Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Way Out West

At long last, the new Markhat book, Way Out West, is done!

I finished the first draft late in the afternoon yesterday, on Halloween. That's the first time I've ever finished a book on Halloween. As with all writers, I'm appallingly superstitious at heart, so I'll go ahead and start believing this event is a mystical portend of things to come (i.e., bestseller-dom, movie deals, merchandise ties-ins, maybe even a new soldering iron). 

Of course finishing a book and selling a book are two entirely different events.

Some may say selling a new installment in an established series is easy. Some might also say sticking one's face in a fan is a good idea, and there's probably somebody uploading that very video to YouTube as you read this.

My point is that, in publishing, there are no sure things.

Now, that said, it is true that Way Out West won't face the same hurdles as the first book in the series did. Back then, Markhat was just another name in the slush pile, competing with a thousand other would-be books for a contract. 

It's a nerve-wracking experience, the waiting. Are they laughing at me? Taking turns burning manuscript pages as they read aloud from the synopsis? Is my name even now being circulated on secret publishing forums, as Doofus of the Day?

Why yes, I am under the scrutiny of a mental health care provider. Funny you should ask. But I digress.

But back in 2008, Samhain Publishing took a chance on Dead Man's Rain, the first Markhat title. That was also my initial introduction to a book publishing firm.

I'd worked with magazines before -- Weird Tales, for one. That's fun too, but it's a different experience than having an actual publisher and putting out book-length titles.

For instance, you get an editor. More than one editor, actually, but you'll work primarily with one editor, who turns a practiced eye upon your book and suggests changes that will result in a stronger final product.

This is where a lot of new authors short-circuit and send their own careers up in flames. How dare anyone presume to judge my sacred prose, these authors cry, twisting their berets in fury. How dare she!

Well, bub, she dares, and for good reason.  I can say with good authority that without my Samhain editors in the mix, the Markhat Files series wouldn't be as good as it is (that's not a brag; note I offered no indicator of how relatively good the series actually is. That's not for me to say. I just write them. Readers decide if the books have any merit).

Holly, my current editor at Samhain, spots things I miss. Suggests things that would improve a scene. Is willing to wave the Wand of Irrevocable Deletion over entire passages that could better be summed up with the sentence 'I ran.' 

That's what a good editor does. That's a service I get for free by going through a publisher.

Cover art design and execution? Also provided free. Conversion to different formats? Marketing? Placement in various online and physical stores?

I never lift a finger, and I certainly don't write any checks.

All that is why I'll be submitting Way Out West to Samhain. Because it benefits us both, as long as the books sell. 

Note that I'm not slamming self-publishing here. I do that as well -- All the Paths of Shadow and All the Turns of Light are books I put out. 

I decided to try self-publishing the Paths series when the original publisher of Paths of Shadow left the business.  I knew Samhain didn't handle YA-flavored light fantasy, so I thought why not try?

That's been a good decision. The books are still selling well. In fact, now that Way Out West is done, I'll start back on the 3rd Mug and Meralda book.

I'll probably hire my own cover artist and editing and self publish this next Meralda title too, unless I find a publisher willing to take the first two books on as well.  

I've seen a lot of ads for how-to books and courses which claim 'Self-publishing is EASY! Publish your book with 3 quick clicks!' and the like.

All of that is clickbait nonsense. If you're going to do it right, self-publishing is a costly, time-consuming process that frankly is the authorial equivalent of sucking down a big tall glass of metal shavings. 

Not saying it cannot or should not be done -- I'm just saying set aside plenty of time for the act and the aftermath, because this isn't a pleasant walk in the park.

If you're curious about my process, here's what comes next for Way Out West. I'll spend a week or two doing an edit pass of my own. Once that's done, a copy or two will go out to my army of fearless beta readers. At that point, I will put the book aside, and start on the new Meralda book (working title is Every Wind of Change).

When the betas have finished, I'll read their reports, make a final edit pass based on that, and only then will the book go to Samhain, if I judge it to be finished.

I will reveal that the next Markhat adventure will be titled Bad Moon Rising. The significance of that title will be made apparent in the course of Way Out West. 

And that's all I say about that.

PS: Early in the blog, I suggested someone was probably posting a face-in-the-fan video to YouTube as you read my blog. Well, after finishing this entry, I thought 'Surely no one would actually do that,' so I checked YouTube just to see.

Sigh. Yes, there are face in the fan videos. This one has four million views. 

I'll go back to writing now.

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