2021 has been a frustrating year for me on a publishing and personal level, but for the purpose of this post I’ll be sticking to my traditional publishing gripes. Background to this is that my debut novel, Gods of Avalon Road, was published in 2019 by Blossom Spring Publishing. That has been a good experience overall: I’m still even getting royalties trickling in on sales 2 years later which although meagre (aww) are a happy sign that people are still buying my book (yay).
In November 2020 I completed my third novel (novel work-in-progress #1 remains unpublished as the prose, being experimental, has so far had no luck on the trad-publishing slushpile!). Novel WIP#3 is a mainstream social realism story about a foreigner’s travels in Japan and deals with the themes of loss of identity and test of spirituality and faith. I received a request for a full MS from a small press publisher in December 2020 and as you can imagine, was rightly celebrating. In January this year, my hopes were raised further when said publisher sent me 2 A4 pages of detailed strengths and weaknesses of my story, including suggested revisions. Happily the bulk of this critique was in sync with a beta-reader, who also happens to have a PhD in English Literature – in other words, I valued this feedback. I implemented the changes to my MS that I agreed with and queried some of the other points; the publisher had welcomed any questions I had, and I did indeed have a small list, including my ideas on possible alternatives to their suggestions on parts that I felt might deflect from the protagonist’s growth arc or detract from the story. Reasonable enough, or so I thought. I’m not a ‘precious’ writer; I’ve worked with publishers and editors numerous times over the past decade to know how to cut stuff that doesn’t work, or revise parts to improve a book, etc. So, when I didn’t receive any response to my questions about the suggested revisions, or to a follow up email a few weeks later, you can imagine how I then came to view this publisher as unprofessional. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a waste of time; after all, they gave me a detailed critique free of charge. I understand that a publisher might be busy prioritising books that are slated for publication first rather than new projects, but if they can’t even be bothered to reply to an author, then is that really going to be a viable business relationship? Exactly!
Of course, this publisher was only one of several dozen that I had sent my cover letter and sample chapters to; one of many simultaneous submissions, for those of you reading who know the terminology. Sim subs don’t guarantee a writer will get a response any quicker though. As it happens, I’ve still been waiting since November to hear anything back from at least 20 of the above; a slow process in a writing career. I’m sure you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the publisher of my debut novel amidst all this? My debut, Gods of Avalon Road, was published as a standalone novel, which meant I had a one book contract (as opposed to some writer friends who have had 3 book contracts offered, on the basis that they then write 2 sequels after their debut). Additionally, novel WIP#3 is a completely different theme to the genre of my published novel – social realism, not urban fantasy. It also deals with heavy themes and topics that my publisher of Gods of Avalon Road strictly prohibits in their list of topics: namely sexual assault. Although I deal with this in a more abstract than graphic sense, I can understand how some publishers may want to avoid this topic entirely. Publishing is a business after all, and some may want to steer clear of what they view as risky topics that could potentially offend readers. In a nutshell, I didn’t even submit novel WIP#3 to Blossom Spring Publishing for consideration in the first place as it would have wasted all of our time.
Considering all of the above has helped solidify my decision to go forward on my self-publishing journey as an Indie Author. It’s new territory for me – I have no experience of typesetting a book or sourcing cover artwork/photography, as this was handled by the publishers of my three poetry collections and my novel. Nor have I made up my mind about whether to DIY it or use a distribution service to publish my work. These are all decisions that will unfold over the coming months depending on how skilled I become while undertaking these tasks – or not! Whatever route I decide to take, be sure I will write many more blog posts about it.