How Cat Tales was written

Cat Tales was my first foray into self-publication. (I actually thought it was a clever title at the time.) I had not sold a novel since Eye in the Stone, in 1988. I had rejections of course. One time it took two different publishers two years each to reject what beecame Stroad’s Cross. Another time it took a publisher three years to reject an earlier version of The Black Ring, called Zhanaedegau at that time. (Another editor was courteous enough to reject Volume One after only three months.) I was in my sixties then, and I didn’t have time for this.

I did research on Ralan.com [http://ralan.com] and Duoptrope.com [https://duotrope.com], two marketing sites which I highly recommend. Their sites are updated once a month, and they have all the information a writer needs to find a publisher for their particular book or story. Most importantly, they have every editor’s name and address, and every publisher’s submission guidelines. While doing my research I found that some publishers would not let me even submit certain of my novels, as being too short, too long, or of mixed genres.

Well, all right. I could puff a short book up to length, I could butcher a long book down to length, as a well-known author once recommended I do. But I didn’t want to do that, they would no longer be my books, they would be someone else’s books. I could lie about the genre, but readers would discover that, and could possibly be disapointed when the book wasn’t what they expected.

Maybe, I thought, I should look into publishing myself. By this time, self-publishing was not always assumed to be vanity press. And then, Pride and Prejudice was self-published. Her father paid for it.

But the real fear I had was, what if a company accepted the first volume of The Black Ring, was disappointed in the sales, and decided to cancel? (I’d had that happen with other things.) I would be stuck. What publisher would want volume two through six, when volume one had failed elsewhere? The Black Ring is not a series. It is a novel, of about 2,800 pages and 837,000 words. If I ever wanted to see it published in its entirety, I would have to do it myself. But could I publish for myself?

I needed to try it out, just to see if it were possible. I wanted to use something that I didn’t plan to publish otherwise. I had a series of five speeches from my days in Toastmasters, written in 2004 and 2005, each about five minutes long. I could publish them as a collection on Kindle, which could cost time and effort but no money, and they would be available on Amazon almost at once. If I couldn’t actually do it (I could), and if the book didn’t sell (just a few copies), I would lose nothing, and would have gained experience.

I revised them slightly, turning speeches into essays (the styles are subtly different). Then I learned how to submit the manuscript to Kindle. I created a cover, did my best to format the text, and sent it off. And, of course, with no editor to reject it, it went live. I priced it at the minimum allowed. I sold a few copies. Meanwhile, I was working on other books.

Then in 2010, having published several novels myself, I decided to do a paper version of Cat Tales. I made a few corrections, turned the essays into stories (the styles are different), created a new cover, and did a far better job of formatting. I decided to use my own imprint, instead of letting Createspace be the publisher of record, so my minimum price had to be higher than it would have been. I make a few cents profit from every sale, of which there aren’t many.

But that is fine with me. I could take Cat Tales to conventions, I could autograph the books instead of scratching on the screens of Kindles, and I could give them away. Which I do.

Cat Tales is, in a very special way, a complete success. Not because of sales, but because of what I learned. Because it proved that I could indeed publish my own work, at whatever length was right for the story, instead of making the story fit marketing demands. And I could have as complex a cross-genre book as I wanted.

And I could do it within my lifetime.