Thursday, 18 June 2009

2. Swimming with Sharks... or, The oozelum bird syndrome.

(oozelum bird... see

So; there's this big folder on the hard drive containing three word files making up the fledgling Trilogy. Time to start sniffing around the web to gather a few clues, hints, and ego-dents, with regard to whether it ever sees the light of day.

It really didn't take too long to realise that the chances of Literary kudos for an apprentice novelist were marginally less than the likelihood of striking a match on a jelly. The general concensus was:

1. Find an amenable Literary Agent. Publishing novels is nigh on impossible without a literary agent, most of whom will not even consider newcomers. Even those literary agents who claim to be open-minded about beginners generally are not, and usually, will not even bother responding.

The usual reply, (If at all... and after about a month)... was: "Sorry; I don't represent un-published authors."

2. Try the publisher direct... (The usual reply... if at all, and after anything up to three months)... was: "We don't represent un-agented authors."

So; pick an Agent... or a Publisher, and write a synopsis. Synopses are far more difficult to write than the novel ever was. It's not easy condensing 120,000-odd words into a few pages. But it is really important. You have to tell the entire story in your synopsis; and this one piece of writing the only thing that might make the Agent/Publisher decide to look a little further into your sample chapters.

A really good guide to writing synopses can be found at:

Even with the most polished synopsis in the history of the written word; your chances are still pretty thin.
You will soon get used to the standard reject letter, or, if your Literary Nemesis is in a good mood that particular day; something personal and friendly, like...

"An interesting concept, but, unfortunately not quite what I'm looking for at the moment. I wish you the best of luck in placing your book."

Nice and friendly; not ripping your baby to shreds... but still, a resounding raspberry.

Now; come the first of the sharks;

Vanity publishing.

Starry-eyed authors, who want nothing more than to hold their published books in their hands, are prime targets and easy pickings for these predators.
Such publishers often misleadingly refer to themselves as 'partnership', 'self-publishing', 'joint venture', or 'subsidy' publishers. But however they may refer to themselves, and however much they may deny that they are - if they charge you to publish your book - they are a vanity publisher, and make their money not by selling copies of a book, but by charging clients as much as possible to print an unspecified number of copies of that book. They may even claim to market them. Most major bookbuyers and acquisition editors will not buy copies of books centrally from vanity publishers, leaving the poor author to market them as best he might.

First major heads-up... ALWAYS check out an agent or publisher in "Preditors & Editors." at

This site recommends accredited Agents and Publishers, and blows the whistle on the sharks.

Also worth checking out:

Absolute Write Water Cooler at


The good guys can be found in:

Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2009 at

or for those in the USA...

Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc. at

So; that's the first of the sharks harpooned.

The next one to watch out for, is...


Self-publishing should really be seen as a last resort. It is better to get your book published and distributed at someone else's risk and expense, and to have the process handled by experienced people with adequate staff and equipment, than to struggle with it yourself.
Even if your book turns out to be a big success, it is highly unlikely that you will do better with it in terms either of sales or of profit by publishing it yourself than you would have done with an established publisher. The rule of thumb with this type of publishing is the same advice as for playing the Stock Market... Don't risk more money than you can afford to lose.

Probably, the best self-publishing site is Lulu, com at:

If you decide to go down this route, remember, if you want to get your book onto places like Amazon, you must have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) allocated.

How do you get an ISBN?

In the United Kindom, contact:

The UK ISBN Agency
12 Dyott Street
London WC1A 1DF
Phone:(+44 )0207420 6008

In the United States, contact:

R.R. Bowker
121 Chanlon Road
New Providence, NJ 07974
Phone (908) 665-6770 Fax (908) 665-2895
You can download the application form or apply online here:

In Canada, contact:

The National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
Phone: (819) 994-6872 Fax: (819) 997-7517

The cost of a block of numbers depends on the country in which you're applying. Generally you will receive a block of 10 numbers, but larger blocks are available upon request.

Generally allow 10 business days from the time an ISBN application is received at the agency (not from the date sent by the publisher.) Priority processing is available in two business days from receipt of application. Express processing is 24 business hours.

The ISBN should be printed on the copyright page, and in the lower right hand corner of the back cover of your book. You should use a font size between 9 and 12 points. The number should also appear on the upper edge of the left hand flap of a dust cover. For disks and cassettes, the number should be printed on the label. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused.

As you can see; its real fun stuff... and that's BEFORE your lovingly nurtured baby even thinks about turning itself into hard copy.

Next time:

Editing... Your Field of Broken Dreams.

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