A Tale of Two Books

Wordy Wednesday

Last week a fellow blogger wrote a fantastic review of my published book, Trees in the Pavement. This week I got an email from my Editor about the same book, and another email from that Agent who had asked to read my unpublished book, Favored One. Neither email was bad, exactly, but let’s just say that, during a stressful week at work, they didn’t quite lift my spirits and make my heart soar the way the review did.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit about the soaring. But only a little bit.

Pteranodon_hharder

Just about as much as that pteranodon’s wingspan

As it happens, because I’ve asked her about it a few times, my Editor was emailing me to discuss the digitising of Trees. “The general rule of thumb,” she said,

is that if the book is selling well in the print form then it will sell well in the ebook form… but as you know we’ve been struggling with your title in the print format. However production say that the overall cost for producing an ebook is between £100 and £200. If this is something you’d be interested in financing yourself I can ask them to initiate this. You would still receive royalties on ebooks as per your original contract. What do you think?

I declined the offer, because honestly, I don’t believe the royalties as per my original contract will cover the cost for me to convert it. My original contract also states, though, that when the book goes “out of print,” the rights revert to me, so, I suggested, maybe they could just call it out of print and I could finance the ebooking of Trees myself and also get the pay off. I blithely asked how many hard copies they had left.

“I’ve had a quick look,” said the Editor, “It’s about 1,800 copies and I think we printed 3,000.”

I’m starting to believe the term “struggling with your title” was an understatement. My book is in its sixth year and I haven’t even sold as many as I have blog followers? And why is this the first I’ve heard any of these numbers? So much for the soaring heart. More like plummeting, actually.

"Summit Plummet" sounds like an accurate description of what happened between review and email.

“Summit Plummet” sounds like an accurate description of what happened between review and email.

I had thought about buying up the remainder with my author discount and trying to sell them from the Jenn Store, but I don’t think I can afford 1,800, even at half price. Anybody wanna buy a book?

Then, the next day I got an email from the Agent which said,

Thank you for sending me FAVORED ONE, which I read with interest.

I am sorry not to offer you representation with this manuscript. I enjoyed your well-researched and vivid world, but I found that the story was too literally translated from the Bible for my taste. The novel didn’t give me enough new insight into a story that I’m very familiar with: it seems best suited for a reader who knows the story either much less well or much better than I do. The market is very difficult these days, and you deserve an unequivocally enthusiastic agent as your advocate.

I may well be wrong, and you should certainly seek other agents’ opinions.

I guess I wasn’t surprised, and I will discuss my reaction to the specific critique probably tomorrow, but of course I’m disappointed. At some point earlier this year I sort of made a deal with myself that if this Agent declined representing Favored One, I was just going to self-publish it . . . but that, of course, takes money, too, and I so dearly wanted the validation of a third party to tell me it was actually worth printing. (There was, in actual fact, quite a bit of peer validation of it back when I was an active member of authonomy, but nothing that earned me a book deal.)

Then I thought how I actually want Trees back, so I can have control over it myself, and so what, exactly, is my hang-up about simply starting Favored One out that way? And then I thought that the hang-up is that at least Trees got the validation, even if not a lot of sales–that someone else thought it was worth publishing. And then I thought how backwards this is–people self-publish and hope that their book will do well enough for a traditional publisher to pick it up, and here I am with a traditionally published book trying to pull it back into self-publication, more or less. And then I thought that none of that is clearing up what I should be doing with Favored One.

There’s been some good discussion of at least the Favored One angle of this conundrum on the Jenn Story page on Facebook. I’d be curious to get your feedback here, too. And I’d love to sell you a copy of Trees . . .

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12 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Books

  1. Oh man! I can understand how your heart wouldn’t be soaring after those two incidents, particularly since I’m getting the feeling they happened close together. =( You are a wonderful, wonderful writer. I think your healthy blog following proves that very well. And you are so much more charismatic and relatable than any stuffy publishing company could possibly be. I think your books will do well once you take over control of them. (Well, regain control in the case of “Trees” …)

    With that said, I know it’s also a case of being something that’s easy for a third person to say, but hard to believe for yourself. I feel the same way about my perpetually in-progress novel, which is probably why it continues to be “in-progress”. I understand that feeling that you need validation from someone else about your work being worthy of publication.

    • Thanks for “getting it.” I think there are a whole lot of facets to this dilemma which I haven’t probably even begun to discover yet. But I’ll keep mulling it over . . .

      I think another factor may be that I might be a good writer, but I can’t sell a thing!

  2. Jenn, It is the best of times, it is the worst of times….

    Forgive me but I couldn’t help but think of that. I have been thinking about your unpublished work and not because of the prompt of the agent -I really do know the story less well – I’d like to read it. So, maybe you can go ahead and self-publish. And while you are at it, launch the ebook of the Trees too. Since distance and costs involved in importing a physical book (yes, I am that poor) are a deterrent to me, I’d happily pull off the ebooks of the two volumes.

    • Thanks, Uma. I know you would. I think a number of people would, too. I think most of my readers are neither in the USA or the UK, which is where you can actually order the book from Amazon at normal postage prices. I “get” the deterrent! I’m that poor, too! I sent Lotte a copy of Trees when she won my NaNoWriMo contest and it cost me twice as much as the book costs at normal price! I practically choked!

      Anyway, at the moment, I can’t ebook Trees myself because the publishers have the rights, and I feel like I need to set a game plan in place before I self publish Favored One, but that is the direction I’m leaning at this point.

      Thanks so much for your feedback–all along the way!

  3. Self publishing is where it’s at we’re being told these days, even published authors, fed up with being mauled by editors et al, are looking for that precious autonomy over their work. There’s a feature about an author doing this in a writer’s mag I’ve been reading and she found it to be a good move. On the down side it is extra work…

    • Yeah, that’s my other concern. My seminary courses start back up in a week and I suspect now is probably not the time to squeeze in 1) finding an editor, 2) designing a cover (or finding a cover designer), 3) tweeting about my books every single minute. But I do think at some point I’m probably going to bite the bullet and try it.

    • I have definitely considered it. My brother thinks that’s sketchy (though we’ve both supported other artists using it), so I hadn’t been planning to go that direction–also, then I have to think of all sorts of rewards! But it’s probably something to put in the Thinking Pot. 😉 Thanks for the reminder!

  4. A word about self-publishing: if you’re good at marketing yourself, it could work. I recommend http://createspace.com I would try the traditional route of getting published if at all possible, but sometimes it just isn’t for one manuscript or another. 🙂 And I love your writing! Writers have to endure such criticism and rejection of their work. I hope you’ll be encouraged that so many enjoy your blog.

  5. Pingback: Liebster | That's a Jenn Story

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