Diary of a Reluctant E-Publisher: Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?
October 17, 2012 by Bryce Wilson
This is the second part of a series by Bryce Wilson. Check out Part One here!
Of course I didn’t plan on self-publishing the book right away.
Yes I know, the publishers are dinosaurs, they’ll be gone in ten years, self-publishing is democratizing…Free your mind, Neo! That’s all very warm and sweet in a college freshman talking about Marx with his dormmates way. But as of right now, with the world we’re living in, the publishers still have all the money, all the access, and all the clout. They are still the big leagues. The sea change is happening, however much of the general public still looks down self-publishing. It’s like (as Garrison Keiler said of volunteer casts) “a refuge for the emotionally challenged.” No kid gets up at 5 AM to go to batting practice before school with the thought, “One day I’m gonna play for The Peoria Chiefs!” running through his head. No, they want to play in the big leagues.
This did put me in something of a bind, though. I finished writing the principal body of Son Of Danse Macabre on May 2nd. It is my process as a writer to take as long a time as I can (usually 3 to 6 months) between drafts. This is useful for me not only in that I can look at the work more objectively, but also because it dims the memory of physically writing the book. I’m more apt to cut a section that needs cutting, if I don’t remember the fact that I spent two grueling five-hour sessions getting through it. I also eschew traditional writer groups during my first draft, in favor of a group of trusted beta readers. If I wanted to go with the publishers, neither of these preferred working methods were going to be an option. Though I’m no expert, I know enough about publishing to know that these things need to be set up in advance, and the very nature of my subject matter meant that I had a ticking clock.
Even with an appendix covering the current year of horror fiction the book would, to a certain extent, begin to age as soon as January 1st rolled around. I had to get the book ready for submission as soon as possible. That meant no lengthy time between drafts and no beta readers. This also meant that there would be no second tiers, no winding my way down through the special and academic presses. Speed was of the essence if I wanted the book to come out with any sort of relevance. I chose my half dozen best shots, forged my query letters, did a couple of quick drafts to trim the fat and check the grammar (more on this in a later column) and sent my baby out into the world.
Let’s hand it to the Brits, they have the art of the rejection down. Of the six publishers I targeted, two where British and both got back to me with a speed that was downright unnerving and with a feather touch that made it seem as though they were paying me the greatest of compliments by not publishing my work. The American experience was less gentle on the old ego. In all but one case, after the normal eight-week waiting period had elapsed and I still hadn’t gotten any word, I had to send out tentative emails asking for confirmation of my rejection. This I received, and though the words “Thank you sir, may I have another?” were never spoken, that was pretty much the gist.
So what did I do? Well luckily, I hedged. When I sent out my manuscript to the publishers I also sent them to a few of my trusted beta readers and they had just begun to arrive. In short, I laced up my shoes and got on the bus headed to the farm teams. They may not be what I desired, but like any real player, I’m ultimately in this for the love of the game.
Next Week: Calls For Back Up
About The Author:
A freelance writer, unrepentant literature and film junkie and bookseller, Bryce Wilson is a recent California transplant living in Austin (he moved for the waters). Between bouts with his trunk novels, he has written for the San Luis Obispo New Times as a retro film critic for the past five years. You can also find his musings on his film blog Things That Don’t Suck (thingthatdontsuck.blogspot.com) and his horror blog Son Of Danse Macabre (sonofdansemacabre.blogspot.com).