Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Post by J. Scott Nelson

Joe sez: A reminder to all guest bloggers--if you want to make sure I post your guest blog for Tess you have to email me with the header GUEST BLOG FOR TESS along with the DATE. Email me when your blog is finished, and email me again the day before the blog is supposed to go live, attaching all the cover art and the Word doc file. Today the guest blogger is James Scott Nelson, and he reminded me yesterday with the email GUEST BLOG FOR TESS 2/13/2014. And, of course, attach the receipt for your Tess donation.

The amount of email I get is staggering, and I can't reply to it all, let alone try to schedule dozens of guest posts without you helping me out by following these instructions. You can email me a zillion times, but if there is no date in your email header, I'm going to miss it. And if I did miss it, even though you put the date in, email me again. I had some health issues for a few months, and my email backed up. So email me again and we'll reschedule.

Here's J. Scott Nelson...

J. Scott: Joe evangelizes in favor of self-publishing for a myriad of compelling reasons. For me, I finally gave up on the traditional publishing process because of their complete disregard for my time.

I've always been a writer.  As a kid I wrote mysteries ala The Hardy Boys.  I penned a popular newspaper humor column in high school and won numerous awards in in my college’s literary magazine. In my spare time I wrote fantasy novels.  I knew the first few were not good enough for publication, but I was content to keep learning my craft. 

Then several years ago I started The Riven Blade Saga  -- a gritty, multiple-POV epic trilogy.  It brims with political intrigue, empires warring over resources, and vengeful plots.  Some characters evolve and grow.  Others die.  Each book raises the tension:  “Path of Peril” focuses on two massive battles.  Civil wars erupt in “Road of Rebellion.”  Finally, a genocidal apocalypse is unleashed in “Crucible of Chaos.” 

I queried some agents.  One told me that simultaneous submissions were an insult and he wouldn't even consider me.  So instead I queried one agent at a time to “follow the rules”.  It took about nine months to collect three rejections before an agent called to request the manuscript.  I sent it off that very day.

And waited. 

After about three months, he contacted me and said he loved the characters -- but I would have to cut the word-count in HALF before he would consider sending it to a publisher.  

Both I and my main editor (and now co-publisher) bought the book "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King and got to work.  After following the suggestions in the book we were shocked how much better the book had become at half the size.  So I sent it off to the agent again.

And waited.

Five months later I got a brief email, "I am really enjoying the book, and I am pretty sure already that this is something I want to submit to publishers."  I was so excited!  But he needed to finish it to be sure.

Three more months went by. 

Then I got a call.  The agent wasn't going to work in the fantasy genre anymore, but he had recommended my manuscript to another agent who was willing to take a look.

The next twelve months was spent waiting for the second agent to review the manuscript, making his requested changes, and waiting for him to read the revised manuscript.  He only accepted five unpublished writers a year out of around 2200 queries, but by then the euphoria of having an agent was long gone.  An unpublished writer is at their agent’s mercy.  You sit at the bottom of their to-do list, behind all their published authors who pay their rent today.  While it makes a certain sense, it was a recipe for frustration.  

Finally, he did submit it to the Big Six publisher he felt would be the best home for it.

And I waited again.  

I created a website and offered sample chapters for readers to review.  Hundreds of people sent me emails (which I included on the site under "Raves from Readers") expressing their interest in the rest of the story.  I kept my agent informed of both the traffic and the growing list of “Raves”.  Certainly the publisher would see this positive response as a great sign, right?

But after several months it was rejected.  The editor-in-chief said the genre was crowded and the sales of some current epic series were struggling.  She added that a couple years earlier (when I had actually started this process) it would have been an "easy buy"!  She called my characters interesting and writing style engaging – but vampire stories were hot right now -- did I have any of those?  I outlined a story about a vampire book publisher sucking the life out of would-be writers.  But the vampire kept dying in the first chapter.

After another rejection that also gave mostly-positive comments, my agent said that we should hold off submitting for awhile.  His contacts just didn’t want epic fantasy right now and were looking for urban fantasy instead.  We should wait for the market to turn more positive on my genre. 

Over a year went by.

It began increasingly clear that my agent had lost interest in me.  Several of his other big clients were releasing new books.  I felt lost in the shuffle.  I asked him pointedly for “the plan” and it became clear there was none.

I doubted other agents would even consider the manuscript now since several Big Six publishers had passed on it.  Life happened, I took a new job that involved a lot of travel and time, and a couple more years went by while I tried to work on some urban fantasy ideas that ultimately just didn’t excite me.

Then one day I got an email from someone who had read the Path of Peril samples online and asked, “I love the first few chapters -- when is this book coming out?”

The traditional process seemed a lost cause, so I started researching self-publishing, found Joe’s blog and here I am. The complete trilogy is available on Amazon in digital and paper format, and I’m starting to work on getting the word out using suggestions from Joe and those of you who have blogged here already.

So how do the two routes to publishing compare?  One was lengthy, uncertain, and I was at the mercy of others to represent my interests.  The other still has uncertainty, but I am in control of representing my interests.  I just need to focus on creating the best stories I can and working to build a reader base. 

I thank Joe for the opportunity to share my story and invite you to check out my books, my website, or the novel trailer for the series here.    

Joe sez: I wasted nine years querying.

Nine whole years.

And once I did sign a pub deal, it took 18 months for that book to be published.

Legacy publishing is not a rocket ride to heaven. It's a very slow frustration train. YMMV, but if Amazon KDP had existed back in 2003, knowing what I know now, I would have never submitted a single query letter.

Figure out your goals and act accordingly, armed with as much information as you can find.