Convergence and the Path to Publication

When I began writing CONVERGENCE in August 2011, it was intended to be a short story that could serve as a gate-way into a larger series. Instead, a full-fledged novel forced its way out and I began to consider my options, believing it was worthy of publication. I've written several novels in the past, so CONVERGENCE is not my first rodeo on that front. However, it's only the second time I had enough confidence in the work to seek an agent and think it worthy of publication. The first time I tried to find an agent was back in the early 2000s. Needless to say, a lot has changed in the publishing world since then! While this was my second foray into submitting to agents, it was the first time there has been an option other than the Big 5 publishing houses as a model of distribution for my work. I think that's significant - as a fledgling author, I had options. Options! There wasn't just one way to get published anymore, not like there used to be. Time was, you used to either find an agent to represent you and win you a publishing contract, or your work wound up collecting dust in a desk drawer or fed into a shredder while you got on with the rest of your life. We're in a brave new world now, one where being an author-publisher is a legitimate choice. It's perhaps even more legitimate now than it was just two or three years ago.

So, back-half of 2011. I spent a lot of mornings, nights and weekends - basically anytime I wasn't working my full-time day job - writing. In early 2012, the book was finished. I wasn't in any particular rush to dive into my first round of self-edits, but I had the book printed out and bound so that I could work with it. I've always found it easier to catch my mistakes on paper than on a computer. A few months later, after having been away from that first draft long enough to be able to approach it with fresh eyes and less emotional attachment, I broke out the red pen and got busy.

When it came to doing my first round of edits, I believe I owed a lot to Don Pilette, an experienced newspaper editor who taught a copy editing course. In fact, the course was so helpful that I would advise any and all writers to take such a class. It is an essential piece of knowledge to have and will help tremendously. That said, self-edits are only the first step and cannot - CANNOT - replace the work a professional editor is capable of. They will catch a lot of things that you miss! Nothing can ever top the benefits a good editor brings to the table.

After a round of self-edits and rewrites, I started hunting around for an agent. I decided to go old-school on this one. Maybe it was just my impression of self-publishing circa 2011, but I thought having representation would be a sign of validation, an indication that, yes, indeed, my work truly was worthy of publication. And I honestly believed that CONVERGENCE was worthy of publication, and that there was no reason for it to not be sitting on bookstore shelves everywhere. I was serious about getting published, and I was in it for the long-haul. I knew what to expect based on earlier, failed efforts. Querying, sending samples, hoping and waiting for a response. Hunting for an agent is a long, slow process, and I only received one response from more than twenty solicits in the first round of searching. Thankfully it was all done through e-mail and websites, so no stamps were wasted or money spent. Already a far cry from just little more than a decade earlier!

Then, October 2012 rolled around and Harper Voyager announced a digital open submission period for unrepresented authors. Since they are a well-known publishing house dealing with sci-fi, I entered immediately, and continued hunting for an agent. As of this writing, CONVERGENCE has been with Harper Voyager for more than a year and is among the last 300 novels under consideration (from a total of more than 4500 manuscripts).

In January 2013, Amazon announced their 2013 Breakthrough Novel Award, which I've written about before. I continued soliciting agents and was met with more silence and one more rejection. By the time I made it through the first pitch-round, I had sent the book out to more than fifty agents and received one more rejection, and even more silence. Despite the quietude from New York and LA agencies, CONVERGENCE advanced through the second round selections and garnered praise from the ABNA Expert Reviewers. The readers praised the strength of originality in the excerpt, as well as its quick pace.

A snippet of one of my favorite reviews from this round: "This isn't a genre I generally read but I want to be able to read the rest of this book so I know wtf is going on."

I consider this to be some pretty damn high praise indeed! Another reviewer said they wanted to read more! I was two for two. I even picked up a 5-star customer review based on the excerpt alone, from another contestant.

The publishing world continued its glacial pace and agents continued to not respond. I was sure, based on the feedback I was getting during ABNA2013, that I was putting my best foot forward. My pitch got me in the door, the excerpt and product description kept me alive and was garnering positive word. CONVERGENCE marched into the quarter-finals, and earned me a glowing review from Publisher's Weekly.

Since I'm about to quote directly from their review, I need to note, in accordance to the ABNA2013 rules, "Publishers Weekly is an independent organization and the review was written based on a manuscript version of the book and not a published version." So, what did they say?

A near-future where everyone is chipped in and personal memories can be downloaded and shared is the premise of this smart splice of espionage and science fiction. ... The author does an excellent job of making his extrapolated technology seem plausible and the collapse of America through the combined forces of national apathy and corporate exploitation seem frighteningly realistic. Well-drawn characters, excellent pacing, and constant surprises make this a great cautionary tale about technology and its abuses.

PUBLISHER'S FUCKING WEEKLY! I still get chills reading their review (not that I do so on a regular basis, mind you...I'm not that much of an egotist. Or am I?!). It literally sends shivers up and down my spine and puts a smile on my face. This was exactly the kind of validation and vindication I was hoping CONVERGENCE would one day receive. I was floored by their praise. Still am, in fact.

Unfortunately, it was not enough to send me on to the semi-finals, nor has it been enough to get any agents to even respond to my submission to them. Still, I was left with not only an incredible confidence boost, but a legitimate review that could be used in marketing a future, published version of my work.

Over the last few years, I've been trying to keep up with the publishing world and have been following a number of writer's blog (both self-published, traditionally published, or a combination of both). You can find links to these sites on the right side of the page. What I learned, simply, was that there were options. The publishing world has changed a lot over the years, even in as short of a time as 2011 to today. Self-publishing has become a hugely legitimate avenue for writers to tread down, and it will be the path I take in releasing my novel this spring.

I've worked with a team of editors, have a cover designer in the queue, and have collected a number of positive responses thanks to Amazon's contest. This novel has endured a review process of over a year with Harper Voyager and is still standing strong among the few remaining entrants. Publisher's Weekly freaking loved the damn thing! Whatever doubts I had initially about this book have been eased significantly, and I no longer need the validation of representation, nor the desire to continue wasting time trying to find representation. Especially not with the benefits that can go along with self-publishing, if I'm lucky and fortunate. The stigma that surrounded self-publishing only a decade ago has been greatly reduced by the prevalence of e-readers, accessibility of titles, and, more importantly, the influx of quality materials from well-known names, including several who once were traditionally published before going solo. Even a phrase like "going solo" is a bit of a misnomer, if I can speak from my own experience thus far. The writing was a solitary endeavor, but the process since has included several people I've come to rely on. I'll speak about this more in another post, though.

[Keep reading: Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V]

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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