Saturday, October 15, 2011

A close shave

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)


Satima Flavell said...

I'm really glad to see self-pubbing has given you renewed interest in writing, Simon. I am in the same situation as you were - the magnum opus is currently out with one agent and one publisher, and if they both give it the thumbs down I shall self publish. But I will need renewed enthusiasm to do that. After several years of sending the book out, being rejected, improving the book, sending it out, being rejected etc I am feeling a trifle jaded with the whole idea!

Simon Haynes said...

Thanks! I'm sure my antics seem ungrateful (or just plain daft) to many, but writing is a hobby for me. If it becomes work I won't do it.
Fingers crossed your book finds a home!

Mary Paddock said...

Yup. Yup. Yup. Got tired of writing the queries (trying to tailor each one for each agent), got tired of sending them out and waiting two months for something--anything--and then there's the roller coaster wait if they ask for a partial.

I'd much rather take my chances alone and rise and fall on my own merits.

Simon Haynes said...

Agreed - and by self-publishing I can let go of the previous book and concentrate fully on the next. Sure, there's an overlap where you obsessively search the web for the merest mention of your book, but that fades eventually.
I got book one out the door after three solid months of work, and now I'm up to my ears in book two. This method really works better for me.

Fairday Morrow said...

What a great post. I am so happy for you that you realized what you want to do and are doing it! If you are self publishing it and it is working for you, then you can't worry that you missed an opportuniy!

I wish you the best of luck!

I found you through Book Blogs and signed up to follow you. When you have a chance- please stop by and follow the blog for my middle grade novel that I am hoping to get published.
Also, my co-author, Stephanie, liked your fb page today. Please like us back at:

Take care-
Jess- although I may show up as Fairday, the main character from my novel. I can't figure out how to fix it. :)

Simon Haynes said...

Have done as you suggested - thanks for stopping by to say hello ;-)