In previous Notes from the E-Revolution, we talked about how authors these days were mixing it up, combining self and traditional publishing, carving a path for themselves in the changing landscape of the industry. I love Rick’s path as well as his novel, so I’m glad he’s here to share with us today.
First off, thanks Sue for inviting me to share my story with your readers! Here’s a teaser blurb:
The freezing temperature is the only thing cool about Jason’s trip to the North Pole, but things heat up when his father discovers a book buried deep in the ice. This is no ordinary book, mind you. For starters, it was written by an Elf. And if that’s not enough, the book proves the existence of Kris Kringle—you know, Santa Claus. It’s a story you have to read to believe, and once you do Christmas will never be the same.
The idea first came to me in 2003, when my first son was two years old and I was explaining to him the magic of Christmas. “You’d better be good, or Santa won’t bring you any presents,” was the way I put it. The spell worked, by the way, he was (and still is) a good boy. I wrote a short blog post about the incident, and in it I mentioned that Santa’s capacity was low because he lost two toy factories when the ice under them gave way as a result of global warming. What can I say, I have a warped outlook on many things.
I didn’t let go of the thought, though. It evolved into the basic premise: a book telling the origins of Santa is found in an ice core. My first thought was to write is as a screenplay, and include every Christmas cliché as a joke, similar to how the fairy tales made appearances in “Shrek” and the classic toys had their roles in “Toy Story.” The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized Hollywood would really screw up the story, and if I wanted my vision to make its way to the big screen, writing it as a novel was the way to go.
As I wrote it, it evolved from a farce to a more realistic story, it took on more of a gritty-and-real edge, like “Batman Begins” but with Santa. Not that it’s without warmth and humor, but there is action and peril, too. The clichés are there, but not as jokes, they all play into the characters and stem from the story.
How interesting that it evolved from a farce! It's certainly a full-on adventure story now!
At one point, you were agented and pursuing publication with another novel (that I also had the pleasure of reading). Can you share the journey The Man in the Cinder Clouds took to publication? Was there a singular moment when you decided “Yes, I’m going to self-publish this story”?
Like anything in publishing, it was long, filled with as much waiting as hard work. While I had my chapter book, RUDY TOOT-TOOT on submission, and while I was between jobs, I cranked out the first draft in about 6 weeks. (This was in spring 2010…seven years after the premise first popped into my head. Thankfully I kept thinking about the story so when I finally wrote it I had a pretty clear picture of what was going to happen.)
I submitted it to my agent, and she stopped all communications for six months. Naturally, as a writer, I am totally self-conscious and quickly determined that she hated the book and was so upset I sent it to her in rough form she never wanted to talk to me again. In reality, her parents took ill and she had taken on too many clients too quickly and was simply overwhelmed and had never read it. When she finally explained this to me, she promised to read it. She didn’t. She asked for more time. I gave it to her. Twice. Eventually I realized she was not the agent for me and we both agreed to move on.
I continued revising the book for many more months considering my options. In May of this year I realized that to find a new agent and go the traditional publishing route, this story would not meet its audience until Christmas 2013 (maybe 2012 if I was really lucky, but probably 2013). I’ve been watching friends self-publish in print and ebook formats, and realized I could go that route and have a quality book out before Christmas 2011.
Worm Burner and I have already read it, and I look forward to reading it again at Christmas time as a read-aloud! What other novels do you have in the works? Do you think you’ll stick with middle grade?
I have RUDY TOOT-TOOT, a 17,000-word chapter book. I may self-publish that one too, the hurdle to clear is the budget for illustrations. I have stories outlined for two additional Rudy books, and I’m outlining a sequel to THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS. I’m not going to give up too much about that right now, but I will say that there is one very famous Christmas character that didn’t make an appearance in the first book because he wasn’t born yet. And I have a couple surprise twists to throw in.
[Editorial note: Ok, I can't wait for that one!]
Some day I’m going to finish re-writing my first novel, a paranormal thriller titled FATE’S GUARDIAN. It has a good story behind it, but as all first novels go (that I am aware of) it is deeply flawed in its current state.
I’m also working on a satire about the end of the world titled EARTH’S END, which is the one I’ll probably finish next because that’s the one my wife wants me to write, and when she’s happy, we’re all happy ;-) Plus it’s a fun one to write, but definitely not a kids’ book.
[Editor's note: I really want to read that one too!]
The Man in the Cinder Clouds just came out recently, but what do you think of the self-publishing experience so far? Is it meeting your expectations?
I think it’s great. I’ve learned a lot about formatting, copy editing, and interior design. And I am also very lucky to have a diverse group of critique partners who helped me to see the strengths and weaknesses in the story so I could revise it and make it shine.
So far my expectations have been met. I tried to be realistic, and while I dream big for the future, my plan was for a soft summer launch to gain support of a core group of readers and get some reviews logged on Amazon.com. I’m planning a more formal marketing push as we get closer to the Christmas season, so we’ll have to wait and see how that goes…
Good luck! I can just see all those Christmas shoppers...Any tips for others considering self-publishing in the near future?
Consider your goals. If you hope to sell a ton of books and you want to self-publish, it’s possible, but you must be prepared to take on the role of publisher and promoter, not just writer. You are the sales and marketing department, the administration and finance department…basically the CEO of a start-up company. You will need to set aside a budget for cover art, promotional copies, and marketing. It will take time and money. If you try to self-publish just because it’s fast and cheap the end result will reflect that.
If you just want to see your book in print and make it available for your family and friends, please take the time to make it a quality product. The worst book I’ve ever read was a self-published ebook (I read it several months back. I won’t reveal the title, but it was an adult murder-mystery that was so bad it was almost, but not really, funny). There is a stigma about self-published books being slushpile vanity projects, but the tides are turning, and there is opportunity for those who are willing to take it seriously and put the time and money into it.
Very wise words! Thanks so much for sharing your path and your story with us today!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity! I’ll be watching the comments today in case anyone has any additional questions.