66 Comments

Here to comment not so much on the reasons for the rejections but on the immense amount of time it took to get there. This way of getting into print is far too slow.

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Michael. I read the sample and bought a kindle copy. Hope it's good. If so I'll write a review. I still haven't read this whole article (about the rejections). I will later. I'm still taking in my own. Many are respectful and even laudatory, but so far, they all end with, "We're not the best publisher for your work, bla bla bla." Translation, "this is good and we should publish it, but we're too cowardly and we don't want mobs of woke folk trashing out brand and shorting out our sales." Anyway, despite all that, soldier on, and I will as well.

Best!

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I have a different view on the ‘white male’ block…it originates in the fact that rosters already have tons of successful white male authors but NOT an expanding readership for them. I bet the delta is shrinking…they have no need for this author segment which is massively oversupplied due to the explosion in college education of white males. I wish more people would study how self-publishing works, learn marketing and how to sell books like drugs…this ancient system of supplicating publishing gatekeepers is a waste of time in an oversupplied market of authors…

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Wrong. White male 'readers' are out there but they have, many of them, given up trying to find books published by NYC Big Publishing, that they can relate to. Why? Because such books are not getting past the gamut of femmi-boi and gurl readers and editors at the various 'houses.' And your comment on an 'explosion' of college educated males is wrong as well. Colleges are now almost all predominantly female. There is a bias against males that is now embedded in the culture and the institutions. As far as 'self-publishing' is concerned, been there and done that, as well as having four books published commercially. 'Self-publishing,' much of which is now done on Amazon KDP, allows access by straight white males... to a 'ghetto' of published books. Self-published books are not deemed literate enough to be reviewed by 'woke' literati and they are not accepted for consideration by any of the big book prizes.

So, yes, we can publish (self), but more often than not, our books fall to the bottom of the great Amazon sea, never to be read and never to find acceptance.

Just so you know, I've been writing for over 50 years and despite a plethora of acquisition editors and literary agents hanging out their shingle 'White Males Need Not Apply,' I'm still writing and will be until they have to pry the No. 2 pencil from my gnarled, arthritic hands.

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self publishing hasn’t worked well because the authors in question don’t hire pros to produce the book and have no clue how to market the book or themselves…there are thousands of financially successful Amazon KDP authors like me who know what we’re doing…it’s a far better commercial model for new authors, white male or not…but you have to be willing to be a publisher…

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Feb 4Liked by Sincere American Writing

I wrote a memoir about being low-class stripper from the Deep South, found representation, got close to getting a book deal twice, but was always ultimately told that the book was “too much” to sell: too depraved, too redneck, too far away from most “normal people’s” experience. So I hired a designer (who ended up turning into a lifelong creative partner on a number of pursuits) and together we put out the book independently. BEST DECISION EVER. Every day I am grateful that I did not get a book deal. Here’s why: on the power of my own brand, I had already created a large fan base. That means I sold thousands of copies and continue to sell copies of my book, and I actually get all that money. I’ve made a significant sum on that work: who does that? Secondly, I always suspected this shit would make a great Netflix series… I am getting interest now in that direction, and guess what? I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT WITH THIS BOOK BC ALLLLLL THE RIGHTS ARE MINE. I’m so grateful for that now. You will be too.

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Nov 18, 2023Liked by Sincere American Writing

Publishing is bananas and agent #2 was writing in code for sure, but I actually think agent #1’s rejection was super promising. To me that letter said you were REALLY close. I know that after writing a book for 8 years, hearing “not this book, but another” is crushing -- but for me and several friends that’s exactly how it worked. First book, either no agent or no sale. Second or third book, success. So I think you said you’ve given up on trad publishing, but if you ever change your mind, I bet the next book sells. I see the sings of “almost there” all over that feedback.

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I am not white and I am not a man. But I am Indian-American, which codes as not the right kind of minority. My biography ("Radical Spirits") of the first Indian woman doctor who was educated in the 1880s in Philadelphia was rejected by each and every agent to whom I submitted.

The traditional publishing industry is a disgrace.

I published independently, and almost four years later, with no ongoing marketing on my part, the book continues to sell a few copies each month!

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Just reading this now. Publishing is 100% broken, and YA is somehow even worse. 😵‍💫🫨🫣

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After being in a writers group for over a solid ten years now, this is the most useless feedback. I always ask two questions about criticism:

1) Is this a subjective feeling the person has?

2) Do you just not like it?

While both of those can be valid if it is two of those answers and nothing else it is not valid or helpful criticism. Criticism should always be "This *specific* thing is having this *specific* effect on at least me, and probably will on other people."

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Here's a quote that always sticks in my mind:

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”

― Winston Churchill

Here's a link to video I did which is my closest experience to writing. book. I agree with Mr. Churchill.

https://youtu.be/yALVY5IG2DA?si=QO21WKd7s_TqreBw

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Interesting and somewhat disheartening to see a part of this process. I think it's often hard to tell why something is chosen or rejected, might be completely arbitrary reasons most of the time unrelated to the quality of the work. Think it's still worth a try, all it takes is getting in touch with the right person. Thanks for sharing.

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"no, listen, there is plenty of female-written literature/music that will give you insight into women," -said no teenage boy ever.

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Really just here to read and learn, Michael (thank you). I'm so far a flop on my query-submission journey and super appreciate seeing real-live feedback from agents. With #1, how frustrating to feel so close...only to be ghosted after multiple rounds of requested revisions. Ugh.

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Damn... that second agent response is excruciating. 💔

And it kinda threw me how she said the time period didn’t really matter. I wonder if she’d say the same thing now. The difference 2017 and today seems so massive I’d think not but I’m just guessing.

Maybe enough time has passed to make you a rarity now tho. I mean how many straight white male innocent punk rock rich kids are left these days? Regardless, we all deserve to tell our stories and I hope you get it published one day.

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From the little I know of the traditional publishing industry and what I've gleaned from people I've talked to in that industry, they're constantly looking for a sure thing. And they have a pretty good idea of what's selling at the moment (not one moment in the future, strictly this quarter if you know what I mean) so that's what they gravitate too. Us older white guys might not be what's in. I'd suggest, as others have here, the self-publishing route. The gatekeepers will always be there if you want to go back and try some more.

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author

Very true. Hey I’m only 40!!! 😎

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"Middle aged white guys", maybe? :)

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Mar 12, 2023Liked by Sincere American Writing

Select a pen name, submit anything you write under that name. Refuse to provide ANY personal information - no gender, no pronouns, no ancestry - nothing.

I guess I missed the memo - but when did agents become literary critics? Yes, getting real, thoughtful criticism is difficult and should be appreciated - but an agent should represent you, not edit you. When you have written the book, worked with a competent editor - that's about all the advice you need. Changes to make it "sell better" will be endless interference - that should not be tolerated from ANY source.

Solve the publisher problem? I don't know, maybe look at the Independent Publishers Association:

https://www.ibpa-online.org

3,000 independent publishers.

Find one that might be interested in your style. Then find an agent to represent you - tell them you don't want them to waste time reading your book - that's NOT their function. When was the last time you met a successful salesman who moonlighted as a service tech?

Finally - I'm sure you know, but it's worth repeating. You're not going to make a lot of money writing a book. JK Rowling did - but she was an exceptional writer long before she published - and she got lucky.

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Took a look there, is there a way to search through tbat website to find publishers or is it more like a networking thing through events and the like?

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Sorry - I was acquainted with them when I made a video about Hiking the Grand Canyon in 2000. I looked at their website just now - looks like you'd have to join to get access. I don't remember it being that expensive.

I did find one really interesting resource if you're interested in self-publishing:

https://www.ingramspark.com/lp/author-resources?utm_campaign=2022%20Advertising&utm_source=IBPA%20Newsletter%20July%202022&utm_medium=Banner%20Ad&utm_content=Guides

Hope this helps.

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Thanks a lot, looks like it could be useful. Also took a look at the free guide they offer and ended up at koehlerbooks.com, who offer an emerging authors program that looks very promising.

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Well, turns out I was wrong. The IBPA won't connect an author with a potential publisher --- but they are incredibly responsive -- I dropped a note to their "generic contact us" email address and got a response on Saturday - less than 24 hours after my inquiry - here is the exchange:

-----------------

If an author has a book they want to find a publisher for.

Is there any way to contact or review members of the IPBA?

Thank you.

--------------- Their reply:

Hi Ken,

Thanks for checking in. We do a lot of great things here at IBPA, but connecting authors and publishers is not one of them. If you decide to self-publish, the resources we offer will be helpful to you.

Here is a quick idea of how things work here at IBPA:

We offer useful marketing and educational resources to give your book its best chance at success, and to help you learn the business of publishing.

We use the strength of our 4,000 members to negotiate discounts from companies like IngramSpark, Constant Contact, FedEx Office and so much more.

We have a knowledgeable staff, available to guide our members, just a phone call or email away.

We set standards for the industry, encouraging independent publishers and self-published authors to compete at the highest level.

We advocate for the rights of our members, helping to level the playing field in an industry dominated by a few large companies.

You can see our latest list of benefits, here.

I'll be happy to mail you a sample copy of our magazine, the IBPA Independent, along with a membership brochure, if you’d like. This is regularly rated the #1 benefit by our members.

If I can help in any other way, please let me know. We look forward to having you join us!

Terry

--

Terry Nathan

Chief Operations Officer

Independent Book Publishers Association

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Appreciate that you looked into it. That was my impression too based on their website. However, the guide they offered looks very helpful & one of its authors does seem to have a programme to help authors, which I mentioned in my previous comment.

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author

Yes. All of what you say: Yes.

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It is a sad day when we're all being told we can only write characters that much up with our "identity." I've got a horror novel that involves slavery that I won't even bother submitting because I know it will never see the light of day. And I've got a different novel out for submission that has a main character who is a white man, but secondary female and people of color characters. I'm half expecting to be told I can't write those characters.

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author

I know. It’s very sad. Hasn’t that ALWAYS been the point of writing fiction? To imagine ourselves in other bodies, figuratively and literally? To flex our imaginations? To reflect back society onto itself?

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