Dream Deferred

 This morning my publisher gave me sad news. As with so many independent publishers, the economics have proven impossible despite a valiant effort over the past decade. It's just not sustainable for him, so he's giving up on this dream and will have to start anew with something else.

For me it's more of a dream deferred. I'm a published author with six books behind me, but Listening Point will be my first novel, if I can find a publisher. Writing fiction has been so much fun, and I was really looking forward to seeing it in print next June. Now, instead, I will have to start searching all over again. And this time it is likely to be much harder.

Some independent publishers don't require authors to have agents, but the vast majority of books published in the U.S. are under imprints of just five major publishers. Soon to be four, if the courts allow one of the five to take over one of the others. And they require agents.

I have to admit, I have had such an easy time as an author compared to most. All my manuscripts have been accepted, and all on my first or second try. Sigurd Olson would be shocked and envious! But I've always had a good idea of which publisher would be perfect for my topic and manuscript. I had that initially with my first novel, too, but now I just don't know.

The reality is rough: just one in a thousand fiction manuscripts finds a publisher. Since I already had one for this manuscript, I suspect my odds are better, but getting past the initial gatekeeper to even have a chance will be the hard part. Agents and editors are absolutely swamped by proposals and manuscripts. It's even worse than usual now because during the pandemic a lot of editors have quit their high-stress jobs. Other editors have had to add to their own workloads the contracted book manuscripts left by the departing editors, so they have all the reason in the world to reject quickly any new project that comes to their attention. If your proposal survives all of that and gets a contract, it typically takes two or three years for it to make its way to publication. So, instead of seeing my novel in 2023, the best-case scenario is probably 2025.

But that's getting ahead of myself. I need to begin researching the publishing market and literary agents in particular. They each advertise whether they are accepting queries, and if so what genres they represent. Listening Point is not genre-specific, and could easily be misclassified in a way that works against me, so figuring out how to market the book in the right way to the right agent is key. It often takes authors more than a hundred attempts before they land an agent, if they ever do land one. So I'm anticipating a long process that will require a lot of trial and error and not a little bit of luck. Fingers crossed. 

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