Feel like you can’t get arrested in the U.S. when it comes to publishing your literary novel? Fewer publishers, especially the major ones, are accepting much new fiction from unknown authors. The financial returns just aren’t good enough for the bottom line. If you are willing to keep an open mind and you have already decided self-publishing isn’t for you, it’s time to get creative and consider publishing abroad.
This is what one of our clients did several years ago with a collection of short stories. The story of how he didn’t get published in the U.S. is textbook. First of all he is a critic for books, movies, and music, and as such is known by a lot of people in the entertainment industry (publishers too!). He has an agent who did all the right things, and the rejection letters sang the praises of the author and the book. But that’s just it–it was a pile of rejections, thanks but no thanks.
Through a long-time friend and with his agent’s blessing, our client was published by an independent U.K. press. Promoting the book under these circumstances was a challenge, but I’m not so sure that it would have been so much easier if a domestic publisher had taken the book.
There are a few things to note regarding the process in this situation. The main one being that there were very few differences in this publishing model from any indie book project. The book was available print-on-demand through the major online retailers and Ingram and it was set up as an ebook on Amazon, BN.com, and Kobo. I’m sure in the U.K. all of the standard outlets had it as well, but for our purposes here I am focusing on the U.S. sales channels.
Since this publisher is a known entity albeit a small one, we were able to get a couple of trade reviews without paying a self-published book fee. Both Shelf Awareness and Publishers Weekly have covered this author’s book from this publisher. Also, because the book is very literary, we looked to the outlets we know pay attention to the genre and don’t pay particular attention to how big the house is that produces the book. Foreword Reviews in particular covered the novel very favorably and in fact singled it out as a staff pick for one of the best novels of 2015! There was also a feature in a local NY paper on the author, notable online coverage like Lambda Literary, and blogs.
As it turned out, the novel and author made out pretty well in the field of literary fiction. One thing that is always important to consider is that this particular genre is not a huge money-making proposition, which is why it is not attractive for many publishing houses. For the authors, it is about climbing and achieving little goals in search of name recognition, building a dedicated readership, and selling books. It takes time and demands that you write, write, write, as well as devote your own resources to the process.
Here I am showing you yet another example of how people are forging ahead with their dreams to write and publish–this time, publishing abroad to find his literary audience–and finding more ways to get around the traditional industry to get the job done.