Entries in books (1)
A few days ago I had a conversation with a potential client that I think you could learn from.
I'll kill the suspense -- the woman will not be a client of mine, and you will understand why in a moment.
That said, this was someone who called me on the recommendation of a friend who thought I could help the woman with her collection of passages. Which I assumed meant poetry. I'm still not quite sure what her writings were. I never saw them. She just called me to tell me she didn't really need my help.
From what I gather, she had a collection of passages "like the beginnings of songs" and some brief musings. She did not have enough to make a book, but she wanted the pieces published -- not to be critiqued or edited in any way, just published.
I suggested a magazine, but the woman wasn't interested. I suggested self-publishing them as a chapbook. Again, not interested. From what I gather (again), she wanted these pieces to be purchased as a unit and then used individually for the forewords and preambles of books, preferably on music. "So how do I do that?" she asked.
I told her I had no idea; I'm not a publisher. To which she responded, "Well, this is your field, you should know something about it."
Partly true. I'm an editor and a creative writing developer. I do not help writers find outlets per se, though I do suggest places if I know they accept certain types of work. But I'm not aware of anyone who buys collections of passages for use as garnish in other peoples' books.
Again, I was greeted with 'tude. I told her that my best guess would be to try a small publishing house. Small presses are open-minded and cool about being unconventional. The rest of the conversation went as follows (and I'll leave you to figure out which one of us is talking):
"Does it have to be small press?"
"No, it doesn't have to be, but your odds are a lot better with small imprint."
"Because I don't want to go small."
"Have you ever been published before?"
"Well, then small presses are your best bet. Nobody gets a first book of poetry published by Simon & Schuster."
"What's his name?"
"No, Simon and Schuster, it's a publisher."
"How does he spell it?"
"No, it's not a guy, it's a . . ."
"Oh, it's an entity."
"Yes, it's a major publishing house."
"Well, how do I find publishers like that?"
"If you're just looking for publishers, you can just pick up a copy of the Writer's Market, there're tons of them in there."
"The Writer's Market?"
"Yes, it's a book, they put out a directory of publishers every year."
"And they have big publishers in it?"
"Yes, but I'm telling you, you really might want to start with small publishers, they're more likely to go for what you've got."
"I don't want to go small. I've had such luck, you have no idea."
She's right. I don't. I told her, sincerely, that I'd love to know someone had broken the major publishing houses with a first book (someone who isn't already a celebrity), and that I hope she'll let me know how she did it, because a lot of writers would be happy to get the recipe.
I tell this tale of what-the? not to spread dish on anyone, but to try offer some reality. Ready? Okay:
1) Publishing is hard. It doesn't look kindly on newbies, especially the bigger the publishing house gets. Small presses are a godsend to untested writers and are publishing some of the best works you will ever read.
2) Please do not disrespect writers or writing by turning your nose up at small presses. Small publishers work for more than the money and are important stepping stones for writers looking to launch careers.
3) If you ever reach out to a professional in the writing, editing, or publishing field, listen to them when they tell you things. We don't know all the answers, but when someone you turn to seems insistent on something, you would be wise to at least consider the message.
4) Have far-out dreams, but please temper them with sound thinking. Nobody's telling you that you can't. But maybe you just can't right now. Be patient. Work hard. Learn from those in the business. It will do you a lot more good than relying on "such luck, you have no idea."