Thursday, 13 June 2013

Authors, agents, publishers and little gods.

A note to begin with:  For some reason, BlogSpot has become very difficult to work with, changing the position of things, the size of the writing, the type of font, all apparently very much at random.  Try to ignore the awkwardness of the positioning of some of the elements, and simply read what I have to say.

Authors, agents, publishers and little gods.

Authors have to learn to accept rejection. We are all told that, and we learn to live with rejection slips, learn to live with criticism of what we have put our hearts and minds into creating. We become desperate for publication, for acceptance, and to see our precious book in our own hands - real - something to feel and touch and admire. It is why a whole industry has grown up around taking money from yet-to-be-published authors.

Agents, on the other hand, find themselves in enormous demand. They sit back and every now and then, tell those lowly authors exactly the form of submission letter that just might gain their attention. Do something the tiniest bit wrong - or maybe not wrong, but something they don't like - and it will be rejected. Even that name - 'submission' - like you're crawling on your belly to some god.

And then publishers.  Ah, they know best, don't they?  They know what sells, what title to use for the product, and whether the plot should be changed to what they think will sell. That the author should have a say?  Ludicrous.  And usually, the author is too overwhelmed to think they've been picked up by a major publisher that they will do what they're told, few daring to raise their voices in protest.

Small independent publishers. Some of those can be the worst of all. They can be even like a cult, where the 'publisher' is the god, and his stable of authors become something like disciples, ready to turn on anyone who does not join in the chorus of praise for the great god Publisher. 

But that is just a few. Many small independents are good, doing the best for their authors. And probably many agents respect their authors, maybe even thinking them as almost as much to be respected as themselves. The big publishers?  Are some of those good?  Well, since I've heard that a new author gets dumped if they're not an immediate success, I doubt it.

'Submitting.'  In the dictionary, 'submit' is defined as 'yield to another's authority or control, surrender' as well as 'present for consideration or acceptance.' I think most agents and publishers fully expect the first definition.

Here are just two sites giving submission requirements (no, not literally on your knees, just figuratively.)  There are numerous others. There are even people charging authors to write a 'killer' submission letter.  There was one arrogant agent who did a blog post listing all the utterly trivial reasons why she might reject a manuscript. (I think I remember it as a 'she')

This one lists requirements, but they all seem sensible enough. It is still quite clear who is the one on top and who is the one that has to ‘submit.’

Another one. Learn all these requirements, and you’ll have your poor brain overloaded.  What a shame that agents can’t just look to see if it’s a good book!

Well,  too bad. 

Some of us do not choose to worship at the feet of agents or publishers. It is the self-publishing revolution.   There is new light, a dawning of empowerment for authors.

Createspace or Lulu can make your paperbacks or hardcovers at minimal cost.
Smashwords or Kobo or Amazon and a half dozen others can enable your ebook to be available online, usually at no cost at all. 

So here are some self-published books that are doing just fine, thank you, without an agent, without a publisher, and no need to crawl to anyone.

Recently self-published.
    I wrote about this book in a previous blog post.
     It is not only an extremely good book,
     but it is an important book,
     something that everyone should read.

The blurb:
When eleven-year-old Meggie's feckless Dad doesn't pay the coal man and they have no hot water she takes matters into her own hands. With her younger brother, Jack, she sets off to find the free coal she knows can be found in the pit heaps opposite their village. When she and Jack return home from their adventure, she's punished. Does she still love her dad? She’s not so sure and when she has to make a choice between going to live with her grandparents at their newsagent’s shop in Newcastle so she can go to the grammar school or staying in Shippon and going to the local secondary school she decides to leave home.
She soon finds herself in an ever bigger mess. Billy Fish and The Codmother are ripping off Meggie's grandparents. With her new friend, paperboy Dave Spedding, she tries to help, but finds herself trapped in a dangerous situation.
My review of Meggie Blackthorn.

Meggie is such a great character - spirited, courageous and clever. She is so easy to relate to, and one can't help but want to share her journey toward adulthood. A 5-star read. 

My review of  'Dragon Slayer Three.'

Things I particularly liked about the story of Rimsey, her battles and her victories:
*I like that she is a girl, scorned by her peers, and yet she is intelligent, courageous and above all, triumphant.
*I love the breathless speed of the fight scenes, and I like that she wins each battle. (Well, the story would have to end if she lost)
*I liked what she said once - that in her profession, there was no such thing as a partial win. It was either a win or no more dragon slayer.
*I liked the pragmatism with which she treats a needed death - when told that her enemy would not forgive her, she says: "I know he won't. But neither will he learn from it. You should have let me kill him. I'll have to eventually. Pass your plate, supper's ready."
*I like the fact that when the nun tried to lay a guilt trip on her for killing the man, she disregards it - She looked down at Berenice. "But for me, hate isn't a burden. It's a tool of the trade." She flicked the reins and drove out, without looking back.

Things I didn't like? Well, nothing really. Purchasers should be aware that these stories are only short, 12,000 words for Dragon 2 and around 15,000 words for Dragon 3.
And I suppose they're really meant for children. That didn't stop this mature adult thoroughly enjoying them.
Happily 5 stars for Rimsey, her stories and her author.


The story of Mikey, who rashly accepts a drink from a stranger, and his life is never the same again. The sequel to this book of 'Paying the Piper.' I cannot recommend these two highly enough.

The blurb: 
Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective, is asked to investigate the death of a young newspaper reporter. The evidence shows quite clearly that it was an accident: a simple, dreadful accident. That is the finding of the coroner and the local police. Furthermore, there were two witnesses. They saw the whole thing. But was it an accident, or was it something more sinister? Against a backdrop of a viral epidemic slowly spreading from Central America, a simple case soon places Kendall up against one of the largest drug companies in the country.
(Although a Standalone novel, it is also the Third in a Series featuring Tom Kendall private detective)
John Holt uses a small publisher known as Phoenix. He has several published titles. 

The Blurb:
Dark, stunning and mysterious, Shades of Gray breaks through the barriers of modern writing and revitalizes the vampire genre for a new generation. Unlike modern, feeble vampire stories directed at teenagers and Hollywood, Shades of Gray takes us back to a time when vampires were still deadly creatures of the night and love knew no bounds. With the same dedication to the true vampire genre that authors such as Stephen King (Salem's Lot) and Anne Rice (Queen of the Damned) write with, Joleene Naylor, in her first book, Shades of Gray, has captured the very essence of their darkness, the depths of their emotions, and reminded us of the horrifying reality of what it means to be a vampire.

Lisa Hinsley is one of those authors who self-published to begin with,  but now, some of her best books have been picked up by a publisher. It demonstrates that there are a lot of very good books among the ranks of self-publishers.

The blurb:  Abe Finchley is a damaged man, an orphan with no roots and no family ties. When he finally meets the woman he has been looking for all his life, he finds not just love and passion, but a dark and violent family history that spans generations into humanity’s deepest past.
Eve is the woman of his dreams; but dream is just another word for nightmare, and Abe knows all about those. Amidst a confused web of lies and secrets, Abe is trying to discover who he is and make sense of what he may become. More than just his future and his new-found love is at stake. When he discovers that he has a brother, a man bound by divine destiny to kill him, Abe is going to have to make a difficult choice. A choice that might redeem the world. A choice that just might destroy it.
A Darker Moon is a dark, psychological fantasy. A mythical tale of light and shadow and the unlit places where it is best not to shine even the dimmest light.





'If Only I Could Talk' is the first self-published book that I purchased once I came to make some online author acquaintances.
I love this book.
'If Only I Could Talk' by Tony Lewis

The Shuki Series and the Penwinnard Stories, are, of course, my own. To me, they are beautiful, and with more 5-star reviews than anything else,  I am satisfied that readers are enjoying them.


It is no longer necessary to 'submit.'
So instead? 
And little gods?  Why, authors of course. Who else can make a world, people it with the characters we invent, and then have really bad things happen to the ones we don't like? 
We, the authors, are gods.  Some of those agents and publishers only think they are.

Look for my books on Smashwords, on Amazon or on other online retailers.



  1. A great article Marj, and so very true. It seems to me that the only thing agents and publishers want these days is A list celebrities, TV chefs, Jeremy Clarkson - oh and Dan Brown. There is a lot of talent out there in the Indie world of self publishing. And it is doing pretty well thank you

  2. I particularly liked your point on the double meaning of 'Submission', and the possible confusion (in some minds) between the two! I consider myself very lucky to be writing now, with all the opportunities that there are. In an earlier era of publishing, I doubt if I any of my work would have been seen by anyone outside of the family! (And not all of them read much!). The future of publishing is still up in the air, but these are exciting times.

  3. My opinion might be clouded because I had such a bad experience with the publisher for my first book, but I believe small publishers are the worst. Many start up their business with little experience and no idea how the publishing business really works. They pepper their website with misleading claims aimed toward luring the unsuspecting newbie author. They can't do a single thing for the author that author cannot do for him or herself, yet they expect to rake in the royalties. Yes, there are some reputable small presses out there, but I would caution authors against submitting to any publisher who hasn't been in business at least 5 years.

    This is a great article, Marj. Self-publishing is the way to go.

  4. Thank you for your comments John, Paul and Tricia.

  5. Strike a blow for the small guy!!
    Great post, I'm with you on all fronts :-)
    I think I struck it lucky with Night, and then Taylor Street.
    On the one hand, there's no money coming in, I haven't seen a single penny. However, I knew a long, long time ago that there's no money in writing anymore, especially horror, and as it's only a hobby I'm cool with that. A hobby, I might add, that's brought in a lot of praise, kudos and satisfaction and cost me nothing; which is very unusual, lol.
    On the plus side, they're doing everything for me, which leaves only the writing for me to do and most importantly they're a good bunch.
    WIN !! :-D

    I suppose it's what you want from writing that counts. If you do dream of stardom, riches, giving up your day job, then it's a tough cookie to munch on. However, if you, like me, just want people to read your stuff and you have the time to see where it all leads to, then small dependant publishers or self publishing are cool, (as long as it's not costing anything).

    BTW. I loved the Dragon Slayer books too, storytelling at its finest.

    1. Yes, some small publishers are good. Royalties? Does he have your books priced at 99c? Unless you sell an enormous number, your share from a 99c sale will be too small. You could try a higher price.
      Pleased you've had a good experience.

  6. Excellent blog post, Marj ;) 99% of what I read is self or small press published, it's where I find the most exciting work. As for submission - never again, I proudly sail my own ship. Am I making gobs of money - nope, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I'm doing it my way and people are reading (and even enjoying) my books! Here's to NOT bending over and taking it any more!!

  7. A related post is by Anne Allen, well worth reading. Ignore the caution - she is plagued by a troll who keeps reporting her for spam or something.