Saturday, 8 September 2012

To Be or Not To Be

The manuscript is out on requested submission with two larger (why is this important - see below) Aussie publishers and a US literary agent tweeted me asking for a query.  A bunch of Aussie school librarians have agreed to provide feedback around the beginning of next month - based on their own and their students' opinions.  So far so good.

Except I'm:
  1. doing the equivalent of chewing off my fingernails worrying the publishers won't like it - and then what?
  2. not worried if the librarians and the kids don't like it because their feedback is vital - I'll shelve the manuscript and crack on with the other projects I have in mind;
  3. wondering if I should take the plunge and do what I wanted to do two years ago - set up my own press - with all the usual caveats:  am I far enough from my own ms to know whether there are any structural or stylistic problems?  And do I want to work on other people's books - yes and no - I just found a really lovely piece of work by an Aussie author who deserves a lot more marketing than he's receiving - I'll be interviewing him on Badass Books in the coming weeks; does my previous corporate work really equip me well enough to do this?
  4. knowing that setting up my own press is the equivalent of being canned by the majority and considered unpublishable - BUT the more research I do on this, the more I'm convinced that lack of quality isn't the only reason publishers reject manuscripts.  Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe Publishing in Australia (whom I haven't queried) writes an excellent blog on the state of publishing down under.  One of his articles mentions some extraordinarily depressing statistics - over a 35 year period, despite population growth, circulation of the major Australian newspapers has decreased from between 50 - 86% (for no less than Melbourne's The Age).  That trend is also reflected in the distribution numbers of books.  On the other hand, he also laments the downward spiral in the quality of prose - from straight typographical errors to journalistic bastions of the English language ignoring and printing clobberingly bad syntax.  All of which means you need an editor.  You need an editor.  You need an editor.  I can do this for other people's work - I can't do it for my own;
  5. gnashing my teeth because my expat status (from Australia) means I can't enter any of the writing competitions (these are a great way to put your full manuscript in front of people) - and therefore more reason to take the plunge in setting up a private press;
  6. fuming because two smaller Aussie publishers already turned me down - not because of the manuscript - rather because being currently domiciled in Singapore means I wouldn't be available to do promotional work - and they decided that without asking me just what I might be willing to do first (you'd think they'd never heard of planes, for instance, or social media networks?!?!).  Since the setting for my ms is Australia, it doesn't translate so well to an overseas publisher - this is high concept fantasy realism, not a dystopia, or off-world adventure.  Another reason to go it alone?
Now you might think that Singapore would be the last place to set up a press.  Hey, I speak Japanese and can squint through a few Chinese characters, but the most Singaporean I can manage is not much, lah!  Because of the government focus on the English language and the majority of young Singaporeans' adoption of US culture (they're rather fond of Australia, Perth in particular, too), there are large numbers of bookshop chains and indie bookstores, a healthy online book-purchasing community, and the Singapore National Library has more outlets per capita than a millipede has feet (meaning that for an island that fits more than twice into Sydney's land area with a population of  around five million, you don't have to walk far to locate your local branch).  Schools are equally thick on the ground - there's one undergoing renovation right behind our estate (no, don't ask about the noise - it's a demolition job on my head as much as the buildings).

This coming Friday we have our we-are-foreigners-not-second-class-citizens-applying-for-permanent-residency interview with the gate-keeping ministry responsible for changing our status.  I'm already eligible to set up my own business - and this will also legitimise a dialogue with the rest of the folks here involved in putting books in readers' hands.

Now if you know all that and you know how distribution and book warehousing, selection into bookstores etc works, doesn't that make the idea of establishing your own wordsmith sound at least a little appealing?


  1. On the other hand, the more investigation I do, the more complicated it sounds.

    Kudos to those who've done it and succeeded. I think I still have a long way to go before making the plunge.

  2. On the plus side, I have found someone who might just be the answer to my please-send-me-an-editor prayers....fingers crossed.