Monday, September 20, 2010

A repeat of my comments on non-exclusive deals

Hi, Mike, I moved this to here to make my response stand out.  I don't know if it will help or not.

You're welcome for my previous advice.  Given my own inexperience at the beginning and what it cost me, I feel I have to help writers through the vagaries of publishing, if they ask me.  They should ask me, or someone. My advice in this case would be: go with your instincts.

Your instincts tell you it's not a good deal.  Every traditional paper publisher wants to know that you have the exclusive rights to publish your books and sell them  throughout the world because that's what they want to buy from you if they like your work.  You can sell second publication rights to traditional paper publishers, as long as they're not competing with someone else publishing it in the paper world.  And more and more, the trad pubs want exclusive electronic rights too.  Brutal truth is that the tradpubs are no longer warm and fuzzy places.  They're running scared because of the economy and bookstores failing and no one to sell to. They don't take chances on anybody new, least of all if there's a potential legal problem. 

My friends tell me they have five or six books on the back burner, waiting for the economy to change.  That's a scary thought.  These are previously published and even award-winning writers.  Trouble, definite trouble, in Bookland...      I'm starting my own next novel now.  I don't expect to finish it for about five years.  Even then, I don't expect it to be published.  I've had dozens of honors and awards in Canada and the USA and even internationally, but I don't think that gives me the right to expectations.   So why write?  Because it's fun.  It's way more fun to write than to be published.  I know.  

If your story doesn't sell, it isn't the end of the world.  You will have written two or three more by the time you realize your first story might not make it to the public.  So, start working on getting your next ones published traditionally while you keep on writing new stories.  Learn from your unpublished works.  Why were they unpublished? By the time your first story has made the rounds, you will be a year or two older, and you'll read it with new eyes. You might also be lucky enough to get a letter of rejection that has some advice.  You could try to fix the first story, or you could write another new one, always keeping your new understandings in mind.  Me, I would just carry on with new stuff. . 

As for an agent, you will find, I fear, that without really good publication credits, it will be hard to get an agent who knows anything.  Way back in the early days, someone famous said it was harder to find a good agent than a good publisher.  So keep on sending in short stories to magazines on your own, even if the magazine says it accepts only from agents.  No agent ever made a living selling short stories, and so they mostly don't do it.  Collections, yes.  But usually collections come later, when you've published a dozen or more really good short stories in magazines with good reputations, or better yet, a novel.  So you build up the short story list of publications in decent litmags (or SF mags if you are writing SF or fantasy) to get a publisher to read your first novel.  Book publishers prefer novels to anthologies.      Good luck!   Welwyn  

See you soon! Welwyn-on-books

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