Friday, 17 August 2012
L.I.T.E.R.A.L. stands for "Literary Team for Exposure and Righteous Alliances" (Very nice, like writerly Avengers!) and it's ran by my good friends over at Bronze Age Media, publishers of The Thrifty Mom's Guide to Style. And since I can't resist a writing meme, I'm joining in their first question:
Has your book/story/epic been published? If yes, how was the experience, and where can we buy your book? If no (or not yet), why the delay? Is there anything you know you should be doing to make it happen?
Yep. My paperback chick lit novels were published from 2006-2010 by Psicom Publishing (and you can get them at National Bookstore, Fully Booked, Powerbooks and Booksale). Some of my early short stories came out in Philippine magazines. And then of course there's the non-fiction ebook, which you can get at Amazon or Smashwords. So this is more of a comparison between doing it the old fashioned way and today's freer publishing world.
In 2002, as a young writer trying to build a portfolio it was vital to get published in print. I bought publications where I wanted to come out (e.g. The Philippines Free Press, The Philippine Graphic, Manila Times, The Philippine Daily Inquirer) to find out their mailing addresses. Back then, just 10 years ago, not all of them had email. The best bet would be to mail them a hard copy of your short story in double-spaced short bond paper stuffed in a Manila envelope and hope for the best. I also dropped by The Graphic to leave a story one lunchbreak; I'd also heard from the grapevine that the Inquirer was more responsive to stories that were faxed or mailed.
Then you waited.
Sometimes you didn't have to wait long. My Youngblood piece came out within the week I sent it. Sometimes it can take more than a year before publication, as in the case of "Mediocrity" which came out a year after mailing it to the Free Press. I never received a rejection letter from any stories that didn't make print, so I don't think that's practiced over here.
Then in 2005 I started writing Pink Shoes. When I had five chapters completes and an idea of how the whole thing would go, I went about trying to get it published.
1) First I Googled "how to get published." Here's where I found out I needed to put together a teaser package, which is essentially a cover letter briefly telling the publisher who you are and what you're writing about. This also contained a brief description of the work (like a back-cover summary) and the first chapter of the book.
2) Then I hung out Powerbooks and took down the publisher information of 12 different local books. This ranged from academic presses like UST to small publishers like Giraffe Books and Visprint to established names like Anvil. (At this time too Summit took a brief hiatus from publishing chick lit books, so there went my first target!)
3) In fairness, publishing houses were more responsive. I got invitations from some publishers like UST and Ateneo to see more of the book before ultimately being rejected.
4) On a whim I decided to try writing to Psicom -- which was a long shot, I thought, since they mostly did comics and manga. Serendipitously, they were looking to fill in the chick lit void left by Summit, and agreed to publish Pink Shoes.
And that's how my books got published! It sounds quick but it was actually a yearlong process. The good news was that as soon as I secured a publisher, publishing The Hagette, If The Shoe Fits and Shoes Off! all went smoothly - all it took was an email.
Would that approach still work today? I'm not too sure. Now you can pursue it independently. Instead of all that energy going to finding a publisher, you can spend it actually writing. You can upload your work as an ongoing web series in a blog or Tumblr, for example. If it's good and you get a nice response, you can present that to a publisher - or they may even get to you. Check out Feminist Ryan Gosling or Suri's Burn Book, both of which now have book deals. This is also how my posts on Plus Size Fasyon Mudra became a fashion ebook. You could also gain a following on fan fiction sites and turn your work into a bestselling hit (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?). Or you can aim high and release an ebook straight to Amazon -- as a DIY project or with the help of the good people at Bronze Age -- and reach your market immediately.
Here's what I see though as the key difference between the traditional and non-traditional way: whereas traditionally most of the legwork would happen pre publication, with new media it's after publication. You need to spend more time marketing, networking and reaching your readers. With all the ebooks out there, you need a "hook" to make yours stand out.
Or not. The beauty of the new way of publishing is that you can be as hands-on as you want - or be content to release your work into the ether and leave it at that.
There's a lot of freedom now, and I think that's what's most awesome.