iUniverse Publishing asked Rising Star author Timothy Jay Smith to contribute a follow-up to the Kirkus Review of his novel, “Cooper’s Promise”, that we first covered in the blog back last December. Now Timothy has very kindly got back to us; and wow has he in this two part post.
Book publishing – the traditional way
“I became a full-time writer nearly fifteen years ago. It took me a couple of years to complete my first novel. By then, the publishing industry was already in an upheaval over the rapidly mounting threat of e-retailers. Buy-outs and mergers were an effort to build a cost-competitive fortress against them. In other words, the industry was hunkering down and taking no risks.
The former President of the Book of the Month Club ‘discovered’ my novel and passed me along to one of New York’s leading boutique agencies. My new agent sent out my manuscript on a Thursday afternoon, and the first call she received on Monday morning was a leading publisher saying she loved the book. “Let’s get together and talk numbers,” she suggested, until three days later, she called back to say that the publishing house had been acquired by an even bigger publisher, and it had fallen off the new publisher’s list.
No other offers came in.
My agent told me not to worry, it was a good book, it would eventually sell. Just keep writing.
It wasn’t a good book—not that draft—but I did keep writing.”
Book publishing – the new way
“Fast forward to today, and I have written four novels, five screenplays, and five stage-plays. Along the way, I have won a dozen Grand Prizes or First Places in writing competitions, and placed in over 70 more. I never sold a novel, despite having prominent literary agents in both London and New York.
My novels weren’t commercial enough, the publishers said. They were too literary to be a thriller but too thriller-ish to be literary. Bookstores wouldn’t know which shelf to put them on, and customers wouldn’t buy them because their genre wasn’t clear.
I decided to prove them wrong.
My solution was to self-publish “Cooper’s Promise” with iUniverse in January 2012. I had the clear intention of getting noticed; and to be picked up by a traditional publisher. That meant I had to sell books and get reviews, and getting reviews as a self-published author is extremely tough. That’s understandable. The number of books is overwhelming, and there are few gatekeepers for weaning out the bad from the good. So I approached the challenge strategically.”