I haven’t brought out a book this year. That sort of itches at me, that I should have. And, truth be told, I have a project that I could – and possibly should – be considering bringing out. But… it’s not just that straightforward. Not in the current market where so many opportunities lurk, and almost as many pitfalls.
This, then, is the story of The Wildest Hunt, and it perhaps showcases the dilemmas modern writers face. Well, this modern writer anyhow.
The Wildest Hunt was started in November 2016, when the Arts Council of Northern Ireland kindly agreed to partially fund me writing a book set in Glenveagh, in Donegal. Glenveagh, for those who don’t know it, is just the most wonderful place. In the bleak – and I do mean bleak – Donegal mountains, there is a long lough. And beside that lough is a sheltered (well, in comparison to the rest of the landscape) estate, full of gardens, with a castle and the weirdest boat house you’ll ever see (it has a lido on the roof!) and a wild estate to walk in. If there is anywhere that jumped out at me as the setting for a spooky story, it was Glenveagh.
Anyhow, I finished the first draft of it in summer 2017 and I’ve returned to it now four times. I think what I have is a polished manuscript that needs an editor’s imput to get it to the finalised version. This was not a rush job (even though an agent recently seemed to indicate the fact I self published – which I mostly don’t, as it happens – equalled rush jobs), this is a book that is two years in the stewing, and with many revisions.
Which means, this is a book ready to find a home.
Now, these are my options;
Find an agent to represent it. This is my preferred option as I hope this book will be the start of a series (although I’ve got my sf hat on at the moment, and am in no hurry to write more fantasy). But this is proving difficult. I’ve had several who like the idea, several full requests, lots who’ve told me someone else will snap me up because of my writing cv, another who told me my backlist was too diverse, but…. this is a book set in Ireland. In a genre no one in Ireland will look at. Where no publisher takes fantasy. Which means this whole agent lark may not be the way to go with the book. Having said that, the book is much improved on my latest write-through, so I might just keep an eye out on MSWL for a while for the agent who just wants a book about Ireland with psychic artists and a crazy fae-hunt.
Or…. go with a small publisher? I’ve done that with both Abendau and Waters and the Wild, but I don’t think I want to this time. Why not? Well, too much sits outside of my control. If the publisher throws the title on 99p for months, I can’t do anything about that, despite knowing that perma 99p is not a good price tag (except for teaser books, like the first in a series – I have Abendau’s Heir on perma 99p). If launch events and bookstore events don’t get followed up on, it’s out of my control. And, frankly…. what I have made in royalties this year is shockingly low (99p – amazon take 65%, tax comes off, publisher gets their share, I get mine – you can work out how low that must be). Really, really low. In fact – let’s go on record. For 6 months sales of one of my titles I’ve earned less than 4 quid. To put that into perspective, I get that by selling two Inish Carraigs. The same sales, self published with my usual price tag, would have brought me in a three figure income. (But, of course, the caveat is that I would have had upfront costs, of course)
So, really, unless a small publisher is prepared to give me an advance (ha! let’s marvel at that idea, shall we? It just doesn’t happen.) I’m not inclined to publish with them. Not if I can end up, essentially, getting no return for a book that’s had so many hours put into it.
Self-publish. This, of course, is the logical thing to do. I have the platform, I have the knowledge, I have the contacts. But… I hesitate. This book is different from my backlist again. A crime novel with supernatural elements, and tousled and turned around human relationships. Self publishing works best when a catalogue supports the full range of the titles. It’s why Inish Carraig 2 and the new Abendau (eeee! looking forward to writing that), will be self published. My self published platform supports SF titles. I suppose I could go with a pen name – and that’s a possiblility. But it’s one I want to muse over before jumping at it.
So, really, at the moment, I have a project I don’t know what to do with. I suspect I’ll pop it to the side and muse for a while. Or put the writing of it down to experience and let it go. But 70000 words is a lot to let go. Which means there’s only one thing to do to retain sanity and that’s dust off the next manuscript (IC2) and go and focus on the writing. The cure-all for all writing challenges.
This blog was brought to you by the crazy-mixed-up-world-of-publishing. I’m not the only one facing those choices. Even agented authors face them – especially with de-listed books, or those not a good fit with their published books.