In 2010 I won a Best Fiction Award and had three agents ask for my full manuscript.
I was attending the SCWC (Southern California Writers Conference) and had submitted pages as an Advanced Read. One of those agents was based in New York and asked me to give him first read of the entire manuscript. Two weeks later he asked to represent me. Happy Happy Joy Joy! To say it was a high point in my writing life is an understatement.
Talk about excitement—I was sure I was on the road to success. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d been working on that first novel for more years than I wanted to admit…and had been steadily going to conferences for three years.
Six years later, I have three completed manuscripts, but no book deals from NY.
It certainly isn’t through a lack of trying. To set the stage: My novels, Tracker and Pursuit are the first two books in the Fox Walker Series. Over the course of years, my agent created great query letters and got requests to read the full manuscripts from Random House, Penguin, Crown, St. Martin’s Press, Little Brown, Harper Collins, Tor, Kensington…to name a few. This process, by the way, takes forever (or so it seems to the writer), as the editors at the houses are so overwhelmed and an agent has to be diligent about follow-ups. Weeks pass, then months…
When the rejection letters began to trickle in, they all had a common theme. See if you can spot it:
“We’ve now had three in-house reads on it, all of which were respectable. Bob and I, along with another editor, have all looked at it and we did like the story and think Indy Quillen has a really promising voice. Her expertise in wilderness survival and Native American culture really do add to the book and distinguish it from a lot of other thrillers. We’re just not sure how big the market is for such a niche kind of a story. We put our heads together and tried to think about how to make it work, but with the market tough as it is, and our thriller list already a bit crowded, it’s harder to roll the dice. I’m sorry that we’re going to have to pass this time.”
“As you know, I think Walker is a great invention and there’s a lot of fun to be had in reading about his adventures. Indy Quillen is a smart, sharp writer and I found the book really took off when Walker and Logan are outsmarting each other in the wilderness (I always love a good cat-and-mouse). I read it quickly, eager to see how it all resolved. There’s something here (and I can see why Tracker, which I enjoyed as well, has already gotten some accolades), but perhaps it’s also just a little outside my wheelhouse…”
Love the Fox Walker character and the premise…see it as a series. I really want to publish this book, but ultimately have to pass because I just don’t think it’s going to be big enough for me, considering the main character is Native American.
It goes on and on—so painfully close—but no luck! And here is the most recent:
Love the Fox Walker character…nice twists and turns…writing is good. Honestly, ten years ago we would have easily published this book…but not in today’s market.
So what have I taken away from this experience?
For me, the dream of being traditionally published has always meant validation for my writing. Even as many of my author friends have encouraged me to indie publish, I’ve resisted. But when I objectively read these rejections, I see that it isn’t about the writing so much as about the marketing. It appears I’ve found some niche market that no one wants to take on.
As my agent remarked, they are only taking on about 1% of new authors and only books they believe will be huge. I think that sometimes they don’t even recognize huge when they see it. Example: Andy Weir, author of The Martian. He couldn’t get an agent or New York’s interest. It was only after he self-published and his sales took off that he got the attention of an agent. The rest is history. I’m not saying I’m the next Andy Weir, but it does give me pause…
My agent and I put our heads together and decided that at this point I should go ahead and Indie Publish my Fox Walker novels. We both love the stories and want to see them in book form. I want to share them with readers. Thank goodness we have the opportunities that we do today!
So I’m announcing today: I’m pursuing Indie Publishing for Tracker and Pursuit.
Yes, I’m excited and scared at the same time! Once a month I’ll share my journey with you here on my blog…all the trials, tribulations, victories and insights…as I take on this new adventure. I hope you will feel free to ask me questions along the way. I may not have the answers, but we can explore this new territory together. It sure beats hacking away at this all alone!
This is my first month of the adventure—so here’s where I am:
Victory: My manuscript has, of course, been professionally edited (multiple times) and edited by my agent. But, I’ll do a final read-through before sending it out for formatting.
Insight: It takes months to get through this process—for the editor, and for you to make the revisions. Take the time to do it right! Don’t rush this step!
Trial: I’ll need to ask for book endorsements from my author friends who write in a similar genre.
Insight: This is the toughest one for me. How difficult it is to reach out and ask this favor! But it has to be done, so I have to do it. The worst they can say is ‘no’. And who knows, they might just say ‘yes’! Again give this process plenty of time.
Victory: I am happy to announce that this week I was able to procure the cover designer I want to use (he is booked up for months!) and the timing works for me – excited! Of course I’ll be sharing the cover designs with all of you for your feedback.
Insight: I almost blew this one! When I finally found the designer I wanted, turns out he is booked up the first half of the year. Fortunately someone had to cancel and he was able to work me in for this summer. Wow – that was a close call! And I thought I was waaaay ahead of the game on this one. NOT! Take heed.
Tribulation: I’ll also be doing research on creating ARC’s and how to send them out as a request for reviews—or if I even need to do this. Brand new territory for me! UGH!!!
Insight: I’ll do some reading, but also reach out to my author friends and indie bookstores on this one. Have NO idea what I’m doing at this point. Lots to learn. I promise to share what I learn as I go! BTW – ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy.
That’s it for now. I’ll update you in April. In the meantime, my agent has requested that I send him my next manuscript when I’m half way through the revisions (which is a Romantic Suspense called Reputation), so we will still be pursuing the traditional publishing avenue as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to embrace both worlds for different reasons.