Before there was the Cullen 'family', there was the Theatre des Vampires.
Before there was Stephenie Meyer, there was Anne Rice.
Rice is the author of the bestselling Vampire Chronicles, a series which have sold more than 80 million copies since the debut of Interview With The Vampire in 1976. I personally enjoyed the first few books in the series, though I stopped reading after...book 4, I think. The Magpie picked up Interview a couple of years ago and loved it. The tales of Louis and Lestat were much more interesting to her than Bella and Edward, though I think she also stopped reading after book 3. Of course, as a college student, who has time to keep reading for pleasure?
Anyway, Anne Rice knows a thing or two about writing and publishing. Late last week, she posted a video on Youtube, offering encouragement to new writers.
Now, on the overall, I like what she says. She's encouraging. She gives a great, positive message on persistence. It's a message I needed to hear, as I have to say I've been a bit down this month. There is one problem, though. If you didn't watch the video all the way through, at about the 9-minute mark, Rice says:
"...you've sent it to every New York publisher you know of, and they've all rejected it. What do you do then? Do you give up? No, you do not give up. Self publish."
She goes on to discuss how it's never been easier to self publish (true), then touts the seemingly-weekly stories of little authors gone big (think Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, Tracey Garvis-Graves).
Rice is absolutely right, it has never been easier to self publish. But she leaves out the critical piece, and that is this: is your novel ready for publishing?
Presumably, if you've been sending it to agents and/or editors, you believe it's ready, but writers make mistakes all the time. We alternate between self-doubt gnawing away, telling ourselves we'll never be good enough, ever. And then we have moments of soaring self-confidence, where we're convinced we're the second coming of...someone super-incredible. Being objective is not easy. The thing is, what Rice doesn't say, and what a lot of writers either don't realize or choose to ignore, is this: If a novel is getting constantly rejected, there's a reason for it. It could be the query is not doing its job. It could be you're not reaching out to the right people. It could be the market is just not quite there. Or it could be the novel isn't good enough, or isn't quite polished to the shine required to get it to the next level.
And this is the toughest part of this whole publishing thing, really. Writing the book is perhaps the easiest step, at least in my (admittedly limited) experience. It's also the most fun part of it all. The joy of creating worlds, breathing life into people and putting them through heaven and hell. That's easy. That's exhilarating. Bringing those characters to a wide audience is the hard part. As Rice points out, however, not as hard as it used to be.
There was a person over in AW recently who posted his query letter for review. He mentioned that in the first 25 queries he sent out, he got a 60% response rate. SIXTY PERCENT! Ultimately, everyone passed on his fulls, so he was seeking feedback on his...query. Uh, seems to me there's nothing wrong with a query that garners a 60% response rate, even if, as he said, the rate fell off in recent rounds (I'm not sure how many total he's sent out; he says 'many more.') He's got something there, a story that's good enough to hook agents in, but if he's getting rejected on fulls he needs to do more work on the rest of his book. But if this guy follows Rice's advice, his book will be hitting the shelves sometime soon, and that may actually be the worst possible thing he could do. His book just may not be ready. By rushing to publication
Look, the fact is, agents and editors are often wrong, and they're more than willing to admit it. They may be wrong about your book, too. But before you rush to self-publish, make sure your story is ready. I mean, really, really ready.
This is all obvious stuff, I realize, but sometimes it just needs to be reiterated. Especially after a famous author like Anne Rice tells you to self-publish. Meanwhile, I recommend popping over to Chuck Wendig's blog today. He's got some advice on cultivating instinct, to help you know when you're ready and when you're not. Thanks for stopping by, as always.