An Unexpected Interview
One of the commenters on the HeroMachine post profiling me asked several questions that I thought would be better answered here than buried in the comments of the post, so thanks very much to user Sutter_Kaine for giving me some blog fodder tonight!
How long did it take you to get something published?
I wrote my very first novel wayyyy back in junior high, which would have been cough1985ishcough a few years back. To call it a piece of crap would be insulting to pieces of crap. Fast forward a few years to 2003, when I knew nothing about the publishing industry and thought that a good way to break in would be to write a Star Wars novel (hint: it’s not). I wrote it and sent an email to an editor at Del Rey, which was publishing the Star Wars line. She didn’t have to reply at all, but she did. She said you have to be asked to write a Star Wars novel; we don’t accept unsolicited submissions. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do this, so I emailed her back and asked “what do I have to do to get asked?” Again, she didn’t have to reply, but she did. You have to have written and sold something in a style that is conducive to the style of the Star Wars Universe, and developed a good fan following.
Most writers might have packed it up right then and gone off to watch TV or something. I said to myself “fine, I’ll show her.” And over the next several months wrote an original, epic superhero novel called Just Cause. I completed it in 2004 and started researching how to submit to agents. Eventually, I sent it off to about 140 agents, and was rejected by every single one.
Figuring I had a lot to learn, I kept on writing and going to conferences. I shelved Just Cause for a few years and worked on other projects. Eventually I pulled it out, dusted it off, and cut out about sixty thousand words. If that doesn’t make you feel a little faint, then you’re not a writer. I proceeded to write about forty thousand new words, and thoroughly edited and revised what was left, and renamed it Mustang Sally.
It still didn’t sell.
By then I’d added more to the Just Cause Universe: Jackrabbit, The Archmage, and some short stories. The first thing I got published, back in early 2010, was one of those short stories (“Graceful Blur”, now available in my Ebook Store). I consider myself to have been writing “seriously” since 2006 (after attending my first writers’ conference), so it was just about three and a half years from then to publication. Mustang Sally has since been acquired, along with the rest of the Just Cause Universe series, by New Babel Books. And they will probably rename it back to Just Cause. The more things change…
How hard are Ebooks to set up and were they worth the trouble?
Ebooks are not hard to set up if you do it through Smashwords or Amazon’s Kindle Direct Platform. Both have very user-friendly interfaces. Barnes & Noble’s Pubit platform is a little more complicated. Once you get the formatting right, it’s easy to make anything into an ebook. Are they worth the trouble? Well, I’m selling stuff every month, and getting paid royalties every quarter, so of course they’re worth it. I’m not making a mint, but if you want to make money in publishing, you’ve got to be willing to stay in it for the long haul and realize it will take awhile to start making significant money. You’re not going to want to quit your job or buy that private island yet.
Any suggestions for somebody just trying to get a story looked at?
Find a group of like-minded writers and swap critiques. Meetup.com is a great place to start looking for critique groups. Facebook and Twitter are also good resources if you can’t find people in a face-to-face setting. My critique group is spread across four time zones, and I’ve met less than ten percent of them in person. Once you have a story that’s as perfect as you can make it, then start doing your homework and find markets where you can submit it. Duotrope.com is a great resource here.
You’re going to get rejected.
It’s easy to give up after a few rejections. It’s easy to give up after a lot of rejections. It’s easy to give up anytime.