Killer Nashville 2016’s John Seigenthaler Legends Award recipient Robert J. Randisi has seen his fair share of rejection letters. After all, the road to publishing is never easy, and you don’t publish over 650 books without walking off all kinds of early disappointments. The industry at present, however, makes it seem possible to avoid that painful process through self-publishing. In this week’s guest blog, Randisi takes a hard look at this shortcut, and shares his advice.
Old Days, New Ways
By Robert J. Randisi
Back in the late 1970s, when I was trying to break into the publishing business with private eye fiction, editors were telling me that the Private Eye was dead. But I persevered, and my first novel, The Disappearance of Penny (1980), was a private eye novel. Not long after its publication, I founded the Private Eye Writers of America. Our aim was to honor and further the private eye genre, elevating it to more than just a mystery subgenre, and now that PWA and the Shamus Award are starting their 35th year, I think we managed to succeed. And one of my recent books, The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie (Perfect Crime, 2013) was the first in a new private eye series set in Nashville. The second book, The Last Sweet Song of Hammer Dylan (Perfect Crime), will follow later this year. And on we go…
But reminiscing about the days when I broke into the business makes me think of writers asking me today how to break in. Wow, how things have changed. Back then, I had to mail the manuscripts to editors and wait months for a reply—often a “No,” or “Does not suit our present needs.” I know writers who have collected 400, 500, 600 such rejection slips from publishers, and yet never lost their enthusiasm. Rather, those slips were merit badges, showing that they were paying their dues. Eventually, many of us got that first acceptance letter, and went on to a career.
But there are now countless outlets for authors who don’t want to wait for that acceptance letter: not when they can simply put the books out themselves. Ebook publishing and self-publishing have replaced all those rejection slips. Is this a good thing? Some say yes, some say no. Just look at the proliferation of self-published books on Amazon. Try to read some of them. A good portion are badly written and poorly edited, if they’re edited at all. There are books out there that, after years of rejection, have been published by authors who had the time and excess income to publish the books themselves. (Many of them were not published previously for good reason!)
Now, I’m not making any kind of sweeping statement that self-publishing is bad, or that all self-published books are bad. I’m saying that some writers’ impatience to be published has resulted in badly written, badly edited books making it to the marketplace. And there are books out there by published writers who are finding it difficult to stay published in the current environment, which have also been too hastily rushed to market.
So while I make no sweeping allegation that all self-published books are bad, I do offer these words of advice: BEFORE you send that manuscript out to be formatted and published by Smashwords or Kindle or Createspace, READ it over again and again; BEFORE you publish the book, invest some disposable income in a good editor, to be sure the grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation are correct.
As much as you may feel sure that the book is “fine”, there are many, many good writers out there who are BAD editors. To paraphrase the legal industry, “The author who edits his own book has a fool for an editor.”
Robert J. Randisi is the author of the Miles Jacoby, Nick Delvecchio, Gil & Claire Hunt, Dennis McQueen, Joe Keough, and The Rat Pack mystery series. The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie (Perfect Crime Books), the first book in the Auggie Velez Nashville P.I. series, appeared in 2013. Upon My Soul (Down & Out Books, 2013) is the first book in the “Hitman with a Soul” Trilogy. The second book is Souls of the Dead (2015, Down & Out Books). His recent novel McKenna’s House (Crossroad Press) has been called his best book yet by several reviewers. The 10th book in his Rat Pack series, When Somebody Kills You, was published in Sept. 2015 by Severn House. He is the editor of over 30 anthologies. All told, he is the author of more than 650 novels, many of which have been Westerns.
His Housesitting Detective series appeared from Dagger Books in 2015, with the first book, Dry Stone Walls.
He is the founder of the Private Eye Writers of America, the creator of the Shamus Award, the co-founder of Mystery Scene Magazine and the American Crime Writers League with Ed Gorman, and one of the founders of Western Fictioneers and the Peacemaker Award. He is also the editor of How to Write a P.I. Novel for Writer’s Digest.
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