I’m currently in the process of having my third science fiction novel published. For the record, self-publishing was my choice. After evaluating things like author rights, rates of commission, and the slim chance of a new author ever being able to make it to the top of a publisher’s enormous slush pile of manuscripts, it was an easy decision. (But if you’re determined to use a traditional publisher, you should send an inquiry first and then a synopsis–it’s less expensive for you and easier for the publisher to recommend changes that might turn their no or maybe into a yes.)
Obviously I can’t tell you what it’s like to be published by one of the traditional publishing houses since my series is being published by iUniverse, a ‘supported self-publishing’ house. It provides a mix of services, which vary depending on which publishing package you purchase. I generally choose either the Premier or Premier Pro package, with at least one round of editorial evaluation.
I have a great appreciation for the editorial evaluations. It helps to have a professional look over the manuscript and make suggestions. With a self-publisher, the author has more freedom to accept or reject a given idea. Ultimately you should ask yourself if the idea is helpful, will add to your plot and/or character development, or will require an entire rewrite of the whole story. (I write fiction. Some parts of this blog may not be applicable to non-fiction.) With Been Blued, the editorial team’s suggestions were mostly helpful but I ignored the one that would require a whole different story to be written. The main change they suggested for Martian Blues was to trim the story line and turn it into a series rather than just writing a sequel. Ironically, for the third title (out soon!) they wanted another 20,000 words.
I keep reading my previous novels while I write to help prevent storyline conflicts. I was trying to find a segment in Martian Blues that dealt with a specific character development with one couple in particular. After nearly an hour I remembered that it was part of the story that had been ‘trimmed.’ I felt silly for a few minutes before thinking about the potential freedom this offered for these two. Someday I might rework that bit into ‘bonus material.’
Fortunately they have artists who try to design a cover according to the author’s description. I’m going to ask for a second attempt for the third novel, partly because I’m not happy with it and partly because the spaceship they’ve created looks disturbingly familiar to one I’ve seen on the cover of a different book. You’re probably thinking ‘a spaceship is a spaceship,’ right? Compare the old rocket ships and the current space shuttles to any ship on Star Trek. I still think there’s a lot of design ground to cover. Besides, my Martian ships use gyroscope technology instead of fossil fuel thrust. (If there were aliens, wouldn’t they almost have to be environmentally savvy just to get into space? Rocket fuel is heavy, expensive, and probably hard to purchase ‘out there,’ although I have written a spoof of a radio commercial based on the idea.)
Speaking of spoof, my publisher warned me against putting too much humor into my novels. I’m a Twombly, I can’t help it. Oh, wait, that’s my excuse for everything. 😉 My point of view is that people do stupid, funny things at the most inappropriate times and if fiction is to imitate life that should occasionally be included. Isn’t that how we end up with some of our most embarrassing moments? For a writer the main issue is to not overdo it or you risk changing your genre. In my case, apparently someone has decided that having sentient aliens with wings changes the sub-genre from high tech to fantasy.
I’m at the final stage before sending back the manuscript and cover proofs for the final changes. I’m allowed to ask for fifty changes in the manuscript at this point. If I need more, it will cost extra. My experience with self-publishing is that the while the author has more power over the final outcome, there’s also a lot more hands-on work that’s required. You either complete the changes yourself or use the services that are available. I wouldn’t recommend self-publishing for someone who doesn’t want to make decision regarding their book…but if you don’t love to write there isn’t much point in being an author.
Waiting is the hardest part for me. It’s difficult to get on with the next book in the series while I’m waiting for the editorial evaluation for the one in production. Then there’s the wait for the cover design and the formatting. Even after sending in the final changes there’s another wait to receive the author copies, which my publisher uses as the final quality control check.
In part 2, what happens after a self-published novel is in print. Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly