Contingency Plan

I have this book written; it’s a full-length SF/Steampunk story, around 90,000 words long. At the moment it has a working title of Smoke & Mirrors, but I can’t really use that (Neil Gaiman has a short story collection out with that name). I do have a better title but I’m keeping it under my hat for now. I might not be able to use that one, either—it turns out that it’s very similar to the name of another short story collection, this one from the 1970s. No matter; if I find a publisher they can make that call.

But that’s a big If. Right now I have the typescript out with some agents, and the indications are that all I’m going to see is rejection letters. It’s par for the course, really; only a small fraction of books get picked up by agents because they have to be picky about what they take on. After all, they have to bear costs until the book hits shelves and starts making cash, and even then their slice isn’t going to pay the rent if the book doesn’t sell. Fifteen percent of zero doesn’t go very far.

My problem here is that it could easily be December or even later before all the agents get back to me (and I don’t expect them all to reply, either—some agents only seem to reply to the few percent of queries that they want to pursue, leaving the rest to hang; one that I’ve queried this time round has a response rate of 4.4%, so I really don’t expect to hear a peep from that direction).

So here’s the quandary: If all the responses are going to be rejections, then I’m wondering: why should I wait for the bad news before moving? Why not just self-pub the book anyway? Then, in the event that one of the agents does actually show an interest, I can always un-publish.

Of course, there’s a danger that an agent might be interested, at which point I then have to tell them that I already self-pubbed—but hey, don’t worry, I can un-publish in thirty seconds with a couple of mouse clicks. But the fact that the book’s already out there and maybe sold a few copies might be enough for the agent to get cold feet. I don’t know what agents do in that situation, to be honest. I don’t know any agents to ask.

What to do, what to do . . .

So here’s the contingency plan: I’m going to start merging the chapter files into a single master document, ready for self-publishing. I’m also going to see about how much it’d cost to have a professional editor look at it, and get some idea of how much a cover artist might charge for an eye-catching cover. That’ll take a couple of weeks, at least, during which time it’s always possible I’ll get a good word from an agent. If not, then I can make the decision on whether to go forward the self-pub way, or continue to wait.

The plan is planned. Tomorrow, I’ll begin merging files, and researching editors and artists. I’ll post progress here. Watch this space.

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