Why Can’t This Be Love?


It happened again. A few weeks ago an agent I queried asked for a partial. I stuffed the obligatory First Thirty Pages Along With A Two-Page Synopsis into an envelope, sprinkled in some cosmic good thoughts, and sent it away. Late last week I got an emailed rejection. Although my writing is “quite good” and my heroine “unique and compelling” (examples were sited that made me think she might have meant it), the agent “just didn’t fall in love” with it and didn’t think it was (drumroll please)…Marketable.

I wish an agent would fall in love with my manuscript. Waiting for Spring is kinda hot, and sometimes comes on a little strong, but ultimately it has a heart of gold. Maybe it needs to get an agent drunk first so she (or he) will at least sleep with it. That might lead to a semi-hesitant on-and-off romance that eventually blossoms into true love.

The good news is that there are plenty of readers out there who are nursing what is at least a serious crush on my book. I’ve sold more copies on my Lulu storefront in the past two days than in the previous two weeks combined and it’s still being downloaded very steadily. Even more exciting–to me, anyway–are the very passionate responses I’ve been getting from people who’ve read it. When someone refers to one of my characters as they would a real person they’ve grown to love–and not as a character in a novel whose actions I have set in motion…well, that’s about the best feeling in the world.

So if you haven’t had a chance to read Waiting for Spring yet, g’head and give it a go. Read a few excerpts, or see what readers have said about it. You can read it in its entirety for free HERE ; download the free e-book; or read along as it’s serialized at Sid Leavitt’s Readers and Writers Blog. Who knows? You might just fall in love.

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About R.J. Keller

R. J. Keller is the author of Waiting For Spring. An avid independent movie enthusiast, she was Managing Editor of The Movie Fanatic website and created episodes of the writer-centric YouTube series, Inside The Writers' Studio, with author Kristen Tsetsi. She co-hosted Book Chatter with Stacey Cochran from 2011-2014. She lives in Central Maine with her family, where she enjoys gardening, collecting geeky memorabilia, and watching other people cook. View all posts by R.J. Keller

15 responses to “Why Can’t This Be Love?

  • bunnygirl

    I feel your pain and am beginning to wish I hadn’t started querying my current novel. I doubt it’ll find a traditional home, but my beta readers urged me to try anyway and sent me an article to convince me the genre is selling. In a moment of madness, I went ahead and sent out a few queries. Ugh. Dumb move.

    The problem is that even though my novel is YA spec fiction, it’s also a mystery, a love story, and tackles big literary questions, such as what constitutes civilization and what we owe ourselves, each other, and society. With quotes from Shakespeare, the Bible, The Art of War, and the poetry of Ezra Pound, you think I’m going to hit a traditional market? Not a chance. I’m wasting time that would be better spent writing more flash fiction, which at least earns me the occasional pin money.

    Now I’m stuck waiting for agent rejections when I really want to be posting my story on the web instead. Well, I do need to do the back cover for the Lulu print edition, so all is not lost! 🙂

    It’s tough to be a writer of slightly off-genre novels. If they can’t find a good pigeonhole for you, your chances of traditional publication are slim, no matter how good your writing or story (unless you’re already famous, of course). You’re better off promoting yourself through unconventional means and seeing if you can attract an agent or publisher’s eye for reprint rights.

    I hope you don’t ever succumb to the temptation to dumb down to the market. And I hope you don’t turn bitter over the way the biz works. I’ve seen what that does to some writers. It’s ugly, sad, and ultimately counter-productive.

  • R.J. Keller

    Hey Bunnygirl!

    I’m in a similar boat, but I’m still gonna keep putting my book out there…although I’m not sure how many agents are left that haven’t already heard from me.

    Fear not. I’ll never ‘dumb down.’ To me, if it happens, traditional publication is a means to get my words out there; not an ultimate goal I’d change my words to reach.

  • Zoe Winters

    That’s awesome R.J. Congrats!

    Over the past few weeks I’ve stopped looking for an agent or editor. I have literally NO interest right now. Because I truly believe at this point, a publisher cannot do for me anything I cannot do for myself. I need readers FIRST. Paying for cover design, editing and print costs (all of which I can do myself. I’ve run a business before I understand the financial risks), and then blindly throwing my book out to about 4 review sources and giving me a craptacular advance, does not impress me.

    throwing me on the wall like spaghetti to see if I stick doesn’t impress me.

    The stories I’ve heard where publishers actually impeded some of their author’s marketing endeavors…doesn’t impress me.

    In fact, the more I’m learning about publishing and the ways to get around the obstacles, the more I realize, there’s nothing impressive a publisher can do for me unless they want to make me a star. And they won’t do that until and unless I’ve got something impressive to show them. Like sales records and a following.

    In addition, in the 5 years (if I was lucky) it would take to procure and agent, and editor and get on shelves for my FIRST book, I could have a lot more work out in the world, building an audience, getting readers.

    So I think you are right on about what you’re doing. Keep trucking and go indie. Keep getting your work out there, do a podcast, give stuff away, do whatever you have to do, because I think somewhere along the way we forgot…the only requirements in this equation are the writer and the reader. And in this new age of technology that’s even more true.

    Viva La resistance! Rock on chicka!

  • Zoe Winters

    *an agent and *an editor. Sorry, just got up.

  • Zoe Winters

    Also, read an excerpt, I think you’ve got a great voice. I’m adding you to my TBR pile and I will be buying a print copy. Because I believe in supporting artists working outside of the system who have something worth reading. 🙂

    Also, how did you get the price point so low? Has POD become even more affordable? about 4 years ago the price point couldn’t compete at all, but now it’s competitive with trade paperback books on the shelves. I don’t know if you’re just accepting basic author royalty structure as your profit or not (in the end analysis it’s probably not a bad idea if you go with lulu since there isn’t a huge outlay of cash there.)

  • R.J. Keller

    Thanks Zoe! I’d love to hear what you think of it…no pressure of course. 😉

    I’m not a impatient person in a general way, but when it comes to this business I see two options:

    1. Let my book possibly sit on a shelf forever, collecting dust and never seeing daylight, while I wait for the remote possibility that it’ll break into the traditional publishing world.

    2. Get the damned thing out there myself where it can be read.

    As I always do, I made my decision based on the answer to this question: “When I’m 90 years old, which regret will haunt me more?”

    In this case, it’s a no brainer. I couldn’t bear knowing I had kept Waiting For Spring on a shelf for no good reason. I'm proud of it, and I'm confident there's an audience for it. I'm willing to reach that audience in whatever way I can.

    RE: The cost.
    Right now I'm charging printing cost only. It literally costs $12.39 for Lulu to print one copy of WFS (plus shipping & handling). Once I get an ISBN number (filling the oil tank comes first) I might boost it just a little so I can try to recoup the cost of that. I might not. Making money off of it isn't all that important to me; getting it read is. Besides, after all the research I've done recently in regards to what traditionally published authors make, I'm convinced I wouldn't do much better for myself out in that world.

  • Zoe Winters

    hehe very true R.J. The kind of money paid for most novels for a year’s worth of work (sometimes more) is freaking crazy. It’s got to be about more than the money.

    And I don’t need an official gatekeeper to validate me. The MARKET can validate me, or not. Either way, I believe it’s only fair for the readers to decide. Gatekeeping is so last Spring.

  • Jen O

    Just remember all those stupid articles of big time writers who will go on and on about how many times they got rejected. Someday, that’ll be you!

    Until then, enjoy the ride. Yeah, it sucks, but don’t give up! Too many people do, and think of all those stories that never get read because of that.

    You’ll make it!

  • bunnygirl

    R.J., I did the same thing with my print editions from Lulu for previous projects. Since both of my current Lulu offerings began on the web before it ever occurred to me to put them in print, I feel wrong trying to profit off them. I did end up having to put a price on the pdf downloads though, because when I started formatting for Kindle, Amazon had some rule that I couldn’t offer downloads cheaper somewhere else.

    And Zoe, I love the way you put it about how we’ve forgotten that our craft is between us and the reader, not us and the publishing industry.

    POD and e-pub get a bad rap because there is so much awful and unedited dreck out there. To publishers’ credit, at least when they put out something bad, it’s well-edited for common errors. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any gems out there in indie publishing formats and I think a movement is growing to support more indie work.

  • Sid Leavitt

    Hell, R.J., I like Waiting for Spring so much that I’ve already cast one of the characters for the movie version: My nominee to play Brian LaChance is Emmett Richmond, whom you may remember as Reese Witherspoon’s love interest in the Legally Blonde movies.

    As for Tess Dyer, I dunno. You, maybe?

  • Zoe Winters

    Hi Bunnygirl, thanks! I totally agree with what you’re saying. Indie Bands and filmmakers are seen as “cool.” Indie authors are seen as “writers not good enough to get a publisher.” It’s time that perception was overturned.

    The sooner writers stop deifying agents and publishers, the sooner this madness stops. I am SO over the traditional path. Until I have a following, and have them coming to me with an offer worth looking at, I am just not interested. If an agent called me tomorrow, I would turn them down. At this point the trad path will just get in my way. It’s not time yet.

    I do have one thing out in the world at one publisher right now. On the off chance they decide they want it, I’m only going to be able to sell them second rights, because I’m giving it away for free from my site.

    As my friend Spy, said on another blog, just like how there are a ton of bad blogs, we shouldn’t be threatened by self publishing because the cream always rises to the top.

    She’s right. Whatever stigmas have to be fought, they are being fought. Take a look at people like Tee Morris and Scott Sigler (google) these people started indie. And I believe the way they’re doing it is highly admirable and doesn’t require selling one’s soul or keeping all your work in a drawer somewhere until someone decides you’re “marketable.”

    Almost any good fiction is “marketable” some of it just requires more targeted marketing than others. Since publishers can’t offer that, they run screaming.

    The gods of publishing are being unmasked, as that old guy behind the curtain. We are starting to realize the powers they used to have, (getting us to an audience) died with the advent of new technology. Now they can only serve our own vanity. But being able to say “XYZ publisher” published us, isn’t really worth the rather low payoff, IMO.

    And I say this because the vast majority of publishers for a first time author literally are paying for editing, printing, and design, and MAYBE sending out ARC’s to the major review sources. Which doesn’t guarantee a review. I’m just not impressed anymore with what’s being asked of me here. Waiting a VERY long time to get my stuff out there. Giving up creative control for paltry money and no real marketing. Are they kidding? Whatever.

    It’s not that I’m not willing to work, or start small (I mean really, how much smaller can you get than giving it away for free.) I’m just not willing to follow a path I don’t believe in anymore. Not as an initial step.

    Sorry this was so verbose.

  • jenniferw

    Awww, sweetie. You keep plugging away because you are great. Sorry I haven’t visited you in awhile; I’ve been so busy I don’t know whose tail I’m chasing. I only know it’s not Johnny Depp’s … *rueful grin*

  • R.J. Keller

    Sid, thanks so much! I have a girl-crush on Kate Winslet, so that would be my dream casting for Tess. (If I’m gonna dream I’m gonna dream big!)

    Jenny, I know how busy you’ve been lately. I read about your grandbaby exploits. So glad you got a chance to spend more time with them.

    Zoe,
    Wowsers! You’ve got me all fired up again. I think I feel a long-overdue blog post coming on…

  • Zoe Winters

    haha bring it. And I have a girl-crush on Kate Winslet too. And Charisma Carpenter.

  • Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood

    Here is some algebra for you today:

    Not all writers are great and not all agents can spot great writers. You are a great writer, therefore [fill in the blank].

    Answer: Find a great agent or self-publish until one finds you.

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