Subbing in Lockdown

From my (very) limited conversations with agents in lockdown, it seems that the literary agency sector is also taking a hit owing to Covid-19, with staff unfortunately being furloughed and laid off, as in so many sectors. This is causing response times to subs to lag, so that authors are going to have wait even longer than usual. I have no gripes with agents or agencies about this; times are tough for all, and I’d be happy to wait a bit longer for a response. But the seemingly interminable wait for a response (especially for Godot-esque responses that don’t actually come at all) is somewhat dispiriting to say the least.

I do sometimes grimly smile at the irony of trying to pitch a book that is set in the morally grey aftermath of a global virus that has wiped out almost all non-human biological life, which is the general background to The Hole in The Sky. In my cynical moments I wonder whether this would actually make the manuscript seem more attractive to the ruthless business mechanics of publishing. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’ve written about doubt and disappointment some ways back, and I feel like I’m being weighed down by an inordinate amount of both right now. I do strongly believe in The Hole In The Sky as a manuscript that has a huge amount of potential, but one can only go by responses. I was adamant that HITS would be published through the traditional medium. I’ve self-published before, and Man O’War was published by a small press (very small, it turns out),and graduating to a larger press was always the aim. Yet as I see the lack of responses pile up from agents I am beginning to wonder about a change of approach.

I got thinking about what to do with this manuscript and whittled up four different options:

  • Continue to sub the book to agents and hope for a bite.
  • Self-publish the book. It’s ready to go, save for a final copyedit and proofread.
  • Begin a crowdfunding project to publish it
  • Publish the novel for free right here on my blog

And the more I thought about it the more I thought that the options seem to be at least in some way interconnected. If I go for Option 4 straight away (or, after a final proofread) and publish the book here online, chapter by chapter, on a dedicated section on the site, then perhaps slowly it could accrue the relevant readership to make Option 3 a reality. This is, after all, how The Martian gained traction initially. It was a classic overnight success story that that took months and years to build. And from there, Option 3 could be used to fulfil Option 2, and even Option 1 becomes more of a reality.

I’ll mull it over some more, and will discuss it over at Chrons HQ, but it’d be interesting to hear what other people think.

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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