What happens to this book is up to you

I now have a complete/final draft of my most recent finished novel, Brown Bread, Boys. It’s a retelling of Julius Caesar, with some fairly major alterations: it’s set in contemporary London, in the power struggle of an organised crime family seeking to control, among other things, the gory trigger sites of a poorly-understood form of powerful magic.

There are three options for this manuscript.

  1. The usual: I make it available for purchase on Lulu.com (and therefore eventually Amazon, the iBook store, etc) and the various Amazon Kindle sites. Very few people find out about it this way, because word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t work for me; I risk nothing, but gain a small amount.
  2. The print run: I do a subscriber run, and if fifty people put money up front they get special editions of the book. I then have a few over to put into shops who take books from independent publishers, and hopefully a few more people get to see the book. (I also put it up on Lulu etc some time later, but it will cost more than the print run copies will).
  3. The traditional: I write a query letter and start shopping the book to publishers. This means no one will be able to buy it for a while (until it either gets publisher or I get sick of it and go for option 1 or 2), but, as with any real gamble, stands a very very very slim chance that someone will see potential in what I think is a pretty good book, and then lots of people will hopefully get to read it.

So, what do you think? Which option should I gravitate towards? How much potential does the book I’ve just described have?


19 thoughts on “What happens to this book is up to you

  1. On the assumption that wider exposure trumps speed of financial return, I’d suggest traditional as a first option – I think “an urban fantasy retelling of Julius Caesar with gangsters” is a good, clear, and saleable hook (I’d buy it) – and if that gets you nowhere in a year or so, then go to Print Run, and once that’s done, make it available to buy electronically.

  2. You could try trad. If it gets repeated rejections then you can always self-pub anyway, but Shakespeare retellings are always popular. ‘High concept’ I believe is the word the marketing creatures use – something easily expressed and attention grabbing.

    Obviously it can be pretty soul crushing, so it depends largely on how you feel. While traditional publishing can buy you a certain amount of marketing buzz and a shot at reviews in the broadsheets (who are still astonishingly hoity-toity about self-pubbing) it can kick sixty kinds of shit out of you mentally. Personally I think it sounds like a book publishers would buy, but then we live in a world where crudely repurposed Twilight fanfiction is flying off the shelves and publishers are scouring ff.net. Everything I thought I knew about publishing is no longer true.

    Maybe try a couple of submissions, see how you go with the rejections and go from there? Personally I lean towards self-pubbing because it stopped me from going absolutely mental – I felt like I was spending more time writing query letters and bastard, vicious, evil fucking sods of synopses than actual books. I’m not good with inactivity and there’s a whole lot of waiting involved (five months, one time), only to get smacked in the face with a form rejection at the end of it.

    But it’s good to try new things, have fingers in other pies, as it were. And if it doesn’t work out then try another approach. That’s pretty much all you can do these days.

    1. This is very true, and with the other thing I have sitting with one agent I figured I was just going to see how many rejections I could rack up before I get bored – what’s the etiquette with multiple submissions to multiple agents if you’re shopping different manuscripts? Are you only supposed to have one on the go at any given time?

      QUERY LETTERS. See, everyone has unanimously decided that I should shop this to publishers/agents, but no one will do the decent thing and make a query letter leap fully-formed from my forehead like I’m fuckin’ Zeus, will they? HMPH.

      1. With multiple submissions it varies from one pub/agent to another. Check on their websites, although my attitude to the people who demanded they were the sole focus of your time and attention was ‘hahahahah, NO’

        If people are going to make me wait five months at a time for a reply I want as many irons in the fire as fucking possible. Just don’t tell them – I didn’t. I think it’s a cheek for them to ask anyway – people are trying to make a living here. If you get accepted by two different people at the same time then you’ve got a problem, but that’s a very nice problem to have.

        Query letters are HORRIBLE. There’s no getting away from that. They’re almost as bad as The Dreaded Synopsis. I used to get around it by doing most of my pitches by phone and when I couldn’t I’d use a voice recorder and then just babble as if I had an editor to talk to. Then I’d trim it, tidy it up and put it in a letter while occasionally screaming and hyperventilating in order to shut out that inner voice that says IT’S AWFUL WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU WHY ARE YOU EVEN TRYING YOU’RE SO SHIT I CAN’T EVEN

        If you’ve ever written a query letter or synopsis I’m sure you are very familiar with that voice. That fucker.

      2. Well, it’s two different manuscripts. I’m not shopping the same thing to several people.

        The voice in my case keeps telling me to be more bland. No, blander than that. No, more bland. They don’t like it when you draw attention to yourself! That’s what all the articles said. STOP DRAWING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF. Man, it’s a difficult line to tread.

      3. Had another thought this morning. (I have those sometimes. I’m slow, but I get there.) Do you know Query Shark?

        Probably the best resource for anyone who’s thinking of writing a query letter. If you’ve ever read and enjoyed ‘How Not To Write A Novel’ then you’ll know there’s something to be said for learning by bad example. On the other hand when someone submits a pitch perfect query she does the blessed thing and points out what they are doing right.

        Warning: This site may consume large portions of your day.

      4. I think it totally depends on how you feel. It’s not fucking nice, I’ll tell you that now. Occasionally it can be exhilarating when something works, but on the whole it’s largely about sitting around waiting to be disappointed. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t think you were the kind of person who could produce other work in the meantime (because they really take their sweet time getting back to you).

        If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. That’s the beauty of the publishing world we live in now. We’re no longer beholden to these gatekeepers who determine who gets to read what. This is all about you – what you think you can handle. It may be worth writing a couple of queries, hitting up a couple of agents, just to give a try and to learn how to do it. Don’t take it too seriously and remember that self-pubbing is no longer a cop-out or an admission of failure. I know that the promise of traditional publication often feels like a shiny wonderland where everything is perfect, but in my own experience as a former mid-list grunt it’s really not. Unless you’re one of these twelve year old YA authors who signed a seven figure deal and movie rights you’re still going to have to do your own publicity. It’s nice to be able to say ‘I’ve done it’, but there’s no way I’d go back – the royalties are pathetic.

      5. Oh, I meant the blog, but yeah. I have been self-pubbing, I just want to see if I can get ONE of my books a little more widely-read, I guess. The royalties from the no one that buys the self-pubbed books are, I imagine, roughly equal to the ones I would get if 400 people bought from a proper publisher. WHO KNOWS.

  3. I think London + Crime + Magic + Julius Caesar is a good set of hooks, and I am voting for giving the traditional a try. Agents and publishers.
    What I think is set a time-limit on it — a couple of years, maybe? And after that, if it doesn’t get picked up, then make it available by other means.

    I am going to buy this book anyway.

    1. I definitely approve of putting a time limit on it; there’s no good in shopping it perennially to ungrateful publishers. 😉 I don’t want to end up like that guy I met at a magazine launch party who’d been trying to find a buyer for his magnum opus for ten bloody years.

  4. what everyone else said! (with the caveat that I don’t know shit about publishing, but would be delighted to see your work in shops)

    1. From my brief, long-ago inside-line to the industry I believe being already published, already famous, or in some way related to or friends with or sleeping with an editor were the only ways to get started.

  5. I am torn between wanting to read it sooner rather than later and urging you to be ambitious, aaaand coming down on ambition since there’s a number of things by you which I haven’t read yet.

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