Today, this package was delivered to my workplace:
Pretty neat, eh? The sack contained ten author copies of my latest novel, The Last Weekend, published as a hardcover exclusive by the United Kingdom’s PS Publishing. For lack of a better description, it’s a “New Narrative zombie novel.” Anyway, check out the book!
The story of the book is nearly as long as the novel itself. In early 2010 I was approached by a friend who was looking to start an imprint of zombie-themed novels that would be branded “George A. Romero presents…” I wrote a few chapters, sent it in, and waited, but as it turns out, Romero didn’t actually like anything my friend had solicited. My agent tried to place the book for a while, but 2010 was a time of glut—everyone was submitting zombie novels, and even “different” ones like mine were hard for a publisher to justify acquiring since there were already so many in the pipeline. I wrote a bit more (30,000 words all together) tried a couple of publishers on my own, and one of them liked the novel but just thought it inappropriate for his mass-market paperback house. He then recommended PS publishing.
That was a good idea, as PS Publishing is a small press with a great reputation. I sent them my sample in December 2010 and by the end of the month had a tentative agreement; a contract arrived in February 2011. In Sept 2011 I finished the book and sent it in, and then the waiting game truly began. The idea was to be paid in 2012 for a mid-2013 release. As it turns out, I was paid in early 2013 and then the book was moved to the end of the year. The new schedule slipped too, though I did see a cover, a copy edit, a galley proof, and all that fun stuff. Ambitious small presses and international recessions tend to lead to schedule changes.
Between 2010 and now, there’s been a huge self-publishing boom. (I’ve also published four other novels in that time.) Why not just self-publish your zombie book?” I was asked any number of times. Well, for one thing, I still can—the PS deal is for hardcover only, in two editions (signed and unsigned) with a small print run and a deadline for rights reversion. I could still self-publish it here in the US after giving PS time to sell their hardcovers, or I could resell the rights to a paperback house that would do a normal paper/ebook deal for the US, especially now that the zombie craze had settled down into an established subgenre. Naturally, my goal is the latter. Bookstores still matter, especially for a book that steps outside genre norms. (Plus, I already have a full-time job in publishing. When I come home from work, I want to do something else with my time.)
I guess that if there’s a lesson here for WestConn MFA students, it’s this: be patient. Sometimes it takes years to get a book. Checking my files, I see that it was literally four years ago tonight that I wrote my one-page synopsis of The Last Weekend for my friend who knew George Romero.