I've whined a lot on these pages about how sad it makes Jon and me to turn down well-written, deftly plotted books, not because they are lacking something, but because we just can't sell them. It's one of the most difficult aspects of this business.
But the book world is being turned on its head, and many authors are using this to their advantage. Instead of going through the "traditional" publishing channels of agents and mainstream publishers, some authors are choosing one of the many self-publishing routes. One of these books has come to our attention this week, and I want to mention it here.
I reluctantly turned down a manuscript entitled A Place to Die by Dorothy James. I just loved how Dorothy set the scene for this murder mystery that takes place in an upscale Vienna nursing home. In my opinion, this book had the makings of a best-seller--quirky characters, romantic setting in the Vienna Woods, marital discord and sexual misbehavior. But the editors I contacted were not moved to buy. Some didn't like the European setting, others found it too long and involved. After working for several months, I decided that I'd have to let it go.
Dorothy just emailed me to tell me that she's self-published A Place to Die. In her words, "The fact that you genuinely liked it -- I was always convinced of that -- helped me not to give up altogether on the idea, and I finally decided to self-publish -- something that more and more people are doing. I do not know how this will turn out, but I am giving it a go, and I now have a very nice looking book -- whether I can sell it remains to be seen! If you have a moment, I would be very pleased if you could look at the web site."
I did look at the site and it's quite striking. I hope this works for Dorothy. She's a talented writer with entertaining stories to tell.
The point here is that as literary agents, Jon and I work very hard to find books we think we can sell to traditional publishers. Sometimes we can; sometimes we can't. But today there are other options for authors who cannot find representation or whose books are not being picked up by publishers--self publishing is one.
Is self-publishing a threat to traditional publishing? I don't think that's the right question to ask. I believe that the traditional model of book publishing will be with us for a long time. But it's changing too, and the self-publishing / e-publishing /traditional publishing worlds will meld, morph and separate many times within the next few years. No matter what form it takes, the important thing is the story and the story will always be with us in one form or another.
It's Book Expo week in NYC. I'll be there on Wednesday and then off for a week in the Northwest with a client. Jon will go to Book Expo on Thursday. Have a great work week everyone!
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