Two years, and barely a nibble.
For The Sake Of Ten generated a sizable number of preprinted rejection letters, usually including the words like “doesn’t fit with our portfolio” or “not seeking new material at this time” and almost always “good luck.”
In the interim I’d published three novelettes through CRC Publications--Anything But Free, Something To Hide, and Casey’s Grudge—so I felt confident I could write a good story. And amongst the rejection letters for Ten were two that included handwritten notes from editors; one listed all the things he enjoyed, calling it “eminently publishable,” and the other strongly encouraged me to keep shopping it around. “This book deserves to be published,” he wrote.
While those notes lifted my spirits, the steady stream of stiff-arming left me discouraged. I went through the manuscript a few more times, searching for the One Big Flaw that, once resolved, would make the book saleable. What I found were small things that needed tweaking.
By this time, I was several drafts into a second novel, one that takes place on a parallel Earth. That one remains unfinished; I feel it’s too similar to For The Sake Of Ten, although even today I haven’t entirely given up on it. But back then I had enough enthusiasm for it that I decided to put Ten on a shelf for a bit.
There it remained for most of the next six years.
Every now and then I’d dig it out, do a light edit and send it around to publishers without success. One of the changes I made was the title. For The Sake of Ten described only part of the story, albeit a tremendously important part. But I wanted something broader, something that covered the full context of the tale. And I wanted the title to be a single word. Thus it became Radiance.
By 2002 I finally gave up trying to sell the book on my own and started looking for an agent. I’d resisted going the agent route before out of simple intimidation; I had no idea how to find a reputable one. Having finally decided that was the only way Ten would ever be published, I started as we do most things nowadays: with a Google search.
Big mistake. HUGE mistake.
Yes, I found an agent. Partly to spare you the long, sordid tale, and partly to avoid fully outing my foolishness, suffice it to say I got scammed. The agent charged me for an edit that never got done, then promptly vanished. No response to phone calls, emails or even certified letters over the course of a full year. Later I discovered this individual was being investigated for fraud.
Frustrated and heartbroken, I put away the manuscript, doubting it would ever be published.
Career-wise, the next few years were extraordinarily stressful, and I rarely gave Radiance a thought. But by 2009 I came to realize that Radiance had a fundamental problem: It was too religious for science fiction publishers, and too science fiction-y for religious publishers. To get the book out there, I’d have to do it myself.
I’d explored self-publishing back in the ‘90s, but it proved wildly expensive and lacked a workable means of distribution. But by the end of the ‘00s, tools like print on demand and online book sellers made it doable.
Having left Radiance untouched for several years, I dove into the harshest edit yet of the manuscript, slashing at least 12,000 words and an entire chunk of text I realized added nothing meaningful to the story. By early 2010, Radiance was in the hands of a well-known self-publisher. After working through a basic evaluation, the process moved rapidly. By September of that year, Radiance was available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in a number of bookstores. Over the coming year I saw modest sales in the midst of book signings and speeches.
The lessons learned through this two-decade experience were many, some of them hard ones. Had I not made some poor decisions and been discouraged so often, Radiance might have appeared far sooner than it did, perhaps through a traditional publisher. But I happen to believe God does things for a reason and in His timing. In that light, Radiance appeared precisely when it needed to.
In coming blogs, I’ll dive deeper into the story and the characters in Radiance.