The Road to Publishing — A Summary and Explanation
I have received many questions about when “the book” will be available. The simple book trailers that I posted, the reposting of them on Facebook by others, and word-of-mouth discussions of “what he is up to” have resulted in a lot of interest and questions coming my way.
I am truly grateful for the interest. Since most of you know only bits and pieces of what’s going on, I thought I’d share a lengthy summary of events pertaining to The Year of the Red Door (referred to below as “The Story”). It has been an eventful year, full of ups and downs, last minute conferences, back-and-forths between myself and my agent and publishers, and weeks of anxious waiting, full of nervous hope.
But first, to answer the most-asked question: The first volume of The Story, titled The Bellringer, will be available sometime in the Summer or Fall of 2015. That is, if all goes well. If so, I then hope to push out the subsequent volumes of the story in rapid succession every few months thereafter. Keep an eye on the Publishing Schedule that I’ve posted and will update as needed.
Okay, here is what has happened and is happening.
Having kept abreast of the state of the publishing industry, I realized a few years back that I would most likely be required to self-publish The Story. But, in early 2014, I thought I’d try a shot at getting a literary agent to represent me, just in case someone else might see things differently. Someone did, at least for a time. I had the good fortune to land an agent at one of the most prestigious literary agencies in the country. It was practically effortless, especially compared to many authors who struggle for years with queries to agents without so much as a nibble. So landing an agent was like hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth first time ever at bat. I was thrilled, and my agent was excited.
Things didn’t pan out.
Bottom line: After nearly three-dozen publishers read the manuscript, none wanted to take a chance on a work such as this from a first-time author. While they almost universally had glowing remarks and high praise for the work, it was soon apparent that the editors perceived the risk as too great: first-time author; long, epic work; genre dominated by Youth or YA titles, etc.. Needless to say, this was very frustrating and disappointing to both my agent and me.
Leaving the compliments aside, here, in essence, is a paraphrased and distilled summary of what was said and implied by various editors (my comments are in italics):
(“Universal compliments galore, et cetera, ad nauseam…”)
- “…but it is too long. Our market doesn’t have the attention span.” (What?)
- “…but the action does not lead from section to section. Our market requires fast-paced action scenes every few pages.”
- “…but it seems too complex. We are looking for simple fantasies, simply told, with simple plot lines.”
- “…but it is too long. It would not be cost-effective for us to publish anything over 90,000 words by a new author in this genre.” (The Bellringer alone is 205,000 words long.)
- “…but it is too mature. And there are too many adults in the story for the YA market.” (As if that is the only fantasy market out there, which many traditional publishers really believe. More about this below.)
I was also told that the adult market is too small for such a story to be profitable, even though it may be more appropriate for older readers. I’m not sure, but I think this might be a condescending swipe at younger readers. In my opinion, a well-read, literate reader, young or old, would “get” this story and would be able to follow the plot, whether or not they enjoy the story.
Mixed in with the many rather flattering rejections from the publishers were a few that were disdainfully snippy and made no sense at all to me, such as “too much like everything else,” and “the characters are uneven,” and “it is too old-fashioned.” While I don’t really know what to make of the first two remarks, the editor who made the last statement might have had a point, since others variously compared the work to Dostoevsky, Tolkien, and David Eddings. But then, perhaps such comparisons weren’t really intended as praise.
And here’s where I am
Okay, so I’m back where I was in March 2014. Well, not quite. I’ve been moving ahead with my own plans all the while, having been already equipped with a realistic opinion of my chances in the “traditional” publishing world.
So I’m working methodically. but rather frantically (if the two can co-exist) to push things out to the public. It is taking far too long, but I am a one-man operation, after all, without the resources of a vast publishing empire.
I am also a guy with a small budget. By small budget, I mean almost no money.
I can’t afford line editors. At the going rate of $1/page that would be $2k for the entire work. At the higher rate of $1/250 words, that would be over $800.00 just for The Bellringer. Okay, so there’ll be typos and bits of grammar that I’ll miss.
Here are some other traditional costs beyond my “budget:”
Professionally designed book covers cost around $1,600-$4,000 each. I would need six (5 volumes + 1 Readers Companion), and that would be from $9,600-$24,000 total.
Professionally designed interior layout (typesetting) costs around $300 per volume, per edition.
Website design costs around $500.
Traditional book publicity is around $3,000-$6,000 per volume.
As well, printing and distribution accounts for 55-85% of retail costs, not including shipping (and returns) that cost around 50% of retail (which means that if a book is returned, I have to pay for production, distribution, shipping, and return fees imposed by the distributor not upon the store but upon me, the author/publisher).
All this is what makes self-published books so expensive, if the traditional methods are followed. It also is what makes self-published books of lesser quality than others, since very few struggling writers living on noodles and coffee can afford such huge layouts of money. And it is why traditional publishers continue to dominate in quality. As inept as they are, they still have huge bank accounts, and can hire the best when it comes to book production.
In summary, a reasonable budget for a self-published author should be around $8,000 per book, minimum, plus office costs, plus printing and distribution costs.
So be it, $8,000 for one volume (one book).
My budget is $500. Total. For five volumes (books).
That’s all that I can afford, and even that is a stretch. But that is why I am trying to do so much myself. I’d much rather be writing my next tale, but if I want others to read The Year of the Red Door, I have to get it out there.
It is what it is. I’m too busy to be resentful, and I’m too determined to be bitter. Those emotions are a self-indulgent waste of energy, and I try (with fair success) to avoid them.
All these details are offered to you only to illustrate the hurdles that I am trying to jump. Given the above, you’ll understand better why things are taking such a long time. And, when you see the quality of the books, you’ll understand better than others why errors are in there and who is to blame for them!
So there you have it.
I’ll try to keep all of you better informed, and I’ll try to post updates.
Thanks to everyone who has asked, to all my beta readers, to my editors, and to my rabbits. Yes, I did say rabbits.
But most of all I really wish to thank my wife for hanging with me through all these ups and downs, these exciting and disappointing events, these long seasons of uncertainty. And (to wax Churchillian), whether I am ensconced for hours until dawn within my dilapidated barn, writing, editing, and rewriting—or whether doing so hundreds of miles away for days on end within a remote forest cabin or on a stretch of desolate winter shore, foam-blown and frigid beside dark churning waves—she has always been with me in loving spirit, in firm support, and with abiding confidence that all will someday come to fruition with a story worth the telling. What writer, or anyone else for that matter, could wish for more in a soulmate? Of such is what dreams are made, as I am the living proof.
Thanks everybody, and stay tuned!