U is for Unpublished


These days, when people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. Declaring our intentions aloud and publicly has power. And I do spend a large portion of each day writing: editing my women’s fiction novel, writing for this blog, working on the first draft of my next (third) novel, a cozy mystery. I also spend several hours each month on editing and critiquing for other writers, as well as studying the craft of writing in books, on websites, or by taking writing classes. I don’t just sit around thinking writing thoughts, I’m BICFOKTAM for hours every day. (For you non-writers, that’s Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, typing away madly.)

“What have you published?” they ask.

Well—er—that is—um…

Actually, nothing. Aside from this blog, I’ve published nothing—yet. But I’m working on it.

My goal is traditional publication, so in addition to producing the best stories I can, I must also craft the perfect query letter, synopsis (a one-page and a longer one), logline (the essence of my story in one sentence), an elevator speech for in-person pitches to literary agents…There’s a lot involved in finding a literary agent to represent my work, which is my best shot at traditional publication. There are small publishing houses that will accept un-agented manuscripts, but I haven’t yet explored that possibility.

I’ve now reached my twenty-fifth “No, thanks” from literary agents for my first and second novels, combined, plus one for a creepy little short story I sent off to Ellery Queen magazine.

But am I bothered? Dejected? Ready to give up? Certainly not. I hear from fellow writers that many get fifty, seventy, or sometimes over a hundred “No, thank you’s” before they finally get that golden “yes” that leads to publication.

And then they start all over again.

“Why don’t you just self-publish?” you ask. I may eventually do that. My first novel is—well, it’s a first novel. I don’t really expect it to hit the New York Times’ Bestseller List, but it has good bones, and I think that certain readers—namely, teachers and former teachers—would enjoy reading it. The dead body discovered in chapter one is the principal’s, and what teacher hasn’t dreamt of that scenario? (Sorry, good principals.) I need to tighten up the beginning, ratchet up the suspense in the first third of the story. If after another fifty or so queries I get no bites, I’ll probably self-publish that one.

No doubt, there are some wonderful works of self-published fiction out there. I haven’t read one yet, but indie fiction is a growing market. I have purchased several non-fiction e-books, and only a few were total crap. But there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing, alas, because far too many writers don’t spend enough time getting critical feedback before they press the “publish” button on Amazon (or what have you).

So for now, I remain an unpublished writer, ever hopeful that the next revision of chapter one, the next polishing of my query letter, will catch the eye of that agent who’s out there waiting to find Lola, my protagonist, and champion her adventures to publishers great and small. Wish me luck—and Lola too.


6 thoughts on “U is for Unpublished

  1. sarahallanauthor

    It’s perfectly fine to be unpublished! And as long as you’re writing, you’re a writer. 🙂 I’d like to recommend a book by a friend of mine, the Indie Author Survival Guide (2nd Ed) by Susan Kaye Quinn. She’s working on the third edition as we speak. This is my must-read for anyone considering publishing in any form, traditionally or self-pubbing. http://www.amazon.com/Indie-Author-Survival-Guide-Second/dp/1512090042/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461611787&sr=8-1&keywords=susan+kaye+quinn+indie

  2. Corina

    I don’t think I’ve ever had my eye on traditional publishing. When I publish, it will be self-published. No shame in that and I think if there is a stigma, it’s very little. I think, for the most part, only writers are aware of whether a work is traditionally published or self-published. It really doesn’t matter anymore. And because I do not read any physical books, it just makes sense to me that I would publish digitally.

  3. John Davis Frain

    Oh, I’m so glad I came by here. We are kindred souls. I’m curious about your Ellery Queen rejection. I’ve sent a story off to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in early March. They said 6-8 months, significantly longer than their website says. Are you going to send your story elsewhere now?

    Great blog. I’m having terrific fun with this A to Z Challenge, but oh my, it’s exhausting. And since I’m doing a six-sentence story every night, it’s really sucking the time from editing my manuscript that I’m currently shopping. Still, I’m learning more and it’s a blast — but I’m thrilled it ends in a few days.

    1. admin Post author

      Hi John,
      Yes, this blog challenge does take time away from my WIP too, and this week I have to critique eight twenty-page manuscripts for my writers’ group. Whew! As for queries–never give up, never surrender. I’ll keep on querying. Nice to meet you.

  4. jhwinterauthor

    What a great post! I am an unpublished writer as well with two books written, one undergoing a bit more editing before I query more, and the other yet to be edited. I have written several posts on writing and even a recent one on handling rejection: http://blog.jhwinter.com/a-to-z-challenge-r-is-for-rejection/ on my blog, Ink & Stitches. I am participating in the A to Z Challenge as well, and would love for you to come by my blog and take a look if you get a chance!

    Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com


Leave a Reply