Analytics show that most of the people reading my blog posts are registered users of the site. Therefore, most people reading this will know that I have been trying to get my first novel published for a while now. For the past few years I have relentlessly pursued the goal of getting traditionally published, where I try to get an agent, who then tries to get my book published a major publisher (Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster etc.). I rejected self-publishing because I knew the struggle I would have as another nobody trying to get recognition for his work. With traditional publishing, there is still a very small change of huge sales, or even profit, but it always seemed like a worthwhile struggle. I think I held onto the possibility that I would be the 1 author in a million that becomes a bestseller, even if that meant years of struggles trying to get an agent.
Now, I’ve exhausted the list of agents that represent science fiction in the US and Canada. A new one might pop up every few weeks, but I’ve been rejected by the bulk of them. I have dozens of copies of the same generic rejection letters. I even spent over $1000 to attend a writer’s conference in New York last summer. I was in no position to spend this money frivolously, but I understood that the value of some experiences can exceed a price tag. I was excited about the opportunity to network with other writers and learn from published ones. I was also excited about the opportunity to pitch my book to agents in person. I got 4 offers to send queries, and I finally felt hopeful again. I edited my story, sent it off with high hopes, and got 4 generic rejection letters again. They weren’t form letters at least, but they still lacked any insight on how to improve: “Thanks for the opportunity…not right for me.” The opportunity to pitch to agents, the “pitch slam” was an extra $200. I don’t want to come across as entitled, but if people pay extra for the opportunity to pitch their letter to you, instead of just sending an email, then I think they are entitled to some constructive criticism that can actually help their writing. It doesn’t have to be an essay but even a sentence saying “starts too slow”, “opening is cliched” etc. can be a big help to an aspiring author. I guess the agents figure getting to pitch to them in person was more than enough reward.
Me after my 4th rejection
I haven’t tried to take an easy route with getting published. I originally finished Elseworld in 2008 and after my initial attempts to get an agent failed, I went back to the book and rewrote it. Every time I got an idea of how to make the book better I did whatever I deemed necessary, eliminating characters, subplots, changing the ending, adding more character development etc. I finished this current version of Elseworld last year, and was confident that I finally cracked the code to getting published. I felt more confident about it than I ever had, which made me confident I could get an agent. Maybe I sound delusional but I always hear that self-confidence (to a certain extent) is necessary to succeed. I edited my query letter (a short pitch that is emailed to agents), changing it to resemble the pitch I gave at the Writer’s Conference. Although the book was rejected, I at least knew that my description of it could pique someone’s interest.
Armed with an improved book and query letter, I took on the task of getting an agent. The same pitch that worked on four agents, failed with a horde of them yet again. Two of the agents who were intrigued by my work at the “pitch slam” were two who previously rejected email pitches. I guess being face-to-face made an agent less likely to say no. Unfortunately, this meant that my email pitches (the standard method) were dead in the water again. More form rejection letters and more questions of what it was going to take to get an agent. I interned with one, and she agreed to take a look at my work. The agency didn’t represent science fiction though, so that plan died in the water too.
It’s been months since my last email query, and I completed another book in the meantime. My original plan was to forget about Elseworld for now and try to get this book published instead. At this point, it still requires editing before I will be comfortable submitting any queries. One option is to complete editing by the end of November, in order to get a polished version of the manuscript and start submitting queries. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for an agent to respond with a form rejection letter, or perhaps a request to see more material. If I go with this plan, another year could pass, and I could be in the same position by the end of it.
My other option, is to bite the bullet and attempt to self-publish. I am not interested in independent self-publishing, where I print the book myself and hire artists for the book cover. There are plenty of platforms that supposedly offer decent readership and the chance for more exposure. Of course, blogging is one, but that hasn’t exactly paid big dividends yet. Medium is another, also little impact so far. Wattpad was recommended to me by a friend, who is considering using it himself, and it may be another avenue I pursue.
Like any tool, I am cautious of using it. I already shared my brief experience with Inklitt, which is nothing but a scam. After looking into Watpadd it does appear to be a legitimate platform, where readers can post their work online, typically chapter by chapter. From what I have researched it also has its faults. Its main readership are female teens and young adults, who gravitate most to romance, teen fiction and fanfiction. Genre fiction, like science-fiction is also pretty popular but gets overshadowed by the latter genres. From what I hear, a lot of the writing is horrible, so my work could be overshadowed by a wannabe E.L. James. I’m not saying I’m Ernest Hemingway but that is a disheartening concept. Yet it may still be one of my best options.
Originally I was considering putting Elseworld on Wattpad but I think I’ll put The Visitor on there instead. As I’ve mentioned before, The Visitor‘s length would make it more difficult to publish traditionally anyway. Taking inspiration from a friend, I might upload The Visitor under a pen name and then continue trying to publish Elseworld traditionally. If The Visitor manages to get enough traction with Wattpad, and attract publisher attention (like it has for some people) then I could use that to better market Elseworld. That is the next goal. Success is obviously not guaranteed but I’ve got to make a plan to move forward.