Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tree/House is Great, But Not Publishable -- Spooky!

Though I'm reluctant to admit it, Tree/House is self-published. I have faith in its quality, and so I always have it under consideration at some reputable traditional publisher.

My relationship with Madras Press has come to an end for now. I just adore them, so I hold out hope that I will write something appropriate for them at some later date, but, when given the opportunity, they decided to pass on Tree/House.

Novellas (fiction works between approx. 15,000 and 35,000 words long) are really hard to find a home for in the publishing world. I can see no rational excuse for this. The shorter length means less publishing cost. I would think it would be ideal for a society with an ever-shorter attention span. A few independent publishers seem to agree with me, because I've been able to scrounge up a short list of places to query. Let this be my notice to the big houses: Novellas are cheap to print and easy to edit! They are undoubtedly the next big thing!

The only reason I'm bothering you, reader, with this information is that the farewell I got from Madras made me feel so strange. Maybe this is the norm in small publishing, but when I asked for permission to send it to someone else who had asked for it out of the blue, the editor seemed thrilled. He said they liked it (hooray!) but had been having a devil of a time finding a place for it in a series and figuring out how to market it (boo hoo!) I don't know if he was overstating the case, but that sounds like I was awfully close to being published with a house I admire hugely. (Disappointment.) It sounds as if its only downfall was its very uniqueness. (Dismay! Bewilderment!)

I won't mention that one of the first things they ever published was a little book by Aimee Bender, which  utterly lacked category, genre, species, etc. I won't mention it because I know I'm not the incomparable Aimee Bender, with now two acclaimed novels and two short story collections to her credit, and before that, a degree in creative writing.

I will mention that this feeling is eerily familiar. I wrote in a previous post that I keep finding great venues for my writing, but then the venues don't accept it into the fold of their genre. Maybe every writer who gets rejected feels a little bit like that, but I'm starting to feel uncomfortably unique. I always thought unique was good, because who wants to read the same old thing, rehashed with slightly different names and locales? Apparently, a lot of people.

I sympathize with the publishers, because there are so many books out there that I might start coming out with fantasy stories in which a writer gets read by someone other than her mother. There's a definite glut going on, and publishers seem to have chosen to combat it through marketing. In marketing, or so I've heard, if the message isn't clear, it's not worth the media it's printed on, because no one will pay attention. Sending a clear message in the marketing of a book involves assigning any number of categories to it, among them genre. Readers have recently become very accustomed to choosing between books that magically fall into preset categories. Some people read only one certain genre.

The thing is, the categories aren't really "preset": they have to be assigned by publishers and booksellers.  I'm sure they have endless headaches trying to figure out how to categorize all these millions of books. I can't blame them for shying away from my little Tree/House, which has no identifiable popular genre beyond "literary fiction," and just possibly "women's."

Here's a list of genres and subgenres Tree/House doesn't fall into (suggest some!):
romance (it's sort of anti-romance!)
instructional (although there are a few suggestions on many topics)
western (although it has stables and knife-throwing)
fantasy (although there are some less-than-believable elements)
horror (although it has a really creepy guy and he's brutally murdered)
paranormal (although there's a ghost)
adventure (although it has travel and a couple of characters who throw caution to the wind!)
campus (although the main character goes to college for a while)
animals (although one character is a cat)
environmental (although the trees are soooooo important)

So the gist of it is, if you want to expand your horizons and read something outside what you normally read, something that, while not very categorizable, will inspire you to strike out and make your own way in life, please consider Tree/House.