The End of the Affair

With few exceptions, most of the posts you will ever read about the practice of writing, anywhere on the Internet, will be positive. Sure, there’ll be the occasional I submitted my novel to 11 agents…’ but the punchline will usually be, ‘and the 11th submission came up trumps’.
This post will be a little bit different.
This tale is what you might call the flip side of the coin – the side that lands in the dirt. And pretty much stays there. Except that, viewed from another perspective, it doesn’t. This affair is a literary one and full of contradictions.
We’ll start at the beginning. Well, not the very beginning because that took place a long time ago – in the 1980s.
My fantasy, Covenant, is a large book. It weighs in at 133,000 words and, believe me, that is the shortened version. It’s a quest that involves a range of themes, both archetypal (truth, loss, justice and redemption) and esoteric (altered states of consciousness, reincarnation, and mysticism). Even for the fantasy genre, based on the feedback I’ve had, I’d say it’s a little different.
It has been a long journey. You can find snippets elsewhere in this blog, but the facts are these:
– 20 submissions to agents.
– 40 submissions to publishers, which include Indies.
– Subbed in the UK, USA, The Netherlands, Denmark and South Africa
– Fastest decision time – 1 minute (no unsolicted subs at the moment, thanks).
– Slowest decision time – 1 year, 3 months and 16 days (Baen Books).
– Five contracts offered.
– One was solely for ebook publication.
– One was for a very limited print run.
– Three wanted author contributions from £1000 to £5000.
– One publisher wanted me to commit to buying 150 discounted copies.
High points:
– Being offered each and every one of those five different contracts. Okay, so I declined on the basis of my costs or their distribution model, but in each case – had I the available funds or the profile – it might have worked out. Bottom line? Publishing is a risky business and they wanted me to share the risk.
Low points:
– My editor at Samhain, Terri Smith, approving my book and then passing away before the revised contract could be signed. Followed by the replacement editor turning my book down.
– My ms or return postage not being returned by Capall Bann, and no reply to my phone call / registered letter. And this was after they’d sent me a proposal.
– Saga Whyte Press falling victim to the global downturn before my launch.
– The agent who wanted the ‘small amount’ of £70 to read my ms sample.
And after affairs, so I’m told, once the recriminations and rationalisations are little more than fading memories, there’s a fresh perspective. Maybe it’s not always forgive and forget, but it’s learn the lesson and move on. The lesson for me was that, after years of subbing and editing, and all of the above, I decided that I don’t want to do it anymore. Not with Cov. I do, however, want to see Cov in print.

It took Villayat SnowMoon Wolf Sunkmanitu, a fellow writer and photographer, less than 30 minutes to talk me through the pleasures and pitfalls of paperback self-publication. I know, from the feedback I’ve received, that there’s a niche readership out there. And I used to have a reader group of around 30 people who received a chapter a week. So here’s to the end of the affair and the onset of independence.

I aim to complete the proof edit by the end of July and commit to print in August / September.  And I’m waiting to hear about using a cover design from one of my former editors. So watch this space, and if you’re into esoteric fantasy epics, you’re welcome to join my mailing list. 


  1. Sandra Davies says:

    Fantasy is not my thing, but Covenant sounds like something my daughter would enjoy so I'll keep an eye out for it.
    Re self-publishing, I started with Burb, have now switched to Lulu and the books I have from them are good quality, fast and efficient. My 128K novel costs me £6.42; there doesn't seem to be a need to order within, say, 15 days as there is with Blurb and it's easy to reload pdf of text or jpgs of covers once corrected.
    I haven't yet mastered ebooks, but I will …
    Good luck with this – there is a huge pleasure to be had with holding a 'proper' book version of your own work.

  2. Deb says:

    Derek, if you haven't yet done so, check out Feed A Read. They are sponsored by the Arts Council and offer free paperback publishing. Books that get in their top ten (for something like three months or more) are then read by some of the top editors in publishing- Random House, Orion House are two of them.

  3. The more I read about your situation, the more I think FeedARead would suit you. It's so low-risk, yet the royalties are high enough to reward you for a successful book.

  4. Jaxbee says:

    Well, Derek, I'm afraid you've written a positive post after all. Your list of efforts did make me wince on your behalf (particularly the death of the agent, tragic on all counts) and it's a shame you didn't achieve publication from your original submissions but hey! this is exciting, too. Best of luck with the publication and enjoy the ride 🙂

  5. Derek says:

    Thanks so much everyone for your comments. I was – and am – knee deep in Covenant edits, but I appreciate the ideas and enthusiasm. Let's face it, that dynamic exchange is one of the reasons we become writers in the first place.

    I will have a look at Blurb and Feed-a-Read, but if there are any compelling arguments about the benefits over Lightning Source, please let me know. Given the themes within Covenant, I see it as a niche novel, which is unlikely to attract the attentions of mainstream editors or publishers. The sums I've done show a healthy return from LS, but more than that I've seen some good examples of their work.

    I do enjoy the ride, for all of my novels (and the other writing too). But sometimes, with Covenant, it has felt like being trapped on a roller coaster and counting the number of times that the same view appears!

  6. Jaxbee says:

    Derek, you're one of my chosen Inspirational Bloggers, much deserved of the award for, well, writing blogs which make me think and smile and encourage me to put pen to paper. Congratulations! I'm afraid that I need to ask some work of you though. The rules, if you choose to accept them, follow. It took me a bit of time to put together my post but it was fun. I hope you'll take up the challenge and look forward to reading your post 
    1. Display the award logo somewhere on the blog.
    2. Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
    3. State seven things about yourself.
    4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs.
    5. Notify those bloggers that they have been nominated and of the award’s requirements.

    PS Derek, you look busy, I understand it you can't oblige just at this time.

  7. Derek says:

    Hi Jaxbee, it's a great idea and I'm delighted to be included. I'll have a clear space on Monday so I'll take a proper look then and put something together. Thanks again for thinking of me.

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