Perhaps another query might have done it, or the one after, or the one after that. Who knows? However, after banging our heads on the barred gates of traditional publishing, Narcisse and I had to make a decision. What do we really want to happen with our book?
Sure, we would love to have gotten an agent and a book deal. Then again, the whole process is rather humiliating and cruel. There are all the rules concerning how to craft your query letter, the endless waiting for a response that only comes half of the time and in the form of a template that reads “thanks but no”. This is inevitably followed by the tales of how so-and-so famous author had their bestseller rejected a jillion times before they got lucky. Lucky. See that is the problematic word with publishing these days. Getting an agent’s eye has nothing to do with how well-crafted your query letter is, or whether you followed the rules or broke them, or even if your novel is actually any good. It is simply about luck, chance, randomness.
See the truth is our query letters were just one of many. So many, the profession laughingly calls it the “slush pile”. Think about that for a moment. The people to whom you will give 10-15% of your profits should they get you deal, people who make their living not by writing but by simply having connections, think of your life’s work as another snowflake in a puddle of melting snow. Here is the real kicker, they don’t even trawl through the slush in hopes of finding gold, they assign it to an underpaid, overworked intern who must decide whether to champion your work. Now consider the intern’s situation, they want to be an agent someday, or at least somewhere where they won’t have to deal with the slush pile anymore. Do you really think they will take a chance on a brand new voice or a challenging new way to tell a story? Some will I am sure, but most want to be successful and therefore play it safe.
Agents are the same. I once read somewhere that agents only want winning lottery tickets. Is it any wonder that for the last decade or more every book seems to be a spin on the same YA story? How many versions of the misunderstood, secretly-fated teen born in a deadly world must fight to save their life and those of the ones they love against evil forces are out there? It doesn’t matter because they are printing up more as I write this.
Publishing is a business and there are significant costs involved with printing and distributing a book. I really can’t say that I blame publishers from shying away from rolling the dice on something unique. Because they are business people first and foremost. They might love literature, but love doesn’t pay the bills. They will serve up whatever the market is eating.
Frankly, I find it amazing whenever anyone is able to break the mold and win a contract for something new. It means there is still hope.
Lest you think I am bitter, I am not. Disappointed, frustrated, and a bit annoyed? Yes, yes, and yes. However, Narcisse and I were born in a wonderful age where we have options that were not available to authors as little as twenty years ago. So call me excited, optimistic, and empowered.
Once upon a time, publishing your own book was a thing for the rich or the desperate. The fact it was called “vanity press” speaks volumes. Publishing one’s own book was looked down upon as if somehow whatever was written must be crap. Otherwise, a publishing house would have picked it up, right?
These days self-publishing has a very different perception. E-books have liberated authors and opened the doors for works that might have never seen the light of day. This advancement is a double-edged sword because is a Wild West free-for-all. There are thousands of self-published works available so that the challenge is no longer about getting published, but in being seen. I once referred to this situation as trying to get someone to look at a single leaf amid an autumnal windstorm.
Thus the real challenge of self-publishing is marketing, getting connected to readers. The irony is that even had we attracted an agent and signed a deal with one of the big publishers, the responsibility for marketing is still all on the author. Yep! And, whatever money is given as an advance, is set against the profits of the book’s sales. So if the publisher doesn’t make their money back (and then some) your deal is over.
We spent years writing our novel. Countless hours spent, rewriting, tweaking, editing, revising, and polishing until we produced the very best product. Assuming we signed a publishing deal, we’d have to market our book, ring every bell, pull every string to attract readers. Then, after the advance was reimbursed, all profits would be split with the lion’s share going to the publisher and the agent. All that effort for a minimal stake in the proceeds of our labors.
Or, we could elect to publish it ourselves, market it ourselves, and keep all of the profits.
Sure it means laying out our own cash to make it happen. But traditional publishing deal or not, nothing is guaranteed. If you must gamble, isn’t it best to bet on oneself? And if the thought of putting your-own-money-where-your-mouth-is seems frightening, well why expect a stranger to invest theirs? Either you believe in yourself or you do not.
We believe in our book. With the overwhelmingly positive responses we have received from over three hundred thousand reads on Wattpad, we have good cause to think we will be successful. Thus, Narcisse and I decided that we are self-publishing our novel!
Narcisse has engaged a printing company to produce a limited edition run of one thousand paper-jacketed, illustrated hardcover books. She personally designed every aspect of what the final version will look like. All the way down to customized artwork for the chapter headers. Our book will be as satisfying to behold as it will be to read.
With this in mind, we set to preparing our book for printing. We changed the title from The Tendrils of Fate to The Unseen Hand. While we liked the old title, we never truly loved it. Bluntly put, The Tendrils of Fate sounds a bit too much like a daytime telenovela. While we both enjoy romance stories, ours is a tale of epic fantasy with much darker themes. The Unseen Hand is a much more compelling and germane title. Especially with the insanely cool new artwork that Narcisse created for the cover!
Right now we are in the middle of conducting a final, granular edit to remove every last imperfection before we send the manuscript to the printer. It is not a quick task to look for things like missing commas in a 500-plus page novel.
Additionally, we will publish an eBook edition for Kindle. There will also be an audiobook version available for sale in its entirety and a Patreon funded one-chapter-a-week podcast (with bonus content).
We have some additional fun surprises planned as well. Including at least one giveaway and a very, very, special promotion just for you, our dear readers.
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