Jul. 2022 | Productivity

Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Novel

After several rejections and the comments from one snarky editor, it seemed my novel would never find its way to readers. Realizing my novel may have been “too different” for the industry opened my eyes to self-publishing.

It took me close to seven years to get my novel from a few random ideas in a Moleskine notebook to a finished manuscript. There were many obstacles along the way but, when I started the query process, I found my biggest hurdle.

I completed the first iteration of my novel back in 2019. By then I had pitched it to agents at several writing conferences and had nothing but great feedback. Thanks to workshops and several online resources, I had my query letter and synopsis ready, so after I typed “the end”, I began sending my novel to the interested agents.

Then the rejections came, seemingly all at the same time. Writers are all aware of the rejection process (everyone touts J. K. Rowling’s infamous rejection of the first Harry Potter book), and are proud to receive them. We all know that “it only takes one yes in the sea of no”, but nothing prepared me for the deluge of “no” which came my way. Even worse, these were agents I spoke to, had connected with, and watched as their eyes lit up when I told them about my novel. It hit me hard, so I did the most logical thing I could think of… I hired an editor.

Writers are all aware of the rejection process, and are proud to receive them. We all know that “it only takes one yes in the sea of no”. Share on X

Hiring an editor was easy thanks to a popular website that provides freelancer services to writers (I don’t get paid to use their name, but I’m sure you know it). Given my novel is a genre blend of LGBT and Mystery, I was selective in the person I picked to edit. The person I wanted had to have an understating of both genres. I also wanted to get back to querying as soon as possible, so I needed someone who had a reasonable turnaround time. My selectiveness may have been where I went wrong.

While I received positive comments such as, “You’ll be pleased to hear that I think this book shows real potential, and you’re not far off from getting it where it needs to be.” and “Your writing style is engaging, emotionally honest and never less than compelling, and even on a second read I found new things to respond to.” He ended our video chat (the last phase of the service) by telling me my novel may not be what helps me enter the publishing world.

“You’ll be pleased to hear that I think this book shows real potential, and you’re not far off from getting it where it needs to be.”

-Seemingly useful editor

Now, everyone is entitled to their opinions, I understand that. However, I hired this man to help me make the necessary changes to get it published. It was yet another blow, and I ended the video chat feeling defeated, like I wasted my time writing my novel. So, I put the novel in my file cabinet and gave it a rest.
A few weeks later I went back to it, this time with the idea to read my words as thought I didn’t write the novel. I wanted to see for myself where I went wrong, from the reader’s perspective. I found a library I enjoyed (it was January, so I went to my old college library) and I read from prologue to epilogue. I didn’t take notes; I didn’t highlight. The exercise revealed many flaws in my novel, none that would make it unpublishable, but it had flaws.

As a result of my reading, I decided to “blow up the book”. For the next few weeks I rewrote my entire novel. I gave it a new beginning chapter, removed a character, made another one more prominent and added a few new plot lines. In addition, I worked backward, making sure I neatly wrapped the ending up and didn’t leave the reader with questions at the end. It was as perfect as I could get it, so I went back to querying.

Despite my hard work, the rejections continued. Not only that, I entered the novel into several twitter pitches and had been rejected there too. Something was wrong with this novel, and it wasn’t the writing or the story.

However, by then it was 2020, and the world was in chaos and so was my life. The pandemic brought out some flaws in my personal life and by the year’s end, I was searching for a new place to live. My life was too stressful to handle the rejections from people I didn’t know and people I did. So I shelved the novel and my writing dreams.

The Problem Reveals Itself

The dust finally settled in 2022. I successfully moved to a new location and gained a spacious new home office (which I did not have previously). Even in this new life, writing seemed like a waste of my time, but I was still curious why my novel didn’t resonate with agents. After some research, I realized the problem may have been in front of me the entire time… my novel was too different.

An LGBT themed mystery novel isn’t what you typically see on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. Sure, LGBT novels exist and Mystery novels are extremely popular, but a blend of both wasn’t typical. After all, we live in a divided country, any agent who tries to sell that novel would have to understand it won’t appeal to the masses… but, does any novel? And who says that novel can’t find a place in the publishing world?

It took a lot of time to come to terms with it, but I realized no publishing house will ever represent my novel. It was too out there for traditional publishing. All this time I thought it was my writing, my hard work crafting a mystery. I beat myself up, told myself I wasn’t good enough to write, but the reality was, the industry wasn’t ready for it.

Rather than be upset, I felt empowered. Since it appeared my novel will never get past the iron gates of the publishing houses, I decided to publish it myself. Thus, the decision to self-publish was made and I’ve been quietly working behind the scenes to make sure my genre blending novel gets the proper welcome it deserves every day since.

My novel will find its place in the world.


Lucas Horn

Lucas Horn is a creative designer who is attracted to men and True Crime, a trifecta which profoundly influenced his debut novel, The Midnight Blaze. When he isn't designing or writing, Lucas likes to travel and search for unique writing locations.

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