At a recent book signing event that included 20+ authors, I had a wonderful evening chatting with a few other authors nearby: Christine Bush, Peter Dawes and William Lawrence. A couple of phrases during the evening’s conversations made impressions on me:
“When I asked my agents how they could increase sales,
they didn’t have an answer.”
“The big publishers are dead, they just don’t know it yet.”
While a Google search would find the latter adage applied to various topics, most prominently the Big Five Publishing Houses (Genuflect when you say that, Buster!), I had never before heard it applied quite so… forcefully.
In my personal experience, albeit the small experience of a new author, the response time of publishers and agents is glacial. I had been forewarned about this, but now having actually experienced it, I simply do not understand this behavior. Nor do I think the Miss Manners of Business (if such a person exists) would approve. In this day and age of digital response times, when it takes less than 1 minute for someone to comment on a tweet, or less than 1 day for a friend to respond to email, is it too much to ask that an agent or a publisher respond to a query letter in less than 4 months? Especially if it is a ‘no’? After all, if they are not interested, then they would surely know by the time they finish the letter or the first few pages of the submission. And don’t get me started on the response time of reporters, unless they need something from YOU.
Hell, even banks respond digitally in a week or less, and eventually return calls after the 10th voice mail.
If a response time measured in several lunar cycles is what publishers, agents and reporters consider a job well done, then they deserve any business-related misery that befalls them.
On the subject of time pressure – here’s a little personal info. I ain’t getting any younger, and another internal organ of mine went ker-flop in 2014. As a result, I published Pindlebryth the day before I went into the hospital for major surgery. Even though every source – medical, secular and religious – helped me to keep a positive outlook on my situation, there still was one undeniable nagging possibility. Despite all precautions, there is ALWAYS a risk associated with major medical procedures.
I have a ‘Life To-Do List’, with which I refuse to associate the word ‘bucket’. (Oops! I just did! Dangit!) For example, I had a goal of getting a patent while I worked at the incredibly prestigious AT&T Bell Laboratories. I kept plugging away at it, and after four denials, my fifth try was awarded a patent.
Similarly, I had a goal of writing ‘The Great American Novel’. Well, at least I took my best shot at it. And for a first novel, I’m kinda proud of it, warts and all! (Hey, that’s what a 2nd edition is for, right?) And I’m still alive to tell the tale, to boot!
So, why did I self-publish? Simply put, time pressure was coming at me from both sides – disgracefully slow response from people I had no control over, and a possible (pardon the pun) deadline I had no control over.