Sunday, March 05, 2006

A few “writing” thoughts.

First, robotjam of the U.K. asked me, “Ever thought about just publishing it (your novel) yourself?”

Sure, rj. And that might be an option, but a difficult one. First, though, I’d much rather go the traditional route and be published by a house with a publicist and marketing department to help me sell the book after it’s “out there.” I plan a heavy marketing campaign, the details of which are too long and boring to go into now. Why do I plan that? Because if the first book doesn’t have impressive sales figures, it’ll be twice as hard to sell the second one.

But what if no agent is interested, and no publisher will buy the work? A second problem is getting permissions to quote the songs that are an integral part of the story. Oh, I’ve written off to the copyright owners (did my homework on that!) and asked for details of getting permission to quote their lyrics (as in; “How much $$?”)

The answer is always, “It depends.” Then they ask a BUNCH of questions:
1. Name of your publication
2. Retail selling price of your publication
3. Estimated print run
4. Territory of distribution
5. Name of the publisher
6. Is your publication hardbound or softbound?
7. Total number of copyrighted titles to be included in your publication
8. Please supply us with a copy of the material in context.

Those become hard to answer (some of them) for a self-published book, or e-book, or POD (Print On Demand). So I can either change the whole story (start over from scratch) or offer long explanations to each copyright owner and see what they want me to pay them. I’m guessing (since lawyers are involved) that the cost would be prohibitive.

I know, I know. ALL writers say this: (insert a gushy tone here) “EVERYbody who has read my book just LOVES it!!” Well, dammit, alMOST everybody who has read mine (even total strangers with NOTHING to gain) have been very positive. Most end up with tears in their eyes at the end. (No, NOT from pain!)

Call it sappy, but it has a “feel-good, happy ending.” That makes you cry.

So, I’m tempted (if it doesn’t sell) to just put it out on a personal web site for free and let people read it. Why? Because it’s a neat story, and I want people to read it (if they want to) and enjoy it. Call it ego; or whatever.

I’m a long way from making any final decision on that topic.

I may be influenced by a few comments from agents who are NOT interested in it. One told me that she couldn’t sell (and didn’t know of anyone who COULD) another book about (or with a story that takes place in) the 1960s. Gee. I didn’t know that. Apparently there have been SO MANY books written (by baby boomers like me) about that era that “nobody wants to read them any more.”

Strike one!

Then there came a rejection note just a few days ago that read:

“Sorry I cannot sell love stories. If I could I'd be a millionaire. I only represent genre romances, good ones, of which I can rarely find or am queried about. Every man on earth has experienced unrequited love and wants to write about it. I have an unsold one under my bed also. Good luck.”

Wow! Strike Two! I’ve written a love story that takes place in the 60s.

(“Unrequited love?” Not hardly! But he didn’t even see a synopsis, so that was an assumption. I wrote him back saying that if he thought my query letter was for a story about “unrequited love,” I needed to rewrite the letter!)

I KNOW! THIS BUSINESS IS SUBJECTIVE! (Sorry. Didn’t mean to shout at you.) And yes, it only takes one agent who reads it and likes it to make this whole process work.

But after those two agents’ opinions about the genre and the time frame... Well, I’ll just say that IF those opinions are widespread, you may be seeing this novel on a free web page near you for your browsing pleasure.

And damned if my next novel isn’t a sequel that’s set in the early 70s!

(Strike THREE?)


Hale McKay said...

One could easily get discouaged, couldn't one?

Shesawriter said...

I try not to think about these things. They give me a headache.


Anonymous said...

Duke, you are probably right, thinking of it the 2 self published books I have bought (which are the Monster Engine by Dave Devries and The History of the Moulton Bycyle by Tony Hadland) they are both obscure books which work as self published titles as there are not many people who want to read them. They are however both excellent books.

To self publish a traditional novel would perhaps be a very costly process and requires a large marketing budget to have any hope of getting back what you put into it.

Most books never make any money at all. I did read somehwere that Harry Potter was counting for about 50% of revenue for the entire book market here in the UK.

Candace said...

John, I'd hate to see you go back and rewrite because of the lyrics. Bearing in mind that I haven't read the MS, and therefore you may have already done this, but could you manage to use the titles (only) for most of them (except for Cherish is the Word)? I'm thinking that maybe the titles themselves, without the lyrics, aren't a problem, or am I wrong on that?

Duke_of_Earle said...


No, you are exactly right. A reference to the title is OK without paid permission. And yes, I've been back through it a number of times reducing the references to songs, and using more titles and a brief description of what the lyrics talk about than actually quoting them.

You should have seen the FIRST draft version (not)! I had many MORE songs, and many more lyrics quoted.

Unfortunately the story line DOES revolve around the hero's love for music, and it all leads up to the title song which HAS to be quoted in its entirety.

The crosses we must bear!


Anonymous said...

I was listening to an interview with a South African who sells copies of her book on her website. If push comes to shove, rather sell your book on the internet than letting anyone download it for free.

You can then invite other writers to sell their books on your site too.

Anonymous said...

I hate comments such as those you're getting from the agents. A great book will sell, regardless of how many others are of the same genre and setting. Quality will rise to the top. Do we really think Harry Potter is the first fantasy book involving a young boy as its protagonist?

Candace said...

It sounds like you've done what you can on the copyright stuff. I kinda figured you'd need all the "Cherish" lyrics, and that's great, not "unfortunate," except from the $$ standpoint. Have you specifically contacted the people who own "Cherish?" I wonder if you could negoatiate something with them in advance? You don't have answers to all those questions, so MAYBE they would entertain an offer from you, make a deal now, perhaps subject to change when the MS is published? That sounds like a win-win if you could get them to deal with you. (Can you tell I used to work for lawyers???)