When “no thanks” means “no problem”

A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections

— Chinese proverb

Yesterday I received my first official rejection from a publisher.

Taken with the sight-unseen offer of a vanity press to publish my novel for a mere $6,000-9,000 investment from me, I see this rejection as a sign that I am, officially, a novel writer.

I actually forgot that I even submitted “Carpathia” to this publisher. It was shortly after I finished the final draft and I must have felt some rush of ill-founded pride. Whatever it was, I sent a synopsis and sample chapters from my fledgling novel out into the cold, cruel world of publishers and agents.

Here is the email I received, minus of course the name/company of the sender:

Dear Mr. Whitmore,

Thank you for your submission Carpathia.  Unfortunately at this time I’m going to pass on this story. While the sample provided an interesting story line, it just didn’t hold my attention.  Between the fact that some of the sentences are just way too long winded and the switching from present tense to past tense throughout the submission, I don’t think this is polished enough for acceptance.  Of course this is just one editor’s opinion.

I wish you the best of luck in other markets.

Sincerely,

Before we go further, let me stress I am not upset by this rejection. If anything, it was expected as part of the process most everyone goes through. Of course I’d be less than human if I didn’t feel a flash of annoyance or anger, but it quickly passed.

In that flash of annoyance, I considered hitting “reply” and pointing out I had read some of the books published by the sender’s company and found in them several typos and long-winded sentences that would indicate a story not “polished” enough. Or asking how it was possible for my storyline to be “interesting” but not hold their attention.

Instead, I hit “reply” and sent an email back thanking the person for their consideration and feedback. A big part of me not being upset is because I always envisioned publishing the book myself, and I started 40 West Media partly for that reason.

* * *

We are currently in a Golden Age for Independent Authors, thanks in large part of eReaders like Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. I can write a story, formatting it for eReaders in the process (easy to do once you know how), and once finished shove it out on the world with whatever price I think it will get attached.

As an avid reader, I’m falling out of my easy chair with joy. Most eBooks from Indie Authors are priced from $.99 to $4.95, with $1.99 and $2.99 seeming to be the most popular. I’m old enough to remember when you could buy a real paperback for less than $2, but those days are long gone.

And some of the ideas and storylines that Indies come up with are amazing; things that make you say “I wish I had thought of that.” Fresh perspectives and approaches are common, although not every Indie hits a home run most make solid contact.

As incredibly empowering as this movement is, the works of Indie Author can be rough around the edges when it comes to things like editing and design. Yes, freelance editors and cover designers are available, use your favorite search engine and you’ll get more suggestions than you can use in a lifetime of writing.

But the fees for some of that “professional” sprucing up can be daunting. I wrote an 87,000-word novel, which some pro editors would charge around $600-800 dollars to review. Some cover designers offer rates that start at $40-$50 but others cost 10 times that.

I don’t expect to make enough money back in sales — it would be nice, but seriously not likely — to justify those expenses. So, I’ve used friends and family as proofreaders and “beta” readers and I’m doing my own cover (I’ve worked with Photoshop before). I expect many other Indies follow the same path.

* * *

But part of “DIY” publishing includes typos and syntax errors, plot holes and continuity errors; things a “real” publishing house would likely clean up while preparing the book — although I have seen some glaring typos and syntax mistakes in books published by “The New York Big Boys” as author Christine Rose calls them.

For me, personally, nothing takes me out of a story quicker than a typo; the suspension of reality evaporates at the first “your” that should have been “you’re.” And I really dislike sitting back an hour after finishing a book and suddenly realizing the character who left to find help in the middle third of the book was never mentioned again.

At the same time, I find my tolerance for such rough patches has risen the deeper into the Indie Author Movement I’ve gotten. Yes, that “we’re” and “were” mix-up was painful, but the concept of the story was fresh and interesting — AND I only paid $.99 for the book.

Not polished enough? Maybe so. But I’m okay with that.

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