Who is Jamie Hall?
I'm an author who writes mostly about folklore and mythical creatures, with a special emphasis on werewolves and other shapeshifters. Beyond the numerous websites I've created (some of them book-sized such as The Cryptid Zoo) I've also written quite a number of books, mostly unpublished. The closest I came to being a real published author was in 2003, when I fell into the trap of vanity publishing. At that time, self-publishing service providers (SPSPs) that used POD technology and partnered with online booksellers were first emerging, and this new trend was superficially different enough from traditional vanity publishing (where the "publisher" merely delivers boxes of books to the author and doesn't even pretend to market or distribute) that quite a number of writers got sucked in.
I believe I would not have fallen into that trap except for two things: one, I was misled my the media, as there were a number of articles and even a C-SPAN special claiming that this was a viable route to real publication without the old stigma, and two, I was at that time extremely naive about the publishing industry in general. For example, I did not realize that I even had the option to submit my manuscript to agents, and I thought that 16 publisher rejections meant I'd sent it everywhere I possible could and was completely out of options (even though about half of those publishers saw a low-quality earlier draft, so their rejections hardly counted for anything in relation to the final draft, and furthermore I had received a number of encouraging rejections that praised my manuscript). If I had known more about the publishing industry at that time, I would have realized that I still had many options left and that I was probably close to succeeding.
Well, after I "published" Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures with an SPSP called 1st Books (which later changed its name to Authorhouse, and is now merged with iUniverse and other vanity publishers under the name Author Solutions), it took me a few years to realize my mistake. My plan, based on the success stories I'd read in the media, was to sell so many copies of Half Human, Half Animal that real publishers would take notice and I'd be offered a contract with them. My contract with 1st Books allowed me to get back full rights to my book by simply notifying them in writing, so I could switch to a new publisher the moment I got an offer.
I worked very hard to sell Half Human, Half Animal by putting up a website and trying to promote the book among werewolf fan groups on the Internet. It worked well enough that I far outsold the average vanity-published book (the average is between 50 and 150 copies, depending on which sources you use). My book sold nearly a thousand copies over the course of three years, not counting the copies I bought myself. However, a vanity-published or self-published book typically needs to sell around 5,000 copies in order to be picked up by a real publisher.
How did I do with my vanity book? See the chart below. I'm not including books that I bought myself, about 25% of which were resold, mainly through eBay (the rest that I bought ended up as gifts or review copies).
I sold well enough to prove to myself that my book was viable and wanted, plus I got quite a number of fan letters praising it. But, in the eyes of any potential publisher, I had fallen short. Worse yet, I had wasted the first publication rights. Yes, I could get the other rights back to my book by simply asking, and I did, but there is no way for any publisher to return first publication rights. Once a book has appeared in print form, the book is no longer a "virgin" and a publisher can only obtain reprint rights. Reprint rights for a successful book can be quite valuable, but the reverse is true for books that were first printed in a vanity-published or self-published incarnation. Publishers are quite reluctant to take them on without that sales statistic of 5,000 or more copies sold.
The only thing that Half Human, Half Animal has going for it is that I actually only published half of it. Yes, because using POD technology produces such an expensive book, I had realized that nobody would want to buy a $30 paperback. I split the book into two halves which I thought of as Volume 1 and Volume 2. The book I printed with 1st Books was actually just Volume 1. Therefore, the re-combined book might have a bit more appeal to publishers since half of it would still be "virginal" but I decided that trying to get Half Human, Half Animal published for real was enough of a long shot that I needed to concentrate on publishing other books first. If I could do that, and those other books sold well, then maybe I'd have a chance to re-publish the combined volumes 1 and 2.
It was late 2006 when I gave up on Half Human, Half Animal and got my rights back. The book went out of print. At that time, I faced a choice about what I should do to try to become a real published author. I had completed about 8 books, but these I judged unpublishable. However, I had a number of partially completed books that I considered to be viable choices for the next manuscript to send out. I decided on a juvenile nonfiction manuscript I called They Could Turn Into Animals: Werewolves, Cat People and Other Shapeshifters, which had the same basic concept as Half Human, Half Animal but was aimed at younger readers instead of an adult audience. Furthermore, the two books have none of the same content. I figured that it was a fresh enough start that I could pull free of the stigma resulting from my earlier venture into vanity publishing.
So, since early 2007, the manuscript of They Could Turn Into Animals has been going through various drafts (it is now on draft #13, which is probably the final one). At the same time I was working on that manuscript, I additionally did work on other partially-completed manuscripts, and I tried very hard to educate myself about the publishing industry. In particular, I became a follower of the "Bewares and Background Check" forum at Absolute Write, Miss Snark, Writer Beware and many blogs of literary agents and editors.
Once I felt secure enough that I thought I wouldn't make a fool of myself again, I started querying agents for They Could Turn Into Animals. So far, I've gotten a 10% request rate, but no offers of representation. From what I've learned, a 10% request rate is pretty good, so there is a fair chance that I'll receive an offer of representation eventually. If I manage to get to the end of the agent list I've compiled without any such offer, I'll just complete a different manuscript and try to get an agent using that one. I've basically decided not to pursue publishers because it is too difficult to get a publisher without an agent.
|Illustrations on this website come from various sources. When possible, I have used my own art and photographs, or clip-art that I've bought for the purpose of being used on websites, or works that are in the public domain, or art that I have asked permission for. A few small photos and icons from unknown sources have been used on my websites. If you know who owns the copyright to one of these, please inform me so that I can ask the original copyright owner for permission.