with Catherine. Twenty-nine agents is a small number to throw in the towel. Take another look at your query and develop a list of agents interested in commercial fiction. The idea you describe above of biblical events happening in modern times sounds fantastic. See if there are any other comparable titles like The Stand that are more up to date. Many agents like comps.

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  8. I was kind of in the same situation. I ended up going with an epub, MuseItUp, because I didn't want to test the waters by myself.

    If you'll notice, most of the people who've made it in self-pubbing have a bunch of books out there. Ane there are an awful lot of people who aren't making money.

    And either way, traditional or epub or self-pub, you're going to have to market. Unfortunately, that's the way it is.

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  9. I am going with 'sitting on it' myself. I am working on my second novel, also a thriller like yours, and I figure I'd rather wait until I may be able to one day get my first book published by a publisher rather than throw it out there for ten people to read.

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