Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Manuscript That Destroyed Publishing As We Know It

To all the authors, editors, bookstore owners, and agents out there, I extend my heartfelt apologies. It’s all my fault. I admit it. All those publishers closing their doors or merging. All those bookstores closing…I’m just sick about it. But the first step to healing is admitting the problem. And the problem is my manuscript. Specifically, manuscript X. It has another title, but given its impact on the industry, I’m afraid to use the real title for fear of causing even more tragedy as it slowly spreads through the blog-o-sphere.

This is a true story.

Or at least mostly true.

Well, the beginning is true, and here it is.

About six years ago, I wrote a manuscript. It was a murder mystery. Call it X. X was pretty darn good. Maybe not great, but good. So I sent it to an agent. The agent was interested, but before anybody signed a contract, someone died in the agent’s family and she quit working for a while. Sorry. Just a coincidence and a sad one, at that. I sent flowers.

Then I started resubmitting X and pretty soon, found another agent. She was interested, too, but before we signed anything, she got ill and decided to stop being an agent for a while. I was really sorry about that. Sent more flowers and signed up to be able to send flowers to agents at the press of a button on my cell phone.

Started using a death’s head icon for the manuscript file. It was just a joke. Really.

But starting to fear the manuscript was not healthy for agents, I submitted the manuscript to a small press publisher. The publisher liked it. We talked about a contract but then the economy tanked. (My fault. Sorry.) The publisher went out of business as a result.

Now, despite these odd coincidences, I didn’t learn and I kept submitting the darn thing. As it wended its way through the publishing industry, more companies slowly went out of business. Or for those that survived, a series of editors quit. So did a few of the agents I sent it to at various intervals, still trying to maintain the pretense that I had nothing to do with this growing horror.

Finally, I stopped. And tonight, I’m looking at X and wondering…if I go the self-publishing route with Amazon, are they big and strong enough to survive the curse of X? Or will it cause the e-publishing market to implode before it even matures? Or worse, will I finally succumb to the curse since I will be stepping into the shoes of an editor if I self-publish? That’s a scary thought. My chickens may come home to roost.

That’s not pleasant. I raise chickens. I know what those little devils are capable of. In fact, I may someday write a true horror story about evil fowl. Assuming there is still a market for books.

If I was a thoughtful, decent person, wouldn’t I stop the destruction by deleting all traces of manuscript X?

Maybe. But like my chickens, I’m not that nice.


Lilly Gayle said...

You're very nice Amy. And if I'm not mistaken, Manuscript X just found a home. Right? Even if Manuscript X isn't the one I'm thinking about, a huge congratulations is in order for snagging another publishing house. No agent needed so you get to keep that 10-15%. Lol!
BTW, I'm adding humerous to descriptive and unique when describing your voice!! Too funny.

Amy said...

Oh, no LOL, manuscript X is a different and much more deadly manuscript than the one which just found a publishing home.

And while I'm tempted to submit it to what I hope will be my new publishers, I have qualms about that. I'd rather not put them out of business immediately. ROFL

Gabriella Hewitt said...

LOL! I thought X might be the story that just sold. Now you have me intrigued. I look forward to one day hearing the final resting place of X. ( :

w/a Gabriella Hewitt

Amy said...

No--the manuscript that just sold never had such a horrendous history. :)

I'm still trying to decide what to do with manuscript X. It really has had an odd journey thus far.

jenny milchman said...

Stop the madness, Amy!! Is it your fault my husband was fired in 2010, too??

Actually, that turned out to be one of the best things that happened to us that year. And I bet your ms finding its own unique path might turn out to be the exact best thing, too.

I'm on submission myself right now. Hoping not to cause any firings...or bankruptcies...

Are you responsible for Borders, too??

Amy said...

Yes! I was horrifed when the curse of X extended to Borders.

And I'm sorry about your husband, but I hope it works out for you both.

Manuscript X is burning in my back pocket--I'm just trying to decide which publisher can handle the losses they may incur after the submission...

Maybe I need to start looking for agents and/or publishers I dislike. Hmmm. The problem is, my memory is so poor that I can't retain information long enough to hold a grudge. I need to work on that. It would be the perfect solution. Murder by Proxy.

Wait! Isn't there a book by that title?

Susanne Alleyn said...

I had a Manuscript X, too, back 20 years ago when I was still one of the Great Unpublished. An agent, a friend of a friend, read some sample chapters of the (very) unfinished work and adored it. He told me to keep working on it and that he wanted to represent it when it was finished. I plunged into the work.

Six months later he commmitted suicide.

And I've recently, after a digression of five other books, gone back to working on that novel. Fortunately, my current agent seems both physically and mentally healthy and able to withstand a cursed ms...though the wonderful man who originally took me on at the agency died last year. If he hadn't been 93 I might have wondered about that curse.

Amy said...

Not another one!
No wonder the publishing industry is going through such upheavels!

I hope you have better this time around with the manuscript!