All stories have a genesis, a birthing into the world from writers’ minds, through their fingertips and into their computer (or onto paper for those who still write first drafts longhand). In part one of this essay I wrote about how I came up with the idea for my novel People of the Ethereal Realm and a bit about the writing process. If you haven’t done so already, you can read part one at Craig Saunders’ blog. I’ll be here waiting for you when you’re finished.
People of the Ethereal Realm was published as my second novel, however it was the first novel I’d written. That’s not to say that I didn’t have opportunities for the book to be published before Post Mortem Press released it in July. Bringing this book into the world began with several years of false alarms and disappointments that taught me a lot about the small press in the process.
So, after selling a number of short stories, I’d written my first novel, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself. I hit the Web and searched for viable publishers to send my manuscript. This was before Post Mortem Press had opened for business, so they weren’t yet on my radar. I’d sent the manuscript to a number of publishers, some of whom I had short stories published with, others with a sparkling clean reputation, and yet others I had little knowledge of. The first thing I learned (something I should have learned from submitting short stories) was that research, particularly concerning unknown publishers, is a must. I also learned to go with my gut, to listen to my heart. To ignore intuition is a fool’s game.
So I had several poles in the water and I got a bite from a publisher—whose name will remain concealed—that I had no prior experience with. They emailed a contract that could have been an offer on a new house it was so big. I read every word of it, mostly the same jargon typical of a publishing contract. They offered a twenty-five dollar advance, and then later in the contract I was given the option to have my advance applied to the cost of the twenty books I was required to purchase at full price within a certain number of days after publication.
Let that sink in for a second. How much is the average price for a trade paperback? Somewhere around fifteen dollars give or take a buck.
I was shocked, so I ran a Google search (yep, should have done that first!), and found a great deal of bitching and complaining about this publisher. They were a pay-to-play gig, and from what I read, they didn’t put much force behind their horror titles, as evidenced on their website where there were plenty of thriller and romance but no horror novels to be seen. This is what I mean about following intuition. That had struck me as strange from the get go.
Needless to say, I politely rejected the contract and waited for bites from the other poles I had in the great pond of small press publishing.
Soon enough another publisher emailed me with an acceptance letter, contract to follow. The contract never showed up and they were unresponsive to my emails. As of this writing, they seemed to have fallen off the face of the planet. Dodged a bullet there, I suppose.
I was beginning to think that this book was destined for disaster.
Next I sent the manuscript to Twisted Library Press. I’d had many a story published in their anthologies and even edited two of them (was taking submissions for a third anthology at the time). I could see the signs on the wall, beginning with so many anthology submission calls that there would be no way for a publisher to possibly follow through with each one. I also saw that there was what seemed like an equal number of novels to be published by an ever-growing list of imprints. But still I submitted my novel when I should have taken a moment to realize what was very clear.
The book sat in limbo for a year. The cover had been designed, it had gone through an editing process, and I had even started promoting it. The contract expired and soon after Twisted Library Press became defunct.
So People of the Ethereal Realm was destined for disaster … or maybe not.
During the period of time that I had edited anthologies for Twisted Library, I discovered a brand new publisher: Post Mortem Press. I sent Eric Beebe a story and it was published in their debut anthology Uncanny Allegories. My novella “Cemetery Tour” was included in the PMP release The Road to Hell, as well as a few more shorts in other anthologies.
Having been with PMP from the beginning, I’d watched them grow. It was all the research I needed. In Eric Beebe I found a trusting publisher and a man of determination and dedication. I submitted my manuscript, and when I received the acceptance letter, I knew that People of the Ethereal Realm was finally destined for something good.
I learned a lot during the process of getting this book published, but I am no fool and realize that there is so much more to be learned in the strange and sometimes discouraging world of publishing.
On a final note, I would like to thank Ken Cain for being gracious enough to allow me the use of his blog. I appreciate it, man!