Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I must have accumulated up to FIFTY rejection slips from literary agents around the world by now. This is seriously depressing. I just want someone to be interested in my story, to believe in it the way I do, to be interested in representing me. Is that so hard? Sigh. I guess it's because nobody wants to represent a writer without any credentials. I haven't won any nationwide writing competitions, or published anything in magazines or papers... Maybe that's the reason for my less-than-desired responses.

I've sent my query letter for Lilies to Renaissance Publishing, this guy called Lance Ng, along with the first three chapters of my manuscript. Hope his response will be positive. If not I might really have to try self-publishing.

And self-publishing is a real headache. Because you're basically doing EVERYTHING yourself. All the negotiations, finding the best value for your money, looking for a willing editor (right now, I can't even find someone who's willing to READ my story), printing, cover-designing (and goodness knows I can't design anything for nuts), along with other stuff. Not only that, it'll all cost a friggin bomb.

This is the advice given on (this publishing company in Singapore):

How to Self-Publish Your Book Without Spending a Single Cent:
* Find someone to help you edit the book for free. A manuscript MUST be edited by an independent party. It is near to impossible to edit your own work well! Any author can read their own books ten times and still miss out errors. The human brain is simply wired to anticipate patterns based on familiarities. To hire a professional editor, a novel length book will likely cost you well over a thousand dollars. It is, after all, a tedious job and requires some proper training. You can do this for free by getting your family and friends to edit it. Top of the list should be people you know who have experience as writers, publishers, editors, proofreaders etc. People with degree majors in English, Literature, Journalism, Mass Communications, or Law are also good choices. Try not to compromise in this area. There’s nothing more irritating to a reader than mistakes in a book and it spoils the flow and turns them off. It also resembles too much of a cheap self-published title for readers to recommend to others.

* Get an ISBN number (whatever that is) if it is not included in the overall price of the POD publisher’s package. The ISBN number is your book’s registration number similar to a car’s registration. It is also used by bookstores in the barcodes to track inventory and order your book. (see "How to get an ISBN and barcode") This may cost you a few dollars but if you are determine to spend nothing, you can still sell e-books with your own website or some third-party sites (like e-bay) without having an ISBN.

* Design your own cover. Some online publisher’s provide cover design tools for free as part of the uploading process. The covers won't look great but at least it's free.You can attempt to design your own if you are proficient with software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. Many internet websites offer free stock pictures or graphics you can download and use. Be sure to check their licensing policies first. Designing book covers require appropriate software and technical knowledge on printing requirements. If you don’t know how you can also source for freelancers or design students who are willing to do it for free by crediting them in the book and giving them some free copies for their portfolio.

* Search the Internet for POD and e-book publishers and research their offerings to determine which one is right for you. BookSurge, Lulu and iUniverse are the largest companies providing self-publishing and each offers various services. Lulu is a free service and you can choose to pay for your ISBN number, promotional package and the printing price of each book ordered. For more choices, check out this website: An Incomplete Guide to Print on Demand Publishers . You can also try free online e-shop sites like and

* Prepare your manuscript and cover files in the right format. Some publishers require the manuscript to be in Adobe PDF format. I recommend Primo PDF which you can download and install for free. Others require a simple word document. Read the requirements online carefully first. You can always ask friends for a favour and use their computers with the right software if you don’t have it.

* Follow the instructions online carefully and check your book after uploading to make sure it turns out right. Order a copy yourself to see how it looks like for a customer who purchases it. If you’re really hard up for cash, get your family or friends to order a copy and have a look at how it turned out.

* Promote your book by setting up free websites or blogs where you can spread awareness, gather a fan base, or post excerpts. Circulate emails to your friends. Join the numerous writers’ groups and forums online, post notices, and build up a support network. You can also request for author talks in public libraries and bookstores. (That was how Christopher Paolini did it with “Eragon” at the age of 16!)

Tips & Warnings
Different online publishers have different royalty and fees, as well as terms and conditions over distribution rights. MAKE sure you read their policies carefully.

Stick to the large and well known ones. There are many dodgy folks out there prying on dreamy aspiring writers who are to eager to see their works published!

Never order a large number of books until you have proof read the first copy.

Don’t expect your book to start sell by itself. The most difficult aspect of the book business is marketing!


Finding a literary agent and getting published by a publisher is a very long and painstaking process for most aspiring authors. From the time you complete your manuscript, expect it to take a year or more before you finally land a publishing deal. It might take another year or so for the book to go to print while the publisher edits and prepares your book for publication. Most big publishers also have a long pipeline of books waiting to be released into the market and you'll have to get in queue even if your book is accepted. Add some more months while the book goes from printer to distributor to finally being placed on bookshelves in stores, most first time authors find that it is years before they see their book finally being sold. That is, if you manage to land a publishing deal in the first place. Trying to be a published author is like trying to be an actor; hundreds of thousands aspire but only a few make it.

My dad was right.

Still, that doesn't mean I'm not going to try and make it. I'll be one of the few, or die trying.

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