Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fellow Bloggers Provide Help

In last Sunday’s posting I asked questions about fiction genres and the state of publishing today. Two fellow bloggers, Perpetua from England and Kathy McCoy from the United Sates, provided answers to these questions. I want to share their informative responses with you because you may not have had the time to read all the comments for that posting.
         To my question about the difference between commercial and literary fiction, Perpetua answered:
In my librarian days, literary fiction was serious and sometimes more difficult fiction which was normally printed and sold in small numbers, unless it won a book prize of some kind, when demand would rise. 

Commercial fiction is basically popular fiction, often in genres such as crime, romance, thriller, which can almost be relied on to sell, often in large numbers. This doesn't mean it isn't well written, but it appeals to a mass-market in a way literary fiction doesn't.
In my response to her comment, I asked if there were subcategories of the genre “historical fiction.” Here is her reply:

Historical fiction is a very broad category, which can be subdivided into different types. There are historical mysteries (Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels spring to mind here or Lindsey Davis' Falco novels set in Imperial Rome) historical romances, such as Georgette Heyer's Regency novels (much loved by DH and me) or serious “literary” historical novels such as I, Claudius by the poet Robert Graves. I'm guessing there are probably historical thrillers too, but I can't call any to mind at the moment.

To my question about the state of publishing today, Kathy commented, as Perpetua did, from her own experience:
I understand your frustration, Dee! My agent has been schlepping Therapy Cats around to publishers for months now. A few have said "No" and more are just sitting there letting it grow roots on their desks. My agent said something about it was a shame that I hadn't published a completely new book in more than ten years so I would have a more recent, dynamic presence online. So frustrating!

So I finally decided to write some e-books inspired by my blog and see how that went—which is why I haven't been blogging for a month. In that time, I wrote Making Peace With Your Adult Children and Aging and Other Surprises. The latter makes heavy use of past blog posts and is a semi-memoir. I decided, just as a beginning, to get them converted to e-pub and professional covers done at Vook, which my agent recommended. Both are now on Amazon and other outlets as e-books and will soon be available as print on demand titles. 

I got a call from PBS Next Avenue, an online Baby Boomers magazine, the other day and the writer said she had seen my Making Peace With Your Adult Children book on Amazon and wanted to interview me for an article that will feature a link to the book and my blog post. So I'm optimistic.
This has cut down on some of my frustration in waiting for someone to buy my Therapy Cats book. There is no longer a stigma attached to self-publishing/indy publishing and my agent was very much in favor of it. (It also keeps me out of his hair!) Have you thought of trying this with either of your book ideas, Dee? Some "indy" books have been picked up by traditional publishers later on.
I certainly don't have all the answers these days in the rapidly changing world of publishing, but I'm more hopeful now. Maybe this approach is something to consider. There are ways to do it without it costing a lot. Because I chose to have Vook do the ePub conversion and also design a deluxe cover, my books cost $600 to get up and running, but sales are starting to come in. But you can do a Kindle Direct book with a Smashwords or other print on demand book for very little upfront.
Dear Perpetua and Kathy, you’ve enlightened my understanding of publishing and offered me options. Thank you. Peace.

NOTE: I won’t be posting again until I have more news about my search for an agent.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

And the Beat Goes On . . .

Hello again after a three-week hiatus. During that time, I’ve busied myself with visiting the websites of literary agencies to determine which agents represent historical fiction. As I look at what each agency represents, I’m also interested in the following genres: memoirs, fantasy, and inspirational gift books.
         Why? Because these are the categories on which I’ve been working the past few years. Let’s begin with the memoir.
         My other blog is an online memoir. I hope one day to take the postings and shape them into one or two memoirs—depending on length.
         Back in the early nineties, after the publication of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, memoirs really came to the fore in publishing. Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ and James McBride’s The Color of Water, both published a few years later, cemented the premier place of memoirs in the publishing world.

         But so many memoirs have been published since then that the genre is not as popular with publishers as it once was. So some agents no longer represent this genre while other agents will say in their listings that they do not want “misery memoirs.”  
         I’m not sure what my memoir will have going for it. Nor am I sure what thread could hold the memoir together. Perhaps I will simply concentrate on the convent years, but I admit to wanting also to share the story of my mother’s influence on my life. I would also like to share some of the post-convent stories, especially those that have to do with peace and justice issues.
         For the fantasy genre, I now have ready the first book in a trilogy. Judy King, who illustrated A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story, has done stunning pen and ink drawings for Book One. I’m nearing completion of the other two books in the trilogy.  

         The manuscript for the inspirational gift book A Celebration of Angels is also near completion. Recently, several friends read it and responded enthusiastically to varied aspects of the manuscript.
         When I worked for Winston Press in Minneapolis in the 1970s and 1980s, all I knew of publishing was the developing, writing, and editing of curriculum for grade and high schools.          
         Today I know almost nothing about what’s happening in publishing: What are agents looking for? What kind of stories do editors want from agents? What are the developing trends today?
         From a fairly thorough reading of the websites of many literary agencies, however, I have learned that some agents represent just nonfiction, while others represent only certain subgroups of fiction.
         For example, many do not represent fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, Westerns, children’s pictures books, and juvenile books. Some agencies represent only “commercial fiction” or “literary fiction.” What do those two terms mean? I’m just not sure.
         I do understand that agents are effective only if they know a wide group of editors at publishing houses. They must know what those editors are looking for with regard to manuscripts. If an agent doesn’t know many—or even one—editor who is looking for a historical novel, then she/he won’t be interested in A Reluctant Spy. The agent will look upon the novel as a dead end.         
         Many editors who retire or leave publishing become successful literary agents. Having worked in a publishing house, they know enough people to approach with a proposed manuscript.
         That’s another thing I’ve been investigating on those web sites for literary agents: their professional background.
         Lots to do. I’ll report more when I get a nibble or two. Peace.

Cat Photograph from Wikipedia