(In this new monthly series for Dead Darlings, I’ll document the step-by-step process of publishing A Boy Like Me. Here in part one, I discuss why I chose to go with an independent publisher for this novel.)
As 2013 drew to close, I had to face the fact that, despite the efforts of an extremely supportive agent, a year had passed without a publishing date for A Boy Like Me. Even worse, the realization hit that if a traditional publisher picked it up in early 2014, it would probably be 2015 or 2016 before it saw the light of day. That was unacceptable.
In 2013, while my agent submitted A Boy Like Me to major publishers, artist Jeff McComsey and I finished the graphic novel Flutter, Volume One: Hell Can Wait and submitted it to indie publisher 215 Ink. A month later, just a month after we’d finished it, the book was published.
There is nothing more terrifying and exciting than putting your work out into the world. It’s also the greatest learning experience for a writer. No amount of workshopping and feedback from well-meaning friends, fellow writers, and teachers compares to the experience of having unbiased readers reacting to your work. Having that unbiased reader feedback about Flutter volume 1 while writing volume 2 became invaluable.
That experience has also taught me something else. The extremely slow process of traditional publishing is an injustice to writers because it stunts the growth and creative process. Writers write for an audience, to communicate a story to that audience. Anything that gets in the way or delays that relationship, that feedback, that line of communication, does a disservice to the writer.
This was the reason I decided to publish A Boy Like Me with 215 Ink even though my agent still believed that we would find a traditional publishing home for it. The publishers we’d heard back from had only positive things to say about the novel, with reasons for passing on it such as they had something similar, meaning anything LGBTQ. We were waiting to hear back from other major publishers when 215 Ink expressed an interest in publishing A Boy Like Me.
Was it difficult to give up the possibility of an advance, a traditional publishing deal? Absolutely not. If I’d gone traditional, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t have been able to pick my own artist for the cover. How could I not pick an artist to work with, knowing so many amazingly talented ones? By going with 215 Ink, I also got to pick the novel’s release date, work with two kick-ass editors, keep my chosen title, and receive a much larger percentage of the sales. When I approached 215 Ink about donating a percentage of my launch party book sales to BAGLY: The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, 215 Ink President Andrew DelQuadro responded by saying they would match my donation. Any one of these reasons made it an easy decision to publish A Boy Like Me with 215 Ink.
With so much ongoing debate over traditional vs. self-publishing out there, it’s easy to overlook indie presses. Don’t. 215 Ink is one example of many independent publishers interested in publishing good stories and working with writers long term. When the time comes to send your novel out into the world, consider a happy indie ending.