Monday, 26 July 2010

A companion volume

While there is no news on Firestorm, there has been one development I can share. As I mentioned, one of the items in the offing was the possibility of an anthology of short stories.

Over the weekend, this got discussed in some detail. As anthologies rarely draw much attention, the current suggestion is that the anthology will be a POD and eBook release only. It would be a selection of stories set in and around Brooke's Vale, broadening the background of the characters and giving more information on the setting. There is even a title under consideration.

So I am sitting down and penning short stories about my characters. To be honest, it makes me a lot more hopeful that Firestorm will get a good release.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Another reason for Pseudonyms

I've covered the basic reasons for using a pseudonym before (genre confusion, privacy, shelf position), but recently I encountered one I had not considered. I was talking to a professional contact about some work, when he asked what I'd been doing with myself for the last few months.

"I've been working on a book deal," I replied.
"Oh, excellent! You're publishing a book on [professional area of expertise]! Put me down for one."
"No, it was a novel." Even down the telephone, the suddenly screech of brakes and mental reverse was obvious. After a bit of stammering from him, I mercifully changed the subject. And then people wonder why I don't discuss my interests outside work...

Once the work issue was done, we discussed his reaction, why it wasn't unexpected, and he gave permission to blog about it as long as he was not named. The problem is that people in my job aren't supposed to be creative. I've already had one person tell me that there should be no problems with signing a contract that handed over rights to everything I created during the time I was working with company X (inside or outside working hours), because people in my role "didn't create things". That contract remained unsigned.

Professional stereotyping is such an interesting thing to encounter, if you define "interesting" as limiting, irritating, inaccurate and a cause of team conflict. One of the best examples I encountered in one of my consultations was the reaction of a design team when one of the tech support girls had her artwork selected for an exhibition. Having to take most of a department in hand for seething jealousy issues was not enjoyable, and I don't particularly want that attitude aimed at me.

In general however, the pen name is to try to avoid the disbelieving comments: "But you do X! How can you write a novel?"

One word at a time, just like anyone else.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Somewhat down

The post arrived early today, and as expected there was no news. However I also received a note from one of the locations requesting ARCs who are very keen to move ahead with an ARC and a review. Last night I got a message from the Growler ( who were interested in a copy and review for their September issue.

This kind of interest, and I am still working on getting a publisher. It is somewhat depressing.

At the moment, unfortunately, everything is still up in the air. I will let you know as and when I receive news.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Acquisitions & editors - an odd irony

Getting through the editor isn't the last stage either. Once an editor likes it, they have to put their case to an acquisitions board which includes sales, marketing, distibution etc. The acquisitions board then decide if the book is worth buying. These boards often meet once or twice a month.

I am trying hard not to remember that my first book got through all the editorial levels with one publisher but was rejected at acquisitions as they did not think they could market it. If I'd known then what I know now - how rare it is for a first novel to get that far - I'd probably have sent it to more than five agents and one publisher. Instead I trunked it, and wrote the one that's now on submission as "Firestorm".

It is rather ironic that my first book failed to get published because of potential lack of demand, and my next lost a deal because of too much...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Content aggregation online

There are several sites which say they can take all your online content and aggregate it into one profile. I have tried out tumblr which many people swear by, but unfortunately it turned out to be something I would swear at, since it didn't work very well.

I've just gone back to Redgage. It's slightly slower, and doesn't take straight RSS feeds in, but on the other hand I have used it before and I know it works. My new profile is here:
On the book front, there is now a set-up ready to take pre-orders when we know what is happening with publication, and an online/mail order games company willing to put flyers in each of their sales to promote the book. That should help sales whoever publishes it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Does no response mean No?

This is an odd one. On the one hand you have agents and editors who say that no response means no. On the other there are editors who won't even look at a manuscript until they have been chased the first time. To complicate matters, there are other editors who will dump a manuscript unless you do chase them.

This is the bit where you need an agent who knows what the particular publishing house's rules are, and also when they break them. For example, I had an agent who said that no response in three months means no and then sent me a rejection eight months later.

Without an agent (not for lack of trying) I'm a little lost, but with the end of the four weeks coming up on Friday I need to make a decision. The choice is surprisingly easy, although it might be my professional background talking: if I hear nothing by then, then either by email or phone I'll be asking politely about feedback on Monday.

Since acceptances are usually fast responses, I do suspect this is a no.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Hope for the best - Part 2

There is a problem with my post in part 1. The worst case scenario isn't that the publisher says no, it is that they say nothing.

This could occur if the manuscript or SSAE gets lost in the post, although that's unlikely. I may joke about them, but Royal Mail are usually pretty good.

The more depressing alternative is if the manuscript gets stuck in the slushpile and left unread. For a good assessment of how this could happen, see "The Sobering Story of Myrtle the Manuscript" by Tappan King. It's a good read, not just amusing but also useful for anyone considering writing. However it's a completely nerve-wracking article if you have a manuscript on submission. Be warned.

This worst case scenario comes with the difficulty of politely and delicately chasing an editor about a book, while not doing anything that might make them drop it.

This part of publication in general, waiting on feedback while racked with nerves, is what agents are good at. Since I don't have one, being in the rare position of selling my first novel myself, I'm learning as I go.

However, for prospective authors, it is worth remembering that if I had stopped trying when the agents said no I'd never have landed the first book deal, far less been discussing a second.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Hope for the best - Part 1

As you probably already know, the book is sitting with a publishing house at the moment, and with luck I will hear back later this month about whether they want to publish it. Given that, why all the contingency planning?

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

The best is if they pick the book up. The worst is if they pass.

If they say yes, then great. The book gets published by people who can make the most of it. My marketing and distribution (trivial compared to what a publishing hosue can do) are simply there as a base that they can take over or integrate with their own contacts.

If they say no, then the book is adrift. If I haven't planned ahead, then all the marketing and distribution I set up is lost. At that point, final galley or not, the book simply becomes another unpublished manuscript doing the rounds. Having got this close to seeing print, that seems like a waste, so I am planning for contingencies.

This doesn't mean I'm not hoping for the best.

(Continues Tomorrow in Part Two)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Why so nervous?

I had an interesting chat last night about getting published, from a friend trying to give me a pep talk. After all, he said, since the manuscript's already been through this once, why be so nervous? Surely it can make its way through the slush again, and at least we already know it is publishable.

Well, I definitely have good reason to be nervous, because the answer to the second question is both yes and no.

There is a brilliant analysis of the slushpile and what it takes to get out of it on Slushkiller by Teresa Nielson Hayden (scroll down to 3. The Context of Rejection)

Going through her fourteen point list, I don't need to worry about items one to ten (covering illiteracy, plagarism, and authors with "problems") which are the reasons for 95-99% of slush rejections.

This leaves three more reasons for rejection before reaching point 14 "Buy this book". All three are to do with the preferences of the publishing house. No matter how good the book is, if it isn't what they are looking for, they may not pick it up. Just because one publisher liked my work, it does not guarantee another publishing house will.

Editorial taste is the one thing that it all hinges on. Well, that and Royal Mail...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Publishing options

After getting a few questions on chat about how I intend to proceed, I will cover the details here.

The full manuscript is currently with a publishing house. If they pick the book up then release options and marketing will obviously change; and improve a great deal since they have significantly more options.

However, if they don't and I end up going with the local imprint, here are the pencilled in details (obviously subject to change):
  • The book will be released in print and ebook formats, including Kindle, with a short-run printing rather than purely POD.
  • Pre-orders will be taken online through established ecommerce partnerships.
  • The release would be late Q3 prior to christmas, which gives a few months to release ARCs and galleys, and build buzz.
As mentioned, if I go with them I'd be doing a lot of the work myself as it isn't their usual area. Since they are only offering this option as fans of my previous work (thank you very much, on bended knee, gentlemen), none of this will be started until we hear back from the mainstream publishing house.

Obviously a mainstream publisher could do much more with the novel, due to experience, better distribution links and superior marketing.

To be honest, I'm not sure if the fallback option is calming my nerves or making them worse. I know that I have a lot of hard work coming up very soon, but I don't know the exact nature of it, how much support I can expect, or even whether I can actually sell a novel using existing connections.

Fingers crossed. They got it on June 25th, so just over two weeks before I hear back.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Board Migration

After an interesting technical issue with nabble, I have moved the forum to Proboards. The new forum is at:
Unfortunately content and threads were lost due to the glitch. I have migrated the remaining content, but if you have a question or comment that has not made it across, please visit the new boards and repost.

The nabble forum will be deleted shortly to avoid confusion or misuse.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A brief interview

I've just done a brief interview at whohub:
I'm also in the middle of an interview for about my self published writing from the nineties. I'm not sure how relevant my experiences back then (photocopiers and combbinders) still are in the age of Lulu and Createspace, but it is part of a series. Comparing notes with other writers is always interesting.

The current situation

Because things have moved very fast, I was looking back through the blog and realised this is the one place where I haven't covered what happened. To clarify the timeline of events, here is a quick summary:

I got a book deal from Bewrite at end of April/start of May
Firestorm went through the editing process to final galley in May and June.
I started marketing in June, getting requests for ARCs and galleys.
June 22nd the book was released by Bewrite, with the suggestion I should find a full print publisher, not P.O.D.
June 23rd Discussions occurred with a mainstream publishing house, resulting in a request for the full manuscript.
June 24th The manuscript was sent out, with a suggested response in four weeks.

Rather than put all my eggs in one basket, I also looked into self-publishing but found it easier to take advantage of an imprint that publishes some of my existing work in a different field. As this involves begging a favour from a friend to publish something well outside their field, it really is a last resort. It does mean that, one way or another, Firestorm will see print.

The reason for the summary is that most of this was listed on the forum, and due to an interesting technical glitch on nabble, we will be switching that to a new system, possibly proboards.

Monday, 5 July 2010

An anthology and still waiting.

Three weeks to wait until I hear back from the publisher, and not much else I can do on the novel itself until then.

Meanwhile I've started getting my short stories into an anthology. If I end up self publishing, I'll give it a limited release through the website on POD and e-book to accompany the novel. Done that way it won't cost very much, and it's a useful way to boost the novel.

However, this won't be released for a few weeks yet, since I've got to sort out cover art and either beg a favour from an artist or dive into iStockPhoto for raw materials. I'm also holding off for three weeks as I'm not sure whether releasing it would affect whether the publisher would be willing to pick up Firestorm.