The Last Rites


I learned something sobering today. I have quite possibly ruined my one-in-three-hundred-and-forty-seven-million chances of getting my Romney and Marsh books properly published.

I was engaged in conversation with a fellow blogger who informed me about the concept of ‘first rights’ in the publishing world. Basically, this refers to the first publishing rights that a book can enjoy. If one self-publishes one’s book, then the first rights have gone and literary agents and/or publishers will not entertain touching one with the proverbial barge pole because of something to do with the first rights of the book in question having been already exploited and that is what they are interested in. After half a bottle of the local grape juice, it’s a little difficult to describe it, as well as piss straight. I wonder if the concept of virginity lends itself to an appropriate analogy – first rites are a bit like virginity. You can only lose it once and when it’s gone you’re officially screwed.

But wait! I blogged here about James Oswald (free publicity that was not reciprocated) and his securing of a publishing deal after he had notable ebook success with his detective novels. And there are others that spring to mind: Eragon, Wool …er …Wool, Eragon, for examples, that started out as self-published novels and have gone on to make it big with proper publishers. The Highfield Mole. That’s another one. There must be many. But as my learned blogger friend pointed out, the exceptions are those who make it super big. And I suppose that they prove the rule.

So am I devastated? Not really. But I won’t be self-publishing anything else until I’ve had the customary round of rejections and some clarification on this.

Funnily enough I received a comment on my R&M comments page today that altered my whole perspective on my self-publishing venture and made the lack of fame and fortune seem fleetingly worthwhile. Here it is. Copied and pasted.

I am not an avid reader,i had not really read a book in like 20 years.My wife loves to read and gave me her old nook.i downloaded your book (making a killing)and i could not put it down.i can’t wait to read the other ones.thank you for opening a whole new world to me that i had lost.

Would I trade that kind of humbling recognition, that overwhelming sense of self-worth, that unique and swamping feeling of having finally done something decent and good in my life, for a tepid approach from a tuppenny-ha’penny literary agent? I’m a writer. What do you think?


6 thoughts on “The Last Rites

    • Right. It’s all about perspective, Francis (and downloads and feedback and hopes and dreams and agents and contracts and film-options and fame and fast cars and seaside villas and adoration and accolades and recognition and Romney and Marsh groupies). Thanks, as always. Have a good one.

  1. Your friend is somewhat behind the times. First rights are becoming less and less important. Publisher are now grabbing up self-published work. The only catch is that it has to have been fairly successful already.

    • I’m glad to hear that. That’s what I thought, but I was under the impression that you had to be VERY successful. Maybe publishers are finally seeing the light.

      I think the problem is that self-publishing success often demonstrates your skill as a marketer, rather than a writer. If you’re successful enough at that to be on a publisher’s radar, it may be that they don’t have much to offer you anyway.

      • Just how successful you have to be probably depends on the individual publisher. Some are looking for best sellers. Some are looking for fresh voices. Marketing skills aren’t going to help a book that nobody wants to read, but yeah, sometimes they do make a difference.

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