Why have I been so quiet lately? Well, there’s two possibilities on that front. Either the publishing industry has gone back to normal, becoming too static and boring to write about. Or.. I’ve been spending every spare second writing this 215,000-word monster:

Not pictured: the 215,000 words inside

The Black Star is the third and final entry in the Cycle of Arawn, my epic fantasy series. Right now, the first book (The White Tree) is free, the second book (The Great Rift) is cut to $0.99, and The Black Star is $2.99, meaning you can buy ~1600 pages of fantasy for less than it would cost you to purchase $4.00 of alternate goods and services. You can get The Black Star at all reputable online bookstores:

Amazon  |  Amazon UK  |  B&N Nook  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

This is the first series I’ve ever finished, and it feels pretty good. Not just because these books are wayyy long and I was stressed for months about how long it would take me to finish this one. But also because, when I wrote the first book in the series, I couldn’t get an agent for it. So.. that was it. There never would be a series.

I wrote that book in 2007, spent the rest of the year revising it (and multiple times afterwards, too), and spent 2008 trying to find representation for it. In those bygone days of yore, there was no Kindle, no self-publishing as we know it today; self-publishing was still that thing you only did if you couldn’t sell anything to New York and you wanted to use your garage for storing 5000 copies of your book instead of one copy of your car. (Note: I’m being facetious. I think it’s safe to say that was the perception of self-publishers, but after spending the last two years glimpsing what they went through, I’ve got a lot of retroactive respect for the old schoolers.)

Anyway, point is, I always knew how the rest of the series would play out. But due to the realities of the industry, I was never going to get a chance to write it. Not unless—and this is how delusional I was—I became a big name with different books, then forced(?!) my publisher to publish this other, older series no one wanted in the first place.

Uh.. not going to happen, haha. Which stunk. Because I really liked The White Tree. It was the third book I’d written to that point, but it felt like the first one that might be any good.

Don’t get me wrong, it has flaws. Plenty. The structure of its suspense, for one, is less than perfect. In fact, if for some reason you’re possessed to read my books in the order they were written, you can see that structure evolve from The White Tree (third book written) to Titans (fourth) to Breakers (fifth). I think a similar evolution is evident in the sentences, too. For the record, I don’t think my recent books are unassailable works of genius, nor that The White Tree is garbage; I wouldn’t have it available unto the world if I didn’t believe in it. I do. And sometimes, the rawness of a book is part of its appeal.

But in hindsight, I can see why it attracted neither an agent nor a publisher. Even if it’s a fine book, it’s rough in many ways, and getting a foot in the door of traditional publishing is so competitive that you need a book to be as close to perfect as possible. I used to keep track of agent acceptance rates—see, I was a numbers guy even before going all self-pubby—and for all the manuscripts submitted to them in a given year, the typical agent would accept somewhere between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 10,000.

The numbers aren’t quite as dire as that sounds, because of course there is more than one literary agent out there. Even so, it seemed like (very roughly) 1 in 100 novels from unpublished authors wound up being represented and published.

Here is one of the major truths self-publishing has exposed: you don’t need to be in that 1% to connect with readers. A book doesn’t have to be PERFECT. It just has to be.. well, I don’t know. Very good? Good? Good enough? Competent? I have no idea where the Line of Acceptability is drawn. If you had 100 prospective novels in front of you, I don’t know whether the cutoff is generous (whether 33 or 50 or 67 of those 100 “makes it” as readable) or miserly (3 or 5 or 10). I do know that number is more than 1. Possibly by a lot.

Anyway, to return to my long-lost point, The White Tree wasn’t that 1 in 100, and that made me sad. Over the course of writing it, I really fell for the two main characters, Dante and Blays. And Dante’s discovery of magic, and his pursuit of it as a calling, was inspired by all the things I felt about writing. The sense of purpose it gave me. The dedication I’ve found for it. How fun it is. It may have been about swords and gods crazy shadow-weapons, but at its core, it was a very personal book to write.

Without self-publishing, it would have been lost forever.

The second and third books—which I feel much more confident about; to date, I think The Great Rift is my best book, for what that’s worth—would never have been written. The story would never have been told. Now, it’s finished.

Probably, the world would have found a way to exist without the complete Cycle of Arawn. For me, though? It’s a pretty big deal. Without question, the biggest advantage of self-publishing is the financial side; due to the ebook boom, thousands of writers new and old are now making a living off their fiction.

But it isn’t all about the money. The creative side of it is pretty dang rewarding, too. Thanks for reading.

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I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.
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