WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Perseverance II

As I wait for the first response to a partial, from Amy Berkower of Writer’s House (an outfit that has rejected me many times over the years), I keep counseling myself not to get my hopes up. Because even though the invitation for the partial was jam-packed with enthusiasm and praise, I’ve been through this too often not to know that it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve had agents already talking about movie rights before they suddenly lose their excitement and wind up passing. Sometimes it’s a result of having shown the book to someone else who raises killer crits, but sometimes, I suspect, it’s because the agent makes a few feeler calls to editors and receives no encouragement.

Selling a book is difficult because there are so many layers of passion that have to be penetrated. Not only does the agent have to be passionate about your book, but the editor’s assistant does too (since she’ll probably be the first one to read it at the publisher), then the editor, and then the sales force. And I suspect that often an editor is thrilled but the head of sales goes, “I don’t know what you see in this, Cruella. It’s just warmed-over Bellow.”

What often happens, I’m afraid, is that the agent cuts off the whole process by guessing that the editors’ assistants and editors she’s closest to won’t go for it. And if she does submit it anyway, the editors’ assistants might abort by assuming their bosses won’t bite. Finally, the editor kills it because she thinks the sales force won’t support it.

In other words, you have to hit a grand slam.

Even then, selling the book to the reading public is almost more fraught than getting the contract in the first place.

I remember how over the moon I was when I learned my agent had sold Parts Unknown. Man, there’s nothing like that feeling. And the eighteen months between that and publication were a halcyon time, when all the publishing pros were working hard for me, helping me hammer out a revision, doing the preliminary marketing, editing the book, lining up author appearances. But as soon as it was clear that poor old PU, as I fondly called it, was going to tank, what support there was quickly fell away.

It’s a complicated business, selling books. Even if it seems like it should be fairly easy to get a good book into the hands of the public, the competition is unreal considering the number of books published each month. As I’ve said before, nobody can buy a book they don’t know exists. It has to get in front of their eyes somehow, and that requires the publisher to publicize it. Publisher/publicize.

You’d think they see it as their main responsibility after, you know, publication.

Suddenly I’m wondering why I want to go through all of this again at this late date …

[Photo by designaire at Pixabay.]

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12 comments on “Perseverance II

  1. kingmidget
    June 29, 2017

    I still don’t know why Parts Unknown tanked.

    Don’t give up yet. As frustrating as the process is and as much as the odds are stacked against you, it seems that the odds are even higher when it comes to self-publishing.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 29, 2017

      Parts Unknown tanked because the publisher gave up on it before it came out, frankly. The Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews were the only two nails in the coffin they needed. Then came a stellar review in The Denver Post, but it was too late …

      And that’s what’s wrong with big publishing. They let outside entities tell them what’s going to fly as opposed to pushing hard on what they believe in. What a business model!

      • kingmidget
        June 29, 2017

        You’ve mentioned the negative reviews before. Which I don’t get. Do they expect every book they publish to get raves from everybody? Kind of a ridiculous standard.

      • Kevin Brennan
        June 29, 2017

        From what I gathered at the time, bookstores use Kirkus and PW to help with stocking decisions, so I guess they reason, Why stock something that got meh reviews? That’s where it takes the sales force to go in and push a title. But you’re right — it’s ridiculous.

      • kingmidget
        June 29, 2017

        Interestingly, I have never looked to Kirkuk or PW as recommendation sources.

  2. John W. Howell
    June 29, 2017

    This may be a painful journey but somehow I think you will be glad you made it.

  3. Phillip McCollum
    June 29, 2017

    I’m thinking you’re going through this all again because you can’t not go through it. As tiring as this all sounds (I’m exhausted just reading about it!), you’re probably like the rest of us: You’d rather give it a shot than fret over the ‘could’ve-beens.’

    If it’s any consolation, just remember your friends are cheering you on each step of the way and we’re here to buy drinks to celebrate (hopefully!) or, if need be, drown our sorrows.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 29, 2017

      I’m sure you’re right, Phillip. Those could’ve-beens are deadly!

      But it’s definitely great having supportive friends out there. I’ll take you up on the drinks too! 😉

  4. Woebegone but Hopeful
    June 29, 2017

    Dig in. Grit teeth. Indulge in harsh language (under your breath). Keep on keeping on.
    Ideally I want to die typing out my ‘this time I’m gonna make it big’ book! (but not just yet, it’s a four volume trilogy!)

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2017 by in Publishing.
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