Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday, October 11th, 2015: The Catchup!

I've got a little bit of catch up to play here. I finished the final draft of Fish Wielder on February 1st of 2015 and sent it off to an agent. Well, first, I sent it off to the publisher DAW, because I read that they accept unsolicited submissions. But they rejected it. The bastards. The process wasn't quite as fast as all that. It took them several months to reject it, during which time I just got to sit around wondering what was happening. When they finally did reject it, I not only got a nice form letter, I also got a little depressed. It didn't matter how many accounts I'd read about famous writers of books I love getting rejected enough times to wallpaper their rooms with the letters. It was a bummer. It was like that time when my ice cream fell off my cone onto the pavement and my friend said he could sympathize because that happened to him once, but he was still eating his ice cream.

So then I got all whiny and thought for sure Fish Wielder would never get published and I moped around talking in an Eeyore voice about just self publishing my book. Not long after that, my sister-in-law, Rachelle, who is also a writer (and who must have been tired of the Eeyore voice) advised me that I should really try to find an agent. I objected. I've written a few things before--a movie, a TV special, a graphic novel, an episode of a kids' PBS series--and never needed an agent to get them published and produced, so why should I get an agent for this? She was polite enough not to point out the whining and moping while she patiently explained the value of an agent and insisted that I should find a publisher rather than publish the book myself. She even went so far as to send me a list of agents.

I combed through the list until I found a few agents who specialized in fantasy books. Then I googled them and checked out the kind of fantasy books they represented until I found one agent who seemed to favor comedic fantasy: Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media Group. Trident is kind enough to provide an online submission form so that you can submit your manuscript electronically. DAW should really talk to Trident about stepping into the modern age. Anyway, I submitted the manuscript on April 17th, 2015. If you want to see what I included in my submission letter, click HERE. Then, I sat around waiting.

With publisher submissions, you kind of know what you're in for. They generally say that you won't hear back from them for months and that you're not allowed to ask them about it and they won't send you any kind of confirmation to let you know your manuscript even got there. And that pretty much sucks. But once I'd sent Fish Wielder off to Trident, I realized that I had no idea what to expect in terms of the potential wait. Like everything else I don't know these days, I tried googling the answer, but there were no useful results. So I just resigned myself to an indeterminate period of sitting around glumly.

Eleven days of glumness dripped slowly by. And then, early in the morning on the eleventh day, I got an email from Mark! I opened it with the kind of intense trepidation Schrodinger might feel when checking on his cat, only to find that it was simply a request that I re-email the manuscript in a different format. I had sent an .rtf and he was requesting a .doc. I immediately sent off the new version, sighed my best Eeyore sigh, and then headed off for work, wondering whether the amount of time one had to wait to hear back from an agent would now include an extra eleven days.

But, by the time I got in to work, there was another email from Mark! Again, I opened it with mixed feelings. It was clearly too little time for him to have read the whole thing. Did that mean he was already rejecting it? Here's what Mark wrote:

Jim, I'm loving this manuscript! More to come soon...

All the best,


Later that afternoon, he called me and agreed to represent Fish Wielder. I was ecstatic! Being accepted by somebody, even if it wasn't a publisher, felt really good! Better than really good! It felt great! For at least a week, I didn't feel like I needed to accomplish anything else. Just finding someone who said yes was enough. Predictably, however, that didn't last. Now that I had an agent, it was time to find a publisher. Again, there's not a really good definitive answer on how long something like that takes--at least not one that I could google up. Mark warned me that it might take some time he shopped the book around. And there I got to see the benefit of having an agent first hand. Mark was able to get the book in front of all kinds of publishers, including DAW, and they were actually eager to see the manuscript. Again, I was very excited.

But that's when the difficult bits caught up to me and I got to go through another agonizing waiting period. Mark had cautioned me, early on (I think it was actually during that first phone conversation), that my book would seem a bit odd in publishing terms. It was a comedic epic fantasy novel, aimed at both young adults and regular adult adults. That meant that it was both a genre oddball and required an audience crossover. Mark was fairly frank about the potential difficulty we were facing. He told me that YA publishers generally want the main character to be about the age of the target reader. My main character is 43. And, he spends a fair amount of the story drunk. That detail was one of the key reasons Scholastic Books sited when they passed on the book.

It took more than two months to find a publisher (Fiery Seas Publishing) who was willing to take a gamble on the book and able to offer an actual print run rather than just ebooks with print on demand. Why is having an actual print version important to me? My wife says it's probably because I'm a book snob with hoarder impulses, but I prefer to frame the same general concepts in ways that don't make me sound quite so jerky. I like print books because I collect them and I love the physical editions I can hold in my hands and put on my shelves. I actually generally buy two versions of good books--a paperback version for reading and lending to people like my wife (who dog-ears the pages to mark her place! Villain!)--and a hard back version to put on the shelf and keep forever like a wizard's grimoire. I don't hate ebooks, mind you. I know that they're convenient--I've got tons of them on my various electronic devices--but there is something comforting and magical about having a physical book that makes it irreplaceable.

So, that's the catchup material! On to the stuff that's going on now!

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