We’re pleased to welcome debut author Al Leverone as our guest today.
I’m really excited to be here today. My invitation to appear at Romance University stemmed from a post I read at Vicky Dreiling’s blog written by your very own debut author, Adrienne Giordano, regarding her path to publication; a post which struck a nerve with me the moment I read it. I emailed Adrienne relating some of my own debut experiences and she very graciously invited me to share them. So here I am!
“The path to publication.” It sounds so civilized, doesn’t it? Four words that make the journey seem like a bucolic Sunday stroll through a quiet rose garden, tea cup in hand, bees buzzing in the background, hummingbirds . . . uh . . . humming. Masterpiece Theatre. Sir Lawrence Olivier. Dignified. Scholarly. In reality though, at least for me, the journey was less a Sunday afternoon stroll along a quiet path than a confusing, terrifying trip through the Amazon. With no guide. And no machete. And definitely no map.
I decided about four years ago that I wanted to write fiction; genre novels, specifically. I’ve always been an avid reader and a good writer. In fact, writing might be the only thing in this world at which I truly excel. How hard could it be, right?
So I wrote a manuscript. I figured I would finish it, polish it, send it out to all the major publishers and wait for the offers to come rolling in, then pick from the best one. And to answer your question, Yes, I really was that naïve. Once I discovered the major New York publishers don’t take un-agented manuscripts and haven’t for decades, I shook my head in frustration and decided to do the next best thing: get a literary agent.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to snag an agent? It was like being back in high school trying to get a date again, only worse. Because now, all the guys were trying to date all the girls, and to top it off, you couldn’t just ask her out, you had to submit a query letter first, and if she decided your query letter measured up, then she would allow you to ask her out.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer. And, oh by the way, the answer is no. Usually delivered via form letter.
The activities in those last two paragraphs represent roughly three years worth of struggle, during which time I wrote three complete novel-length manuscripts and parts of three others. And I was getting nowhere. Oh, I would receive the occasional request for a partial from the occasional agent, and every once in a while—woohoo!—a request for the full manuscript, but the end result was always the same. While their responses indicated I definitely had the skills, there was always something that kept the agents from being interested enough in my work to commit. Like I said, it was high school all over again, only without getting stuffed into my locker.
That was when I decided to try a different tactic. I would begin submitting to smaller, independent publishers, most of whom have no qualms about receiving work from authors without representation. And my thriller titled FINAL VECTOR, about an air traffic controller who gets tangled up in a plot to assassinate the President of the United States, was almost immediately received enthusiastically by this really cool Indie outfit outside Chicago called Medallion Press. They liked FINAL VECTOR. They wanted FINAL VECTOR. They would release FINAL VECTOR as a mass-market paperback in February, 2011. And just like that, the kid who couldn’t get a date was on his way to the prom.
Cue the violins and sappy music, cue the walk into the sunset, cue the happy ending, roll credits, fade to black. End of story.
Except that wasn’t quite the end of the story.
I signed my contract with Medallion for a mass-market paperback release of FINAL VECTOR in late December, 2009. In mid-March, 2010, I was upstairs working on another manuscript when the telephone rang. I have three children, ages 22 to 18, and it’s not an exaggeration to say the telephone is never for me, so I ignored it. But this time it was for me. It was a representative from Medallion, calling to tell me that due to the rapidly-changing environment in the publishing industry and the lack of profitability in mass-market paperback as a format, Medallion was exiting the MMPB world completely.
Their plan was now to release an ebook edition of FINAL VECTOR. I had a long talk on the telephone with Medallion’s Director of Sales and Marketing regarding this new plan and I was left feeling less than enthusiastic. My dream since I was a young child had been to one day hold an ink-and-paper book in my hands which said “Allan Leverone” on the cover; I had never once imagined myself holding a portable hard drive with a reading screen.
So I agonized. I went back and forth over whether to request a reversion of the rights to FINAL VECTOR from Medallion. I had a signed contract in my possession stipulating a mass-market paperback release of my book, so I was quite certain I could walk away, no blood, no foul. But was that what I really wanted?
By March, 2010 I had owned my own Kindle for six months and loved it. I’m an avid reader of thrillers and horror novels and in that half-year had probably downloaded and read at least a dozen books on it. I had done a lot of research and knew that the ebook market was exploding on an unprecedented scale, basically keeping the publishing world afloat while simultaneously scaring the crap out of “traditional” publishing. So would an ebook release of FINAL VECTOR really be so bad?
After three weeks of soul-searching I decided, no, it would not be so bad. I bought into Medallion’s new plan and let FINAL VECTOR ride with them, and, boy am I glad I did. In the year since receiving that disheartening phone call, ebooks have continued to be the ten ton elephant in the room, assuming a bigger and bigger profile in the publishing landscape. It’s exciting to be part of a revolution that represents the first real change in how books are packaged and consumed since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the fifteenth century.
All of which brings me back to my original point: that the “path to publication” isn’t really a path at all. It’s more like a meandering, dried-out riverbed, and you have to pick your way over the boulders and through the mud, sometimes striking out through the jungle for a while but always making your way back to that riverbed in the end. And, oh yeah, by the way, watch out for those flash floods, because they just might wash you away if you’re not ready for them.
But nobody said it would be easy, and what fun would that be, anyway?
Al, thanks for sharing your experience with us today. Ever have to choose between a traditional print publishing versus an e-publisher? Any thriller writers out there? If you have questions for Al, ask away!
Be sure to join us on Wednesday, March 30th for our two-day pitch workshop with Diane Holmes from Pitch University.
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Allan Leverone is a three-time Derringer Award Finalist for excellence in short mystery fiction as well as a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. His short fiction has appeared in Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Shroud Magazine, Twisted Dreams, Dark Valentine, Mysterical-E and many others, and his debut thriller, FINAL VECTOR was released February 11 by Medallion Press. Learn more on Facebook or at www.allanleverone.com.
Publisher’s website: www.medallionpress.com
Blog, “A Thrill a Minute”: www.allanleverone.blogspot.comVideo
Book trailer for FINAL VECTOR: www.youtube.com/watch?v=86g7_negT8o
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