Once upon a time nearly five years ago, a rather lonely and severely dissociated middle-aged woman wrote a short story inspired by a photo (never mind the photo) that somehow turned into a Faustian tale of a woman who did NOT sell her soul to the Devil in exchange for a dream – to become a full-blown, professional writer. The story ended when she took the Devil’s bait, and that, thought this writer, would be the end of it.
Until a reader (one of her four regular readers on her defunct blog, Moltenmetalmama, asked that fatal, terrible question:
So what happened next?
What happened next? That reader – one of the three to whom the book is dedicated – egged her, which is to say, me, on to write out the entire story of … what happened next, and so, the book that eventually became Quantum Demonology was born.
And before I knew it, all sorts of things happened in quick succession. I became a perfume blogger and then a perfume writer, gained a following for my words, and even created a perfume project with indie perfumer Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids around the book’s torrid story of good, evil, the Devil and a writer.
Along the way, the potholed, first-draft version of the book was revised, edited and revised again. I knew I had something, knew it meant something, knew, as all artists do (if they’re lucky) This Could Be A Thing.
But the problem with pathological self doubt and having to do everything on your own is precisely… that you have to do everything on your own. It just so happens that one of my own creative quirks is the need to be kicked. In other words, I need a swift, hard kick to my derriere before I swallow all self-doubt and insecurity and get stuff out there.
I had a story. A good one, so I thought at the time. I needed
fame and glory and a gazillion dollars a publisher, and for that, I needed an agent, and to get an agent, I needed to write that most dreaded item in the history of literature: The Query Letter.
<Insert pathological self doubt panic attack>
Then, a miracle happened. I just know it did. I was contacted by a long-time virtual friend and fellow blogger and asked:
How would you like to publish Quantum Demonology?
What? No query letter? No agent? With a friend? Are you KIDDING?
So almost a year ago, I signed a fairly standard publishing contract and signed into an insane deadline. Apart from my photo session, I have absolutely no recall of the month of November last year. I was too busy revising and polishing off my story to a high and glossy sheen, which was to say… for the first chunk of ten chapters, I spent two days in bed with the covers over my head moaning spicy alternate phrases for “I suck! I can’t!”
Yet we could, and we didn’t.
Quantum Demonology was published as an e-book for Amazon Kindle on December 6th, and in a beautiful hardcover edition on Amazon on December 17th.
My publisher and I had all sorts of ideas on how to market it, where to market it and who to send it to. So far as I know, being half a world away, it was sent to quite a few people for review.
Quite a few lovely people on Facebook, who knew me as a perfume writer, bought or downloaded it, read it and a few (five) reviewed it on Amazon. I can’t tell you whether it was out of a sense of friendship (since I couldn’t afford to bribe anyone) or obligation that made them give it a five-star rating, but it could also possibly be they thought the book was just that good…
Then, on February 12th this year, I received my first ever Kirkus review. And wow, was I ever surprised that it was a good one! The reviewer didn’t hate it!
I think I floated for about two whole days. Well, apart from the fact that the protagonist of QD did NOT sell her soul, but as my sister, a published writer herself said when I brought it up, we have absolutely no control over how our stories are received.
But even with all those free review copies she sent out, no one wanted to so much as talk to me. No interview requests, nothing.
Over the course of this past spring, the ambience between my publisher and myself became increasingly… strange. I was told of things that supposedly happened. I began to cook up alternate marketing ideas and wrote them down. I even guerilla-bombed a favorite band of mine and handed out book postcards after a gig, because it was all the drummer’s fault anyway.
He did say he was flattered…
In May, I sent off an email to my publisher to ask for a Skype session at the worst possible time, I gather. Because basically, she told me in excruciatingly polite language (the kind that slaps you across the face with a metaphorical glove), to eff the hell off.
Meanwhile, I also received the only money I’ve ever made from writing: a royalty check for $92 and change. (I blew it on a fountain pen I’ve wanted for years, so I could sign my own books in style) The book sold 22 copies in hardcover.
That was three months ago. My emails go unanswered. My Twitter DM was ignored. All I currently know is this: she’s preparing to publish book number two. Book no. one – which would be mine – is evidently not a priority any longer. I say ‘evidently’, because I have nothing at all to go on.
Having said that, a very, very dear friend gave the book a rave review – on one of the planet’s biggest perfume blogs.
This story – and the sequel underway in bits and pieces as I type – is my baby. I don’t have a gazillion projects to juggle bookwise because I don’t have the time, meaning the money. No one I know would ever demand a synopsis for screenplay development, because I don’t know anyone who does that.
My contract explicitly states that my publisher has the rights only to the edition published by her. In other words, a different cover and a few small changes would mean a new edition, which would mean… I could do this myself. So long as I also buy two new ISBNs, a bar code and a registration fee with the print-on-demand printers, and at this time, I can’t afford that.
Alas, I don’t own the rights to the beautiful cover designed by Rosy England Fisher, my publisher does. Which really kills me, since Rosy encapsulated everything I ever hoped that cover could be and a few more things I never dared to ask for.
There is surely a special section of Hell reserved for those unhappy souls who pounce on their email hoping against hope that some day, an answer will come. Or simply any kind of response at all.
For the longest time, I debated with myself on whether to go public with this. My publisher spent a lot of time and money to get Quantum Demonology out as a book, and for that alone, I can never repay her, nor for her enthusiasm as we battled Heaven and Hell last autumn.
But three months of silence is more than long enough.
At this time, I don’t know what the future of Quantum Demonology will be, or even if it has a future. I’m so poor, not even Lulu is an option to self-publish.
But here’s what I can do.
Tell you this:
Don’t buy this book.