For the past several years I’ve been working on my second novel, Papaya, an endeavor that morphed from a short story, to a novella, to a full blown novel before it was done. I started writing Papaya in 2017, roughly a year after self-publishing The Uncanny Valley . In many ways being unable to find an agent and publisher for the The Uncanny Valley was a great disappointment, but in the end I accepted it as the great gamble that is writing. There are so many things that go into getting a book published via the traditional routes beyond the quality of the book itself. There’s of course just the dumb luck of getting your manuscript in front of the right person at the right time, somehow standing out from the pile of thousands of manuscripts received each year. There’s also the question of saleability. After all, agents and publishers are running a business and want to make money, which is fair. They spend a lot of time watching trends and figuring out what’s popular. In such a landscape, it’s hard to get anything out there that’s different.
I can’t tell you how many rejection letters I got from agents telling me that they loved the premise of The Uncanny Valley, or even the whole book itself the times I was lucky enough to get a request for the manuscript, but that they didn’t feel they were the right agent for selling it. It was a hard experience, especially given that two years of my life had gone into creating it, to hear The Uncanny Valley was good but too different.
When I first let a small group of people read The Uncanny Valley, one of my readers told me that the book was great, but I would need to decide whether I was writing for the art of it or to create something to sell. I think it’s the question that most writers have to face eventually. In the end, I decided that given all the time and effort invested, I wanted to write my stories, and so I went down the route of self-publishing.
There was a pretty steep learning curve involved in self-publishing, a lot of first time mistakes, and more than a few pitfalls that could’ve been easily avoided. However, in the end I’m glad I did it. Nobody writes a book in the hope that nobody will read it. With The Uncanny Valley, I may have only sold 100 copies, but that was 100 readers more than if I had never put it out there. Though I’ve never been good at receiving compliments, I can’t fully express how much it meant to me when people came up to tell me how much they enjoyed the book. The burning question for anyone who heads down the self-publishing path is whether they are doing so because they were unlucky in the traditional world, or because in reality their writing sucks. Hearing those compliments told me what I needed to know, and gave me the resolve to keep going.
Going forward, I decided that I would continue to write novels and try to get them published via the traditional route, but if that route failed, then I would self-publish and start again. There were many false starts. I got several chapters into one piece before abandoning it and created a complete outline for another but never actually started writing it. Eventually I hit upon an idea that stuck. Though originally never planned as a novel, the story continued to grow and evolve far beyond my expectations. It took me a little under two years to write Papaya , though I was often distracted by other projects; such as working on Professor Errare, getting short stories published in various literary reviews, and self-publishing An Unsated Thirst, my first short story collection. Papaya was completed in the summer of 2018, but it was just the beginning.
There are many steps that follow completing a book. First the author has to go through and edit it, then they have to have a select group of people read it in order to make sure it’s actually worth a damn, which is of course followed by another round of editing. This cycle can go on in perpetuity, but for me I had the book I wanted by the end of the year. As a quick side note, thank you to my readers: Aaron Clutter, Kenton Erwin, Marcus Hart, Jane O’Keeffe, Jessi Lynch, and Liz Knowles Ryan.
Anyways, what follows next is the creation of a query letter, which is basically a sales pitch to prospective agents. In many ways writing a query letter is a bigger bitch than writing the actual novel. After that comes the hopeful anticipation and the crushing blow of each rejection. I’ll admit that I had high hopes for Papaya, one can’t put themselves through such things without such hopes. After all, I had more experience and a lot more published short stories under my belt. However, in the end I was disappointed to see the same pattern emerge as with The Uncanny Valley.
So here I am again, facing the same decisions as three years earlier, and coming to the same conclusions. The purpose of writing is to have people read it, and I would prefer to have only a handful of people read my book rather than it gathering dust in a forgotten drawer. You never know what might happen, but it’s guaranteed nothing will happen if you don’t put yourself out there. So the decision has been made. Papaya will be self-published on September 6. I hope those of you who choose to read it enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It feels good to have an end in sight, for it’s also a beginning. I’ve already started writing a new novel, and with it, the whole cycle begins again. Cheers.
If you want to check out more on Papaya click this link:
If you want to check out more on The Uncanny Valley click this link: