I have to make a big decision in the next few days. I have the first two Shield novels – Gyrfalcon and Heart Scarab – about ready to send into the big bad world out there. And I have to decide if it’s worth trying to interest a traditional publisher in them, people like TOR or Pyr.
Here’s the rub:
Shield is not easy to stick in any one genre and is likely to fall foul of the devotees of the two to which it’s closest. The series is traditional science fiction with not a vampire or zombie or magic ring in sight and the main protagonist is gay. There are two main story themes, intertwining with each other: the war against the Maess and Shield Captain Bennet’s efforts to prevent the destruction of humanity, and, set against that, his relationships with his partner Joss and the distraction offered by Fleet Lieutenant Flynn.
The science fiction people are likely to complain about the amount of relationship stuff in there getting in the way of the military science fiction story. There are infiltrations of Maess bases and lots of people running around shooting their lasers, but Bennet’s relationships get equal billing. The reaction is likely to be that all that stuff just gets in the way of the fights and the deaths and the explosions. But equally, the expectations of m/m romance readers won’t be met either, and they might bemoan the fact that there are very few sex scenes, that the relationship isn’t full and centre stage, that the Maess war and everything Bennet has to do there gets equal billing with the slow unfolding of his relationship with Flynn. They will *hate* the lack of commitment, the infidelities, the lack of a happy ending and the fact that Bennet and Flynn will meet and part, meet and part until they both get dizzy.
You see my dilemma? Who is likely to want to read this and wait for 6 books before they get the hint of an ending for the romance story? Which genre publisher will want to take a chance on producing something that probably doesn’t fit their usual reader demographic? I’d like to think a trad publisher will decide that the time is right, in a space-bound Brokeback kind of way, to have a story where the hero is gay and for *it not to be a big deal*. The fact he’s gay is integral to the story, but not the reason for it. Has the time come yet where mainstream publishing can accept that?
Who am I kidding? The press couldn’t look beyond the gay. Brokeback was always dubbed the gay cowboy movie (they were bloody shepherds, dammit!) and maybe the best that can be said for it is that it didn’t ruin the careers of the two leads. Brokeback was maybe a baby step in the right direction to a place where we can just write about *people* and it not matter a jot who they sleep with. We aren’t there yet.
So, do I even bother trying to sell it to mainstream publishers? I dunno. I am thinking of trying TOR and then maybe Pyr after that, but you know, I’m also thinking that this will just be another six months delay until the inevitable rejection and that’s another six months lost. Six months to finish the rewrite of Book 3, though…
I would try the traditional/e-publishing houses but in some ways, this couldn’t come at a better time for you. Self-publishing IS an option if the trad publishers aren’t willing to take a risk on it, and the fact that you have this grand space opera *series* means that you have a strong chance of this set of stories *together* making in in the indie publishing world. It would be a lot more work, more self-promotion, too. But you would retain total creative control. And unlike many of the self-published works I’ve read lately, I know this stuff is *brilliant*. No, it is not for everyone. The fans who find it and love it, however, will be over-the-moon diehard SHIELD fanboys and fangirls and they will help spread the word. 🙂
I think I’ll try it with TOR first, and while they’re scratching their heads over it (or, you know, going into “Hell, no!” mode) I’d better think about blogs and sites to cultivate for promoting it myself if I have to. I don’t know what’s available in the SF field. I’ll have to do some work there!
I’m sorry that I don’t have any experience in this area to be able to offer any advice. One obvious question that occurs to me is whether or not any of the traditional publishers you’re considering allow simultaneous submissions, because that might help things along a little in terms of time.
I’m so excited that you’ve reached this stage!
It is very exciting, but at the same time a little daunting. A friend suggested I try Amazon’s book of the year awards and only go on to try Tor or Pyr after that. I kind of think that it’ll be about three years, at this rate, before I start publishing!
Most publishers don’t allow simultaneous submissions, sadly. So it’s try them out one at a time and hope that one of them bites. I really don’t expect them to, though. Shield really is neither fish nor fowl.