Three months ago I sent Hal Junior queries off to a couple of publishers, and submitted the full manuscript to a third. One of the emails was just to see whether the publisher was open to submissions or not, because their guidelines weren't clear. The other query was a proper one, with a cover letter, outline and synopsis. The third submission (full manuscript) also followed the guidelines.
All three publishers had a similar message on their websites: if you don't hear anything in three or four months, we're not interested.
Two months later I decided to get Hal Junior ready for release. I would spend the rest of August and the whole of September polishing, working with an editor, working with a cover artist and organising the internal art, and if I hadn't heard anything from the publishers by September 30 I'd go ahead and release Hal Junior myself. If they DID get back to me I could put my self-pub plans on hold while I weighed up my options.
Then everything changed: In September I got the rights back to my Hal Spacejock novels. Instead of setting up an Indie press to publish one new title (Hal Junior), I now had five books to publish. And next year I'd have Hal Spacejock 5 and at least one more Hal Junior.
I wrote to the publisher holding the full manuscript and asked them to delete my query if they hadn't looked at it yet. They came back promptly and that was that. I wasn't fussed about the two queries since it was now over two months down the track, and I figured they'd have got back to me by now. (I guessed - wrongly - that publishers might prioritise queries from established authors. If I were a publisher I'd have a query email on my site for use by previously-published authors, but I guess they expect us to have agents. I DID have an agent, but he doesn't rep junior fiction. Anyway ...)
Hal Junior was released on October the 1st and is already scoring some very nice 4- and 5-star reviews on blogs, Amazon, Goodreads and LibraryThing. I love the cover, I love how the book turned out and I know I used every minute of every day to get that book published.
So yesterday I got an email from one of the remaining publishers, expressing an interest in the novel and requesting a full. Whoops, too slow. I sent back an apologetic email, saying I would have pulled the query had I realised it was still in their queue. Hopefully they won't be too annoyed.
Did I miss a wonderful opportunity? No, I don't see it like that. Chances are they'd have kept the manuscript for several months before passing.
But Simon, every author wants to work with a trade publisher!
I'm going to let you into a secret: The reason Hal Spacejock 5 was taking so long (3 years and counting ...) is because I lost interest in publishing. The prospect of going through the lengthy process a fifth time was too much. This isn't a reflection on my publisher, who were a joy to work with ... it's just the way I am. Fun becomes meh, meh becomes a chore, and I avoid chores like authors the world over.
When I submitted Hal Junior to those three publishers I did it because it was What Authors Do, but my heart wasn't in it. I was hoping they'd say no so I could get on with my plans.
And it's working. Since deciding to self-publish I've been up at 6am or 7am, seven days a week, eager to get at the computer and work on my latest idea. I'm fired up about my writing, I'm working on Hal 5 again, and I'm enjoying every minute working in my new business.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not belittling trade publishing. Back in 2005, when I first saw Hal Spacejock on the shelves of every bookstore I visited it was one of the best times of my life. Pursuing trade publication is an important goal for a novelist, but once you've achieved that goal it makes sense to set a new one.
'More of the same' is not something you'll find in my resumé.
Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)