Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management recently blogged on being pre-published. This, by the way, is a term that raises hackles in some people. But it just means a person who is seriously writing and trying for publication and who hasn't achieved it yet. Since the average time for getting published after that person starts seriously seeking it is ten years, there are a lot of people in that category! No matter what they want to call it.

At any rate, the point of Michael was making, as a result of an encounter at a conference, was that being pre-published is a time too many writers don't stop to enjoy. A time without deadlines, when no editors are breathing down your neck. A time when you're free to write whatever you want and your own pace.

The comments, as you can imagine, if you're a pre-published author, were lively. Check them out.

I can't go along with the agent, or the writer, here. I'm sure he's never been in this position and, in fact he states that he's quoting an author who is now published. I'll bet he caught her at a bad time--maybe a deadline coming up? Maybe her sales figures are down? She seems almost to wish she'd never been published.

Sure, we're free to write whatever we want. But if we knew what we could sell, we'd drop our creative vision and write THAT in a heartbeat. And Michael and his un-named writer don't know how I work if they think I have no deadlines. Of course I have deadlines. I set them up myself and I knock myself out to meet them. Without deadlines, I'd probably spend three years writing each book.

But when the book I really wanted to write, that I was so free to write, hasn't attracted an agent or a publisher after a year of querying, it's time to write another book that I think someone might want to read. After another year, it's time to write another one.

I really think a lot of us ARE writing books that other people want to read. In fact, people who have read mine usually want to read more. Now, how do I convince an agent that I have a market?

Long live the free, and may we soon be fettered.

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  1. You make some excellent points, Kaye, particularly along the line of how hard we "pre-published" work. Many of us are juggling several books at once (and some darned good ones, too), taking classes to improve our craft, keeping on top of the latest in the industry, creating websites, blogs, doing the whole social networking thing, building our platforms...now if we could just convince the right people to say yes. It's a shame not to take advantage of and nurture such dedication and talent.

  2. Thanks, Susan. Yeah, I don't feel free and unfettered at all!

  3. Here's the issue I'm grappling with: Even if you could convince an agent you have a market, would it make a significant difference? Most agents take on projects they believe they can sell. The work must evidence not only market appeal, but the agent must have editorial/publishing connections to whom s/he can pitch the project. A writer forced to prove marketability suggests to me an agent without the publishing contacts necessary to sell the property. Am I looking at this wrong? Help!

  4. I've thought about that, too, VR. Doesn't it seem like you have to have the luck of the lotto winner in this game? You have to hit the agent when they're in the right mood for your writing style, the agent has to know a suitable editor, the editor has to have an immediate need for what you're writing. That's the progression as I see it. The only way to win the game is to keep playing and hope you land some luck some day.

  5. Actually, I think the unpublished do have a notion of what sells. Most of us are voracious readers. Most of the people seriously seeking publication even do strange things like reading guidelines and checking out what our target has published before.

    For some odd reason, though, we tend to write what we ourselves find interesting. :) We don't want to pretend to be other authors, we want to be ourselves. Then, there's that other part... we need to write well. Maybe we can work more on that last part. Oh, and have a business plan.

  6. You're right, Sarah, we know what will sell. We just don't know what slots each editor has open. Sometimes the very thing you're writing was just bought and the editor doesn't want another just like it.

    I still think it's 98 percent luck. I know some awesome writers who aren't published, after all.