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I haven’t written an update to this series of posts in far too long. For those that don’t remember, which is probably everyone, the posts (part I, part II, and part III) were about the process of publishing a novel I’ve been working on for the last six or seven years.
I did eventually find an agent to represent the work and for the past year we’ve submitted it to a number of major publishers and editors. In the end though, despite a lot of good feedback and encouraging words, none of them were willing to take the project on.
The publishing industry is going through a great deal of upheaval right now. The economy is forcing publishers to take fewer risks and readers are buying fewer titles. The consequence is that, as an unpublished novelist, it’s an incredibly difficult climate in which to find a publisher. So although I haven’t wavered in my belief or passion for the book, after a lot of discussion, prayer, and soul-searching, I am changing my tactics.
For years I’ve wanted to find a way to function as an independent author much in the same way that an independent musician does. The trouble is that while a musician can record his album and tour it to generate sales, the musician’s concert has no direct analog in the world of fiction. No one pays to come see an author read his book (unless that author is Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer) and there are few ways to get the word out and build readership for an independently published book without the benefit of the resources, distribution, and marketing that a publisher provides.
So what’s the answer to that dilemma? I’m still not sure but I’ve decided to give it a shot and see where it takes me. Next month I’ll be placing the manuscript into the competent hands of my friend and editor, Kate Etue, for a full copy-edit. From there I’ll be in the murky waters of the self-publishing world.
It’s important to me that the book in its final form be just as professional as anything on the top shelf at the bookstore. I’d rather the book never see the light of day than have it released in the sad state that all too many self-published authors settle for. That means that cover-design, paper-stock, binding, typesetting, and many other details need to be attended to carefully and professionally. I think I’m up to it.
Through it all, the hard part will be trying to find a way to make it happen without losing my life savings. I don’t want to end up living in a van down by the river and God knows it’s happened to better men than I.
I’m also interested in taking the coming digital revolution of the publishing industry by the horns and finding ways to make it work for me. What does that mean exactly? That’s another one I can’t answer right now. Maybe it means free chapters online, maybe it means digital downloads, maybe it means getting it published in Kindle format, maybe it means an iPhone app, maybe it means using special interweb powers to deliver it directly into the brains of millions of people all at once. I’m open to all those possibilities.
So while I’m approaching this coming process with a lot of fear and trepidation, I’m also encouraged to be pulling the trigger on something I’ve spent so much time on. It’s liberating to see it finally on a trajectory that will put it into the hands of readers.
Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.