Saturday, February 28, 2009

The evolution of a novel - submitting

As I mentioned before, I had submitted The Kult in its initial incarnation to an agent (I have a few agent stories, none of them good – but that’s another story), who took me on and sent the manuscript out, but she failed to secure a publisher for it. I still feel the fact that it didn’t sell wasn’t down to the writing, but more because the story wasn’t that good, which is why I rewrote it, basically from scratch. So now I was ready to start submitting it again, but who to submit it too?

In the Stone Age before the internet, I used to buy a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook, and then trawl through the pages for possible markets. Nowadays, I use internet sites that list markets I would never otherwise have discovered. The search sites I commonly use are:

I also regularly check out forums and message boards that talk about horror, where there are sometimes posts about new markets.

Now the submission procedure itself is the most nerve-wracking and tedious part of the process. For a start, you are sending your baby out into the world on its own for the first time, hoping and praying that it can stand on its own two feet and that people welcome it with open arms. The reality is that many of the people you submit to will look upon it as the ugly duckling. But then sometimes, someone will see something in what you’ve written and might request to read more. That’s when all fingers and toes get crossed. Of course, to reach this point might take many years and many submissions. Or of course, it could happen the first time you submit it.

I made a list of the markets I was interested in submitting to, read each of their specific guidelines and then sent to them what was requested for an initial submission (usually a covering letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters).

Now among those I had selected to submit to was Leucrota Press. Although they aren’t a major publisher, and are pretty new on the block, I submitted to them because I liked what I read on their website. They seemed to have their heads screwed on straight, I got the impression that they cared about the books they published, and I just had a good feeling about them. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they paid an advance, which shows that they were prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

So I sent off my submission to them on November 22nd 2008.

On December 1st, I received a reply from David Peak, the acquisitions editor, which said he was in a bit of a pickle. He felt that from what he had read, the book seemed more along the lines of a crime or a mystery novel than horror, and Leucrota Press only publishes science fiction, fantasy and horror, so he wanted me to clue him in with a better overall picture of what the novel was about.

So the next day I sat down and composed a reply, and here is what I wrote (I have deleted a small portion of the reply as it gives away a bit of the story, but you’ll get the gist):

‘To answer that question I guess you would have to ask what horror fiction is. Some people believe that it has to have a supernatural element, revolving around witches, zombies, vampires and their ilk. While that is certainly true, I believe it’s also anything that elicits fear, and nothing elicits that feeling more than real life horrors: hate, murder, cruelty.

There have been many, many stories about serial killers that are classed as horror. Some linger in the grey area between thriller and horror, and others are just pigeonholed into what might be perceived a more acceptable genre. I believe that at its heart, The Kult is a horror story as it deals with ordinary people being forced into real life horrors over which they have no control. Ordinary people. People like you and I. It’s a story about the decisions people make in life, and the terrifying repercussions that happen as a result. THE FOLLOWING SECTION WAS DELETED AS IT CONTAINS SPOILERS.

The real monsters are all around us. Being able to spot them is the problem.’

So then I sat back and waited. I expected a long wait, but I received a reply the same day asking to read the complete manuscript, so I emailed it off post haste.

Next time, I will talk about the next stage in the process.


onipar... said...

Another great post (sorry I took so long to reply to these).

I use Ralan as well, although I rely more heavily on Duotrope (not sure if they ave novel markets or not).

Your explanation of horror reminds me of Richard Layman's novel, NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER. I didn't know what I was getting into when I picked it up, but it turned out being a horror of the caliber you speak of: nothing supernatural, just real life horror.

And it was great.

Shaun said...

I'm a great fan of Laymon - my prized possession book wise is my copy of his 'A Writer's Tale'.

onipar... said...

I'll have to check that out. I'm pretty new to Laymon. I've only read the previously mentioned, and THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW.

Shaun said...

A Writer's Tale is hard to track down, and expensive when you do, but it's worth it as it's about the art of writing. If I was to recommend a Laymon fiction book to read, I'd go with 'The Stake', 'Body Rides', Dreadful Tales' and 'The Beast House' off the top of my head.

onipar... said...

Right on, thanks for the picks. I've almost purchased 'The Beast House' a few times now. I just finished reading Gaiman's 'The Anansi Boys', so maybe I'll finally pick up Beast House.