How to Get Published is a continuing feature at The Book Bin where we ask authors to tell us their publishing stories. Was it a rocky road or did it come easy for them? Did they start with an agent and get a NY publisher interested in their book or did they self-publish? What words of wisdom do they have for all of us who would like to be published one day?
Today’s guest is Joseph Garraty, author of the horror novel, Voice (Ragman Press LLC).
Feedback is great. As an author, I love it. Even if it’s bad, as long as it’s constructive, I can almost always learn something from it and make the current book or the next one that much better. So, when I set out to get published, not only was I all starry-eyed and excited about the prospect, but I was totally undaunted by the idea of rejection. As long as I got feedback telling me what needed fixin’, I figured it was all good.
So, I went out and got me an agent. Well, no. I went out and tried to get me an agent. What actually happened was, I sent a manuscript to an agent, she read it and rejected the heck out of it (“Good Lord, son, you’ve got your plot on backwards!”). But she told me why my plot was on backwards and said she’d like to see some revisions.
The book was unsalvageable, though, so I nuked it and wrote another one. No sense getting too attached to these things. I did keep the agent’s criticism in mind, though, and when I sent her the next manuscript, I made sure I hadn’t made any of the same mistakes. To my amazement, she signed me on.
Woohoo! I had an agent! Never another poor day! Except...the book didn’t sell. That was when the feedback I had wanted so badly started getting weird. Acquiring editors were reading the book and sending back some of the most excited rejections I’d ever heard. “This is great! Very original premise, love the writing! Please go sell it somewheres else, ’cuz I can’t sell it here!”
“Well, nuts,” I thought. “That’s not helpful—I can’t even tell what I’m supposed to fix. Oh, well. Keep plugging away, and the book will find a home.” The nonspecific rejection coupled with all the enthusiasm puzzled me, but I didn’t worry too much about it. After all, it’s not really an acquiring editor’s job to break down why they don’t want a given book. So my agent kept flogging my book around, and meanwhile I wrote another one.
I finished that book, and my agent went around with that one—same result. “Great book! Get it out of my sight!”
Eventually my agent and I parted company. I wrote another book, went looking for another agent.
And, wouldn’t you know it, the whole problem had moved down the food chain one step! Now agents were reading pages, asking for the full manuscript—and sending back glowing rejections. One actually sent back some revision requests, which I promptly made. More glowing praise. “This is great! Vivid writing, great characters, and a really enjoyable read!” Pause. “Also, I can’t sell this right now.”
This left me in an odd spot. Yes, there was a recession on. Yes, traditional publishing was getting hammered by declining sales and the advent of ebooks and, frankly, poor management in many cases. Editors and agents now wanted a sure thing more than ever, and a debut horror author has something of a cloud of stink around him or her, depending on whether the notoriously variable horror market is up or down. But come on, I thought. Give me something. It’s not like I was getting form rejections here. People were taking time out of their busy schedules to read the book, make rather extensive comments, and offer a lot of positive feedback—but with no negative feedback I could use (“If you’d take the meth-addicted turtle subplot out, we might have something here”), I had a tough time figuring out what I needed to change.
I finally decided that maybe I didn’t need to change anything. Maybe the industry really was so beat down it was placing fewer and fewer bets. Maybe it was time to start looking elsewhere.
That’s when I started exploring indie publishing. Since then, I’ve gotten my book published, gotten some great reviews, met some great people, and, best of all, I’ve had almost complete control over every step of the process. It’s been great!
And, most importantly, I’ve learned that when nobody will tell you there’s something wrong with your work—well, maybe that’s because there’s actually nothing wrong with it.
Joseph Garraty is an author of dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He has worked as a construction worker, rocket test engineer, environmental consultant, technical writer, and deadbeat musician. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His latest book is the horror novel, Voice. You can visit his website at www.josephgarraty.com. Connect with Joseph at Twitter at www.twitter.com/JosephGarraty.