Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beating a Dead Book

So you've written a book. Let's assume it's a book one of the staffers here might write, a genre romance with paranormal or suspense elements -- or both! Let's also assume you've got a good grasp of the market and the English language and you send the manuscript to the right places, so to speak. You start with appropriate agents and move on to appropriate mainstream editors. You aren't sending your paranormal romance to nonfiction publishers and your manuscript isn't riddled with obvious mechanical errors. Your query letter has even been approved by people other than your critique parters.

This probably describes a lot of us. We write it, we know pretty much what we're doing, and we send it out, where we also know pretty much what we're doing.

The problem comes when your manuscript gets rejected everywhere and becomes, in essence, dead in the water.

What do you do with a story nobody wants to publish? In particular, and borrowing RWA's definition here, what does the career-focused romance author do with a book she can't get published by a standard advance paying publisher or even that her agent can't help her get published?

Clearly one thing you do if you're career-focused is start your next book, but you still have this manuscript that could be working harder for you.

A) Do you assume it flopped because it sucks and shelve it? I mean, really. We can't judge our own work. Why would everyone reject it if it had any redeeming qualities?

B) Do you revise it (assuming you have come up with or received worthy revision ideas) and send it back to NY? Granted, this is a gimme if anyone asked to see revisions, but if they didn't, the situation becomes trickier. Especially if revisions mean you postpone your new book.

C) Do you consider non-standard opportunities for romance fiction like small publishers that don't pay advances (carefully researched, of course) or the many varieties of self publishing cropping up here and there (even more carefully researched)? Keeping in mind that the smaller or more self-like the publisher, the more of the marketing, promotional, financial and other non-writerly burdens you'll have to shoulder.

It's up to every career-focused romance author to decide for herself or himself how much to beat a dead book -- or if the book's even dead yet. Does it sink like a stone when you throw it in the pond or is that as much a myth as all books that strike out in NY do it because they suck?

What do you do with manuscripts that seem dead in the water?

Jody W. *


  1. manuscript like that need authors with mothers like John Kennedy oToole's.
    His 'Confederacy Of Dunces' was rejected by everyone, but is now a cult and classic.

  2. ... also an author like that might be heartened by reading the Jaqueline Susann story of rejection after rejection, and the bio-pic is just lovely too.

  3. Put it away, write something else, and when THAT gets picked up, and goes big, THEN you pull out the old manuscript and say, "BTW, I just happen to have this sitting around..."

    Seriously, good stories get rejected every day, for all kinds of reasons, including wrong person/wrong time. Wait and try again. And write something else in the meantime.

    Good job, Jody!

  4. I agree with Jennie. It's not what I did with one of mine, of course, but I'm not a sit and wait kind of gal. Not the wisest of tactics for this business. Start the next one.

  5. I'm with Jennie, too. Though I'm still waiting for the "when THAT gets picked up" part : )


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