Sunday, November 3, 2019

BATTLE FOR THE WASTELANDS Is Going Indie (Here's First Phase of Cover)

Although The Thing in the Woods is my first published novel, it is not the first novel I've actually completed. Not counting my two lengthy Harry Potter fan-fics "Wrath of the Half-Blood Prince" and "Lord of the Werewolves" and my rewrite of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen so aptly titled "The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot," my first finished novel is actually Battle for the Wastelands, which can be described as "a post-apocalyptic steampunk military fantasy" or more concisely "Dark Tower meets Game of Thrones."

I completed the novel sometime in 2011-2012 and have been submitting it to different agents and publishers over the years, tinkering with it based on any personalized rejection or commentary I got. This prolonged process (plus an edit by Apex Publications boss Jason Sizemore, who offers extensive freelance services) resulted in a less wordier book--the current draft is 88.5K and the original was 101K. This was accomplished by cutting only words and phrases--not only did I not need to cut anything significant, but even I added a new scene to give the sole female POV character a more solid character arc (overcoming depression).

Unfortunately, the prolonged process meant that its window has likely passed. I was told by a fellow writer that unless one is Cherie Priest, Barnes and Noble isn't stocking steampunk books. This means publishers are not likely to buy them, since Barnes and Noble is the largest brick-and-mortar bookstore. Although Battle is more subtle steampunk--it's more of a military novel that happens to be set in a different world than "all airships all the time"--there's still airships, Babbage engines, etc. Furthermore, the steampunk fandom seems in decline--there're fewer steampunk costumes at conventions, steampunk-focused conventions are trying to expand their offerings, etc. Although one can market Battle without using the dreaded S-word, it has so many steampunk tropes and aspects that big presses are likely to turn up their noses.

Speaking of turnaround time, one publisher was reviewing the book for roughly two years (it made the second round of judging and I think there was some personnel turnover, so I'm not blaming them). Although patience is a virtue, especially if you're an author trying to get a book deal, there aren't a lot of book publishers who'd consider it left at this point. Furthermore, one of the remaining ones I was warned could take a similar amount of time. I finished this book (and a companion novella focused on the main villain's adult son) seven years ago. I'm getting a little tired.

Another big (possibly the biggest) issue with a professional sale is that it's not standalone. The book pretty obviously sets up more battles to come in a way that Thing and my forthcoming Little People, Big Guns do not. I don't have an established track record, so publishers aren't likely to take a chance on what's an obvious series starter. Many readers won't start a series unless it's already done, which a nasty catch-22 that leaves many series unfinished for lack of sales.

Finally, although Battle is a better book for years' worth of tightening, the more concise length also makes it less salable. I've spoken to many people who know what they're talking about who think a fantasy novel should be 100K words if not more. I'd considered adding stuff to pad it out, but that's the key phrase--"pad it out." It will be obvious that stuff was added to meet a word count and the quality would suffer.

So I hired Mr. Sizemore once more for proofreading--and he went above and beyond by answering a lot of my publishing questions--and I commissioned a cover from artist Matt Cowdery, whom I met at DragonCon this past Labor Day. The cover will be completed in stages--here's the first part, which in artist lingo is called a "comp."

The final product will look something like this or this in overall style and detail.

Independently publishing means I'll have to do everything myself, but I listen a lot of writing-related podcasts and know several independent authors in real life. I've got a lot of ideas on what to do, some of which I cite in the next chunk below.


  1. Glad to hear there's been movement on this project! I'm eagerly looking forward to this work!

    1. Thanks. I'm hoping that I can premiere BATTLE at the Atlanta steampunk/AH convention AnachroCon in February if not sooner, but that depends on how long it takes me to get the edits done, how long it takes Mr. Sizemore to format for e-book and print once I send them in, and how long it takes for the cover.

      Once that's out, I'll probably have the novella "Son of Grendel" out relatively soon afterward. Then it'll be a matter of getting the second full novel and/or the prequel novella "Ruled in Rage" actually completed and critiqued.