Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A letter I got today

A letter I received today:

Hello Mr. Sawyer. I noticed your website while I was online and searching for ways to start publisizing my book before completion. The most common problem that I run into is the fact that most publsists only want to deal with nonfiction first time authors only, not fiction.

Dorrence publishing told me after review of a rough, unedited copy of my book that they want to publish it. I'm assuming they only want to make money but they also stated theire reasons why. But the truth is I want to publish with my own Isbn Number. I'm not worried about spending money because i have to to learn what I need to know. I would like to have a consultation with you over the phone and I mostly want to learn how I as A fiction Author can successfully approach a Radio or TV station that will want to hear about my fiction book because it is so irritating when they won't just because of it's genre.

After copyrighting it I let many people read a rough copy of it and guess what upon publication they all want to buy a copy. So truthfully it only matters what those people think and they are the ones buying not the publisits.

Thankyou for reading my email I was only expressing how much I need your help. Your a fiction author that has already gotten through all of this, so I really need your advice sir. please email me or give me a call thankyou sir.

My reply:

There's zero point in publicizing an unfinished book that has no publisher lined up.

Dorrance is a vanity press; they make 100% of their money from you by charging you to print your books. Vanity-press and self-published books are almost never carried in bookstores; do not go this route.

Promoting fiction is hard, and you promote it because the underlying topic is interesting: Mark Haddon gets interviewed all the time about autism because he wrote the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which has an autistic main character; I get interviewed all the time about the clash between science and religion because I wrote Calculating God, a novel that dramatizes that issue. But if your novel isn't about something of general interest, then news outlets quite rightly don't care. Read the essays about this on my website and listen to the podcast on promoting your books there.

Promoting self-published fiction is impossible; no one will believe the book is any good, because no one but the author says it is. You're right that I got through all this -- but I did so by getting a traditional, advance-paying publisher ... and you should be trying for the same. If you can't land one of those, your problem isn't lack of publicity for the book; rather, it's the quality of the book. Work on that, before you work on trying to get people to buy individual copies of it.

Best of luck.



At November 14, 2006 11:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

He might also want to check his grammar and spelling. If this is how he writes to a published author, I can't imagine what a publisher would think.

At November 14, 2006 5:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rob..

I agree with what the poster said above and with your advice to the
author of said letter.

Before I send any novel length ms out to anyone, I'm going to spell and grammar check the crap out of it. I read if you have the money for the first book/draft etc. is to invest in a copy editor. Of course after one has revised, rewritten and edited the book. These copy editors charge about $2.50/page but a good copy editor I heard is worth their weight in gold for unpublished writers such as myself.

Also, I'm also wondering what you think as a fiction writer about the writing guides of Jack M. Bickham "Scene and Structure", and Dwight Swaine's "Techniques of a selling writer." I own both of these books and am very interested in your opinions if you have any on these 2 books.



At November 14, 2006 5:57 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Well, to be honest, Jim, I think a writer needs to know how to craft his or her own sentences, just as a carpenter needs to know how to drive his or her own nails. A 500-page manuscript is going to cost you $1,250 to be copyedited at the rates you cite; you could buy a couple of good books on grammar, and still have $1,200 left. No manuscript gets rejected because of occasional misplaced commas, and publishers assign (and pay for) a copyeditor to work on the author's manuscript after acceptance. Did anyone EXCEPT the copyeditor trying to charge you $2.50 tell you that such a service was worth its weight in gold? :)

I don't know either of the books you cite, sorry to say.

At November 14, 2006 6:54 PM , Anonymous Marah said...

On a related note, a friend asked my opinion about PublishAmerica http://www.publishamerica.com/index.asp They claim to not be a vanity publisher, and don't charge authors any fees, and yet still don't really sound legit. Do you know anything about them?

At November 14, 2006 7:47 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

On PublishAmerica, see this.

At November 14, 2006 8:53 PM , Blogger mcewen said...

Wise words. Duly noted.
Best wishes

At November 14, 2006 11:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


And the copy editing fee will most likely be in US funds as well. I didn't hear this from a copy editor but your right $1,250 is yikes money. I suppose if one has money to go splurge on an ISBN number and money to self publish, I think I was coming from that angle. Now a pro writer has just told me what the people over there at Forward Motion have been saying the same thing you just did.

Bickham and Swain are apparently widely respected. But seeing as how I can't get out to an RJS writers workshop these will have to do. They are part if the Writers Digest family of books.

Also, Publish America is Lulu/fanstory etc if I'm not mistaken Quasi Vanity press.



At November 15, 2006 11:39 PM , Anonymous marah said...

They're the ones who published Atlanta Nights?! Then my suspicions were correct, and thanks so much for verifying them before my friend wasted her time and effort.

At November 23, 2006 6:10 AM , Anonymous beavis said...

why dont you dudes just run it through teh spell chequer in microsofts word?


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