Against my prior pronouncement that I would not attend the Writers League of Texas Agents Conference in Austin this weekend, I decided last minute to go. WLOT dropped the price, so I thought I might learn something, even if I could not have my pick of all the literary agents. But I did meet with two delightful agents and two exceptional editors, and we’ll see if anything comes from that.
The first day of the conference was a bit boring, without much new information, but the second day was worth the price of admission. Most of the discussion from publishing industry experts centered on self-publishing via the Internet, called “indie publishing” by those who favor jargon, or whether to go the traditional route of pursuing a literary agent and being published by a traditional house, called “legacy publishing.”
I’m in a quandary about which way to go for my novel. TO LEAVE A MEMORY targets an audience of mature female readers and sentimental male readers, so it falls in the category of “women’s fiction.” Problem is, my protagonist is male, and most literary agents prefer strong female protagonists for “women’s fiction.” But, I have an angle; my protagonist’s daughter is a “leading lady” role in the book, and at the end she becomes the conduit for helping her father achieve his grand moment of absolution. In addition, the daughter reaches a few grand revelations herself. We’ll see how this worm turns.
Self-Publish and Hire an Editor
The keynote speaker at the WLOT conference, Alan Rinzler, was adamant about the viability of selling many thousands of novels via Amazon, as I hope my brother in law Tosh McIntosh does with his “indie” novel PILOT ERROR. But then Mr. Rinzler, a brilliant man who has edited and published Toni Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Robbins, Shirley MacLaine Jerzy Kosinski and more, has quit the hardcover publishing world at age 73 to be an independent consulting editor. So he’s got motive in promoting “indie” publishing because writers need editors. I wish I could afford him.
In my recent research as a member of a local ladies’ book club, most mature female readers still buy physical books because many are not all that tech savvy. Also, they like to hold books in their hands and turn pages. So I’m still holding out for a traditional publisher who would handle book cover creation, formatting and sales — getting the book into bookstores, which is a key piece missing from “indie” publishing. I’m told publishers do not spend much time editing anymore, so it appears I do need to hire an editor before I query or submit to many more agents.
Time to Buy the RV?
Bill has not yet retired, so we cannot simply buy an RV, pack up the dogs and travel to promote my “indie” book. Sure, lots of promotion can be done online via this blog, tweeting, Facebook, etc. But to reach mature female readers, there’s no substitute for a physical presence speaking at a local club or activity center, signing books, shaking hands, etc. I’m good at that; that was my profession for 25 years. But if I’m not able to land an agent within six months, I’ll investigate going “indie” after Bill retires. This does not excite me, as I’d then be marketing a self-published tome that is not on bookshelves and available only on the Internet, except for specimens I haul around myself or others buy online. As far as Amazon goes, my novel would start at the bottom of a huge pile of 21,000 “literary fiction” Kindle e-books.
Almost anybody who writes can self-publish. In fact, the term “vanity press” comes from a self-publishing concern by that same name. So there’s still a bit of stigma to self-publishing, although that, too, will diminish over time. Many major authors are going “indie” to gain a bigger piece of the action. Publishing houses had the opportunity to invent online publishing but they didn’t. Amazon did. Whether there even will be physical publishing houses and bookstores in the next ten years is in question.
A “Day Spa” for Writers
Although I’m told that publishing-house editors no longer have time to edit books developmentally and be a writer’s creative guru, as Beena Kamlani, longtime editor for Viking Press did for Saul Bellow for years, Beena’s talk at the conference was so inspirational I regretted that I did not live in New York so we could have lunch and talk literature now and then. She describes her editing as “a day spa” for writers. Now that’s the kind of editor I’d love to hire, no matter the cost.
One other good thing happened at the conference; I met a fellow writer who lives just west of me. She writes women’s fiction, and we are delighted to have made the connection.