After self-publishing four novels in a relatively short period of time––The Expendable Man in February 2011, Making the Grade in April 2012, Last Stop on Desolation Ridge in February 2013, and In the Game in November 2013, I went back to a coming-of-age fantasy I’d started ten years earlier. That book is projected to run over 200,000 words, and has been a struggle to organize. Parts of it have come together easy, but how to handle other parts remain unresolved.
Instead of continuing to bang my head against my keyboard, in March of this year I put that project aside and started working on a new thriller. The first draft of House Divided was completed earlier this month. I’ll be revising it (with help from beta readers and a professional editor) over the next months and then submit query letters to literary agents who represent thrillers. If I fail to get the response I’m looking for, I’ll self-publish House Divided sometime in 2015. If it gets picked up, all bets would be off since hooking up with an agent is no guarantee a publisher will be found, and even if a publisher picks up the book, it would probably be at least a year before it would be available.
The Ups and Downs of Self-Publishing
I’ll admit I was pretty green when I published my first novel––The Expendable Man––in February 2011. Although I stand behind the story, I believe my writing has improved considerably in the past four years––not that I believe it would be a best-seller today if the writing was better. The odds are great against selling even a thousand copies of self-published genre fiction unless you’re writing erotica (vide: 50 Shades) or your name is Steven King.
Why keep self-publishing if it’s so hard to generate sales? Why does a failed restaurateur open a new restaurant? Why does a failed inventor put money behind his latest brainchild?
In my case, it’s a matter of pride and my belief that the next book will be one I will be able to look back on as being on par with books published by mainstream publishers in that genre.
Interestingly enough, even the most experienced, successful writers say they have doubts when they finish their latest books. A writer really doesn’t know how a particular book will be received. S/he may have tested it with beta readers, literary agents and editors, but all of the above can be wrong in terms of how the reading public will respond.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned about writing
The beginning is the most important part of any story to get right. If you haven’t captured your readers’ interest in the first five pages, you’re unlikely to do so. Every word in those first pages has to work to convince the reader this is a story they will enjoy reading.
Most novels have a common structure. Something has to happen early in the story that sets the story’s main conflict in motion; the protagonist must fail at his/her first attempts to resolve that conflict; and the protagonist must work out the problem in the end for his/herself. In my fourth novel, In the Game, my protagonist learns that a third woman who was dating man he suspects of having gotten away with murdering two women has died. The police won’t investigate, but what can he do given that he recently retired from the police department for health reasons?
The protagonist (Jake Barnes) has to overcome a number of obstacles before he can even begin to work on proving his suspect’s guilt. Then, failure greets each attempt to get the evidence he needs. Will he give up? Will the suspect get off once again? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
What is House Divided About?
House Divided is a thriller set in the near future. The protagonist, a retired CIA agent––I wonder why I like retired protagonists––is asked to head a presidential task force investigating an outbreak of domestic terrorism. Little does he suspect that his own family will be caught up in the conflict, putting both his wife and daughter’s lives in danger.
That’s all the clues I’m offering at the moment, but be aware that if I do self-publish House Divided, I’ll post the first chapter for free on my website. So, stay tuned to find out where and when you’ll be able to get your copy.