I wanted to write a quick thing about the first book I sold, what happened to it, and what I’m going to do with it next.
Not sure I covered everything I wanted to, and I’ve missed some bits out because they were boring or because it was just a list of swear words, but the gist of it all is there.
What the hell am I going on about?
‘The End Of Superhero Man’ is the first book I ever finished, and the first book I ever sold. It isn’t, by a long shot, the first book I ever started. Sitting in digital drawers are dozens of half-baked, unloved misfires of novels that I started and abandoned over and over.
It’s a mystery/crime novel starring a defeatist, lone superhero. A guy with endless powers, endless cash, but a crippled imagination. He’s trapped in an endless cycle of battles with his nemesis which he sometimes wins, sometimes doesn’t . He self-medicates with alcohol to numb the pain of losing. He’s a mess. And that’s BEFORE his powers are stolen. If he doesn’t get them back, The Girl will die.
It’s a loving homage to superheroes and superhero-type stories and my attempt to bring that sort of thing to a novel.
Also, yes, I ‘sold’ it. As in, a publisher picked it up and wanted to publish it. They were only a small publisher with a handful of titles in their catalogue, but it all seemed cool and above-board and my black little heart fell in love with the idea of having something published. A book I could hold, hug, and beat around the head of my enemies.
The owner of said publisher said he spotted some Douglas Adams in my work (I have the email to prove it) so how could I *NOT* go with them? I’ve asked for the words ‘Reminded someone of Douglas Adams’ to be etched into my tombstone, should I ever get around to dying.
But you notice I used the word ‘were’ when referring to the publisher? They no longer exist, at least not in the form I knew. They folded into another, slightly larger publishing company who, errrhhh, didn’t seem so keen to do much of anything with Superhero Man. It wasn’t in their genre/remit. Which is fine and understandable – I’m hardly a hot, million-selling commodity, am I? Probably not worth the risk of stepping out of their comfort zone. The book fit snugly within the first publisher’s output but would have looked like a festive jumper in July with the new lot.
At this point the book had already hung in the ether for a year, so the news that, you know, it probably wasn’t coming out in the form that’d first been envisaged, stung. I was given the opportunity to ‘take it back’, cancel the contract, nuke everything from orbit and start over.
So I did.
(Note: I’m not mentioning names because it’s not really necessary. I’m not wielding a blamethrower here, everyone had good intentions, I’m just laying it out so that the people who I once excitedly told ‘Shit, I sold a book!’ don’t think I’m a filthy, no-good liar.)
After the initial devastation mellowed (I was working on a lot of other things which cushioned the blow. It’s a good lesson in not smashing all of your eggs into the one omelette), I decided I should probably give it another edit, a fresh eye, and throw it out there.
In the years since I first typed THE END on Superhero Man, I’ve improved. I’m a better writer now. Not perfect, not amazing, but better than I was. With this new draft I chopped away a lot of stuff that didn’t need to be there, a lot of pointless tangents and asides. I removed some benign story tumours and punched some dislocated plot shoulders into line. Essentially, I put my new, more developed skills to use. The result is, I hope, a leaner and more enjoyable novel than before. Maybe the best version of it that it can be.
It’s still pretty silly, but the silliness now has a point.
I hope you like it.
What have I learned?
Well, bluntly, that not all publishers are created equal. I knew that at the time but I wasn’t so… aware of it. I did what I believed to be a correct amount of research, I liked the proposals for the book and I kinda maybe (definitely) let my excitement get the better of me.
If it happened to me now I’d be a lot more thorough with my questions, I’d be prepared to walk away if I had to.
I’m also now convinced me that I need an agent. Two years ago, I didn’t know what an agent did. Didn’t understand their side of the business. Now, I do. And I recognise how absolutely invaluable they can be, especially for someone with my career goals. Actually, my next career goal is to find representation and go from there. (With one of the other things I’m working on, not Superhero Man – for details I mention below.)
And here’s an answer to something I’ve been thinking hard about recently:
Why I’m self-publishing this book:
When I sold to the publisher, Superheroes were the hottest shit. The Avengers had just taken all of the money in the world. People were digging Superheroes. And I hoped, maybe, they’d dig MY sideways glance at Superheroes, wrapped up in a crime/mystery novel.
That’s still the case – people are still hot for supers, but I think it might be waning. Superheroes are EVERYWHERE. And soon, I think, there’ll be some Super-fatigue. Even if I sold the book again tomorrow, the publishing machine might take a little while to birth it into the world, at which point anything with a cape might be shunned out of existence by the general public.
Maybe. I don’t know for certain, that’s just my personal take on things. As much as I’d love to have a book traditionally published, I have other books for that. I’m still writing. I’d rather have Superhero Man out there now to hopefully find a few readers who aren’t yet sick to the teeth of spandex.
If it appeals to you, bend your ears my way. It’ll be available soon and I’ll let you know where/when in due course.
Thanks for reading, you’re all the best.
24th June 2014