Monday’s Writing Tips – Building a Farmer’s Stand





This is the last blog about potatoes.  I promise. It is just too good a metaphor to give up easily. So now you have your edited manuscript. You have sent it out to all the agents you thought would be interested and nobody seemed to want it. As a result, you’ve decided to approach publishers yourself. Do you have a game plan when you look for publishers?

Like any product, you need to be pragmatic and logical. That is why you shouldn’t be emotionally involved. I make a list of publishers to whom I will send the manuscript. I do this ahead of time, I look up the publisher’s guidelines and follow them. On the Website I can usually find whether this publisher wants a query letter, sample chapters, etc. Making a long list of those publishers who publish or are looking for my genre is personally important. It stops the hurt when the manuscript or query letter is dismissed. I cross out that publisher and proceed to the next with little pain or discouragement.

When I pick out publishing houses who sell my genre, I first send the manuscript (following the guidelines) to the large well-know publishers. I have faith, and think that –as the lottery says-“You have to be in it to win it.”

When and if I receive the rejection letters, I send my work to smaller presses. I usually receive more interest and feedback from smaller, independent publishers. I know so many writers who ignore the smaller presses. That is a mistake. Even a new publisher who is just starting out is a good option. I love the idea of helping a new publisher grow as my readership grows. I love the idea of us growing together.

I don’t ignore the live conferences. I attend all the conferences and retreats that reflect my genre and that I can afford. Many of these conferences offer pitch sessions where you can try to sell your book to an acquisition editor. If I find that they are not interested in this particular novel I thank them for their time. I work to  remain calm, polite and inquisitive about what they are looking for. Never, ever get angry or rude! Don’t burn your bridges. This is probably not your last work or novel. I pitched my work to one publisher at least three or four times. I thanked her for her time and interest. She listened to my pitches each year and on the fifth year, she published my work.

Even if a publisher is not interested in your book, she may know and recommend your novel to another publisher that she knows is looking for that type of work. I think it is easier to find a publisher by building a good relationship with the editors.  A friendly relationship with an editor endears you to that person. I even know some writers who were initially rejected and later commissioned to write a book the publisher did want.

What do you do, then,  when you have exhausted all these options and still can’t find a publisher? What would a farmer do with his potato? As a farmer, I know what they do when the market won’t carry their potato. They build their own stand and sell directly to the public. In your writing world that is called self-publishing. Do not throw your potato on a shelf to rot. Make sure it is clean and fresh and build a stand! For years self-publishing was done by what was called ‘vanity presses.’ Self-published books were dismissed and to be sure there were many unedited, messy books out on the market that gave self-published books a bad name. It is no longer that way.

Many famous writers self publish simply because they can make more money. It is important not to close that door. Some well-known authors that have self-published are Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, Mark Twain, Bernard Shaw, Stephen Crane, Beatrix Potter and many more. Some famous self-published works include Remembrance of Things Past, Ulysses, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Joy of Cooking and so many more.

I have self-published and have been published by traditional publishers. There are benefits to both. I make more money per book by self-publishing. I have better distribution with traditional publishing. No matter which I choose it is up to me to promote and market my work. If I built the stand to sell my potato it doesn’t sell if nobody knows I am sitting there. Publishing is just the beginning. Now take off your farmer’s hat. It is time to become a salesman.

Karen Kelly Boyce lives on a farm in NJ with her retired husband Michael. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. She is an award-winning novelist and writes a children’s series for Chesterton Press

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