I did something incredibly liberating yesterday. I fired my agent. It wasn’t that she wasn’t a good agent or anything like that. She was actually very nice and was 100% behind FUTUREPROOF. But when you have a book that is self-published such as FUTUREPROOF is, you are put in a very unique position in that, while you are trying to get your book out there, trying to get people to buy and read it, trying to get buzz going, you are also trying to not get TOO much buzz going, as it leaves publishing houses with little room to promote your book once they eventually (hopefully) pick it up. So, since almost exactly three months ago, when I first signed with this agent, I have been straddling the fine line between publicizing the book too much and not enough. Then, as so often happens with me, I had a revelation, and decided that this route was no longer one I was willing to continue down. But let me start from the beginning.
Starting in September of last year, I began contacting reviewers on Amazon as a way to hopefully get people to read a free excerpt of my novel. If they liked it, I asked that they say so in the guestbook section of my website. No pressure. In this I way I hoped to garner a bunch of reader support, and therefore make the prospect of actually being picked up and published by a house that much more inviting to the publishers and agents which every writer knows is the end-all be-all of writing. I mean, how better to sell a product to a company that to demonstrate that it already has a built-in cusotmer base?
The “Grand Experiment” was an unqualified success. Within little more than a month I had gotten over 200 positive reviews from Amazon readers and reviewers, and all based on the 100 page excerpt of FUTUREPROOF I sent out. Soon, the clamor for the rest of the book was so great that I decided to go the self-publishing route. I figured, the book as a whole would sell itself just as well if not better than the first 100 pages did, and solidify for life the readers who had so strongly supported it in the first place.
In January of this year, FUTUREPROOF was finally ready for publication via Lulu.com, a front-runner in the exploding self-publishing world. People started buying and talking about it. It was routinely ranked higher in sales on Amazon than other books published through traditional means by already-established authors. I got this Myspace account and met many more authors (I’d already met James Frey, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, and had my book edited by Dan Pope). Many of these authors agreed to chat on my site, as part of my goal to not only find success as an author, but also to strengthen the voices of ALL authors, who, even after being traditionally published still face the uphill battle of generating buzz and keeping it going. And yet, despite the fact that literally hundreds of readers and many already-published authors were reading and supporting FUTUREPROOF, including the legendary Jay McInerney, I was still getting nowhere in my quest to get FUTUREPROOF published by a mainstream publisher. So I started thinking. I started thinking real hard.
I thought to myself, “What’s the difference between a self-published book and a book published by a mainstream publisher?” Well, I can only think of two things.
1) A book published by a house is generally given the benefit of the doubt as to its literary value, whereas P.O.D. and self-published books are widely thought of “vanity” projects and otherwise completely disposable, because if they had that much worth, then why wouldn’t they be published by a house? As books like Will Clarke’s and other P.O.D. successes can attest, there are definitely worthy books that have been over-looked by the mainstream presses, only to be picked up after the authors proved themselves through self-publishing. And blogs like PODDY MOUTH are proving this fact on a daily basis. Publishers are making news today for ignominious reasons, such as the latest debacle involving the now-disgraced Kavya Viswanathan. So what does that say to the reading public at large when a 17 year old Harvard student is given the largest advance for an unpublished author in publishing history and her book is not only put together by a book packager, but plagiarised on top of it? And books like FUTUREPROOF are left to die on the vine.
Secondly, a book published by a maintream publisher generally has a better chance of getting publicity just through the fact that most chain bookstores won’t carry self-published books, and most major newspapers won’t review self-published books. So how to change this? Well, what if somebody decided to forgo mainstream publishing all together, and put all his efforts into taking his P.O.D. book and publicizing it through the same outlets?
<!– D([“mb”,”What this would take is some big time backing from other well-known
authors (such as James Frey and Josh Kilmer-Purcell and maybe even Jay
McInerney and Chuck Palahniuk), as well as a good bit of corporate
sponsorship, say from Lulu itself. If I was to somehow get 2,500
copies of futureproof into the hands of willing newspaper book
reviewers and bookstore acquisitions people all across the country,
then had a big name such as James to back this as the next phase in
the long history of publishing, I think that this could not only make
Lulu the biggest name in publishing this year, but would substantially
change publishing at we know forever.
I\’ve had an agent shopping futureproof for the last three months and
while we have had some near successes, in the end the book has just
not been able to garner the support it needs from them, and definitely
not on the level of success that I have had with other (published)
writers and most especially with readers. Every week new polls come
out regarding president Bush\’s popularity, and these polls say that,
based on the opinions of 1,200 or so people, he has incredibly low
approval ratings nationwide. This is how polling works. They take a
cross-section of people, ask them how they feel, and based on the
answers from that incredibly small percentage of people, the pollers
project how the entire nation of 280 million people feel. Based on
that assumption, that a small cross-section can realistically reflect
the common sense on a matter, futureproof will have raging success–if
it can just get its name out there.
So I\’m considering (VERY seriously) firing my agent and going at this
full-force. It\’s one thing to find success, but a completely different
animal altogether to change things. I want to change things. I want
futureproof to have the audience it deserves. What can Lulu do to make
this happen, to change everything as it commonly is known? I can tell
you this much, if we can make this work, get buzz going, this will
make (Book Section) headlines across the country. And Lulu will be a
huge beneficiary of the profits.
Get back to me.