SEED is the first book that I’m publishing on my own, and as I write this, I’m waiting for the final proof from Amazon before going live. I may or may not be chewing my fingernails in nervous anticipation.
So how does someone give up on a lifelong dream of being a traditionally published author and start on the road to self publishing? In my case, one doesn’t give up. It’s merely a different path to the same objective.
I decided to get serious about writing in 2008 when I sat down and knocked out a 90,000 word novel in about a month. It’s called ICE FALL and it will be released shortly. I was so excited about the project that I told myself if I didn’t have a publisher within a year, I would publish it myself. Obviously, that’s not what happened. Instead of giving up, I kept writing. My second novel, SEED, got me my first literary agent.
When I signed the contract, I was ecstatic. I thought that my dreams had finally come true and that my life was about to change. My excitement did not let up even as the rejections from the major publishing houses kept coming in. Partly because publisher rejections are normal. Only one publisher has to say yes, and it is rare for more than one of them to do so (especially for first time authors). Mostly it was because my agent was sending me the feedback that the editors were giving him along with their rejections, and some of it was amazing. I hope I don’t get him in trouble for sharing it, but it’s pretty standard practice for agents to do that. My second agent did the same thing. Yes, I had another agent! More on that later.
An editor from Little, Brown and Co. (they publish James Patterson, among many others) had this to say about SEED:
In terms of SEED—I can see why you’re so high on this—the high-concept premise is immediately gripping and suspenseful. Edelson’s ability for clever intricate plotting is in full evidence in the way he’s set up the rules and limited supplies of the environment—Alex’s supply of weaponry, the apparent leadership positions implied by varying cabin sizes—and it’s a wonder to watch the pattern of the group’s interactions fall naturally into place from this strong set-up.
The psychological dimension to this story of a group trapped in claustrophobic quarters is also quite strong—the interplay of the many character types is generally both realistic and compelling, especially in regards to Alex and Yael. Edelson has an assured, seemingly effortless way with words and an ear for natural, breezy dialogue. All in all, a strong first effort from a writer who is going places.
When I read that, I couldn't help buy feel elated, even though they ended up passing. I got a lot of feedback like that, though that was the best example. Why weren't they buying? Ultimately it had to do with not wanting to take a chance on a new writer, the book not fitting what they were looking for or conflicting with something else on their list.
Here is an example, from an unnamed editor at Bantam:
...unfortunately, I worry that the project bears a bit too much resemblance to something we are working on here in house, which is another [redacted due to plot spoilers] thing. His [redacted due to plot spoilers] thing was wonderful and original, but I still worry it would be treading a bit too much on the same ground.
I'm sorry that this wasn't quite the book for me, because the author clearly has talent. And I'd be delighted to look at anything else he has in the pipeline.
Eventually, every one of the big publishing houses said no and I wasn't interested in small press. My agent and I parted ways amicably and I moved on to other projects. Although I was disheartened that SEED did not sell, the feedback I got from the major publishers bolstered my confidence and convinced me to move forward. This feedback wasn't meant for me, and these people don't blow smoke up your ass. If they say that you have talent and that you're going places, then that's pretty awesome.
Several years and several books later, I read THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, and learned that it too had been rejected by everyone and then self published. I thought that was ridiculous, since it was one of the best books I've ever read—I loved every minute of it! If you don't know what happened next, I'll give you a hint. THE MARTIAN isn't just a book anymore, it's a hugely successful film starring Matt Damon. That got me thinking. Why not try the same thing with SEED? It had gone the distance, and there was nothing else to do with it. Maybe it too could become a movie starring Matt Damon! Or, you know, something like that.
So that’s my plan. Try the traditional route first with every book I write, and if that doesn’t work, throw it to the wolves and hope they enjoy the taste. You're the wolves, by the way, so be gentle! If you enjoy one of my books, spread the word! Review it on Amazon and on Goodreads. Post about it on social media. At this point, I’ll either make it or not, based solely on skill, talent and the enthusiasm of my fans. And that’s the way it should be. There are no more gate keepers standing between us, only the desolate stretches of obscurity.