As my play nears production, my 4th novel goes nowhere while I search for an agent. Getting a big-time agent is at the top of my bucket list — someone out of New York or Chicago or San Francisco.
I had a brush with one the other day, but she declined my manuscript because the punctuation was “too antique” for the times. Apparently my colons and semi-colons aren’t congruent with the latest MLA style sheet, that publication on the etiquette of punctuation and grammar. A new style sheet is distributed every year and I confess, I haven’t looked at one since I completed my last thesis, almost 40 years ago. If my punctuation is antique, I beg to be forgiven because so is the rest of me.
Given the finicky standards of the main presses today, it’s no wonder writers throw up their hands and venture into self-publishing. Why not? Amazon makes it so easy. So egalitarian.
But not so fast. My eyes were opened when I came across a blog by Victoria Rollison. http://victoriarollison.com/2011/06/02/amazon-imprint-%e2%80%93-thomas-and-mercer/ She mentioned that Amazon had created a new imprint for mysteries and thrillers: Thomas and Mercer. Don’t rush to your computer to submit. You have to be chosen.
According to Rollison, Amazon cherry-picks from best-selling authors for its new label. If you’re one of the “lucky” ones, your book is not only given prominent display on its website but will be distributed to bricks and mortar stores, too. You remember bricks and mortar, don’t you? They’re the retailers Amazon almost ran out of business.
The truth is, Amazon isn’t egalitarian at all and it’s e-publishing business hasn’t leveled the playing field. You can pay them to produce your book but it’s unlikely to be among those they promote. The creation of Thomas and Mercer fosters more competition not less.
Eventually self-published authors will learn that what Amazon does best is allow them to part with their money. After that, the titles will be buried under their more prestigious imprints — the way the main stream press treats its midlist works. But there’s one significant difference. This new overlord casts a shadow long enough to make Harper-Collins, Hachette, Random House and the rest of the big publishing houses tremble.
Given the new landscape, the rules of the MLA style sheet strike me as a teensy bit irrelevant.