Following the recent responses to Gallashan from my agent and from editors at four of the smaller houses, I’ve been asking myself these questions:
- Has publishing really changed so much in the last 10-15 years?
- Was I just lucky that some of my earlier works made it into print in the traditional way?
- Or is it me that has changed, causing my work to be unpublishable?
These are my conclusions:
- Publishing has changed beyond recognition, not only with regard to eBooks and self-publishing, but also in terms of what editors will – or are allowed to – take a chance on. Someone like me, with leftfield ideas and an unorthodox story-telling style, has even less chance of success than when I started out twenty or so years ago.
- I wasn’t all that lucky, even when I got my first real book deal with Beautiful Books in 2007. MEAT was my sixth novel and I’d already come close to giving up many times by then. Yes, there was a bit of luck involved but, as with any success, it was mostly down to a blend of burning desire and determination.
- I have changed, been knocked about by life just like anyone. I’ve also grown, healed and found contentment where before it was lacking. So, my work has changed in some measure. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it has developed. I write less horror and more fantasy. I often write younger protagonists. The metaphysical and the spiritual are more predominant. I’m broad-minded in my ideas, whereas popular fiction travels very well-worn, familiar furrows. All this may well have contributed to the recent roadblocks I’ve come up against.
It’s pretty simple, really:
I write because I hope for people to read my stories, to be entertained, to be transported. I want to create more work for those who already enjoy my books and I want to reach a wider audience.
I realise now that for this to be possible, I have to let go of how I hoped things might turn out and who I thought I was supposed to be. To move forward, I must be no one in particular – other than someone with a story to tell for those who’d like to hear it.
I can no longer damage myself by submitting work to an industry that isn’t interested in chancy, radical leaps of imagination, an industry that is blind to the light which may emerge from the darkness of the human heart. These qualities are the essence of my fiction and I’d be a fool to compromise that essence just because a stranger with targets to meet thinks I should write to some pre-agreed formula.
It’s liberating to reach this point; to occupy it without bitterness about the past, without rancour towards the hundreds of people who’ve said no to my work over the last two decades and without any further expectation. I have to focus now on where the love is – loving what I do and giving it to people who feel the same way, however few in number they may be.
In light of all this, I’ve decided to release four out of print titles from my back catalogue, using Amazon Kindle as my platform. The ball is already rolling and, as I write this, files are being professionally edited and brand-new cover art has been commissioned from an artist whose work I adore.
It’s going to cost some money but I want to do this properly and make sure that both new readers and existing fans get the quality they deserve. I don’t expect to break even for a long time but I hope that one day I will.
And, if the out of print titles go well, I’d like to follow up by releasing several previously unpublished novels in the longer term. Who knows, if no fearless editors step forward between now and then, I might even publish K’an and Gallashan in the same way. The rewards will then come directly to you, the reader, and me, the writer, without a publisher even touching it.
As John Belushi gloriously shouted in Animal House, to almost no response whatsoever:
“Come on! Who’s with me?!”