The Next Step

It Needs to Be Taken

The next challenge I'm staring down in my career as a storyteller is one that every small-press author faces at some point or other, and it is positively terrifying to consider, but necessary at this point: I'm going to be submitting my next completed manuscript to one of the larger publishing houses. Not one of the Big 5 mind you, but one of the few on the middle tier that actually accepts unsolicited and non-agent-represented works for consideration. There's roughly a dozen or so on the middle tier who are graceful like this for small-timers like myself, but the expectations of the house I'll be submitting to eventually are quite stringent, and will test my narrative stylings.

For starters, for their fantasy titles, this house prefers hard magical systems, with concrete rules and mechanics that are clearly laid out within the text of the novel. I tend to prefer using soft magical systems, but have the wherewithal to establish a mechanistic system for this stand-alone novel. It won't be as easy for me, as it isn't my usual style, but I'm up to the challenge.

Secondly, they prefer works between 100k words to 150k. That's quite lengthy, and I haven't written anything of that length since my fifth Tamalarian Tale, "The Elf Queen's Bounty". In total, I've only ever written four novels of such length, all Tamalarian Tales, to which series my current project does not belong. Again, this will present a bit of a challenge, as I don't particularly enjoy adding 'fluff' material for the sake of word counts.

The third element this target publishing house looks for in most of its fantasy offerings, and perhaps the largest hurdle for me to clear on a personal level, is the inclusion of a romantic sub-plot element. I'll be honest with you, folks, this is not at all among my strong points. If you're familiar with my works, you know that I don't write much in the way of the romantic. Sure, I took care in developing the relationship of Digby and Memnock in 'Strange Camp Fellows', but that's not a romantic endeavor for either of them; it's a pseudo-familial relation. And yes, Kathy Potts and Byron Torg of the Potts novels is a romantic entanglement, but as I hinted at in 'This is M Division', that relationship fell apart when Torg disappeared and began acting strangely, undertaking queer magical experiments and intefering in affairs in Ether Realm.
He has effectively gone insane.

It isn't that I have no sense of romance; my wife appreciates my infrequent but deeply meant attempts at warming her heart, often through prose and hand-made gifts. The issue for me is that I find it deeply personal and, as such, awkward as all hell to indulge in my own personal perspectives on the topic of romance and affection. To do so in a fiction work comes too close to revealing my own musings to complete strangers; it's a level or vulnerability I hate exposing myself to.

Yet, if I want to get a better shot at this publisher, I have to include it. It isn't mandatory, like their word count and magic system requirements, but they let it be plainly known that they favor manuscripts that include the romantic element. So, do I stick to my normal methodology, refusing to budge from what makes my style my own? Or do I try to grow, adapt, and add a new tool to my currently available set?

The answer seems obvious.

The last component of my forthcoming challenge is a completely personal, self-imposed one- loyalty. I am not the next Great American Storyteller, and I'm aware of it. I AM a highly talented genre author, though, whose business acumen is absolute shite. Why else do you think I still refuse to get a literary agent (aside from crippling self-doubt)? But aside from that less than pleasant view of myself, I also suffer a massive pull of loyalty, not wanting to take any new work to someone other than my long-standing partners at Booksforabuck and Untreed Reads, folks who have stood by me for the length of my career.

However, I know that they are smaller operators, unable to offer the kind of help with marketing, advertising and distribution that this targeted mid-sized press house can. In order to try and grow my profile in the field, I NEED to go up a tier in size.

I only hope that, by the end of this year, I'll have proven worthy and able to take this next step. I ask that you wish me luck.