A Book-Nerd’s Nightmare (and some complaints)

2 Mar

stress

If you’ve followed me here for a while, you know that I’m working on three books series at once: Acephalous, Humans In My House, and Nova June: Inventor. I give myself deadlines to stay organized, and I typically try to finish one novel completely before cycling to another series. I publish about one book per series per year. But the addition of Nova June is a new experience, and I’ve been working on it and Ontogenesis: Acephalous Book 2 simultaneously.

Nova June: Inventor is a children’s picture book, and I’m doing the illustrations myself. As I expected, but hate to admit, my self-imposed deadlines for this one are hard to stick to. Illustrating takes forever when you’re not really an artist (and no, I’m not saying it’s quick for true artists. I acknowledge the time and effort that goes into artists’ work). I’ve already missed my cover reveal deadline for the book by a day. It will likely be out next week. But, I digress.

One of the hassles that pile on top of these deadlines when you’re an indie author is marketing and publicity. I recently sent off all of my novels to Barnes and Noble’s small press department for consideration for placement in their stores. The books are available online and for special order, but you won’t see them on their shelves.

In a much quicker period than expected, I got my to-the-point rejection letter essentially saying that there are too many print-on-demand books out there to consider. They won’t accept mine only because of that reason. It made me angry because I’m guessing they didn’t even read them, otherwise there might have been some useful criticism. They (probably) flipped to the back of the books, saw the CreateSpace printing address, and sent them to be pulped. I hope they at least donated my books to a charity instead.

I’ve seen CreateSpace books on their shelves before, so at some point, they were giving us little names a chance. Their online guidelines for making these submissions said NOTHING about not accepting print-on-demand. If they don’t want to consider them, they should give authors the advance notice (like Books-A-Million does). Getting the materials ready to submitting was a time consuming process. To make matters worse, print-on-demand does not mean the books cannot be purchased at wholesale, but big book stores care that print-on-demand makes it more difficult to return overstock for a refund (but Ingram does this via CreateSapce direct, so that reasoning for their rejection is moot).

book vortex

All the print-on-demand books swirling away into the pulper. (*facetious*)

I won’t bore you with additional ranting about the ins and outs of the publishing industry. In fact, I didn’t realize I was still so riled up by this whole thing. My point in telling you all this is to lead into the stress-induced book nightmare I had the other night, which I find hugely amusing in concept now that it’s over.

Picture it. Sicily: 1912. (Just kidding.)

I receive a package with a paperback copy of Acephalous and a rejection letter from Barnes and Noble. Their reasoning for not accepting the book is the same as in reality: no print-on-demand books. The letter additionally includes notes about how poorly formatted it is, that it is unreadable. I scoff and make some angry comments about them then decide to flip through my book to see just what they mean.

To my horror, the book is indeed as illegible as they claim, and at this point the dream turns to black and white. It’s grainy like an old TV. Every page in the book has multiple fonts and sizes of text. Some of the words are huge, dark, bold. Many of them are tiny, grey-scale. The pages aren’t even in order. I go to the table of contents to see if it could help me read the book in the correct order, but the table of contents (which my book doesn’t even have in real life) is just a list of random words from throughout the book and arbitrary numbers beside them.

tv

If you’ve ever had one of those elevator dreams where the button doesn’t take you to the floor it says, or one of those “dial 911” dreams where the numbers on the phone are in the wrong place or don’t dial as the number you press, the table of contents part was just like that. Totally useless. As if looking for the word “the” in the TOC would be descriptive enough. Come on, subconscious.

And even though there isn’t the slightest bit of scary material in this dream, it still woke me up as if it was a nightmare. For a book-nerd, an author, editor, publisher, it was truly horrific. No one should see their brainchild mangled up like that in dreams. (I’m being dramatic. I really find it funny, now.)

Amazingly, until this dream, my Red Ink Enthusiast-related work had NEVER crept into my sleep. And that’s really saying something considering how much better I work under some stress and a deadline. Looking back on it, I’m certain the dream was expressing my lingering irritation with Barnes and Noble, essentially saying that unless my books looked as bad as it did in my dream, there was no reason not to accept them.

I can’t stand knowing the only reason they were rejected is because there are too many others. It would be easier, almost, if they just thought my writing was bad. That I can improve. But it’s not. Especially Humans In My House. I really thought they’d bite with that one, and it’s my dream to see that series in the kid’s section. But, I can’t do anything about the amount of other writers out there trying to do the same thing as me. So, I’ll plug on, hunt down the (dwindling) indie stores, shmooze with the people who make decisions, and try to compete in the current market while many of my methods are still stuck the 1900s–in person, with a small budget. 

Here’s to getting discovered.

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