Over a year ago I was halfway through my first novel. I was writing in a bubble; just me and my story. The larger world ceased to exist. It had no bearing on the words pouring out.
Long before I consciously acknowledged and accepted it, I knew I was writing a series. At the time I thought it would be a trilogy, but that’s really up to Ara. As I sailed past the 20k and 30k word landmarks, and read back over my chapters, I realised that I would love for other people to read the story. Read it and love it, ideally.
I’ve never seen an empty shelf in a bookshop, unless it was waiting to house the books in the box at its feet. A world of books was out there; some with fantastic writing, others with such captivating stories that the standard of writing holds little importance. I thought my novel could have a place among the many and varied published works. This was the foundation which lay beneath my first thought of publishing.
How hard could it be?
So I did a little research. Bafflement struck. Where were all the Irish Publishers? I thought Ireland was a rather literary place. In fairness there are around fifty publishers in Ireland. Most publish non-fiction, religious or educational books. Those who take fiction had a list of genres they publish. Want to know how many listed science fiction and fantasy? None. Penguin and Poolbeg press were the only ones I could consider submitting to. Whatever about Penguin, Poolbeg would definitely not want my book.
My merry cyber-adventure continued. I broadened my horizons. Well, I looked to the UK. I found a whole host of publishers to sink my teeth into. As I sifted through the throngs, I learned that most publishing houses would not look at my ‘unsolicited manuscript’. I couldn’t send them my work. Undeterred, I proceed to learn that they accept manuscripts from ‘literary agents’ instead. So I had to get an agent, and then they would get the publishing deal. I exhaled a sigh of contentment. Negotiating a publishing deal ought to be left to an expert.
I am not an expert.
I decided to broaden my horizons again and invested in the Writer’s Handbook 2011. The proof that I was not entirely mistaken and Ireland did in fact have hordes of publishers was in the pages. Ireland had six pages, the UK had eighty-eight. But I was searching for an agent then, not publishers. The UK had thirty two pages, Ireland had one and a bit.
Anyway, I began looking for a literary agent who would take my genre. If I had a bestseller for every time I read ‘no sci-fi or fantasy’... As I worked though the thirty-two pages and searched on the internet, I discovered that not all agents were in the handbook. (It’s called a handbook, but I could knock someone out with it. And I could not carry it with one hand if my future in publishing depended on it.) Moreover, the agent who deals exclusively with sci-fi and fantasy was not listed. Others who were open to the genre were not included either.
I reverted to purely searching online and slowly comprised a short list of agents who deal with sci-fi and fantasy. I was sure there were more, but my editing stint was over and I was back to pure writing. Research went hand in hand with *not* editing. I didn’t resume my search with strong intent until this week. If you type ‘literary agents taking science-fiction and fantasy’ in google, most results read ‘no science fiction or fantasy.’ My sigh of contentment has long passed. It was replaced by hyperventilation. My friend found a list of all UK agents who deal with my genre. It’s a list of thirteen. Some aren’t taking submissions right now, and seem to do so sporadically. My little list created months ago was in fact exhaustive.
The odds of one out of a handful of agents loving my book, believing in its marketability, trusting me as an author, and being in a position to take on a new client are...slim.
I’d say it’s a very good thing I’m not writing to just get published.