The No I Was Hoping For

“That sounds like a fascinating book,” said the BIG NAME PUBLISHING HOUSE editor, “but I just don’t think our salespeople will know how to talk about it.”

So that was it. One of the largest fantasy publishers in the U.S. had told me they didn’t know what to do with my book. Therefore, they didn’t want to learn more about it.

Thank goodness.

That might seem like a strange reaction. Usually, authors are supposed to be overjoyed when an agent requests more. And to get a no, especially from such a large name, is usually disappointing. There was a time where that certainly would have been the case for me.

This all happened at the 2012 Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’d gone with 2 main purposes in mind:

  1. Increase my understanding of marketing and the publishing landscape for both indie and traditional publishing
  2. Pitch my book to 3 agents

I pitched at the conference primarily to see if I could do it. Could I talk about my novel in a way that came across as both compelling and professional? Could I hold my own?

In all three cases, I came away confident that I could. Two of the three people I pitched to actually did request more, such as 50 pages or a synopsis. Even the BIG NAME PUBLISHING HOUSEĀ editor thought my book was interesting. Her no spoke not to quality of idea and execution, but to my story not fitting in a box.

The no wasn’t just something I shrugged off. After all, writers have to be used to rejection and to not always finding the right fit with an agent, editor or publication. But when I came away from that no, it wasn’t with resignation.

It was with excitement.

For months I’d been researching publishing options and getting the best understanding I could of the current industry. I’d been leaning hard toward indie/artisanal publishing, but questions and doubts lingered. Was traditional publishing a better, smarter fit for my publishing goals? Would it be better to work with a trusted name? Would the trade-offs of control, rights and revenue be worthwhile? Was I nuts to think that I would be a better tender of my publishing and promotion than a big name house?

As I walked away from the naysaying editor, smiling as if I’d just been handed a 7-figure check, I understood truly and completely my own answer to those questions.



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