Book RelatedSite GeneralSparrow's Flighttaking chemo on the chin

The curse of being a small fish in a big pond.

Some people applaud the likes of me, some people turn the other way and others just find what I do scary and threatening.

Oh, and when I say people, I mean publishers and agents.

Here I am in the red corner, independently publishing two decent books – not Booker Prize contenders by any means, but well received and thoughtfully put together.  In the blue corner we have the rejectors, the tight knit industry that so passionately protects itself from any change, innovation or boat rockers.

I started self-publishing because nobody would take my chemo book seriously and it’s a good thing I did, because I have helped people, the big chain bookstores, publishers and agents don’t care about that though. They care about dollars, fair enough, it’s their business, but in that case with the right backing and commitment ‘taking chemo’ could have been delivered to millions of potential readers without an alternative. They wouldn’t think about it, they do not have vision, they do not see past the money bags that line their offices.

Of course if I was a mediocre celebrity with a ghost written biography about how I can flit into any new venture based on my name, then they would have been falling over themselves, but a nobody first timer that wants to help people – forget it.

The reason for this rant?

After the recent launch of Sparrow’s Flight : the best bad movie never made, I approached some large retailers about potentially stocking me. They were cordial, they invited me to submit my books, they took a seriouly long time to dleiberate and surprise surprise they rejected me, again.

What really gets my goat is the unwritten message that they just do not want to deal with a small publisher that is doing everything by the book, the message in their letter says:

“Thank you for sending the books ‘Sparrow’s Flight’ and ‘Taking Chemo On The Chin’ through for consideration. We have a particular selection process for deciding on which books we choose to bring into this business, and your book has just been through this process.

Unfortunately I do not feel that your books suit our particular market and have made the decision that they will not be added to our range.”

This is obviously a badly scripted mail merge, the writer talks about both book and books in what is a short missive, they also lack attention to detail by capitalising ‘taking chemo on the chin’, something I have lovingly avoided. For a large NZ/AUS chain it concerns me that the people alledegly making decisions about the books we read have such poor proofing skills.

The underlying message that I believe is buried in the subtext of ‘suit our particular market’ is that they cannot cope with a small publisher/distributor relationship and such things should be discouraged at all costs.

Quite sad really.

Especially when a quick search of their catalogue reveals the following:

Books relating to Chemotherapy : 150

Books relating to Cancer: 4600

Books relating to Screenplay: 420

Books relating to screenwriting: 100

So, I ask again – what is the real reason that my books do not fit?

4 thoughts on “The curse of being a small fish in a big pond.

  • Ngaire,

    Thanks for the feedback, I am now looking forward to seeing what advice you have in your review, bearing in mind that one of the benefits of controlling print runs means I can refresh the imprint where necessary. As a project I am happy with the results produced on the back of a demanding day job, other writing commitments and a young family, that does not mean that I am not open to criticism and a little extra polish.

    As for the challenge of distribution, I know it is hard and it is my own belief that has taken me this far and as somebody that has stared death in the face I know that it’s how you pick yourself up that matters, but occasionally it’s nice to let off a little steam.

  • Having very kindly received a review copy of Sparrow’s Flight, I’m afraid I can see why stores wouldn’t stock it, and yes it possibly has a lot to do with money but not “money bags lining their offices” – believe me, no publisher or bookstore in NZ has bags of money. I think the fact they even were willing to take the time to assess it is a very good gesture on their part and shows a willingness to at least consider sources of stock outside the traditional publisher/distributor model of the NZ market.

    But the stores have to consider how well a product will be received by their customers and unfortunately your book suffers from the usual self-publishing mistakes. I am in the middle of writing a review, but I’m sure the stores and other outlets you are approaching are perhaps having the same problem I do – they wish you well and commend what you are trying to do but aren’t sure your product is up to the job.

    PS I had intended to write a longer comment but I have an issue with your commenting panel – the cursor keeps returning to the website field above. Perhaps it doesn’t work correctly with the Chrome browser?

  • By their nature smaller bookstores don’t want to pay for stock unless it is sold, which is understandable.

    Libraries pay, but after contacting 80+ NZ libraries and getting 3 bites you begin to wonder about your approach.

    The message here is that the bigger stores have a reluctance/policy to avoid people like me and the publishers they do deal with are stonewalling. It’s a lose/lose.

  • Have you tried smaller local bookshops? Sometimes we just have to start small…

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