By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Nobody ever said the road to publishing would be easy. Nobody ever said it would leave you in an emotional twist of anger, self doubt, envy, joy, hope and frustration but it does. Read the reviews below one of which is from one of the top reviewers on Amazon.
I was looking for a new book series to read and had this book recommended to me by a friend that knew I liked sci-fi.
I was really impressed by all the stories and there are 2 that are especially well written. There are some great sci-fi elements and it’s clear that the author has a love of all things sci-fi and manages to bring a high level of detail to the worlds and scenarios created as well as to the characters in the book. There are some brilliantly written parts around characterisation that brought a tear to my eye and a smile on my face. There are elements of things that sci-fi nerds love (Doctor Who, Star Trek and even Dune) and there are knowing winks and nods peppered throughout to enjoy as well. I was hooked after the 2nd story and it made me want to keep reading which is the mark of something good.
I’ve now ordered book 2 and I’m really hoping that it’s as good and if it is then I’ll continue with the others as well. If you’re a sci-fi fan then I’d recommend this as a true fan will enjoy it and will want to keep reading.
I thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic first book by Owen Quinn, from the first page on it was an explosion of adventure and excitement. Mr Quinn expertly creates the world of the Time Warriors through his skill as a writer bringing it to life for the reader.
That premise is established from the first novel’s Battlestar Galactica opening, where the planet Xereba has dramatically been destroyed, an unfortunate accident caused by an experiment in time travel. The agent of the apocalypse, a scientist called Varran, has however had a vision of a new planet in another star-system, and guides the few thousand survivors aboard the starship, the Juggernaught, to Earth in the year 1894, where – thanks to a similar genetic make-up – they are able to blend in with the human population. At the age of 18 however, any children born to Xerebans have their heritage made known to them. Three of those children, Michael, Jacke and Tyran have been chosen by Varran to assist him in his duty as self-appointed sentinel protecting the Earth from any unexpected dangers.
And it’s fortunate that the Time Warriors are there, because despite being relatively free from alien visitors up to now (as far as we know, but who can tell…?), Earth is suddenly faced with creatures and entities whose intentions for the population of the planet are less than amicable or inquisitive and more in the line of violent invasion with the aim of using humanity as slaves or fuel. And who knows where this threat might come from. A drunken man found dead on a remote Irish island, suspiciously given a closed-casket funeral – well, obviously you’ll want to call in the Time Warriors just in case there is something seriously amiss that could be concealing a nefarious intergalactic conspiracy!
All good fun in other words, Owen Quinn handling this material with tongue firmly in cheek, with all those references acknowledged and played upon with fondness rather than putting any clever postmodern twist on proceedings. Benefitting from a good range of characters who develop over the first book in the series as individuals as well as in relation to each other, plenty of witty banter and unlimited potential in the time travel premise, the Time Warriors series starts off in a promising fashion, providing classic TV-style science-fiction material for anyone who thinks that they really don’t write them like that anymore.
Not bad for first time writer even if I do say so myself. If I can impress Keris Nine himself then I must be doing something right. Any publisher in their right mind would snap my books up just reading those reviews. Yep, well that road happened in another universe. I am still on the lookout for a publisher willing to take my stuff on and it isn’t an easy journey to be honest. It’s a lot of work for little return in general but constantly spurred on by the hope it’ll be round the next corner.
This article is inspired by a recent encounter with a publishing company that on the surface were very interested in my book, the Time Warriors: First Footsteps. Sadly it turned out to be just a hybrid publisher. A hybrid contract (also known as a vanity contract) is where you pay a publisher to publish your book in other words, kiss my hairy Irish ass.
After years of rejections from all sorts of agents and publishers it is so easy to give up and grasp at straws. Nobody including myself can deny that when you read someone is number 2 in the Kindle Amazon charts or someone has a publisher after one book you can’t help feel jealous and annoyed. We all want what Stephen King and JK Rowling have achieved; a life where we make enough money to write full time, get our stuff made into a television series or movie. We can then travel the convention circuit, do book signings and have the life that we perceive an author to have. After ten years of serious grind at this, my tether is well and truly at an end. At an end it may be but I can’t give up. As corny as it sounds, the stories inside me won’t let me rest. Any writer or artist reading this know what I mean. I have been up to all hours of the morning writing because I can’t sleep because the story is repeating in my head demanding to be written. A story arc you are stuck on might suddenly resolve itself in the night and make you get up regardless of how early you have to start work the following day. You do it all yourself and fork out your money to help the book become the reality where you are holding it in your hands and see it for sale on Amazon. As a self publishing author you have to edit your book yourself, you decide on the cover, you are your own worst critic, you rewrite and change your mind (sometimes the story changes before you in unexpected ways). You create a Facebook page, an Instagram account, create a website which publishers apparently want to you to do as it saves on their promo budget. You have to learn about uploading, cover design, cover formatting, dimensions, KDP and all sorts of stuff I never knew about when I started writing as a kid. This list doesn’t even include learning how to put together a Kindle version and upload it to KDP.
If like me you can’t draw to save your life, you have to pay someone to draw/design your cover. The thing is no one ever sees exactly what you see so their vision is an approximation of what you see but if it’s close enough then use it. I always referred to the Ralph Quarrie art. It was close to George Lucas’s vision and was a perfect beginning for viewers/readers to get a visual idea of what this new universe was all about. It’s the same with your books. You need visuals to help people see what you see. Art fires the imagination for the reader and hopefully entices them into your world. You hope then they spread the word of how good they think your book is and everything will change. Sadly it does cost you money out of your own pocket. You tell yourself that it will all be worth when the big time comes. Your faith is unshakeable in your work. You’re just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up and make you a global success. Writing books is very much a solitary journey. Regardless of the huge personal satisfaction of holding your book for the first time, in the back of your mind, you are wishing for that publisher to suddenly rap your door and take you on the next level of that journey.
I understand recession. I understand the impact of covid on people’s finances. I understand that the day of large advances from publishers are gone and that’s fine. All I really want is to find that one person who can see the potential of my work, have a leap of faith and take over all the other stuff self publishing authors have to do in order to get their work and name out there. I just want enough to pay off the mortgage and allow me to write full time.
Everything else after that would be a bonus.
I have been a guest author at Dublin Comic Con and at a convention in W5 in Belfast. People know my stuff. I have written for anthologies and am a regular contributor to Phantasmagoria magazine. I used to write my own magazine which was sold at Talisman comic shop in Belfast. I now have ten books across two franchises; the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues. You’d think I should be rolling it in but no. I cannot for the life of me find an agent or publisher that wants to take my stuff on so like so many other self publishing authors. I am just another name in the swirl of Amazon trying to find that break. I have never told anyone my stuff is amazing; I have let it speak for itself. One of my closest friends is my gauge; if I could get him to like my books then I knew there was a larger untapped appeal still to come. Thankfully he did and still does. He isn’t afraid to criticise them and point stuff out and that’s exactly what i wanted. If I could hook him with my writing then I could hook sci fi fans in general.
Again you’re waiting for that publisher/agent to catch that spark too and with every rejection it becomes more and more frustrating. In a world of remakes and reboots you end up shouting at the powers that be that you have the next big thing or at least a premise that might take off. All you want is that acknowledgment to give it a go. In all honesty I don’t know what trick I’m missing to get a publisher or agent. Admittedly I get jealous at someone who self publishes their book and suddenly get a publisher. I have to wonder what I did wrong. I’m on every social media platform but to no avail.I don’t want to come across bitter or negative. I also applaud that because it’s a new voice in the reboot/remake market with new material with new characters and worlds. I still have faith I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with them one day.
But there is a section of the publishing industry that really, really pisses me off. They almost feel like they are trading on self publisher’s own desperation at getting their books out there. I have encountered three to date and never forgot my first one.
Now to be fair and upfront this recent publisher does have it on their website that they offer both individual and hybrid contracts. However this does not take away from the fact that the contracts are hybrids. I have not seen one person who has gotten an individual contract. A hybrid contract sees you paying the publisher an amount of money and to use my own experience, I was offered to pay it off over ten months to cover costs. Now while from a business point of view, it makes sense for a publisher not to invest all their money in a book like the old days with big advances, you just need to check the internet for those who have taken this path and not had a good experience.
My rule is simple; if I sit until all hours of the morning writing these books then the money should be coming my way. No author should be paying someone else to publish their books.
What really grates with me is this part of the email offering you a contract is in fact the second email you sent about a week or two after you receive the initial one.
‘We agree your work is well-written with a consistent and absorbing narrative, we believe that your work deserves a chance to reach the wider market.’
Your heart skips a beat reading those words as that vision of giving up work and becoming a full time author seems tantalisingly nearer. A team has read your work and a team has decided it’s good enough to take a chance and propel it to a wider audience cementing your faith in your own work at long last. Then the other shoe drops and you realise you still have to go to work on Monday morning.
As I’m sure you know – as it is explained on our website – we receive hundreds of submissions each month, many of which are rejected. When we accept a work, we can offer either a traditional publishing contract or a hybrid publishing contract. In this instance we would be able to publish your work under the ******** banner and wish to make a hybrid publishing offer for ‘The Time Warriors First Footsteps’. Please consider this offer carefully. This type of contract would incur a one-off fee for the publication of your work. Any future costs, to cover marketing over the lifetime of the book, will be covered by *******. We understand this decision cannot be taken lightly and you will need to see the contract before you can make a decision. The contract, along with the one-off fee and royalties, will be finalised once we have a request to view it. At this stage we are seeking only an agreement in principle to view the contract. Please note, there is no obligation with the contract and both parties are still free to withdraw at any point, until contracts have been signed. Please note the finite figure can be paid in monthly instalments over 10 months.
That’s that dream fucked once again then. My first reaction to the three that I have been offered is that if my work is so good and deserves a wider audience then why do I need to pay any money at all? What do I get for that? You haven’t asked do I have that money? I’m quite happy to not take any advance and just let you publish them. The books are there; a couple of the covers might need another look but I have the website and all the other social media platforms which I fund. So why then if that is all there why do I need to pay anything? Why is this not mentioned in the first carrot on a stick email where I get told my work has impressed the publishing team enough to be seriously considered for publication and is sent to the main editorial team for a final decision? This is simply an enticement for authors who have been the same journey as me and are ready to take any lifeline to see their book as a hardback and have book signings in well known bookstores. Problem is some of those bookstores are no longer with us due to Covid and the impact on the economy. Am I the only one with alarm bells here? I have alarm bells now but the first time I got an offer like this I was so close to committing to it. It played on my dislike for my rat race job; fuelled images of living like JK Rowling, rolling in cash and leaving life of writing in cafes behind for memorabilia filled studies where your new desk was the portal for even more stories. What stopped me was the fact I couldn’t afford to pay them eight grand, installments or not. I had a mortgage, a young family and bills like everyone else and to take on a monthly bill like that simply isn’t viable. Let me tell you though I was so close so I completely understand why someone would go for it if they were in the position. Sad thing is, many who take it are not in that financial position but do it because they are certain this is it. This is the turning point where the public will lap up the book in the volumes of Harry Potter and the money will flood in and take away the financial strain. They believe it’s short term financial strain which sadly becomes a noose around their neck. As much as I wanted to do it I would never recommend anyone go down this route ever. Find like minded people and join groups. Learn of the dos and don’ts and find tips for getting there without being screwed over. Check the internet for sites like Predators and Editors and here at Writers Beware https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/about/ but talk to people in your position. It made huge difference to me even after ten years of serious trying to make it. I’m not there yet but when I do, if I do, then it won’t be with a financial bill hanging over me for little or no reward.
I personally know a fellow author who took the contract and paid the money and was quite happy with it. However I know no one else who was happy. I had a feeling that this might be the case but hope of a publishing contract kept me in there. I googled this particular publisher and they stated quite clearly they were not a vanity publisher. Alas, they are and so here I go again on that search for someone to legitimately take my work on. Thankfully there are many other authors out there talking about these types of publishers and sharing their own poor experiences to help others ready to commit.
The older I get the more I think should I take a contract like this but the answer is no way in hell. My work stands on its own two feet. I will keep going on this self publishing path and maybe it goes global or it won’t. If I fail to hit my goal it sure as hell won’t be for the lack of trying. Stay away from these types of contracts because I know what it feels like to be desperate for that contract because it will in your head bring the life of luxury you think an author lives.
My advice would be to network and talk to other authors about their paths. For me it has been the British Irish Writing Community https://www.bardoftheisles.com/issue6-dec2020, Get Writing Horror, https://www.facebook.com/groups/102493563434400 and the Phantasmagoria and Gruesome Grotesques Anthology Book series https://www.facebook.com/groups/1901493226755531/?multi_permalinks=3068961276675381%2C3068904336681075%2C3065982300306612¬if_id=1620760331024703¬if_t=group_activity&ref=notifteam, where not only is there a real sense of authors supporting each other but a real sense of community and good advice. There are others so what a great pool of talent to assist you. While the job of writing a book is a lonely one, the support network out there is not. While it took me a while to find them despite my best efforts, it may be the trick I’m missing and the answer to finding that elusive publisher willing to take a chance.