Where’d Who Go? – Adventures in Publishing

It’s been just over a year since AVOID. NEGOTIATE. KILL. hit the market, and since its release, the most common question or comment I’ve seen is, “Wait, where’s the next one? When does the next book come out?”

The reason for that is that ANK, by design, was never meant to be a stand alone novel. I wrote it to shift the SPECTRE Series from the introduction (SPECTRE RISING) to a more complex political thriller. My intent was to end the major conflict created in the beginning (The mysterious assassins) and use that book to open the door for something on a much bigger scale.

Unfortunately, I did a poor job initially of conveying that to the readers, and some of the reviews reflected that disappointment. For that, I apologize. It was never my intent to leave readers hanging.

To make matters worse, I got caught up in the lure of traditional publishing, which is what I will discuss today. It will hopefully explain where I’ve been and why I had seemingly gone off the grid.

In late June of 2014, I signed with an agent to represent the subsidiary rights of the Spectre series. Since the two books out at the time already had ISBNs and were therefore undesirable by traditional publishers, he was only interested in the possibility of movie/film, TV, graphic novel adaptations.

Excited to finally have an agent, I let him go to work as I went back to doing what I felt most comfortable – writing. I started writing ARCHANGEL FALLEN at the beginning of August and had the first draft completed by November. After my awesome editor went through it, I sent it to my agent on the off chance that he might want to shop it around since it didn’t have the ISBN problem that the other two books had and could be published as an original.

A week later, I received a phone call from my agent. “Did you really write this?” he asked excitedly.

“Umm.. yeah?” I replied. Seriously? I knew what he was getting at, but I was a little insulted.

“This is great! The writing is tight. The plot is great. This is a great book!” he said.

“So do you think it has a chance to get picked up by the major publishers?” I asked, trying to contain my excitement. It was what I had always hoped for – to be a real, published author.

“Absolutely, I’ll start working on putting together a pitch sheet,” he said.

And with that, ARCHANGEL FALLEN was frozen in time. It was ready for release, but I was so excited by the idea of having a real marketing force behind me that I wanted to see what happened. I wanted to see it through.

At first, we were receiving winning comm. The first major publisher requested a full manuscript shortly before Christmas. I was antsy, willing them to make a quick decision. I hated the idea of sitting on a good book when my readers were wondering what the hell had happened to me. I was afraid to announce that everything was on hold while I pitched it to publishers, for fear of what I’d say if they said no. I just let everything sit.

After Christmas, nine more publishers requested full manuscripts. It was starting to get expensive and eat into my limited self-publishing marketing budget. The contract I had with my agent stated that I would bear the cost of mailing manuscripts. The 400+ page (double spaced) work became a $50 charge every time he sent it out. Gotta spend money to make money, right? I remained hopeful.

My agent told me each editor would take 4-6 weeks to make a decision. I hated the waiting. Why did it take so long? I felt like all the work I had done was going to waste. As I waited, I started writing the fourth book in the series, EXECUTIVE REACTION. In February, I finished that manuscript as well.

The days clicked by. I checked in weekly with my agent, hoping he had some news. When the answer was no, I went back to writing. At the end of April, my agent said we should have news soon. Book Expo America 2015 was scheduled for the end of May, and he’d have a chance to talk to each editor that had requested manuscripts.

The week prior to BEA 2015, my agent and I were in constant communication. We created a pitch sheet for him to hand out, I tallied my sales figures from the first year and a half of publishing, and we discussed the options. I was excited.  SPECTRE RISING had just gotten a sales boost from a BookBub ad, and was sitting at #1 in three different Amazon categories. I thought for sure at least one out of ten would say yes. I had made it so far.

On the first day of BEA 2015, I received an e-mail. A major distributor was interested in picking up the entire series. I was a bit confused, but still excited. If they were interested, surely a publisher would be too.

It wasn’t until around noon on day two of BEA2015 that my hopes were finally dashed. My agent called, spinning it in a positive light. There was interest. Ingram Spark was the distributor that had been interested – a self publishing tool to get print books into stores.

I asked what the editors had said. He said they all loved the book, but the business side of things had forced them to decline. My books were all selling well enough that they didn’t think they could help, but not enough that they were interested in buying the rights to the entire series. Strictly a business decision.

I was confused. If they knew this ahead of time, why bother asking for a manuscript? My agent tried to explain that it wasn’t the writing, but simply that they were tightening their belts and didn’t think they could make enough money. Regardless of whether that particular book had been published, it was still part of a greater series that they couldn’t pick up. Sorry, thanks but no thanks.

I was crushed. I had wasted six months waiting for a response only to be told that it never could have worked. I considered throwing in the towel completely, embarrassed for even trying.

Despite the trend toward eBooks and the relatively bad deals publishers are throwing at authors these days, I had always considered traditional publishing to be a sort of validation. You’re not really an author until you’re “published” and self publishing doesn’t count, right?

I am a fighter pilot, a writer, and a cop. I am not a publisher. I am not a marketing guru. I will never have the tools available to me that a traditional publisher will in terms of getting reviews, getting the book in the hands of the New York Times, scheduling book tours, and telling people about myself and my work. It’s just not me.

But after a bit of thought, I decided I’m also not a quitter. I enjoy writing, and I enjoy interacting with readers. Books 3 and 4 are already written, and I’m working on a spinoff novel as we speak. I get just as engrossed with the characters as some readers do, and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye.

So I will keep writing, and promoting these books the best way I know how. They may not make it to airport book stores or USA Today, but they will be available through every online retailer, and they will be affordable for readers.

ARCHANGEL FALLEN will be released July 14, 2015.

I haven’t decided an exact date yet, but EXECUTIVE REACTION will hit stores sometime this fall.

The current book I’m working on has a working title of SHEPHERD’S RAGE. It’s a bit of a departure from what I’m used to writing – a first person novel. It is about an ISIS attack on American soil, and a local police officer’s response to losing everything. It’s very much “ripped from the headlines” and will have a tie in to the Spectre universe. I hope to have it finished by the fall as well for release sometime late this year or early next year.

Bottom line – I’m back. Expect more information on the books as time goes on. The next few weeks should be pretty exciting with the release of sample chapters, a cover reveal, and preorder information. It’s time to start moving forward again.

As always, thanks for reading. Without you, none of this would be possible. Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, you can see more of my work on Fightersweep.com where I’m now a contributing writer.