j’s Journey: Navigating a fluid landscape

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.

12 Responses to j’s Journey: Navigating a fluid landscape
  1. Julia
    Twitter: wordsxo
    September 27, 2011 | 7:02 AM

    I’m getting closer to starting the query process myself, and I’ll be reviewing all your “j’s journey” posts when I do… I find myself both excited but incredibly nervous to be entering uncharted territory. I read the Emlyn Chand post too, and I agree the the publishing industry may look very different in a few years. As for whether or not I’ll self-publish, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it! Great post with lots of good info as always!

    • j
      September 27, 2011 | 11:08 AM

      I think self-publishing might be just the right path for certain projects; every author will have to decide what’s best for their work. But what’s available to us, from self-publishing to community publishing and indie houses finding niche markets and the explosion of interest in e-books… it will be interesting to see how this all shakes up. I’m hopeful that things will get better for writers, not worse, though this period of confusion isn’t all that fun. 😉

  2. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    September 27, 2011 | 10:16 AM

    This was wonderful to read. Very engrossing. It doesn’t sound at all neurotic to me, actually. It sounds like you’re trying to tailor your experience more to who you really are than to what the traditional advice says you’re supposed to do.

    As a screenwriter I’m reconfronting my own issues on marketing my writing, and this post of yours is a good reminder to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there, rather than trying to religiously follow the traditional advice. When I tried to force myself to live up to the advice in a book called Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds, I became so neurotic I gave up screenwriting for eight months. Your post is perfect timing for me as I segue back into it with a different vision.

    • j
      September 27, 2011 | 11:12 AM

      It is disheartening – full of rules and conflicting advice (often delivered in snarky, soul-crushing style) about what to do and what not to do if you want to make a deal. I think that’s why Emilyn so impressed me. She has the opportunity to go a more traditional route, assuming her agent could land her a deal, but she’s blazing her own trail, full of moxie and belief in herself. That’s exciting. I’m definitely rooting for her. (And you!)

  3. Emlyn Chand
    September 27, 2011 | 11:11 AM

    Hi, Judy. Thanks for linking to my blog post and saying authors like me are going to change the publishing industry–aaah, that’s a tall order!

    I don’t know at what point I decided to go my own way, but I remember that the transition happened with the flick of some hidden switch. All of my indie author friends kept saying, “try indie, try indie,” and I kept telling them the reasons why I didn’t feel like it. Then one day, I just decided to go for it!

    Couldn’t be happier with the decision. I’ll be blogging about how I do with regards to sales and reader feedback once my novel is out there.

    Thanks for following along,

    • j
      September 27, 2011 | 11:15 AM

      I’m very excited to watch you, because you clearly chose this route. It didn’t come from having been rejected too many times, being unable to interest anyone in your work. You have options, and this is the one you’re choosing – the brave one full of self-belief and marketing savvy. I’ll definitely be reading your blog posts (and sharing your journey). You go, girl!

  4. Becky Sain
    Twitter: bsfirstpages
    September 27, 2011 | 1:02 PM

    So… I’ll become an agent to get BL published — that makes sense, right? 🙂

    • j
      September 28, 2011 | 2:39 PM


  5. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    September 27, 2011 | 6:25 PM

    I hope this isn’t the end of “J’s Journey” because agent hiatus or not, I think BL is still on a journey to greatness, be it small press, indie, self, traditional or whatever, keep us posted.

    • j
      September 28, 2011 | 2:44 PM

      And you’ve actually read it!

      It’s not the end of j’s Journey. Even if I were going to set BL aside (which I’m not), I’m still writing for publication and there’s plenty to say on that subject. As for BL, I’m just open to all the means there may be to reach the end.

  6. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Twitter: wordstrumpet
    September 28, 2011 | 2:24 PM

    I hear you, Judy. Oh, do I hear you. I’ve been following the same frustrating path, querying agents for my novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior (which also happens to be somewhat darkly comic and features a non-traditional heroine). I get enthusiastic responses, but agents are scared of Emma Jean’s brashness. That is, the agents who deign to respond to me. So many of them just don’t bother these days, which annoys me no end. Anyway, I’ve just queried a small press and I’m thinking that may be the way to go. We’ll see. The sage continues.

    • j
      September 28, 2011 | 2:47 PM

      Good luck! I have high hopes for small presses. It makes total sense to me that their smallness would allow them to a) focus on an author more and b) find an author’s niche audience. My fingers are crossed for you. (And now I have to read the post that might make me nervous.)

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?