This post, by Kristen Tsetsi, originally appeared on her blog on 9/10/11.
As self-publishing becomes an increasingly popular option for writers of all kinds (the good and the not so good, those who have tried the agent route and those who haven’t), there are those who continue to cling – and probably will for some time – to the idea that self-publishing is an avenue for the author whose work just isn’t good enough for traditional publishers. No matter how many times or by how many reputable reviewers a quality self-published work has been vetted, there are reviewers who simply won’t look at it if it’s self-published, and there are readers (who usually also happen to be writers) who will snub it because it’s self-published.
But that obviously doesn’t stop quality self-published work from entering the marketplace, and from quality authors. In fact, more and more established authors (for example, NYT bestselling author James C. Moore, who self-published his Sci-Fi/Mystery novel In the Time of Man using Kindle’s DTP service) seem to be joining the masses of lesser-known authors who couldn’t find a home with a publisher because their work either didn’t fit into a genre mold or would be difficult to market.
David Raterman, who has written books for National Geographic and Knopf/Random House (and who also worked two years for CARE in ex-Soviet Tajikistan), is yet another writer who decided to self-publish after trying to do it the old fashioned way. He recently released his debut thriller novel, The River Panj, in an e-version for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and the Sony e-reader, and as a trade paperback through CreateSpace.
Here are excerpts from a couple of rejections he received from editors before finally deciding to release it himself (he shares these rejections on his website):
The vividness of Raterman’s descriptions are stunning and I can certainly see what it is that has you so enthusiastic about his work. However, I am concerned that the book’s subject—while timely—has fiction readers a bit weary and unless it is covered by an established name in the marketplace, will have a hard time breaking out commercially.
It’s an exciting, adrenaline-fueled read, and interest in and awareness of the area of the world at the heart of this story have never been higher. But, ultimately, as intriguing as Central Asia is, I think it makes for a tough setting.
I’m always up for a page-turner, and not only can David deliver the fun, but his writing possesses a certain level of political sophistication that’s rare in these types of novels. As promising as it is, though, I am going to pass. For me it’s really a question of positioning—while it has its strengths, I’m just not convinced it will break out beyond its core audience. Alas, something we need for our select number of fiction titles here.
I learned about David Raterman when I received an email newsletter announcing the release of The River Panj. I thought, “Who is this man and how did he get my email address?” So I visited his website.
The first author who surprised me by self-publishing was James C. Moore. One would think an Emmy Award-winning former news correspondent and co-author of a book like Bush’s Brain would have no problem selling his exceptional fiction. I figured it was a fluke. Bad luck. Bad timing.
But then I visited David Raterman’s website and saw that it was clearly happening again, to yet another writer one would assume would have no problem selling his work to a publisher. There were three things I wanted to know about: David Raterman, The River Panj, and why on earth he would have to self-publish it. So, I emailed a reply to his newsletter and asked if he would be willing to be interviewed.