Monday, December 20, 2010

Stark Raving Madmen

When possible, I like to be an informed consumer, so I went to a Barnes & Noble for a little initial research. I wandered through the sections labelled "Entrepeneur", "Business" and "Self Improvement". I just kind of squinted my eyes and looked at the book spines, looking for logos that showed up a lot. I figured they would be "the big fish", the people I wanted to go to first. I wrote down their names, as well as their URLs, and went home to surf my way to publishing glory.

More background: I've been in a variety of businesses. I've delivered Pizza, been a cashier at K-mart, done door-to-door fundraising, and then a heck of a lot of computer programming. I've worked for companies you've heard of (Amazon and Google) and companies you haven't (Unify and XDB Systems) and several startups. I'd occasionally worked for my father's company too, doing odds and ends. 

What I found at the publisher's websites absolutely flabbergasted me. Flabbergasted may not be going far enough. I was agog. Stunned. Shocked. Simply blown away. The publishing process for each of the "big fish" was the same:
  1. Send us the first 10% of your manuscript.
  2. Mail it to this PO Box.
  3. Include your contact information.
  4. Do not call us
  5. We will usually get back to you within three months if we want to publish your work.
Now I am aware that there are a heck of a lot of people out there who think they're the next Wambaugh or Eddings. I understand that traditional publishers are faced with sifting through a huge bulk of "No thanks" for every "Could work", and the ratio of "Could work" to "We made money" is even worse. I get that. Really.

But seriously... 3 months to get accepted, even longer to get published? That's crazy. You'd be writing business books that were almost out of date the day they hit the shelves.

So I talked to a couple friends, who suggested I consider getting Literary Agent. I searched anew on the web, and found a dozen or so that specialized in what I was doing. (Nonfiction, technical, business) I looked at their process to accept an author: It was essentially the same as the publishers: Send us your work, don't call us, we'll call you in N months.

I was beyond gobsmacked. I was completely at a loss.

Then I remembered something that's helped me in the past: when things in a new arena seem completely incomprehensible, assume you're a clueless noob and ask the professionals (very politely) for directions.

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