Tuesday, December 15, 2015

YA Guy... Self-Publishes!

Back in the day, when YA Guy was a mere stripling of sixteen, I wrote my first complete novel. Titled To Alter the Past, it was a fairly routine swords-and-sorcery epic, with warriors and monsters and all the things my Tolkien-reading and D&D-playing self was into at the time. I still have it on a shelf in my closet, a manuscript typed on my mom's manual typewriter, with all the typos carefully corrected with white-out.

The reason it's on my shelf and not yours is that my options for publishing it at the time were limited. I sent it to a family friend who was in publishing, and he very nicely read the first chapter and provided me with feedback that amounted to: "This isn't publishable; keep working on your craft." Not satisfied with that answer, I flirted with having it published by a subsidy ("vanity") press at the approximate cost of $5000; I was going to owe my parents big-time for that. But when the press sent me a couple of their books and I realized my writing, even at age sixteen, was considerably more polished than these samples, I wisely decided to take the family friend's advice. I honed my craft for over thirty years, and now, of course, I've published one novel and have another due out next year.

The point of this lengthy story is that while publishing options were limited back then, they're ubiquitous now. Anyone with a computer can self-publish a book, typically at minimal cost, and have it available for sale. People choose to self-publish for a variety of reasons, and I personally find no fault with any of them. In my case, though I've chosen to pursue the traditional route, I've kept open the possibility that I might also choose to self-publish some day.

Why, you ask, did I choose to self-publish this title? That's another long story. It's actually the first novel I completed after I'd taken a twenty-year hiatus from writing fiction; I finished it in 2010, just before I started writing what would become my first published novel, SURVIVAL COLONY 9. BOSS KRENKEL was a project I'd dreamed of writing for years, a twisted retelling of the Santa Claus story in which Kris Kringle is a brutal colonizer of the North Pole's indigenous people, the Alephs (later Elves). The idea came to me when my own children were young and my wife and I were still practicing the gentle deception of encouraging their belief in Santa Claus; I asked myself what the logical culmination would be if there were a deeper, more sinister deception to this myth, and BOSS KRENKEL was my answer.

But here's the thing: it wasn't publishable. That's what editors and agents told me (including my own). Though the writing, if I do say so myself, is among the best I've produced; though the story and world-building and mythology are, in my view, as good as they're going to get, the nature of the story I chose to tell just wasn't commercial enough. Maybe, if I'd spent years beating the bushes, trying to find an advocate for this book--or making such substantial revisions to it that it would no longer resemble the book I originally set out to write--I would have been able to publish it the traditional way. But I didn't want to spend my energy as a writer in that possibly fruitless struggle; I wanted to move on to other projects (and I did). BOSS KRENKEL remains what it was when I wrote it: a story I love, and good practice for other stories I've managed to sell. But if it was going to see the light of day, it was going to have to do so via a non-traditional means.

They tell you when you start writing not to worry about market trends or commercial viability but to "write the book of your heart," the book you most want to write. I agree with that. But if you do so, you have to accept the possibility that the book of your heart might not be publishable, and that you'll have to decide what to do with it. BOSS KRENKEL was (and to some extent still is) the book of my heart, and I wanted it to be out there in some form. I don't care if it sells, which is actually incredibly liberating; I just care for the pure creative act that produced it. If anyone wants to give it a try, I'd love to hear what you think of it; but for the most part, I'm just happy it's mine.

So welcome, BOSS KRENKEL! Thanks for everything you've done for me. And now it's time to move on to the next book I long to write.


  1. Good for you! Well done! Well done! I'm gonna check this out right now!

  2. How can this premise NOT be publishable?! Dark retellings are extremely popular. I can't believe Santa is so sacred that he can't be touched!

    That said, I have a couple of "unmarketable" books myself, and some day I might self-publish them. Watching with interest. (And heading over to Amazon ...)

    1. So here's the thing. Whenever I tell people--you know, real people--about this story, they're like, "THAT IS SO AWESOME!" But whenever I tell people in the publishing industry about it, they're like, "No one will buy that!" So it goes. Maybe I'll prove 'em wrong!