Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Book

I recently finished ploughing through The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Book by J. A. Konrath, which is available for free e-book download here.  It's no criticism to say that it's something you have to plough through rather than read: a vast collection of posts collected from Konrath's blog of advice for aspiring writers, mixed up with details of bookstore tours, library visits, conferences and other assorted ramblings.

Konrath is the author of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series of police / horror thrillers, as well as a number of short stories and novellas and, recently, the horror novel Afraid under the pen name of Jack Kilborn.  He freely admits to receiving over 500 rejections with not a single acceptance before he landed a six-figure contract for the first in the Jack Daniels series, Whiskey Sour.  He attributes this success primarily to his taking an approach that ignored much of the traditional logic of submissions.  He's hugely outspoken on this and a number of subjects, most frequently that of authors publicising their own work - something that Konrath has gone to quite staggering lengths to do.

I agree with a lot of what Konrath says, and agreed with more by the end than when I started.  I'd certainly get behind his central point that as writers we have a responsibility for getting our own sales, and that there's no point (and very little chance of success) in relying on others to do it for us.  I also disagreed with a lot.  At one point Konrath states that he's spending 70% of his time publicising compared with 30% writing, which strikes me as bad business in any field.  Still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone that they take a look, and really the disagreeing is half the fun.  It's kind of the reading equivalent of a night in the pub arguing with a really opinionated mate.  That aside, Konrath is hugely inquisitive and informed about the industry, and has no qualms about sharing what he's learned, warts and all.  If you're serious about a career in writing then there's a wealth of information here, much of which the majority of industry professionals would probably rather be kept quiet.

Be warned though, Konrath doesn't sugarcoat things.  In fact, by pretty much ignoring the small (and indeed, the mid-range) press, he probably makes them look worse than they are.  So if you have any doubts, or just want to quietly write for fun or minimal profit, you might want to stay well clear!

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