So I got a rejection letter. Then another. Then another. Then several more over the course of a year from a variety of different publishers and literary agents. I’m savvy enough to know that every author has to go through this and I didn't necessarily take the rejections personally.
It was when I received this particular one though, that I decided to go it alone:
Thank you for considering (redacted) Books for your manuscript. We are one of the very few publishers left who still consider unsolicited manuscripts, and we review every single manuscript on a daily basis.
As you know, these are increasingly uncertain times in the publishing business, and it has never been more difficult to break out a new author. A book by a writer new to our lists needs to be truly outstanding.
Unfortunately, we do not feel your manuscript would be a commercial success for us at the present time. But remember, we have rejected books that went on to be published by other companies, and other publishers originally rejected some of our best-known authors. We wish you the best possible fortune in your writing career, and please feel free to try us again."
It felt like an admission that they themselves didn't really know what they were doing, and reading between the lines it seemed like they and all other publishers (and every other traditional media format) were only looking for sure bets at this point, just new rehashings of whatever was popular last year, but the uncompromising and ever present countdown until the real New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto kept ticking away on my phone. It was also around the point at which I received this particular rejection letter, that I could be reasonably certain that even if I was signed with a traditional publisher right away, the time it would take to actually produce a book would blow right through that cosmic deadline that mattered so much to me.
Right from inception, I had a vision of New Horizons’ flyby being a perfect tie in and an amazing opportunity. The idea of missing that opportunity broke my heart. So, with a not inconsiderable amount of reservation and apprehension, I resolved to believe in my work and put it out there myself. I understood already that making it an ebook online was relatively easy, but it wasn't enough for me. I wanted a book. I certainly don’t disparage the ebook phenomenon and market, for the words its just another delivery medium and it’s always better that people read in whatever format they do than to not read at all. But for me, a book isn't just a delivery medium, it’s an artifact. It’s an object endowed with all kinds of sacred special qualities. It was important to me to be able to produce a physical book if I was going to proceed.
I knew that I didn't want to go through the honorous expense of independently publishing a small run of the books at my own expense. I’d heard about Createspace (an Amazon affiliated company) at some point though, and the increasing phenomenon of print on demand books. Through Createspace I could produce professional quality books to order at competitive prices, and it was this which sold me. They had to be indistinguishable from a mass print book for it to be acceptable to me, but so far this is happily turning out to be the case and I am both pleased and impressed.
I created a website for the series through Squarespace at www.newhorizonmission.com and as I write, I am building the author website you are reading right right now. I went to the bank to open an account dedicated to receiving royalties from Amazon, Createspace, and the website itself. I filed for copyrights of all three books from the government of Canada (the beautiful certificates of which are on a shelf waiting to be framed). I have filed for Canada’s Cataloguing in Publication registration and received the information which I will later today be inserting into the legal pages of my books. I have learned about my obligations regarding Legal Deposit in Canada. I have painstakingly formatted word documents of both the Createspace print and Kindle ebook versions of my books, including the legal pages. I have pursued rights for the quotes I use in my books and figured out how to properly note them on the legal pages.
Currently I am working on getting the covers for the books just right on Createspace and when I do, I’ll have proofs sent to me and if they’re perfect, they go live on their site and on Amazon, where in the same place the ebook and physical book will both be easily available as I envisioned. Once that is all completed and up and running along with the websites, I’ll be ready for the next phase. After taking an ever so brief moment to breathe and celebrate my accomplishment, the next phase will be advertising and marketing. I am confident about independently producing this book in large part because I feel I have a specific and easily reachable target audience for them, namely science types of all kinds. Science websites, science podcasts, anywhere there is an enthusiasm for science, I will investigate the possibility of advertising. But that comes later…
When I originally decided to pursue independent publishing, I had to change my mindset and work myself up about how the old media system was dying, and that I had to get ahead of the curve, that I couldn't hitch my wagon to dinosaurs bound for extinction, etc etc etc. I had to affirm in my head that I was doing what was the right thing to do whether I could be published in the traditional way or not. I think it was something of a defense mechanism to help me reconcile a change in direction which I really would have rathered avoid if given a better opportunity.
But I've been more realistic of late. For one thing, the ready and waiting audience I spoke of with regards to the New Horizon series likely won’t so specifically exist for whatever I write next (which a part of me is dying to get started on, by the way). A part of my problems with traditional publishing is that I am a one hundred percent unknown quantity for a potential publisher, as in I have no professional portfolio as an author whatsoever. So, while I am pursuing the independent route with New Horizons in large part to catch the window of the actual New Horizons' flyby of Pluto, once I’ve run the cycle of putting it out there and advertising and hopefully having some success with it, I will again turn my attention to attempting to be published in the traditional way.
Hopefully, some success in independent sales will be enough to attract literary agents and traditional publishers. Either way, when I have time to write again, I will split my time between my next novel, and smaller scale writing such as essays, columns, and short stories. I will endeavour to write short form pieces which can more easily be published, in order to build a professional writing portfolio and enrich my attractiveness and profile to a potential agent or publisher. I lament however, that being able to begin doing so is still some time off.
This is all to say, that if you are a literary agent or publisher who has found your way here and are looking to snap me up before anyone else does, I'm happy to talk to you. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further updates on my progress, please check out my Adventures in Authoring blog.