‘You get out there, out to sea or whatever it is. And it’s brilliant at first. I remember seeing this bloody line across the horizon, like Hagen’s silver coast all over again. But then what happens? You get there. You get there, and it ain’t silver at all. It’s a shithole, same as the one you came from.’
‘It’s Port Ness!’ laughed Bill.
‘And then you look up, and there it is again. That fucking Silver Coast, never any nearer.’
‘You’re a bit philosophical today son!’ laughed Bill, slapping his back. ‘Are you feeling alright?’
‘Why do you get to lament the Modern World all day every day, but when I do it, it’s funny?’
‘Ha! Cos I’ve been there, son! Done that. And distance has a way of putting a bit of drunken sheen on all that heartache.’
And so, the long delayed publishing update. Early in January 2015, after lots of polish, THE BASTARD WONDERLAND finally went out on submission to eleven major SFF publishers. These were:
Orbit, Del Rey, Voyager, Gollancz, Tor, Hodder, Jo Fletcher, Transworld, Head of Zeus, Solaris and Angry Robot.
Rumours came back to me that one or two were enjoying the read – then about a month later, my agent (Rob Dinsdale out of AM Heath) called with the joyous news that several of them wanted to meet me. Shazam, i thought – here we go, etc. So down to London i went, to cram meetings in, to be ferried about to and fro, over bridges in black cabs like one of those twats out of The Apprentice.
Through grand, glass-fronted Thames-viewing real estate i was paraded! Gallons of hospitable tea and coffee did i drink! The meetings went well, the editors were all very encouraging, and though they shared similar uncertainties about how it should be marketed, they all knew and ‘got’ the book. People in publishing, I learned, are very lovely and knowledgeable, and it was swell to hang about with such a bunch of geeks on a (sort of) professional basis. I also got a truckload of free books, and saw preview covers of high profile books that hadn’t been publicly released! The day was topped off by a drink with Rob Dinsdale out of AM Heath, with some more genre talk, and much enthusiasm about the likelihood of offers and so forth. I boarded the train home with a cosy glow, and deadline day was proposed for a week hence – there was even a slight extension to it, because one of the publishers had shared it with their US counterparts! Lumme! Lordy! etc.
It was all great fun, and a day I’ll remember. We weren’t expecting offers until deadline day itself – Rob Dinsdale out of A.M. Heath says publishers like to leave it dramatically late. And then the day came, the much fabled March 5th 2015. It looked extremely promising. Would there be more than one offer? A bidding war?
In short… no.
The feedback across the majority of the publishers was positive. The book was seen as fresh and original, good characters, plot, humour, etc. Several of the editors were keen to see what i wrote next. But, as this post did foreshadow (and the eminent Mr. Robert Dinsdale out of A.M. Heath did prophesy) the book couldn’t be pitched simply enough for the very reductive outlook of the marketing teams – even despite the enthusiasm of the commissioning editors.
And so deadline day came and went as rejections came in their own time. I didn’t blog anything throughout this, because initially, I was holding out for good news, and then there was no news, and the wait went on, and on and on…until the last rejection came today… over three months later. I’m gutted, but actually, it’s a massive relief. And a real eye opener about the publishing game.
The rejections mainly all came with the same flavour: “we love this but we don’t know how to market it.” Concerns varied between the lack of a major EPIC SCALE EVENT to mark it as EPIC, to the focus on a character based plot, the unusual mix of genre elements, etc. Some rejected because they already have books where a vaguely 19th century man has got a gun(seriously). They didn’t know what package, what tagline, what cover to use – they just didn’t know how to reduce it. It almost seems as if the speculative fiction genre isn’t brave enough to actually speculate.
So there is closure, of a certain kind: I know now I won’t make any sort of money at this(not that I would have been able to retire or anything). But I didn’t set out to make money. I set out to write the book i wanted to write. I’ve been railroaded, and learned that nothing gets in the way of writing so much as bloody publishing.
But the very fact that Mr. Warboys and his ‘kitchen sink epic’ have perplexed the genre so much is to me, a sure sign that he needs to be in print. That Mr. Warboys, in his genre defying, cantankerous, rough arsed glory, should go and stick the nut on genre fiction. I’ll be fucked if I’m shelving him now.
Like Mr. Warboys, I’ve come across the Silver Coast – only to find it lies beyond me again. But there are other ways – the small and indie press, digital, self publishing, i don’t know what. But THE BASTARD WONDERLAND will come to a page near you somewhere, somehow…