My MA novel The Eternity Fund was shortlisted for Mslexia’s unpublished novel competition in 2013. The shortlisting may have been a factor in securing me an agent four months later - it added something to my covering letter, making it a little bit ‘different’. The Eternity Fund was subsequently published by Audible.co.uk as a talking book, but, despite my agent organising a pretty substantial UK and US submission, nobody bought the kindle or paperback rights. When my second novel also failed to find a publisher earlier this year, I knew I had some tough decisions to make. It’s every writer’s nightmare to spend years writing books that nobody reads.
My first thought was that self-publishing was the only way forwards. I duly signed up for blogs and forums dominated by self-published writers, and looked closely at their success stories. I wasn’t interested in how much money they made (often they’d begun by giving Kindle stories away for free), but I was interested in how much work it would take to get my book out there, especially now that Amazon e-book rankings no longer allow free giveaways to appear in their ‘top seller’ list. I was disappointed to discover that recently successful self-published authors stated openly that their blogs, forums and twitter accounts took just as much time as their creative work. This just wasn’t ‘me’. I knew I wouldn't enjoy the process, and so I would never make it work.
I resigned myself to writing novel after unpublished novel in order to wait for that magical day when I was eventually signed (and was able to offer up a considerable backlist of my unpublished fiction). Frankly, the future looked depressing.
A matter of days later, I spotted Mslexia’s Indie Presses 2016/17 advertised in the monthly magazine. I pre-ordered a copy immediately. All I knew was that I had nothing to lose. The independent presses don’t insist on the agented submissions that the big publishers do, so I was free to send my manuscript direct to anybody who would consider it.
The day Indie Presses 2016/17 landed on my doormat, I spent three hours reading every entry in detail. I narrowed the field down to fifteen possibilities, each based on the publishers’ spec and what they were looking for. Not all of them will take SFF, for example, and not all of them (despite appearing in the handbook) are currently looking for new fiction. My rule of thumb is to always be polite on receiving a reply to an enquiry, because as an editor at Penguin recently reminded me, a publishing career is a very long thing – be rude at your peril. You don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons a few years down the line.
Eventually, the field narrowed itself to eight serious contenders. Three responded almost immediately (not taking on anything new, doesn’t fit our list, and yes please). The others, I never heard back from.
The third and most enthusiastic response was from Chris McVeigh at Fahrenheit Press, a crime thriller specialist publisher. I stuck my neck out here because The Eternity Fund is set in a futuristic world and pays more than a passing nod to urban fantasy, yet all the other novels on Chris’s list were mainstream crime thriller. I decided to chance it simply because The Eternity Fund is built on traditional detective noir. It’s an updated Chandleresque story with a female protagonist, a dystopian backdrop, and a truly twisted murderer. Chris told me that he and two colleagues read the novel very quickly, and wanted Fahrenheit Press to take it on immediately.
Nothing could've made me happier.
After a three year wait, I finally have a publisher for my debut novel!
Chris McVeigh of Fahrenheit Press says:
"Like most people who work in publishing we've been massive fans of Mslexia for years so when we got a submission from Liz mentioning she'd been shortlisted for the unpublished novel prize in 2013 we knew there'd be quality there. And so there was, we all loved it.
Making an offer for The Eternity Fund was one of the easiest publishing decisions we've ever made.
We're so pleased that Fahrenheit is included in Mslexia's Small Presses Guide and we're looking forward to receiving more submissions - if we're very lucky we'll find another Liz. "