Closing the Book on a Book

For the past month, I’ve been splitting revision time on a couple of different projects (in between drafting Blood and Shadows), including a project I wrote two years ago and last revised, oh, god, well over a year go? Possibly two?

Thank god for Google Docs. It was two years ago. And yes, I’m a little tired. It’d be nice to focus on one project for a while, though the likelihood of that happening any time soon is slim.

It’s been an interesting process, revising this project. I know my writing has come a looooong way since I wrote this story, yet the changes I’m making aren’t necessarily to the sentence structure, but in removing a subplot that wasn’t working. But the main plot? Yeah, that’s pretty much fine. I’d expected to need to make some significant changes because of the aforementioned loooooong way, so I’m a little panicked that I’m not.

Mostly I’m just excited I’ve got another chance to submit it. When I did my initial round of queries, I’d sent it to the major digital first publishers that accepted unagented submissions, and all of them turned it down, though one editor did say she loved the story but wanted scenes from the hero’s POV as well. Since it was one change I was not willing to do, I put the story away, figuring that was the end of it. In the intervening years, a new imprint has opened, giving me another option, and since this heroine is one of my favorites, I figured she deserved one last chance.

Not all my heroines will get that, unfortunately.

In the past six months, I’ve shut the drawer and locked it on two different stories. And I just realized that a story I’ve been picking away at has an alarming number of similarities to my very first story, to the point I’m considering junking the first story and just going with the new one (and stealing the title, because I love the title.)

The vast majority of authors will have at least one manuscript that will never see the light of day, so I’m in great company there. But at what point do you decide to pull the plug and lock it up?

Honestly? I don’t have the answer. I can only tell you what led to my decisions. The two stories in question are Iron Jewel, which has finaled in a couple of RWA chapter contests, and Best Served Cold, which received some positive feedback recently from an editor with Carina but ultimately passed on the project.

Despite the contest wins, I gave up on Iron Jewel after my editor turned it down. He detailed his reasons for doing so, and every single thing he said rang true. The story needed a lot of work, work that I didn’t have time to put into it, and frankly, I wasn’t feeling the story anymore. You add in that paranormal romance is kind of a tough sell these days, and I felt no guilt closing the book on Remy and Bodhi.

Best Served Cold has a slightly different fate. The story itself is trashed. The editor’s observations on the revenge angle echoed mine (it wasn’t quite strong enough) and dear god, everyone is doing billionaires these days. Granted, I’d written the story in 2012, before the billionaire and NA craze really kicked in, but it had to go. Unlike the characters of Iron Jewel, though, I still wanted to tell Rhia and Akira’s story. I wanted the introverted actress and the workaholic communications mogul. So at some point, they will get their story told. I’m excited to do it. Once I finish about a milliondy other things first.

But what about self-publishing?

Well, what about it?

There are likely still a fair number of authors who get huffy over their rejections and declare they’ll just self-publish the book that no one wanted. And yes, Hidden Scars, which I’ll be releasing next year, falls into that category, minus the huffiness. I want that story told, but I want it to be worth the $3 or $4 I’ll be charging for it. Which means at least one round with a content editor, because fuck if I can tell at this point what needs to be fixed. It may involve two rounds of content editing, if I still don’t feel confident the story is the best it can be.

Just because a book is rejected doesn’t mean you should automatically turn to self-publishing. Not if your knee-jerk reaction is to get it out as quickly as possible. Not if you’re brushing off the comments and notes and criticisms you received about the project when the rejections came back.

I won’t be self-publishing Iron Jewel because I can’t bring myself to care about the story anymore. I won’t be self-publishing Best Served Cold because in a niche market already flooded with stories that run from one end of the awesomeness scale to the other, I can’t be sure it’ll actually provide a significant enough return on investment for all the effort I’d have to put in. I won’t be self-publishing the Shadowdemon trilogy in its current iteration, and (I sincerely hope it never comes to this) I may never self-publish it once I get around to rewriting it as a single book.

And I won’t be revising A Lesson in Vanishing with the idea of self-publishing it or landing an agent or securing a publishing contract with Tyrus Books (though the last one does pain me, because there are days I’d give my right hand just to have a chance to work with Ben LeRoy. I may have a mild publishing crush on Tyrus Books. Might. Probably. Definitely.)

What it comes down to is time. While the reasons those stories were rejected will vary, the reason they’ll end up shuttered is the same – they all require time. Time to revise, time to rip it apart, time to junk the whole thing and start from scratch. With so many other stories waiting to be told, it’s inevitable (at least for me) that some will have to be let go.

Now. Back to the grindstone.

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