By Judy Clement Wall
It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my novel, BEAUTIFUL LIVES. That’s because I haven’t been querying agents, and therefore haven’t had anything new to report. But since the reasons I haven’t been querying are very tangled and logical and neurotic and interesting, I thought I would share them…
First, I read that the summer – filled as it is with sunshine and vacations – is the absolute worst time to query agents. That makes sense to me, and if, when I read it, I felt more relief than frustration, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I have agent-querying demons or anything, it just means we all got to enjoy our summer. I wrote a lot, experimented, hiked, biked, hit my yoga mat with all I had, and read voraciously.
One of the things I read about was (and continues to be) the publishing industry. It reminds me of the music industry a few years ago, when downloadable content put consumers in the driver’s seat and gave budding artists direct access to potential audiences. Overnight, the playing field changed and much of the music industry seemed suddenly obsolete. A similar evolution has shaken up the movie industry, and right now, no one denies that the publishing industry is being completely overhauled. The only debates, frenzied and far-reaching, are over how the dust will settle.
Which brings me to why I haven’t resumed querying now that the summer is over, and the children are back in school, and we’ve all (writers and agents and editors alike) more or less settled back into our pre-summer routines. The short answer is “it’s complicated.” The longer one goes like this…
I’m an unknown author with a relatively modest platform and I wrote a non-genre, darkly humorous, literary novel. The odds for traditional publication would have been stacked against me even in the best of times, and these are definitely not the best of times.
It’s not impossible. I believe in my book, and I still have faith that good books find homes, that there is an agent out there who will love BL enough to take a chance, but am I up to the task of finding them? Can I keep my faith in the midst of inevitable rejection (after rejection)? And what if, when the shaking is all done, the traditional route to publication no longer feels best?
I read a wonderful post recently by author Emlyn Chand: “Why I’m self-publishing Farsighted even though I already have a literary agent: Indie power and the perfect marketing campaign!” I admire her certainty, her determination to walk the talk, her commitment to transparency. I think authors like Emlyn, innovative publishers like The Domino Project, and community publishing experiments like Red Lemonade are going to change forever the way authors reach their audience. In a few years, I wonder how much the publishing industry will resemble what we’ve all come to know. I think maybe not much.
Right now, I’m caught up, heart and soul, with my love project, and its expansion into 2012. I’ve got a number of sites to which I regularly contribute pieces, and I’m experimenting with personal essays which is something I’ve always wanted to do more of. The next novel (50,000 words of which were written as part of NaNoWriMo two years ago) is tugging at my sleeve.
I will continue to query agents, but slowly, looking for the ones that make me excited when I read their websites and what they’ve said in interviews. And I’ll keep watching the industry. I think these are exciting times, and I’m hopeful (and tangled and logical and neurotic and interesting). 😉
JUDY CLEMENT WALL is a freelance writer and Course Presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course. Her short stories and personal essays have been published in numerous literary journals and on some very cool websites like The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review and Beyond The Margins. She recently finished her first novel, Beautiful Lives, and here at FoW, she chronicles the ups and downs of writing for publication. You can read more of her series here. Judy blogs about life, love, writing and cheesecake at Zebra Sounds.