We are not interested in science fiction that deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” – rejection letter for Stephen King’s Carrie
“… an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” – rejection letter for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
These are two of the many pieces of Internet lore about writers and the rejections they received before finally landing a publishing deal. Many of the famous rejection stories are about initial pitches or queries sent to agents and publishers that are turned down — sometimes in a very cruel manner. J.K. Rowling, John le Carré, and Dr. Seuss all received multiple rejections before finally getting published. Aspiring writers read and reread these rejection stories, reminding themselves to hang in there and keep trying, keep sending letters, and keep mailing queries and manuscripts to agents who may never look at them.
Robyn Peterman tried something different. She lied. But let’s back up a moment, because her story starts off sounding a lot like all the other rejection-laden tales.
“I’ve always written, but I never finished anything,” explains Peterman. “I have like 50 great American novels up in my attic. Then I wrote a 140,000-word paranormal vampire tome that I was so proud that I finished. I look at it now, and it is so overwritten, but I finished. I sent it out to like 30 agencies and got 30 rejections.”
With the traditional route not bearing any fruit, Peterman tried another approach.
“I went to a convention called Romantic Times, which is a reader/writer convention, that happened to be in Chicago last April. It was amazing. It was like going to school for a week. I was in seminars and classes, and it was great.
“And there was this thing called Pitch-a-Palooza, where a ballroom was lined with New York publishers and agents,” she continued. “They listed who was going to be there, so I picked nine places. You had three minutes to pitch your book before a buzzer went off and you had to get up and move to the next table. Well, I had nothing new finished. I had written about 20,000 words on something for NaNoWriMo — National November Writing Month — that I thought was pretty cool, so I thought, ‘I’ve got a beginning. I’ll pitch that. What have I got to lose?’
Peterman pitched all nine places, all the while playing the part of a novelist with a completed manuscript.
“Basically, I lied — humongously,” she said. “I pitched it like it was a finished book. I’ve been an actor my whole life, and this was like an audition. People were laughing and carrying on.”
And it worked.
“The thing is, all nine people asked for a full manuscript,” she said. “So I had to tell them all, ‘Thank you. I’m going to go home and have it professionally edited. I’ll have it to you in three weeks.’ Which meant ‘write it.’ I went home. My husband was away working. I almost stayed awake for three weeks straight. But I wrote it, and I sent it off, and I got four offers.”
Peterman went with Kensington Publishing.
“And then I told them that there was a sequel,” she said. “So we did a two-book deal.”
That book is called How Hard Can It Be? It tells the story of an accountant who tries to launch a writing career, with humorously outlandish results. It is selling in Amazon’s Kindle Store online now, with the print version to come.
The reviews and recommendations for the book are piling up. The sequel is written. Peterman is off and running, and it is the medium of e-publishing that put her book “on the street” as fast as it did.
“The turnaround for a hardback or paperback book is usually a year to 18 months,” explains Peterman. “With e-publishing, [it’s] not nearly as long.”
Online publishing is a phenomenon that shows no sign of going away — ever.
Whether it is used by a publishing house like Kensington for a writer like Peterman, or used by someone who cannot find or does not want a traditional publisher, outlets like Amazon’s Kindle publishing are changing the face of the publishing world forever.
Peterman mentions another famous name in the e-publishing world: J.A. Konrath. Konrath personally writes detective and thriller stories, but it is his role as the outspoken champion of independent publishing that gets him the most press. He maintains a blog called “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” that watches the latest goings-on in e-publishing, both for traditionally-represented writers and for independents. It is very actively followed and commented upon by writers.
Konrath names names and publishes numbers, telling how much he makes on his books and how he does what he does, and encouraging others to do the same.
Whether one follows the more traditional path that Peterman followed for publishing or one chooses to go it alone, e-publishing is the future. In fact, it levels the playing field so much that Peterman is actually looking at a whole new avenue publishing independently. A completely different line of stories, including a book called Fashionably Dead that she describes as “snarky, sexy paranormal,” is in the offing from her. Watch for that.