1. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Any Advice Would Help. Unique Situation.

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by zilly, Apr 10, 2011.

    So, my friend and I started writing a novel about a year and a half ago. We finished it in the middle of January of this year.

    Before sending out any query letters to publishers or agents, we wanted to get the opinion of some local literary scholars from Universities. We got feedback better than we would have ever possible imagined. So, in the beginning of March we started to look for publishers that would be a good fit. After narrowing down a large list to about ten publishers, we were ready to start sending out query letters when we found out that half of them we reported for being sketchy operations.

    After that setback, we decided against sending directly to publishers and set our sights on getting an agent. In the middle of March we sent out of first query letters. However, we wrote the query letter before we made a major change (renaming all of the characters) and forget to make the changes in the query letter. So, needless to say, our first "batch" of submissions we assume was pointless (we had all the wrong names).

    But, somehow we managed to get a follow up after our ninth rejection.

    Since that, we've sent out another few "batches" of submissions--probably around 30.

    We really have no clue what we are doing as we are first-time authors from West Virginia. Hardly anyone we know has any teeth or shoes and they definitely know nothing of writing books or even reading them. So, we assumed that our query letter was probably flawed. But, we got another response from an agent who doesn't represent fiction that said that our query letter was outstanding and she'd really like to help us, but she wouldn't be much help.

    So, now we are really confused. We understand that one person's opinion is one person's opinion. But, we asked a few of the local literary scholars about our query letter and they said that it was good as well.

    The first ten rejections really don't count since we messed them up so badly, but, after that, we're still at 8 rejections to two follow ups (plus the one from the original that is still a mystery to us).

    We don't think that is such a bad ratio, but, the problem is that, of the three follow ups, none of them have wanted to represent us after reading several chapters of the book.

    With all that being said, we already have literally thousands of people that our asking us: "When is your book being published? We can't wait to buy it." And, I'll be working a summer job that I'll meet literally thousands of people per week. So, self-publishing on Amazon seems really promising to us at this point.

    For one, we'd make more money per book selling our book for $5 on Amazon then we would if a publisher picked it up and sold it for $15.

    Also, our book is a young-adult book heavily influenced by pop culture. While we've had older people say they like the book a lot, we still just don't see very many people over 30 buying the book.

    That being said, teens and twenty-somethings don't go to book stores anymore. They buy books on Amazon and our book is very intelligent and the people that will like it have e-readers in vast disproportion to the general public, so we really don't think self-publishing is going to be a set back at all.

    Additionally, agents are typically in that older generation that just isn't going to like our book as much as the younger generation. It's fundamentally different from anything that's been written in terms of style--like Cather in the Rye was when it was written. We feel like it's an uphill battle getting an agent because we think that they just can't understand that this style of writing is appealing to a large group of people.

    However, before we make any decisions, we still want to send out a few more query letters and see what happens.

    But, before I leave for my summer job, we really want our book to be available just because I'll be meeting ridiculous amounts of people from all over the world and we think it will be great networking. So, we really want to either be positive we'll be published or self-published on Amazon by the June.

    What we want to know is: what would you do in this situation? Are we doing good in terms of follow-ups to rejections? Do you think we are making too big a deal about the challenges of getting an agent/publisher because of our writing style?

    P.S. you guys have been awesome to us so far and we really do value all of your opinions. Thank you so much!
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're not going to find an agent and have that agent have a publisher lined up by June.

    After a query, the agent is going to want to see the full manuscript. They won't read it over night. (They have other clients and responsiblities to tend to). Then you'll have to negotiate a contract, if the agent determines they want to represent your work. Then the agent will work with you to prepare a pitch and other materials for submitting your work to publishers he/she things will be interested.

    Once that happens, there will be waiting again. First to see if any of the initial editors at the targeted publishers are interested and then they'll have to read the full manuscript--which again, won't happen over night.

    Then there will have to be negotiations for the contract...and that is only the beginning of the publishing process, if an agent to represent your and your friend's work is obtained, and then a publisher for your work is found.

    Just my two cents.
     
  3. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    There are a lot of assumptions and assertions being tossed around in your post, and I'm going to, kindly, call BS on some of them.

    Basically, it's a bit naive and just sounds like self-serving rationalizing to go on about how agents are from an older generation so won't like your book, that you had all the wrong character names (so those rejections didn't count? They do, probably more than you realize), that it's just because it's so fundamentally different in style (though I don't recall any explanation into how), that young people don't buy books from book stores anymore, that an agent simply won't understand your style of writing or it's appeal to this large group of people you keep swearing are frothing at the mouth waiting for your book.

    It's all seems like a smoke screen. The fact is, 99% of the time, the writing is either good enough or it isn't. My guess is the writing just isn't good enough (yet) for an agent to take a chance on it, plain and simple.

    And if in reaction to me saying that is something along the lines of 'well, suchandsuch masterpiece was rejected suchandsuch many times...' then maybe the problem isn't the manuscript, but that you guys just aren't quite ready for the publishing world. Yes, there are exceptions out there, but hoping to be an exception is a dangerous game when you're risking your potential future as an author, and it's not the kind of think a professional is going to rely on, much less use as an excuse. And unfortunately, you'll be expected to act like a professional before ever being paid as one if you expect to be taken seriously by a traditional publisher

    You do indeed sound young and in my opinion probably not quite ready for all it takes to make a book successful anyhow, whether self-published or traditionally (both of which take different sorts of work, but a lot of it). My advice would honestly be to keep working on your craft, keep learning about the industry, keep maturing, keep reading and revising the manuscript you already have.

    I'm not saying stop writing or especially don't stop learning about the industry and the publishing process. Researching publishes because you want to submit directly, and having half of them end up scams is sort of a huge sign you probably aren't ready to have your work published, and probably an indicator the actual work probably isn't ready either.

    Publishing isn't a race, take your time to do it right, when you and the manuscript are both truly ready. Especially because the mark of a successful author these days isn't in getting their first manuscript picked up or even published, but how quickly and effectively they can produce a second manuscript.

    There are a ton of questions that need to be answered and focused on instead of all the reasoning and excuses in your post. It's not bad that you're trying to figure it all out and learn about the industry, but rationalizing rejections and this quickly looking to self-publish sounds like a huge mistake (that many young and/or immature writers seem to be making these days).

    Here are some more important questions:

    Have you and your writing partner talked about that? Are you done or nearly done with a followup novel? Are you pitching the co-written novel as a one-and-done effort, and then hoping an agent picks you up for long term, and do you have appropriate writing samples of just your work along? Are you expecting an agent to represent both you and your co-writer as a team, and for how long, and what if the partnership breaks down?

    What I would personally do, I think, is have learned enough about the industry and gotten my work polished enough that it could be successful traditionally published, and then self-publish it (maybe even under the advisement of an agent). Self-publishing shouldn't be where you go when your writing isn't good enough to find success elsewhere, and it's certainly not the route to go under the impression that agents are all just too dumb or old to understand the genius of your manuscript.
     
  4. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Oh yeah, this too!

    Even if through some miracle a [reputable] publishing contract was signed today, it probably still wouldn't be anywhere close to being on shelves by this summer. Next summer, maybe... and seriously only maybe.

    So, in the column of needing a product by this summer, that pretty much rules out anything BUT self publishing? Though self-publishing surely takes a lot of time as well, you don't just email a .doc and have a book the next day, afaik. :p
     
  5. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Thank you. This is very important information for us. We had no idea that it would take as much as a year for a book to be purchasable after an agreement between publisher and author was made

    With Amazon, that's pretty close to how it works.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the average time from signing a contract with a paying press to seeing a book on the shelves is 18-24 months...

    pay heed to all twe and pops have said... they're right on all counts, sorry to say...

    more important than all of that, however, is the question of rights... do the two of you have a legal collaboration agreement/contract in place?... if not, no one will be willing to take on your work, since one of you could conceivably claim sole authorship and a legal brawl ensue that no agent or publisher will want to have to deal with...

    and before you say you trust each other to the death, face the reality that when money raises its ugly head, everything else can fly out the window in a wink...

    so you must have a collaboration agreement signed and sealed and be able to prove that to anyone you query...
     
  7. JSchwartzkopf
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    JSchwartzkopf New Member

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    I would try the online publishing first (i.e. Amazon). It's a great way to build up a following of readers. There's an author who lives in my area who sold over 100,000 copies of her books just by doing Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Now, she's getting those books picked up by a publisher.

    I believe her name is Amanda Hocking from Austin, MN.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Publishing through Amazon, or self-publishing, is a great way to build a following of readers, but only if that happens. What usually happens is a ton of work for few follows, little profit, and much obscurity (same as most traditional publishing as well, hah).

    Sorry, but there's a one-in-a-million example for everything, and it's best not to make one's own decision (or advise others) based on such examples.

    I'd never talk down to someone's achievements, and it's great that Hocking caught a stroke of luck and made it big, but rest assured it's the exception, not the rule.
     
  9. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Well, you just said it. Most authors sell less than 3k copies per book.

    We don't care if we get published. We don't have egos. We want people to be familiar with our story.

    If it is terrible--like you are assuming--and it somehow gets published, it won't sell. We'll sell like 2k copies. If we put it online--and it's terrible--it won't probably sell the same since all of our friends want to read it.

    I have a good job. I don't care about the money. I just want people to read the story. And, I have to believe that--if it's good and we put it online--it will stand out just as much as if it's good and we get it published.

    The only reason that I cared about a publisher before was that I thought it just added that extra sense of security to a consumer that the book may be good/legitimate. But, I'm starting to not believe that anymore.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's most traditionally published authors. Most self-published authors, I believe, sell less than twenty copies. I very seriously doubt that if you self-publish, you'll sell the 2K copies that you seem to think are all but assured. You say that all your friends want to read it, but do you really have two thousand friends close enough to spend five dollars on it?

    Publishers not only have access to the manuscript, but access to editors (and editors do far, far more than just find your typos and grammatical errors) and marketers and designers and distributors. And while they don't control the reviewers or the bookstores or the American Library Association, they have a relationship with them. Do you think that the two of you, alone, can do a better job than all of that?

    Two followups in ten queries is, I believe, a very good result, even though the two followups didn't choose to represent you. I'm surprised that you think that you should have had a better response than that - it actually strikes me as an astoundingly good result, and I can't begin to imagine why it would inspire you to give up on traditional publishing.

    Re:
    "We feel like it's an uphill battle getting an agent because we think that they just can't understand that this style of writing is appealing to a large group of people."

    Agents are _in the business_ of knowing what appeals to different groups of people. Do you really think that an agent who represents YA fiction, who does that for a living, won't know more about that market than you do? (As a side note, why did you send fiction to an agent who doesn't represent fiction?)

    Yes, maybe this is an utterly unique work that no agent in the business can begin to understand. But... how often do you really believe someone who complains that their stuff is great, it's just not succeeding because it's misunderstood? If you imagine someone other than yourself making that claim, does it ever occur to you that perhaps they're incorrect?

    Yes, yes, you don't want to be rich and famous, you just want people to read your book. But do you really _know_ that your book is as good as it can be? Do you _know_ that those agents that declined after reading chapters didn't see some genuine issues with the writing? I'm not saying that your book is "terrible", I'm saying that there's a reason why even the best authors usually work with an editor. And I'm saying that there's a pretty decent chance that someone who has written their first novel and has no experience with publishing will know less about publishing than people employed in the publishing industry.

    ChickenFreak
     
  11. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I just wanted to point out that this, also, may suggest that you're just not ready. If you haven't researched the agents you are sending your work to enough to be sure that they actually represent the genre you have written in, you can't expect to get a legitimate response.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is just based on experience - it is going to take time and patience it often takes years to find the right agent for a book even if there is nothing wrong with it. I know with each query I have made that my ability to do it has got better, I am selling better with each one, my blurb improves etc also over time my ability to write is improving so I send a new letter and synopsis showcasing my latest ability. I have also gone back and rewritten the book. Not every agent is going to read your book and be passionate about it - I don't know about you but I want one that loves my book not just one that thinks it will sell - the agent that was retiring contemplated taking it on but we both decided it was better not as by the time she responded I was no longer just writing YA fiction and she specialises in children's books.

    I think to have had two non standard responses and I had one retiring agent phone me to be a good sign. They were what encouraged me to go back and look at my story and rewrite it. (I have sent to 9 agents only one since rewrite and not heard back yet).

    It is just a case of learning to take the rejection some I find more difficult to take than others. i am also intially doing one at a time - I am finding feedback from Agents in the UK is that they don't like it when you blanket bomb agents - so for the really good ones I figured patience was worth it, fully researching each one and letting them know in my letter why I am sending to that particular agency. This is proving good for me because when I do get a non standard reply it has given me hints about how to re configure my query for the next one. It also gives me more space to improve with each one, maybe reedit or look at the manuscript again.

    They also won't represent you if your book will be in direct competition with another on their list. So looking at the authors they already represent is essential. It gives a good indication about styles they like and what they won't take on because it is too similar. I do have interesting one in that the picture of a literary agent inspired a character in my latest book lol

    Also have you considered as it is literary fiction looking at agencies that specialise in that and not specifically targeting it as YA ? With mine it is at the older end of YA so I have two synopsis one to send out with it as a YA and the other as an adult book.
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    What gave you that impression? It's not one that I got.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read Zilly's other posts and assuming it is the same work. It certainly seems from the posts she has made before it has that potential. I could be wrong haven't read any of it.
     
  15. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Think Zilly is a guy...

    I didn't see any samples posted in the review room, but I'd be willing to bet it's not literary.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not review posts just general ones but we can let Zilly himself answer it lol
     
  17. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    It is also my understanding that many agents may be hesitant to take on two new authors for representation. That will leave each of you with the ability to go off in who knows what direction and may not be in their best interest. While the book may have potential, the fact that you are two unknown entities instead of just one may be a strike against you. Just something to consider.
     
  18. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    We would consider it literary fiction, yes. But, that's all a matter of opinion.

    We've been targeting agents interested in YA, humor, and pop culture. That being said, we haven't been very selective in who we send to. Lately, authors from the area have been giving us the advice to send to as many agents as possible, so we've been sending to anyone that's not interested in YA or humor.

    You have given us good input on the consequences of writing together and we are well aware of them. We really appreciate your feedback.

    We want to make it clear that we do not think we know more about publishing or current markets than anyone. We know very little.

    We wrote a story and it turned out to be exactly what we wanted. We made it clear from the beginning that we didn't know how big of a market there is for the style of writing we used. It's an issue that we've brought up in every post we've made concerning the story.

    However, we could not believe the responses that we received from local professors. One went as far as comparing it to Catcher in the Rye and another wants to teach it as class material when it is published. Another went on to say that he could see it being taught in high schools. We don't believe they would lie to us this much for no reason. If they thought it was terrible and didn't have the decency to tell us so, they could have at least only went as far to say that it was decent or that it needed work. Why on earth would professionals go out of their way to give us that kind of feedback to artificially inflate us? It doesn't make sense to us.

    Because of this response, we are reluctant to self-publish on Amazon. We feel that would be locking ourselves out of reaching this potential.

    However, we are a little confused why the majority of you are so adamant that we not self-publishing on Amazon. We'd really like to hear more about why you wouldn't do this in our situation.

    As I've mentioned earlier, we are looking at the situation like this:

    If our book is terrible, it won't get published. If, by some long shot it does, it won't sell and no one will read it.

    If our book is great, if we put it on Amazon, the word will get out sooner or later and people will read it. Will as many people read it as would have had it been published? Probably not. But, if it's successful, that's good enough for us.

    Why would anyone wait two years to have their work be accessible? One of us could be shot in the head tomorrow. It seems like a long time to wait (especially considering that the majority of you believe our work is terrible and we are living in a fantasy) for something that seems to be of little benefit.

    We want to be writers, but we are young and this is our first story. If it's not successful, maybe that's an indication that we ought to consider something else. And, it would be better to know that now than two years in the future.

    We think that we've put a lot of thought into this. We've been given a list of agents. Once we submit to all of them, we'll wait a while for the responses. If 100 agents turn us down, that's a pretty good indicator to us that it's not getting published. Are we missing something?

    Once again, thank you all for all the advice. You guys are great.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would focus your attempts - I don't know about in the US but here the better agents really do not like the blanket bomb approach.

    Look at selling it to an agent interested in literary fiction as well, have different styles of synsopsis. When you send to an agent research them first - those that have websites read them, look at the other authors they represent. When you send the letter I don't know if in the US it is good to say why you chose that agency.

    There is no point sending to an agent who says they will not accept that kind of work. I have just decided to be patient and take it more slowly. Also not everyone likes Catcher in the Rye - personally i can't stand the book and know many others that dislike it. If it is in the same vein not every agent is going to like it.

    Personally from what you have written I would take a step back, look through your synopsis, query letter, reread the book etc Then start to look at agents and decide what you want in an agent, and start sending to ones that offer that.
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Hrm, I'd love to see an excerpt of the work, because if professors are saying this, and you're already finding success with agents, which despite your seeming disappointment having them request an actual manuscript is success, it may really be good, which is even more reason, imo, to not self-publish to amazon just to get the work out there (it takes a bit more than put it on amazon and if it's good suddenly you have tons of readers, and in fact more good works get ignored via self-publishing than traditional publishing, I would guess, and by far).

    Anyway, it all sounds interesting and honestly very confusing.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    zilly...
    so, do you have a collaboration agreement signed and sealed?... or not?
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Entirely agree - I think you are just expecting too much from the process. Even Harry Potter took fourteen months and several agents to find one that would go with it.

    I know my own in a year of writing is good - I have had two non-standard replies from agents, that phonecall and one publisher requested the manuscript. I haven't been accepted but it is positive. (this was before the phonecall and the help I got putting together my query and the decision to rewrite). Rejections can come for any number of reasons - if you are not getting all standard replies then your work has something and you query letter is good enough to pique interest.

    That is another reason to research the person who reads the full maunscript may not have been the reader who liked it - so the reader may have felt positive but the person in the next round may have hated it. It depends on the size of agency.
     
  23. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    If the work is as good as advertised, this may actually be one of the only things that are discouraging agents, so it is indeed an important question.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I thought your book was terrible, I'd wave my hand and say, sure, great, self-publish. Why should I care if you destroy the future of a lousy book? I care because you may be about to destroy the future of a _good_ book.

    I don't believe that your work is terrible. I haven't seen that anyone does. You seem to interpret various statements along the lines of "your book may not be quite as polished and ready as you think it is" as meaning "your book is terrible". They do not mean the same thing, not by any stretch of the imagination.

    Maybe you're assuming that most successful authors wrote a publication-ready book that required no editing, no changes, no comments, no input at all from the publisher? I do not believe that's true. I don't know if _any_ successful author has ever achieved that, especially with their first book. Odds are that you book, even if it is a great, world-changing book, could still benefit from the attentions of an editor, and that in fact its greatness may be largely masked _without_ those attentions. And that's ignoring the attentions of people skilled in marketing and all of the other things that a publisher can do for your book.

    If your book is great, whether a polished great or a rough one that still needs work, then I think that you owe it to your book to give it the best chance that it can have. And that means, right now, that you should go with traditional publishing. Maybe in twenty years, ten years, even two years, that won't be true. Right now, it's true. Right now, if you self-publish, you will very likely be lost in the noise. I understand that you're confident that if a book is good, people will find out, but I don't think that you can count on the world being that fair.

    ChickenFreak
     
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  25. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    The query letter might also be the reason you're not seeing responses. After querying about 10 agents, I've actually got 5 responses within 2 weeks and one of them that wasn't standardized really spoke to me.

    Essentially, the agent told me that my novel is a good idea and sounds like it has good potential but it wasn't the kind of thing they could take on at this time. Sure it sucks to be denied but I was touched to hear that kind of response.

    It's going to take a lot of patience. I don't think you can expect much of anything to happen within 2 months. I'd suggest to keep trying and plugging away. Maybe have some of your professors check out that query letter and see if they could find anything to help/fix/change.

    If you try to rush this process it could only end up hurting you and your buddy.
     

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