Arx and I weren’t entirely through. At one of the next cons I attended, I saw them at their table in the vendor’s hall. I spoke with one of them briefly. He mentioned something about a Lewis book he had always meant to read but that he thought was out of print. Funny thing was, I had just seen the book minutes before at a used book dealer’s table. I went back to the table, bought the book and returned to Arx. Standing facing the partners was a woman who reminded me of my self not that many months ago. I thought at first she was pitching a book she had written but, as I listened, I realized that she was a literary agent.
As soon as she was finished speaking, I handed the book to the Arx partner, and then turned to the woman before she could get away. I told her I was an author and gave her the Two Minute Elevator Pitch. Holly McClure bought it, and gave me a business card for the address to send the manuscript, saying that she would read the book and consider representing me.
Eventually, I heard back from her—on an old piece of cardboard-like paper, which should have warned me. The brief note said that her agency, Sullivan-Maxx, would represent me but that she was giving the account to her subordinate, Ms – . I sent her a couple of copies of the Seabird manuscript as requested, and tried to keep in touch. However, the agency’s email always seemed to be down and long distance calls to Florida were, well, long-distance. I did get to know one of the other authors that SM represented. (Even bought one of her books.) Knowing her ultimately made a huge difference. About a year after being picked up by SM, I heard from this new writer friend that McClure’s “subordinate” had never done any work for us! She had in fact recently been fired, and evidently no one was picking up her accounts. We only thought we were being represented. I never heard back directly from Sullivan-Maxx or Mrs. McClure.
In the meantime, I had lost one excellent chance to land a mainstream publisher. A few months earlier, I emailed the agency and asked that a copy of my manuscript be sent to a particular acquisitions editor—name long since forgotten. No one, of course, ever did anything about my email so I lost an opportunity with a major publishing house.
(A warning to all: check your prospective agent’s reputation on Preditors and Editors and keep in close contact with any agency or publisher with whom you have signed.)
It was now late spring of 2005.
Back-tracking through another adventure from 2003 to 2005, I had already entered the twilight zone of publishing.
As I mentioned previously, I rarely write short stories. One of the very few that I’ve written, I also happen to like. It’s a fantasy story with touches of pagan religion in it. In June of 2003, I received an email from David Bain (editor of the anthology) that my short story had been accepted for publication by Cyber-Pulp for their new anthology, F/SF (Fantasy/Science Fiction) Volume 1. I was excited since this would be my first published work after twenty-five years of admittedly very sporadic attempts at publication.
Time passed. No anthology. Given the Sullivan-Maxx debacle, I had become wary. What was holding everything up?
There’s not a lot I really should say here. David Bain was our editor for the anthology but Bob Gunner was the co-owner of Cyber-Pulp. They had already published several anthologies and, I believe, a couple of SF novels; however, Bob had suddenly dug in his heels about publishing our anthology. Anthologies don’t pay, he announced. (They don’t. Authors get a work-for-hire one time payment, or else a promise in the contract of some tiny fraction of the anthology’s profits if any. Getting a story into an anthology is largely for exposure. However, since our anthology still wasn’t published, we F/SF Vol.1 authors weren’t getting any exposure—or money.)
The whole thing imploded in 2005. Our private Cyber-Pulp Authors Forum disappeared. Bob did publish F/SF v.1 on Amazon in June 2005. For a nano-second. Then Bob disappeared. Really. (He has since resurfaced.)
There’s still an entry on Amazon indicating that F/SF is “forthcoming” and that shoppers can be notified when it’s available. Take my word for it—don’t bother. F/SF and Cyber-Pulp’s time has passed. I have two author’s copies of the anthology or I wouldn’t believe it ever existed. The last time I checked for Cyber-Pulp on the web, it had become a porn site. In fact, to this day, I get 2 or 3 spam emails from Cyber-Pulp every year, inviting me to go look at the pictures. Eventually (2006) David Bain wrote that courtesy of the “public implosion of Cyber-Pulp” all of the authors in the anthology could take our stories elsewhere.
Back to Seabird, whose clock was still ticking.
In December of 2005, I heard about the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and their Genesis contest. I sent in the application on behalf of Seabird. There are a ton of steps authors must go through in order to be considered for a Genesis. (Genesis now has a new name—I forget what it is.) I spent most of 2006 complying with their various steps to the contest. To make a long story short, Seabird won 3rd Place in the Speculative Fiction division of the Genesis for 2006.
In the meantime, not yet knowing the results, I had been contemplating going to Texas for the yearly ACFW at which the awards would be given. ACFW’s website provided us with a list of agents and publishers who would be at the convention, and essentially said if we signed on early, we would have a chance to schedule a fifteen minute meeting with a couple of these. Ooh! Networking! I didn’t have the money to sign on early. As I watched the slots begin to fill up, I began checking out the publishers and agents ACFW listed, for myself.
Much to my chagrin, I soon discovered that the standards set by the associated publishing companies indicated that they would in no way accept Seabird as written. Example: Early on my heroine wakes up at the beach to discover that she’s sun-burned. She says, “Darn!” Several of the CBA-related publishers would not accept this word in their books, because “everyone knew what it really meant”. On the other hand, I wasn’t about to have my 21st century heroine say, “Golly!”
I started sending email queries to the agents who would be at the ACFW conference. All but one of them rejected me before the con, and the last one’s table was already filled. I saw no point in attending, given these findings.
Well, I won 3rd prize as I said but it was given by a group whose associates (i.e. publishers and editors) would refuse to publish or represent my work. The day after the conference ended, I learned through a fellow author of the third prize for Seabird.
By fall of 2006, I was fairly depressed about this whole writing and getting published thing. I had taken a year out of my life to try to win the Genesis, and even coming in third didn’t help—since the ACFW/CBA-related publishers and agents I had hoped to impress had already proven themselves unreceptive.
I was as close as I ever got to self-publishing. After all, I was running three years behind schedule.
Then in December 2006, an old writing friend wrote me yet another in a series of emails. Dave Wood, my old buddy from OWW writing critique days, said that he was about to start up an indie publishing company called Gryphonwood Press in his home state of Georgia. Would I be interested in throwing in with him, because he wanted Seabird to be amongst the first books he would publish.
Uh, yeah, I kinda said yes. J
Seabird was supposed to be published in November 2007. In fact, I received some advance copies from Dave which I packed and took with me on my “two conference book tour: On my way to PhilCon, the first of the two, I began flipping through a copy of my book. Imagine the sickest feeling you’ve ever felt. Yeah, that one. They had used the –uncorrected- proof of the manuscript to create the books. Old errors were everywhere. I contacted Dave immediately, and he closed down the distribution, and then went searching for the corrected file. In the meantime, I gave out a couple of copies of the “proof books” at the two cons—but only to friends.
Seabird was finally (re)published by Dave’s Gryphonwood Press on Jan 4 2008. (You always remember your babies’ birthdays.) It has received great reviews from virtually everyone, but it has sold very slowly. This is largely thanks to the poor publicity done by most indie publishers—thanks to a lack of staff people who each has a lack of time—and by my own lack of ability to get around the country and really promote.
Still it’s out and Dave has no intention of ever pulling it off the market. That’s one thing that mid-list authors chew their nails over at big publishers. If the book doesn’t “sell through”, i.e. make back as much as the advance in a short period of time, mid-list books (and frequently their authors) are dropped by the big old-fashioned publishers. In the meantime, indie/pod publishers will usually stick with their authors and keep their whole line available.
I’ll move on to my recent books, but first I just realized that I have to backtrack again to 2003 when I joined a local writers group, named Written Remains, founded and run by Joanne Reinbold. A couple or three years later, Joanne and Ramona De Felice Long decided to shepherd all of the WR members into writing and submitting stories for an anthology of our own. I was a bit gun-shy about anthos at this point but naturally I submitted a story, Baffled by the Green Door. Stories from the Inkslingers was published in Jan 7 2008. See, networking pays off!
We at WR are starting to talk about a second anthology, written by the current members of our evolving group—now known as the Written Remains Writers Guild. Serious work on it won’t start until 2011 with a projected publication date of 2012-2013.
But back to books! As soon as Seabird was out, Dave was on my case about the sequel. Unlike many authors, I just happened to have a sequel in the works. In fact it had been in the works since 1983. Earthbow was published (in two volumes) earlier this year. (March 21/Sept 22 2010) Like Seabird, Earthbow is getting excellent reviews. In fact, it’s received more 5 star reviews than Seabird did. Again, I have to admit to impatience—I just wish more people were buying it.
Now I’m working on that old (and huge) manuscript from the mid-80’s currently titled, The Gryphon and the Basilisk, aka The Behemoth, aka The Book That Intends to Eat Delaware. This one will be 3 volumes long, arguably 4 volumes. At minimum, it will take me two years to get it ready to send to Dave. See, part of the problem is that certain sections are still in longhand (!) and certain sections were typed and then scanned in to computer files with less than great software. I’ve spent about six weeks already just trying to “translate/decipher” the stray marks and gobble-gook in the scanned-in files. The book also needs a great deal of editing to remove “As you know, Bob” scenes from the beginning. And it might be nice if it had an actual ending. Oops!
Once that is done—or parallel to that work—I need to work on Marooned and also Da Boid da Tree-Rat ‘n da Loser, both of which are also set in the Narentan universe. They lack endings too. Double Oopsie!
Through all of this, I’ve discovered that Networking and Persistence are extremely important in the publishing game. If you look back over this account, I think you may agree with me. Oddly enough, I never thought I could network. What I hadn’t realized is that I was already networking. And I still am, via the Lost Genre Guild and the Written Remains Writers Guild. And of course, there’s still conferences and those pesky panels.
Congratulations to all of you who are networking via this blog!