It turns out I keep this online diary almost as consistently as I keep my personal diary, i.e. hardly ever. This is quite normal for me. I seem to work in flurries of madness separated by long periods of nothing. Well, I say nothing, but the old noggin is always ticking over. It’s like a bag of cats in there. If it’s any help, I have thought about what to write many times.
This diary entry is about my search for a publisher.
The moment I finished writing the book, I had the seed of belief that it was good enough to be put out there, that someone might get a titter out of it and think it was a good fit. This might sound arrogant but when you’ve written so much shit you notice the occasional diamond in the nugget. So I knocked up a hasty cover letter (rubbish), a synopsis (even worse), and started throwing it out into the ether.
I didn’t have a plan and I did next to no research.
And I got results!
Almost immediately. I’m not kidding. I sent the book out on a Sunday and had a reply on Tuesday with an offer of publication. I was stoked! This never happens. This was my shining moment, all that hard work paid off, you love me! You really love me!
And then they asked for money. A lot of money.
Not a publisher.
(In case you’re starting out and you have questions about this, the answer is quite simple… a legit publisher will NEVER ask you for money. Ever.)
I was gutted, but then the next week I received another email, this time from a publisher who only read the first 30 pages… they wanted the rest. Happy days! Back in business!
A week after that they sent me a contract!
And a bill.
Here’s the thing. That bill was remarkably smaller than the first. We’re talking a few hundred instead of a few thousand, and so I was tempted. Really tempted.
At this point my wonderful wife stepped in and did the research I should have done myself. She discovered that the fee I was being asked for was exactly one hundred pounds more than the fee charged by a certain online company that specialises in getting self-published texts ready for ebook distribution. It seemed like another scam, but I was still reeling from the first let-down and thought it might be worth a punt anyway.
Then I saw the cover designs.
Holy snapping duck crap Batman! The font being used for many of the titles was that dodgy ‘Word Art’ thing you get in old editions of Microsoft Publisher and PowerPoint. You know the one, black outline with yellow and orange ‘flames’ in the text. It was the title for every 90s kid’s comic sans created short story. And the less said about the images the better.
(I know you probably want to see some of these but I’m a gentleman – ahem! – and won’t tattle-tale – each to their own and all that. More power to them.)
Did I run away? You’d think so, but not quite. I was still tempted. Other publishers were getting back to me with polite but firm rejections. There was still hope here.
But then I read the contract and there were two clauses that changed everything,
1) I would retain the rights to the original manuscript but any edited manuscript (and all its contents and characters) would become the property of the publisher.
2) I had to take all the swearing out.
No way, get fucked, fuck off! Those fucking characters are fucking mine! I fucking love them! They’ve been rattling around my stupid fucking brain for twenty fucking years!
FYI: The Book and the Blade contains…
38 variations of fuck
and a partridge in a pear tree.
Needless to say, I walked away.
But then another publisher said yes!
Then they went bankrupt.
Three strikes, you’re out!
I was about ready to give up but I decided to give it one last punt. This time, I would do it properly. This time, I would do my research. This time, I would look for publishers that specialised in my kind of story. And so I did. I created an excel spreadsheet and everything, so you know I was being serious. I categorised every publisher I found in order of preference and at the top of the list emerged an independent publishing house in the USA with a clear sense of style, humour, and an interest in the macabre that mirrored exactly what I was looking for.
But they weren’t taking submissions.
So I waited. I polished the manuscript. I did a better cover letter. Wrote a better synopsis. And then I sat up until midnight on the day the submissions opened and sent it in at 12:01.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
(Apart from the video they asked me to film as a ‘getting to know potential authors’. We don’t talk about that.)
So here we are. Without research… 15 publishers. 3 dodgy yeses. 5 rejections. 5 no responses. And 2 incorrectly addressed emails on my part.
With research… my first choice publisher working hard to bring my book to the world in 2022.
As the incomparable Sir Terry Pratchett said,
“If you trust in yourself. . . and believe in your dreams. . . and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”