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A Letter to Frustrated Writers Everywhere.

As you may have noticed, we are not currently accepting new submissions. Those of us at Last Light Studio are painfully aware that this is part of a much bigger problem across the publishing world. Big publishers don’t want to hear from new authors. Agents must be highly selective as they get thousands of new submissions every month, and many small presses- including ours- often have their doors closed to new submissions.

It is my duty, however, to note that this is not out of some sense of petty cruelty or a need to be exclusive. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand. Thanks- at least in part- to word processing, writing has become easier, and the internet and eBooks have given more people greater access to the publishing process. This is a good thing; it’s great news that so many people can express themselves, but it also produced an environment in which there are far more manuscripts than consumer demand.

Last Light Studio itself is “part-time” staffed by a few writers (yes, we are all writers, just like you). We all have day jobs too, so our resources are limited. We can put out about 3 books per year.  That’s all we can do. If we take on more, we will be forced to do poor and rushed work. When we had our last open submission period (in 2011), we received almost 150 submissions. Some of them were so poorly written or so far outside of the genres that we focus on, that we did not consider them. But of those 150, I would say that 50 or so were very well written and worth serious consideration. From that pool, we selected four books for 2012-2013 release, and that’s what we are still currently working on (as of 2014). Therefore the publishing return rate that we have (based on submissions vs. books accepted is around 3%). I’d wager that, whether we are talking about big publisher like Random House, mid-list publisher like Coffee House Press, or tiny places like Last Light Studio, it’s probably around 1%-5% across the industry.

So what do you when faced with those bleak numbers? Thankfully, we live in the age of options.

One option is to start your own small press. Thanks to new technologies like publish-on-demand printing and eBooks, you actually need very little money to start your own press (Heck, that’s what we did).  In fact, all you really need is a computer, some basic research skills, and the time and patience to learn how to design books interiors and then get them to distributors.  It’s not easy, granted, but it’s not impossible either. It’s kind of like learning DIY home repair, or how to make your own web site. There are all kinds of resources out there too, books and websites, that teach you how to format your Word Document into a PDF, buy ISBN codes from Bowker (possibly the one unavoidable expense), work with a POD printer, and manage sales and sitribution.  It’s all there for the taking, and most of it is free.

But let’s say that your not interested in publishing other peoples’ stuff (although, I would argue that if you are a serious writer, you have a moral obligation to help other writers), you don’t need to start your own press. You can take those skills and self-publish your own book.  Self-publishing doesn’t give you all the same benefits as traditional publishing, but it is essentially free (don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise, there are tons of people who have their book in paperbook format, on Kindle and Nook and for sale on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, and they didn’t spend more than $100- the price of nice pair of shoes- to get it all done). When you self-publish, ever dime of profit goes directly into your pocket. Plus, self-publishing is probably the fastest way to get your book out there.

Other writers have found a third option, they pool their resources and form small publishing support groups under a united banner. I have not actually worked in this type of arrangement, but I get the sense that it’s a hybrid of sorts. Writers in the group self-publish but may rely on others within the group for editorial and publishing support.

So yes, those of us at Last Light Studio feel your pain. We are all writers ourselves, at various points in our literary careers, and we have struggled and continue to struggle with rejections ourselves.  We are living in an age when the supply of books far outstrips demand, and that is why we are not accepting submissions today, or in the near future, but you can do something about it. You have options. You can rise to the occasion.

Finally, I would like to point you back to that first option. Please consider starting your own publishing house and publishing other peoples’ works. Why should you do this? You are an author, after all, and primary focus should be on your own work which you hardly have enough time to work on anyway, right? But now- for a moment- consider the same question from the publisher’s perspective, consider it from my perspective.  Why should I publish your book? Chances are good I don’t know you. And Last Light Studio isn’t big enough to make real money. Personally, I didn’t get into publishing for money anyway. I got into because I love great writing and great stories. I love the arts, and I love sharing them with people, and when we publish someone else’s book, we’re giving back to the world. Like you, I am strapped for time, but I am- in my only tiny way- addressing that supply-and-demand problem. So I urge you to consider becoming a small publisher as well, even if you only publish one book every few years. Find someone whose writing you love, and give them a chance. Change the publishing world.

sincerely,

Armand Inezian, Publisher at Last Light Studio

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ebrahim.Hamid permalink
    January 9, 2013 1:04 pm

    I wish I had your enthusiasm but definitely plan to keep your words close to my heart.
    Thank You.

  2. April 8, 2014 11:39 pm

    This is great. And completely true.

    But it’s all pointless, isn’t it? There’s a small club and those of us standing on the outside drool on the windows while Nicholas Sparks and J.K. Rowling get fat, smearing the feces they write all over their faces. I think it was Nietzsche who said, “Go fuck yourself.” Which is basically what I say to the publishing world. And to most people who call themselves writers. I’ve decided after reading this that I’m going to self-publish and then hand my book out to the homeless. Worst case scenario: some poor bastard will use the pages to wipe his ass. Best case: one of the hobos is actually a former editor and the book resurrects his career and makes me famous overnight. That latter scenario is about as likely as getting published these days.

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