I was teaching my adult fiction-writing class (not to be confused with an adult-fiction writing class, which, come to think of it, I’d love to do) yesterday, and after we got done, one of my very nice students came up and asked, “How many books did you say you’ve written?”
“Seventeen, but I wrote two other books which ended up as what Stephen King calls ‘trunk novels’ because they need to stay stored in a trunk and not be released yet, or possibly ever.” [I actually just said “seventeen,” the rest being implied. But still, STEPHEN KING AMIRITE?!?]
“You’ve written nineteen books? That’s cute.”“That’s what I thought you said,” she said, now looking more perplexed than curious. “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Sure, go ahead—I have no dignity.” (I actually just said, “Sure.”)
“You have so many books! Why aren’t you … I mean, why are you … still doing this, here? I mean, I’m really glad you are, but …”
I said with sincere pleasure, “Why am I not famous? Like, ‘Man, what are you doing here?'”
Note to self: Buy jar into which alcoholics may put bread.“Not like that, but yeah, basically.” (I believe “not like that” is the new “with all due respect” or “no offense,” a blanket pass to say what one means. I like it. But, again, still.]
“I started off in self-publishing, then with a micro-publisher,” I said, employing more spin than a dreidel on Christmas Eve, “and now work with a small but well-known publisher for my Cthulhu Attacks! series and the Hugo Navikov pulp novels. With the Tesla Trilogy, I’m going for the big time with an agent and New York publishing and all that.”
“Oh, good!” [I swear, bless this nice woman’s beautiful heart.] “But—”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be doing creative writing courses for as long as there are people who respect fiction writing and want to learn more.” [Probably longer, to be honest.]
She left after saying something expressing happiness, but I don’t remember what because I was basking in the adoring look in her eyes. [It happens.]
“Indeed, it does … but ain’t that America.”
That was a nice interaction, but my movin’ on up to the east side (the approximate location of “success” per Jefferson 1975) is already in progress! In fact, I’m in the process of moving from self-to-micro-to-small-to-(imprint-of-)big-publishing! That last leap is what (most) fiction writers are aiming for. It’s the Ω, the sine qua non, the tops, the smile on the Mona Lisa. You get me.
But there are drawbacks. These may come off as a “humblebrag”—like, “My publishers are so big that they can’t even schedule my books for release for, like, so long,” so please allow me to temper my impressive achievements by reminding you that my current living room seating is the goddamn floor. (And our carpet is a crime against humanity, but I digress.)
First, there is the sad fact that I, despite what I tell women online, am not yet a writer at the level of, say, getting an advance (or publicity—here I go again with the digressing, sorry). I won’t be seeing royalties from any Tesla Trilogy books for … let me see … ohhh, roughly the third financial quarter of the year infinity.
To illustrate, I shall refer to this handy chart:
|Size of publisher||Editing & proofing steps||Time from acceptance
|Big to medium||Story editing, copy editing, line editing, proofing, galleys, final proofing||~ 18 months|
|Small||Copy editing, proofing||Varies according to publishing schedule and resources|
|Micro||Light proofing, usually||< 1 month|
|Self||Directly proportional to author’s opinion of readers||2 nanoseconds|
To wit, I have been notified that the latest Hugo Navikov novel, Anomaly (about UFOs in Antarctica, natch), won’t be released until the end of the year. Its publisher is a small press, and thus Anomaly has to be incorporated into the publication schedule in a way that micro- and self-publishers don’t have to worry about, since they don’t put out as many books during any particular fiscal quarter as a small press does.
And that means that Cthulhu Attacks! Book 2 won’t be released until Q1 of 2018. (This book was supposed to be written in late 2015 and published in early 2016, but I had to take on a bunch of immediately paying writing jobs and, well, the lateness is totally on me and not at all on the publisher.) Usually, that would fall under “annoying but oh, well,” but I’ve already sold like 75 pre-orders and now delivery of the first copies will be delayed at least until the third week of December.
That makes things a bit … awkward.
And the whole Tesla Trilogy journey to publication makes the Cthulhu Attacks! 2 delay look like waiting for your Keurig to fart out your morning cuppa. If I thought 75 pre-orders of $20 each made for an awkward delay, the $5,150 of Kickstarter support for the incredibly delayed first Tesla Trilogy volume, Mr Tesla and Mr Darwin Fight Edison’s Ravenous Megalodons Through the Judicious Use of Time Travel and Giant Robots makes me feel like hiding under a rock. On the moon.
The second two books in the trilogy should both be out within a year of the first, but something los dios! Regular, stocked-at-Barnes-and-Noble-without-personal-begging publishing takes forever. Now I understand why new books come out all the time from authors who died two years earlier.
Or never existed in the first place.
I’m making light of something that really is embarrassing, but that’s how I deal with any cause of discomfort, from terrorist attacks to Brownian motion. Suffice to say that my refusal not to have an agent pitch my epic project to epic publishers’ epic imprints is taking the slow boat to Nebraska (think about it) instead of the more-immediate gratification and coin provided by my wonderful micro and small publishers. The Tesla Trilogy is meant for a bigger audience, so loss of control is a unfamiliar but necessary codicil of working with bigger publishers, not to mention agents who don’t work in, like, Tampa instead of New York or Los Angeles.
I hope this explanation … well, explains the delays in my new books. I believe they’ll be well worth the wait when they’re finally released; I think my readers will be, at long last, happy.
“It’s not coal! It’s a pre-diamond.”