Time to crack my knuckles and settle down with a plate of pffefernuese cookies and write a second post in a day.
On a fairly regular basis I’m asked why I’m not querying Sacred Blood. Betas have loved it, I have people I’ve never associated with asking when they can buy it, 730 people have added it to their to-read list on GoodReads, a giveaway I ran ended up with one of the highest number of entrants on the site (a couple thousand), and so on. Sure, this wouldn’t be great for someone who’s established, but it’s not half bad for someone who has yet to sent the manuscript to the printers. I’m working my tail off though trying to promote and build up anticipation further than my sphere of friends. So why not query and let someone else handle all the grunt work?
This wasn’t an easy decision, and I admit I have doubts every now and then. I believe enough in Sacred Blood that I am not only working with my own editors, but will be funding a print run. Those aren’t cheap! I’m not going to just write a book, edit a couple times, then push to a print-on-demand with nothing out of my own pocket on the line. The original release date was October 1, but I pushed it back a couple months to save up more money. I wouldn’t do this if I doubted the story or its message.
So again, why not query if I feel so strongly about my book?
Well, the answer has several parts. I guess the part that puts my neck closest to the block is admitting I was concerned about a lot of agents. Sacred Blood is my baby, and I didn’t feel comfortable entrusting it to just anyone. At first I did query agents who at least represented my genre, though they were more to break the ice. I could always say no, and finally did. Two agents told me to change the ending so that Juliette went back to Nathaniel and “reformed him with her love,” a lá Fifty Shades. There’s not enough head-desking in the world for that one, and I don’t want a concussion trying to find out if there really is. I already deal with chronic migraines.
So on my way. I had another agent who couldn’t stick to her own schedule. If we’re supposed to talk on the phone on a certain date at a certain time, don’t e-mail me a week later saying something came up. Several times. I can understand one emergency, but not several, and I’m also a little less lenient about not even getting a quick e-mail sooner. I had emergency surgery and still contacted the clients I had at the time to let them know I was having an emergency and going in to surgery. That was me on the table. So yes, I felt more than slighted about someone who repeatedly blew off call times. We never did catch each other on the phone, and I finally cut communication. I don’t have time for someone who won’t give the courtesy of an e-mail.
In response to this, I decided to keep strictly to agents about whom I had a positive gut feeling and a genuine sense of wanting to work with that particular agent for more than their status. For every fifty agents I researched, maybe one was up to snuff. Big names, small names, what had the repped before, do their websites leave me with the feeling that they’re going to cut and run at some point… Everything was considered, and the smallest thing resulted in my rejection. In this game, the right to reject goes both ways.
I was close to the end of my rope when an agent, a well-known name, who had turned me down weeks before, sent me an offer to review my full manuscript…for a fee. This is highly unethical.
By this point I still hadn’t contacted the agent I most wanted to work with. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I had a hard time feeling my manuscript was truly finished. I’m that person who never stops looking for ways to improve, whether it’s in my small business, writing, you name it. I was that teenager who could get A’s in advanced classes and still feel there was room for improvement. But finally I bit the bullet and queried, considering stopping after that. (Yes, that agent did turn me down. Sad face, but I picked up and moved on.)
The more I thought about it, the more I found wrong for me with the traditional model. I’d have to give up my own darling and let someone else call all the shots. The cover I love so much I knew would probably be kicked to the curb, and the name I felt right would probably end up changed. A publisher would get to decide how far into the future to release it, rarely shorter than a couple years, or if it would be shelved for the next decade, preventing me from doing anything with it. I’ve met an author who has a shelved book. How hard that would be!
Years? Why yes, it’s common for it to be a couple years between signing with a publisher (an agent doesn’t guarantee a publishing deal) and the release date. Due to the subject matter of my book and dangerous trends happening right now, I do not feel that waiting until 2015, if not later, is the right thing to do. We have hit a point where abuse-as-romance has become so accepted that scads of readers just don’t see what the point is in bothering to speak out, even though abuse has been normalized. Now I don’t know how many people will buy my book, but I do feel it’s important to have an option out there that doesn’t make abusive men out to be these heroes who we all should want to date.
To be blunt, I don’t want to wait until the third Fifty Shades movie is about to hit theaters. I feel like I need to do something NOW, and among my betas, two women have found the courage to leave their own bad relationships, and one man has finally started understanding that women who stay really don’t feel they have a choice. If three people have had live-changing lightbulbs go off among a fairly small group of people, then I think it would be irresponsible to wait years when people are going through these relationships and having these misunderstandings NOW. Books have power, for good or bad, and I want to get some good out there.
Add to this how authors themselves must do the grunt work of getting their book’s title out there and foot the bills for their own publicity before publishers will get involved and pay, and I just had a hard time justifying the traditional route.
So this is where I am. Agent-free and in charge of Sacred Blood. I will have no one to blame but myself it it flops. I have the ability to decide when it will be published, in what formats, the cover, everything. The freedom I have does come with costs. ISBNs aren’t cheap, and I refuse to use a free one through Createspace. For others, this is fine. I am not them. My ISBNs are registered to my little independent publishing house (Vancouver Independent Publishing, VIP, because I like to amuse myself sometimes). I will be the one bearing the costs of a print run. With greater risk comes the chance of greater rewards. I get to keep a lot more of the money this way (I will be donating some of it to battered women’s shelters), and buyers won’t have to wait a few weeks before their order is shipped. I will be the one in charge of everything. More work, more money to spend, but more freedom.
I am fully away that it’s a tangled knot of a world, and that I’ll have to push my books through various distribution channels. I’ll be the one having to make sure I’m listed with Ingram and the other major players, and to have a plan in place for larger distribution, which I do. You won’t find me claiming to know all there is though, and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, but will learn from them.
So I suppose I can still answer the question in the title. To query or not. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t turn down an offer from an agent I felt really good about, and occasionally I think about querying again now that I can point to more of a history of networking and promotion. But I’ve queried the few agents I really wanted to work with, received rejections, and will respect the rule about not querying the same ones twice, and if I don’t re-query, what chance is there of an offer or any interest? If only I could tell a lie, I’d say I never think about what that would be like. So it remains a nice thought, but a daydream that will likely remain in its own world.
If I had a bottle of wine, I’d raise it in toast to grabbing the proverbial bull by its horns and hanging on for dear literary life. Maybe later I’ll get some and just consider it research of some sort and get back to my latest round of editing and picking apart my own work. This is the last round before I send it to be printed, so I may need that wine after all!