Publishing is a Tough Town
March 11, 2023 | The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage
The Hollow Man was indie-published in 2013. I didn’t want to go through the long process of finding an agent who may or may not pitch the book to a fashionable publisher. Even though my feeling about agents / publishers was the best way to go, I wanted to make the book immediately available so interested readers could experience the thrill of terrorism from the viewpoint of an ordinary protagonist. He was no hero: not clever or capable, not talented or tested. He was just trying to survive after being thrown into the world of espionage.
Being an X-IBM guy, the technology of self-publishing was straightforward, so within a short while I had the manuscript formatted, the cover designed and everything uploaded to Amazon. I ordered 20 paperback copies and sat back to wait. Holding The Hollow Man in my hands was one of the five or six most incredible events in my like.
As the writing industry changes more and more to an online presence, it has inevitably pushed most of the work back down to us as writers. I wasn’t prepared for this change in models and how it affected our perceptions of the industry. Having this in mind, here’s my experience with traditional publishing.
In 2014, I won The World’s Best Story contest, where the top prize was an agent and a publishing contract. My belief, of course, was that a writer can have the most well-written, creative, exciting, and interesting book ever written, but if agents don’t represent it and publishers don’t print it, then a wide-range of readers cannot buy and read it. I had always imagined that agents and publishers were supposed to embrace the book selling marketplace so writers could get back to their business and write. So, any self-respecting writer needed a reputable agent and publisher, right? Well, if you thought agents and publishers do all of this for you these days, you would be wrong unless your name is Patterson, Baldacci, Child or Connelly (in my genre).
As part of the process with the professional agent and publisher that I “won”, they created a fresh cover for The Hollow Man (this turned out to be a plagiarized drawing, which neither the agent nor the publisher would help defend or redesign when I was threatened with a lawsuit from the original image owner), the pitch of the print was reduced to 9 points, making the book half its original size and difficult to read, and the retail price doubled. In the first 6 months, there was no mention of promoting, marketing or media distribution. Finally, came zero sales. I took the book back from both agent and publisher because of my perceived lack of action. I didn’t realize that was all they were obligated to do for the average author, blaming it on the growing online presence.
We all need a new publishing hero; a new white knight or Lady Godiva, depending on your preference, riding into town to save us from our publishing demons. What are your thoughts?