I really didn’t know what to expect when my novel was published in mid-May.
I know what I could have expected way back when I had the nightmare that inspired the novel. If I could have convinced an agent to represent an older but unpublished author of a book that’s a little hard to label and that agent had been able to convince a publisher to buy it, I would have received a small advance, and the book would have been released with a certain amount of ceremony. The publisher would have sent copies to reviewers and might have arranged interviews and a book tour.
Through the years, I wrote off and on, juggling my hobby with grandchildren and stressful jobs, while the world changed. Finally I retired and picked up the stack of pages I had stuffed into a file cabinet in the spare bedroom. And I realized I was no longer dependent on the agent or even the publisher. While I’d been involved in a different kind of writing career, both had been rendered optional by technology and culture.
Still, I decided I’d try to get an agent while I worked on rewrites. If I didn’t find one by the time I finished, I’d submit to one of the small companies sometimes called independent publishers because they aren’t one of the large corporations, which had by then shrunk to “the big six.” Although self-publishing was another viable option, I decided I wanted the validation of having my book professionally published.
I didn’t find an agent, so I sent a query letter to my small publisher of choice. They responded that they wouldn’t even look at any urban fantasy novel more than 70,000 words long.
THAT was unexpected. When I finished the first draft, books were supposed to be at least 120,000 words—and that’s almost exactly what I had written.
So I started editing. And I cut 40,000 words. Without damaging the plot or character development.
It was the best education I could have gotten in editing. But I still had 80,000 words, and I felt that while I could cut maybe another 5,000, I simply couldn’t reach the required 70,000 without ruining the book.
I sent a query to another publisher, one who had a sterling reputation and had recently won a prestigious prize.. They loved it. Send it, they said.
They lost it.
But I had an alternate plan. My daughter, author Katriena Knights, had told me about Etopia Press, a new company that was growing rapidly and liked books in all genres including those that were hard to peg. I queried them, and two weeks later was assigned an editor. She gave me the second-best education I could have gotten in editing, including asking me to add back in 5,000 words, much of which I still had in the original copy I had saved on my computer.
No advance. No review copies sent out. No interviews. No author tour. Par for the course for small independent publishers. (Some give small advances to selected authors. I wasn’t selected.)
I had business cards printed with the cover of my novel on them and started passing them out to everyone I could get to take them. I mentioned my novel on Facebook and Twitter. I got a review in the local newspaper. I pulled out attendee lists from every tour I’d ever gone on and every workshop and convention I’d ever attended and started sending e-mails. Haven't figured out how to do a book tour for an e-book yet, but I have post cards with the cover to autograph just in case anyone asks.
As well as I can tell, Amazon must have more than a million Kindle books listed. Of course, I’m sure they don’t have that many ranks, because many books would tie. But “When the Moon Is Gibbous and Waxing” was ranked at 50,000 several days and has bounced between the 100,000s and 200,000s ever since. I have no idea how that translates into sales, but I think it might be OK.
I can’t say that’s completely unexpected. : - )