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The Truth About Patience

31 July 2014

From agent Sarah LaPolla:

Hey everyone. I don’t usually blog about my specific clients or deals I’ve made because, as is stated on the side panel of this blog, Glass Cases is a personal blog I run for writers and is not affiliated with my agency. That said, The Truth About Alice by my client Jennifer Mathieu, was recently published and I wanted to share this particular publication journey.

. . . .

A timeline, if you will:

  • 2009: Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford signs a client named Jennifer Mathieu and sends out her smart, funny coming-of-age YA novel. And gets many “nice” rejections. Editors loved the voice, loved the story, and hated to say no, but… the rejections started piling up. Realistic YA was still considered “impossible” to sell in the post-Twilight paranormal craze that led into the post-Hunger Games dystopian craze.
  • 2010: With Jennifer’s novel on yet another round of submissions, Nathan breaks the hearts of every aspiring author – and his fellow agents at Curtis Brown – and announces he’s leaving publishing.
  • Mid-2010: I start building a client list of my own. With three clients to my name, Nathan tells me he has a client whose voice I will love. I read Jennifer’s book and the voice blows me away. Like, laugh-out-loud, miss-two-subway-stops kind of love. I speak with Jennifer and we click immediately and I take on a brand new client. Everything is happy until Nathan sends me a very long list of editors who already rejected Jennifer book and a very short list of editors who “probably” will look at another revision. As a new agent with hardly any contacts of my own, I silently curse Nathan’s name.
  • 2010-2011: I work with Jennifer on a revision of that first novel and put it on submission to a small group of editors. Identical rejections from 2009. Jennifer works on a standalone companion novel, which I also put on submission. More “nice” rejections that think the novel is “too quiet.”
  • Mid-2011: Jennifer tells me about an idea she’s outlining that involves multi-POV versions of rumors about a teenage girl. I tell her to explore that idea and we shelve her other project after receiving a particularly painful rejection. (Not because it was mean, but because it was so overwhelming positive and full of regret. Yes, editors get rejected too.)
  • 2012: Jennifer finishes her new novel, now called The Truth About Alice Franklin. After some tinkering, I put it on submission right before June.
  • July 2012: We receive four offers on The Truth About Alice Franklin from major publishers, with a few more bringing it to acquisitions. I hold my first ever auction as an agent (and try not to have a heart attack in the process). After a very close auction, we accept a two-book offer from Roaring Brook Press, where it becomes The Truth About Alice.
  • September 2012: After two agents and almost four years of being on submission, Jennifer holds her book contract in her hands.
  • May 2013: I decide Jennifer hasn’t had enough drama and leave Curtis Brown for a new agency. I’m overjoyed that Jennifer moves with me to Bradford Literary Agency!
  • September 2013: Jennifer’s editor, Nancy Mercado, also decides the drama factor wasn’t quite high enough and leaves Roaring Brook Press to join Scholastic. We panic until Jennifer is paired with new-to-us editor Katherine Jacobs, who we immediately love and who is an enthusiastic champion for Jennifer’s career.
  • April 2014: With The Truth About Alice not yet published and the “Book 2” of that two-book deal still being revised, Roaring Brook Press buys what will be Jennifer’s third standalone contemporary YA novel.
  • June 3, 2014: The Truth About Alice is published and Jennifer officially begins her career as an author. Not only that, but the book has become an Indie Next Pick for Summer 2014, an Amazon Best Book of the Month in Teen/YA, and has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, and The Daily Beast, to name a few.

Link to the rest at Glass Cases and thanks to Sharyn for the tip.

Agents

99 Comments to “The Truth About Patience”

  1. No telling how much money Jennifer could have earned in six years of self-publishing all six of those manuscripts (first book, companion book to the first, The Truth About Alice, and the two contracted books that followed it.)

    I was earning enough to write full-time when I had three books out.

    Patience is a virtue in some situations. In others, maybe not so much.

    • that was my immediate thought too. it made me so sad. 🙁

    • Exactly my thoughts. :/ I mean, yay, she was finally ushered past the gatekeepers, and I’m assuming that’s what she wanted, but she could’ve “officially begun her career as an author” years ago, and been making money and accumulating fans all that time. I don’t think the lesson I’m seeing here is the one Ms. LaPolla intended to teach.

      Angie

  2. I hope this isn’t supposed to be an endorsement of going tradpub.

    • Sadly, they probably think it is. That’s what’s so mind-boggling.

    • Yeah, Ms. Mathieu was attempting blindfolded archery on the deck of a ship in the middle of a nor’easter.

      Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    • And this is being touted as a success story?

      The whole process seems so archaic laid out as a time-line like that.

      The mind boggles.

    • It should be noted that Sarah LaPolla has said before that she thinks self-publishing is cheating.

      • There seems to be this prevailing thought that somehow all the struggling through rejections is part of the hazing process a new author must go through in order to be legit.

        The timeline above was essentially what I thought I would have to wade through if I ever finished my first novel. No wonder I spent years discouraged and not writing very much. When I realized publishing independently was a viable option, without the need for all this, as she says, drama, it was like the fog cleared and a whole new world opened up to me.

        But the whole “cheating” thing makes me giggle. Just because there is a new way of doing business in publishing doesn’t make indies “cheaters.” Unless cheating = smart…

      • Cheating? Shouldn’t it be the other way around where editors rewrite and correct your work before selling it?

      • I stopped following her on Twitter because she had nothing interesting or worthwhile to say, so that doesn’t surprise me. The best I can say is at least I don’t remember her being nasty, like quite a few agents are on social media. (Some of them complain about all their submissions and tell us endlessly how busy they are, while tweeting 100 times a day.)

        Edited: I take it back. I looked at her Twitter feed and there’s definitely complaining.

  3. The poor girl was nearly nurtured to death from the sound of it.

    • Hahaha!

      Yeah:

      * 2 Agents
      * 2 Agencies
      * 2 Editors

      All in the space of only 4 years (2009-2013)

      It makes me remember author Donna Ball (Donna Boyd) talking about how some of the constant turbulence in the traditional publishing industry with mergers and people moving around skewered her career:

      http://awriterreads.blogspot.com/2011/10/million-dollar-deal-that-ruined-my.html

      The Million Dollar Deal That Ruined My Career

      Before Harry Potter, before Twilight, before the hundreds of thousands of vampire , wizard, demon, zombie, angel, fairy and just-plain-strange books that proliferate the marketplace today, I wrote a book about werewolves.

      It wasn’t, in my humble opinion, just an ordinary book, and these were not ordinary werewolves. It was at that time the best book I had ever written. Believe it or not, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was pretty good. The Passion (and its sequel, The Promise) sold after a ten–day auction for a phenomenal amount of money (to be strictly accurate, it was not quite one million, but by the time sub-rights were sold the difference was negligible, to me, at least). Within the week, offers for audio, foreign, and large print rights were pouring in. James Cameron and Stephen Spielberg were both interested in film rights. And then it all went to hell.

      For reasons I still don’t entirely understand, the publisher abandoned the book. Possibly it was caught up in inter-company politics; possibly the publisher genuinely did not know how to publish it. While logic would suggest that no publisher wants to lose money on a book, the only way this publisher could have lost more money on this book would have been not to publish it at all. I remember screaming at my agent at one point, A million dollars is not worth an entire career! –which turned out to be eerily prophetic. In a desperate effort to save the project, I personally invested a disastrous amount on promotions, which resulted in the development of a small cult following (thank you, readers!) But in terms of the commercial sensation The Devoncroix Dynasty books were meant to be, the project was a monumental failure.

      After that, no other publisher would touch me —primarily because it makes no sense to invest in an author and/or a series on which a previous publisher has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also, I think, because what I was writing at that time was crap. I had spent ten years perfecting my craft, publishing anywhere from three to six books, in various genres across the board, a year. I routinely received awards and made lists and, perhaps more importantly, had been pulling in six figures a year for most of my writing career. But none of that mattered at the time. Because when I finally got the break every writer dreams of, the Big Contract for the Great Work, I blew it. My best wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t a writer. I was an imposter. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write. It was that I couldn’t. I was broken from the inside out. I went from writing 500,000-700,000 words a year to not writing a single word for the next five years. Broken.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Ball

      She’s been self-publishing for a long while now, and I really do recommend the three “Devoncroix” novels (The Passion, The Promise, and Renegade) for people who enjoyed the early Anne Rice-style mixtures of Gothic and rich historical descriptions with supernatural elements and lore woven in.

    • I wish more authors pointed out how much of an author’s time trad pub wastes when they’re not choosing to “nurture” us. I think I would have appreciated it years ago they had been more honest, telling writers something like “Look we’ve got more than we could ever publish already in our slush pile and it’s unlikely 99.9 percent of you will ever see anything but the slush pile, so stop sending us stuff, okay?” I would honestly have more respect for them now if they had done that. I would have more respect for them if they didn’t feed us that BS about “nurturing” writers, but if they were just honest.

  4. I spent many years being patient, collecting rejections full of praise followed by regretful rejection, exchanging correspondence with editors who gave me the repeated almost-not-quite.

    Then I quit writing for a few years. Then my husband passed away within four months of a terminal cancer diagnosis. Less than two years later, my best friend of twenty years went from cancer-in-remission to passing on within three months.

    Really, years-long patience is great when (a) you have time to spare, and (b) patience is the only way to achieve your goal. I no longer consider (a) to be a reasonable expectation, and no longer consider (b) a reasonable conclusion.

    I’ve a wee readership, but a happy one, and I do hope it grows. And those stories aren’t sitting unread on my computer. I’m not waiting on anyone anymore.

    Even so, I acknowledge the determination it takes to stay the course through shifts in agents, editors, and overall business structure. That isn’t at all easy, and it yields its own rewards. It simply isn’t worth my precious, precious time these days.

    • 🙁

      But you’re right — life is too short.

      • I didn’t mean to be a downer on the conversation… though, yeah, it certainly sounds that way, doesn’t it?

        Really, my point was as you said: life is short. Five years is an eternity.

        • That’s what it comes down to. I really don’t even feel sad for people who are willing to wait so long anymore. I think about all the near misses (like you said) and all the flaws in the trad pub system you have to wait to resolve themselves before you have a prayer of getting picked and all the problems that frequently come up even if you are picked and…Ugh. It’s just not worth it. That’s just no way to live life. I value my short life too much to waste it on a messed up system like that.

        • You made a valuable, important point, one we all need to keep sight of.

    • I grew (quite) old being patient when there was no alternative and I can tell you with absolute certainty it wasn’t worth it. I would not go down that road now. Strangely enough, I always noticed that my agents seemed to manage to have houses, cars and other benefits while I was being told to shelve book A and work on book B and even book C, on the understanding that maybe A and B could be sold on the back of C at some point in the distant future. It’s a crazy way to run a career and a business. Pretty much every day, I wake up and give thanks that I’m no longer on that particular treadmill.

  5. I wonder if she would be able to self-publish those novels that trad pub passed on, unless she has one of those horrible non-compete clauses. :/

  6. What she is describing, it sounds like a nightmare.

  7. I guess this story is supposed to be uplifting, but…no.

    • The sad thing is it used to be 10 years ago. I used to read articles like this and I know thousands of other writers read the same thing and it gave them hope.

  8. I hope the moral of this story is clear. DON’T GIVE UP.

    That’s not what I took from the story.

  9. I never want to deal with this bulls—

    If the agent thought the book was “laugh-out-loud, miss-two-subway-stops” good, WHY on EARTH did she make the author revise it?

    • Maybe I’m being cynical, but most agents and editors come across to me as failed writers trying to put their stamp on someone else’s work. (e.g. “If *I* had written this, I would have done it this way.”)I’m sure there are some good editors who truly enjoy reading and are just looking to give good advice, but most of the time the advice I see or hear is vague and insubstantive enough to sound insulting.

      • Maybe I’m being cynical, but most agents and editors come across to me as failed writers trying to put their stamp on someone else’s work. (e.g. “If *I* had written this, I would have done it this way.”)

        Funny. One of the agents who offered me (unsolicited) representation pretty much said the same thing. Apparently my book was good enough to hit the bestseller list and get his attention, but if he was writing it, he might do this or that a little bit differently. I had to think to myself, “Yeah, I bet you would, buddy.” Then I told him thanks, but no thanks.

        • Rusch has a similar story. I wonder how that happened…

          • Rusch has a similar story. I wonder how that happened…

            My guess is all agents do this when they’re trying to bring on new clients. They need to sell themselves, so they do that by saying your story might be good enough, but only they can make it better. A sales pitch, I guess.

        • When I sent my first novel out to an agent, as one did in those days, the agent replied with five things that were oh, so wrong with my book. I looked over his list and didn’t agree with any of it, so I didn’t change anything.

          I sent it to another agent, who said “Here are five things I think would improve your book. Do you agree?” I agreed with four of the five things and made the changes–none of them major. He didn’t press me on the fifth.

          I no longer have an agent, and I don’t want an agent, but being an agent doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person’s observations about your book. Neither does it necessarily make them right, unless you–the writer–agree.

      • Or wannabe writers. Nathan Bransford didn’t leave publishing. He’s on the other end of it.

    • It could have still had flaws. Haven’t you ever read anything that was about 90 percent amazing except for a few spots where it needed work?

      Or she may have been trying to justify her paycheck. Either one could apply.

      • Sure, that happens a lot, but I attribute it to the fact that art is rarely (if ever) perfect. Few albums have 100% good songs. Few paintings are completely perfect in symmetry or balance, and few books are utterly satisfying word for word. It is an imperfect endeavor at its roots. Add to this the fact that everyone has different tastes and different criteria for what excites or offends them, and nothing can ever be perfect artistically.

        • As Belle said on Once Upon A Time “Sometimes the best teacups are chipped.”

          What an agent or editor sees as a flaw might be what makes the book unique and exciting, the very thing that will cause readers to respond to it.

        • It’s very possible. I was just saying we haven’t seen the work so we don’t know. She could be just doing it because she thinks her job is to find the flaws in everything that crosses her desk.

          I’m reading a book that has a lot of dropped plot lines because it has far too much going on for one book to handle and yet it is an indie bestseller. Most of the negative reader comments on the book are just factually true points about story lines that were not as coherent as they should be or that were stretched far too thin to make the book into a series. Most of the readers are not even upset about it. The comments are written in such a way to help the writer improve. The glowing comments, however are not critical enough. But obviously lots of people enjoyed the work, flawed as it may be and I can see that it has some bright spots regardless of all its problems.

          So the point is, we just don’t know. The editor could have seen errors that could have been improved but did not destroy the work.

      • One person’s “needs work” is another’s “favorite book.”

        I’ll never forget hearing Dean Wesley Smith say something along the lines of — never revise your work for someone not in a position to, and ready to, pay you.

        • Ooh, nice quote. I’ve had a few friends/acquaintances who read some of my material, and loved to tell me how they would have written it, but when I ask them to show me some of their writing for reference, they have nothing but excuses to give me. That usually tells me how seriously I should take their opinions.

        • I have a novel now titled Nothing Serious. Some years ago I sent it to a few agents. I also sent it to you’d-know-her-name-bigtime-editor at Berkley. The agent wrote back “This book doesn’t start fast enough.” Bigtime editor wrote back “This book starts too fast.”

          I don’t know how to do that fix.

          You can kill a book by accepting advice from every person who thinks they can “fix” your book. After a couple years of that, you won’t recognize your book anymore. I have a policy of never rewriting a word until they cut a check.

          Luckily that’s not an issue anymore.

          • Absolutely! Just sent my next book out to beta readers and I know the best feedback they’ll give me is to articulate the things my subconscious already knows are wrong with the book.

            I often catch myself nodding along to feedback / advice. That’s how I know I MUST change those things.

            Otherwise, I try to trust myself, and my story, enough to let it be.

          • Mark Twain wrote about a similar problem a century and a half ago:

            Advice to a Young Actor

            The money bit:

            It is vastly funny, your “working yourself up” to suit the Thunderbolt, and “toning yourself down” to suit the Battering-Ram, and doing all sorts of similarly absurd things to please a lot of “critics” who had probably never seen you play at all, but who threw in a pinch of instruction or censure among their praise merely to give their “notices” a candid, impartial air. Don’t bother yourself any more in that way. Pay no attention to the papers, but watch the audience. A silent crowd is damning censure—good, hearty, enthusiastic applause is a sure sign of able acting. It seems you played well at first—I think you had better go back and start over again at the point where you began to instruct yourself from the newspapers. I have often wondered, myself, when reading critiques in the papers, what would become of an actor if he tried to follow all the fearfully conflicting advice they contained.

        • YES. I just got a book back from beta readers. One said, “I love character A, he’s so sweet!” The other said, “Character A is too emotional.”

          Result: I left that character alone.

  10. In the world of “Send out submisstions, get an agent, have you agent send out submissions, get a publisher, etc., this is a raging success story with lots of setbacks and a happy ending except for her contract terms, royalty rates, etc. She may be one of the people who are ultimately happy and successful enough with trad pub to stick with it. Ten years ago–hell, FIVE years ago–I would have sighed with longing.

    Now I sigh in relief that I’m no longer a part of that.

  11. SIX Years. Seven if you up the time it took her to write that first novel.

    This snippet of a post made me tired. (of course I was up LATE last night, typesetting my next book, so maybe lack of sleep is a factor…)

  12. Here’s my favorite line:

    “Even still, those who want an agent and a “traditional” publisher shouldn’t give up on their career choice just because there’s a shiny back-up option.”

    This statement reflects the complete BS of the article as a whole, because what this whole article is saying is that you should wait, and wait, and wait some more in order to go the traditional route, because “publishing moves slowly.”

    So that’s justification for a FIVE year wait? That this writer had to wait because indie publishing is a shiny “back-up” option (back up option???) and trad publishing is what really gives you clout, and cache and elan and verisimilitude?

    What kills me is the lovely people commenting, hoping that their story ends out the same way, and that they too will wait FIVE years to get their story published, due to
    a) agents not seeing it’s worth
    b) agents determining that the novel set before them doesn’t fit into any of their “slots”
    c) that the agent and the editor both move from house to house to further their own careers (even if it’s done with dignity, as it seems to have been done here)
    d) to end up with 12% of whatever profits are made, if that, and
    e) to receive some awards that the publishing industry has deemed appropriate for YA authors to receive.

    Essentially, trad publishing asks you to wait until you’re almost dead before you succeed and, also, that trad publishing alone will determine whether you are worthy.

    I call BS.

    I don’t have huge sales, but what tickles me pink is the fact that the majority of those sales are by people that I don’t know! Perfect strangers have validated my writing by giving it a try. That’s sticking it to the “man”! I would rather have that validation because my readers, however thin on the ground, are my publishers, my agents, my validators, my awards, and my heartfelt rewards.

    • The irony is that at some point trad pub is going to have to cut down on the number of writers they publish anyway just to make their costs even out. This is going to get really bad if B&N goes under. Imagine all the writers who will sit around waiting, and waiting, and waiting forever, not able to do a damn thing to affect the wait time. That sounds like the definition of Hell to me.

      I’ve never been more happy that I gave up on trad pub early. I wouldn’t have been cut out for that life. Wow.

    • …what tickles me pink is the fact that the majority of those sales are by people that I don’t know! Perfect strangers have validated my writing by giving it a try.

      This wows me also! Total strangers buying my books – which they do quite regularly now – and then (some of them) writing glowing reviews! It’s a thrill! 😀

  13. What Dan said; was this supposed to be some kind of “endorsement” for the archaic Legacy agent/editor turn-style, merry-go-round world of inneficiency, indecisiveness and paralyzing risk adversity?

    I wish her the best and I sincerely hope there were some really big advance numbers given (doubtful) in exchange for her patience and devotion to the Legacy system. maybe she’ll get luckier still and be annointed as a NBT and given that famous “rocket launch” into mega-sellerdon.

    Failing that, I guess we should expect a “Why I left my publisher to go indie” post sometime in the future.

  14. Annnd this is why writers get a reputation for being depressed. Ironically I hear a lot less about depressed writers these days.

  15. At least 5 years of patience for 6 weeks of publishing push. And the waiting will start over again for the next book. (I’ve known 2 trad-published authors who are waiting to get that 2nd book published and it’s been…5 years.)

    Money aside, because some people aren’t in it for money. Control aside, because some people really just don’t want to have to do everything themselves. But the waiting… God.

  16. Six years from writing to publication. I nearly did a spit take.

    All that work and “drama” for a book that, 2 months after publication and featuring the “big muscle” of a big-time NY publishing house and reviews in a bunch of magazines, is sitting at #44K on Amazon in eBooks (selling about 1 copy per day).

    Unbelievable.

    On the plus side, her hardcover is at 6K on Amazon. I just hope her agent got her a nice big fat advance, cause it looks likely that’s all she’s gonna get out of this one.

    • Given the much smaller population of hardcovers to ebooks, the 6K on the hardcover list may well be equivalent to 44K on the ebook list.

      Those are interesting stats, though. Good for context, for the rest of us.

      • Given the much smaller population of hardcovers to ebooks, the 6K on the hardcover list may well be equivalent to 44K on the ebook list.

        That’s a great point! Sheesh. Now I REALLY hope she got a lot in her advance, cause it really might be the only thing she’ll get for her 6 years of “patience.” No wonder most authors, when you divide the years they’ve been slaving away for those advance, end up making less than minimum wage.

        • It would be interesting to know what her advance was, since that’s still thought to be a Trad Pub’s advantage.

  17. Posted a lengthy comment on the site, but it got swallowed and I’m not sure if it’s in moderation or if the internets ate it. When will I finally learn to copy before I post? 😛

    • I hope it doesn’t take you six years. Even if it does, you can forget about all the comments that didn’t make it through during that time and be proud of your eventual accomplishment.

    • Okay, I wrote another one, and this time it got through:

      With all due respect, self-publishing is not a “shiny back-up option.” It’s a way for writers to take charge of their careers and not have their business held hostage by a parade of middlemen, as happened here.

      I know that you see this as a success story, and I don’t want to diminish the work that you put into it, but frankly this six-year ordeal that your client went through seems more like a cautionary tale of how traditional publishing is fundamentally broken. To have to revise and re-revise a story that everyone says is perfectly good, losing six years (six!) of potential income in the process–it makes my heart break for this author.

      I hope that she still has the option to self-publish her other books, though many traditional contracts these days have non-compete clauses and rights of first refusal that make that almost impossible. It’s hard enough to make a living wage in this industry without publishers trying to hamstring us with unconscionable contract terms.

      Self-publishing is much, much more than a “shiny back-up option,” it’s a fundamentally separate publishing paradigm with its own learning curve and complex set of challenges. It isn’t any easier than traditional publishing, but it is a much more efficient way to build a sustainable career. It’s certainly more efficient than having your manuscript knocked around like a pinball for six years (six!).

  18. Let’s see, on Amazon her 9.99 Kindle version is at #38,335, which according to Howey’s 50K chart means she is selling less than 1 a day (you have to reach 27K to average that).

    Meanwhile, over at amazon.co.uk, her Kindle rank is … oh, she doesn’t have one. The book is available in hard and soft covers, but not the Kindle. Sorry British readers. (It is for sale in France, Germany, China and Japan, at least).

    Jesus. Six years.

    • I wanted to buy it around release day because it sounded interesting, but the e-book is too expensive for me, and I won’t buy books where the e-book is priced higher than the paperback/hardcover.

      I’ve been spoiled.

      • My niece had asked me to put this one my watch list for her because she couldn’t afford it that price. Now that Macmillan is selling digital to libraries, she’ll probably borrow it from there when it’s available.

        That said, it sounds like Jennifer wanted to stick with trad pub. Who am I to say that was wrong for her? I’m going to ignore the shiny back-up button snark by Sarah because as long as Jennifer is happy with the way it all went down, I’m happy for her.

  19. Maybe Macmillan could take some of that publisher expertise and add another Kindle category to the book and give this author a bloody chance.

  20. Hi. I’m Sarah. I meant that post to be encouraging for writers who want to pursue traditional publishing. If you don’t want to pursue traditional publishing, feel free to ignore it. My author, Jennifer, didn’t want to pursue self-publishing, and I work for my clients.

    I admit I’ve been snarky about self-pub in the past, but I’ve also recognized it’s grown and has become a viable option in recent years. I’ve assisted my clients with self-publishing before and likely will again if that route is better-suited for them. My agency also assists our clients who wish to pursue self-pub. Both forms of publishing can co-exist. It just depends on what the author wants and what works best for the type of books they write.

    • Sarah, good on you for stopping by TPV and posting a cogent reply in the comments. I respect that.

    • I meant that post to be encouraging for writers who want to pursue traditional publishing.

      Oh, it was encouraging, Sarah, in that I’m sure it convinced a lot of would-be writers to never, ever want to subject themselves to the lumbering ancient dinosaur that is trad publishing.

      No offense.

    • Well, no. Why on earth would anyone find this encouraging? I am serious. I don’t get it. I am not a writer, but I am a human being and an avid reader. The years that readers went without this writer’s work seem like a tragedy, not a victory. In the past, there were limits on what could be effectively sold at any one time. In the world of the endless store shelf for books, you seem like part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  21. An interesting thing to point out about this story: according to the timeline the author signed on with Nathan Bransford in 2009. At that time, self-publishing was not yet demonstrated to be a viable career path (that happened in 2010 with John Locke, Amanda Hocking, etc). In other words, this author whose book just came out this year actually committed to the traditional career path just before the ebook revolution really took off.

    If the delay to publication for traditional publishing is upwards of five years, that means that we won’t really start to see the effect of the epublishing revolution on the supply chain until late 2015. Self-publishing may have lost its stigma and created a fundamental paradigm shift among writers, but the delayed reaction of the traditional publishing system means that we have yet to see that effect. In other words, everything that’s happened up until now has just been a prelude–the real disruption is yet to come.

    • In other words, everything that’s happened up until now has just been a prelude–the real disruption is yet to come.

      Now, there’s an arresting idea. I gather that some of the small presses have been seeing an effect, but you are probably right about the supply line for the big guys. We live in interesting times!

    • Interesting prognostication, Joe. Sounds extremely plausible, and I hope it comes true.

  22. I cut Amazon a lot of slack (not that I’ve found they need it) because they saved me from this after ‘only’ 18 months
    rather than the years some have suffered.

  23. Editors thought is was “too quiet” to sell.

    F*** you.

  24. She lost me at Nathan Bransford. He still holds the record for turnaround rejections: twenty minutes after I sent him my query plus three chapters, he turned me down. This instant turndown (no way he had time to read/evaluate a proposal that fast), plus the two agencies who lost my manuscript and didn’t tell me for a year, plus the final blow, a publisher who loved my book so much they couldn’t publish it, pushed me over the line from trad pub to self pub.

    I haven’t looked back.

    • You made the right decision. In the modern world there’s just no reason to keep propping up businesses like that. They don’t serve the purpose they’re supposed to for a lot of writers. Some make it through, and good for them (assuming they don’t get screwed coming out the other side), but the rest get their time wasted. Instead of writers trying harder and harder to please these people, they need to let these business models fall apart on their own and go look for something that actually works.

  25. I used to eat this kind of story up. Yay for the author! Persistence pays off! Also, yay for the agent for not giving up on her.

    Now I just think, what a terrible waste. Six years? She could easily have written and released twelve books in that time. If they’re that good, she could really have been raking it in, not to mention there’s more content for readers to enjoy.

    It would be okay for publishing to be that slow if humans lived a thousand years. But we don’t.

  26. Oh, hey!!!! I’m pumped! I’m enthusiastic about traditional publishing now!! Oh, yeah, baby! Going to send my novel off and find me an agent, and then we’re going to have a huge auction and get me lots of money. LOTS! Lots o’ money! Then you will all be crying in your beer…

    Nah, I’m just kidding. 😛 And I think I broke my exclamation point key.

  27. Agent of Evil… Hmmm

  28. I’m very much for an author picking the path they think best suited to them, be it traditional, self-published or a hybrid combination of the two. That being said, if I’d read this article as a writer looking to traditionally publish, I’d be incredibly discouraged by the time I finished reading it.

    What a waste of time and effort, with nearly all circumstances and obstacles completely out of the author’s control. I wish the author the best of luck and greatest success in both her book sales and career path. That story; however, would have swayed me in the opposite direction of traditional publishing had I been on the fence as to which path to take.

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