Saturday, January 22, 2011

Taking Opportunity By The Tusks - A Question For You

The science weebs have been abuzz this past week with news about a Japanese-Russian team-up to harvest DNA from a frozen mammoth, implant the genetic material into the e-nucleated egg of an Asian elephant, stimulate the egg to divide, implant the resulting cells into a surrogate elephant mom, and bring a baby mammoth to term within the next 4-5 years.

News sites are encouraging folk to answer polls about whether extinct animals should be brought back and, if they are, what to do with them once they're here.

This is GREAT news, not just for the science involved but because:

1) How cool that we'll be able to capitalize on folks' curiosity and excitement to market the EXTINCT anthology! I'm saving links now for using to support the underlying theme of the anthology: Extinct Doesn't Mean Forever. Yay!

2) How cool that I'm shopping a story now that is predicated on the cloning of Ice Age mammals -- with disastrous results for the human race. See the SECTOR C tab on this page above.

The problem, of course, is timing. There is now potentially a narrow window for putting out my near-future thriller before "near-future" becomes "near past."

I try not to talk about my writing too much here since I know how tedious someone talking about their unpubbed work can be. But I'm indulging a little today because of the dilemma. I have something extremely timely ready NOW. The soonest I could even hope to see it out were I able to sell it to a tradional publisher, though, would be at least a year on. That said, I'm still working on getting an agent. So far, I've had 7 requests for partials, 9 requests for fulls and 2 requests for revisions that take the story in directions I'm not prepared to take it just yet. The main complaint seems to be it's too plot-driven, although feedback otherwise has been pretty positive:
  • I very much admire your style of writing : you are brilliant at establishing character and at pacing
  • I loved the concept and the writing
  • You're writing is very strong and the story is compelling and unique - the near-future sf angle felt strong
  • You're a good writer and I like this very, very much
Currently, I have 3 fulls and a couple of partials out with agents, and I just sent out another round of queries where I mentioned the news stories from this past week. I'm wondering, though, if it would be wiser to start submitting to pubs that take unsolicited mss (most of them ask for exclusives).

Of course, things historically move slowly in publishing. My fear is that the recent news stories, while great for marketing efforts, will also spark other authors to write similar stories, and what small advantage I might have NOW will disappear in a few short months. So then I wonder if my best bet is to ride the wave and self-publish the novel now since I've gotten industry validation that at least the writing is strong and it wouldn't be an embarrassment out on Amazon. I'd like to be ahead of the curve, if possible.

Given the choices, what would YOU do?


fairyhedgehog said...

It's very tricky and I'm not sure what I'd do!

Congratulations on all the requests and positive feedback. At least you know your writing is good, which is a good start!

Matt said...

You're overreacting. Take a breathe and have confidence in your writing.

"My fear is that the recent news stories...will also spark other authors to write similar stories."

So are you saying that, beyond the premise, there is no value to your story? That if someone wrote a similarly themed story it would be better than yours? I know you didn't mean to imply that, but it looks like you fear it.

"...narrow window for putting out my near-future thriller before 'near-future' becomes near past."

Say they clone a mammoth in five years (there's no guarantee in exploratory science); we're at least twenty-five years away from extinct mammal game reserves.

"So then I wonder if my best bet is to ride the wave and self-publish the novel now..."

This is not a wave -- not until that mammoth is due -- so self publishing now would be no different than doing it two years ago. And self publishing a traditional novel is not a good idea, anyway.

One more thing: why would you put your novel out at the same time as Extinct? They'd be competing against each other!

vkw said...

Matt's right.

My only opinion on this is that I just heard about this mammoth baby here on your blog.

If other writers pick up on this, your ahead of the curve and I wouldn't worry about them. I would guess that there is a lot of wanna-be Harry Potters out there and Twilight but everyone wants and likes the original.

When the baby is born, (if this planned pregnancy works), we are going to have baby mammoth cam feeds on every national news program.

My opinion, market your books and hope in 4-5 years your books will be re-published and you'll get a second wave.

I don't even know if you have a strong marketing hook until the elephant gets pregnant. I could guess, (remember I am not an expert into the publisher world), that small presses may be interested in your book now based on this news story in hopes that they'll have rights to a hot story that will make it big in 4-5 years.

EE would be a better source to ask.


Michelle4Laughs said...

I wouldn't think about self publishing until you hear back from all the agents with fulls and partials.

Rein in your patience and hang tight. I know agents with fulls can take over three months to decide and get back to you, but self publishing seems like a last resort, not a first choice.

Judging by the number of requests, you're off to a great start. You just haven't found the 'one' yet. But I'll bet you beat all the rest of us to it.

Your blog has been a great help to me. Hang in there.

Bran Flakes said...

I would DEFINITELY wait, and I seem to be part of the majority opinion here. Conventional wisdom says self pub only if it's for a niche market or as a last resort.

Whether mammoth baby works or not, your story doesn't sound like niche. It sounds like damn good SF :).

And judging by the responses you're getting, you're nowhere near last resort :).

Plus (as has already been mentioned), there is no guarantee to the planned mammoth timeline, and whenever it's successful the news will have a field day with it for a loooong time. You're way ahead of that curve.

Stick to your guns Miss Phoenix!

Hope that helps a lil. You're a big help to all of us out here.

Phoenix said...

Cooler heads prevail!

You guys are awesome and I'm antsy (and apparently a little needy).

Heck, my BFF even called and told me to listen to everyone's advice she'd read here in the comments.

OK, deep breath and back to the waiting game.

(And Matt, no, I didn't mean I'd pub the book right now, but maybe in late May/early June. I definitely don't want to compete with the launch and early marketing of Extinct!)

I truly appreciate the time each of you took to talk me down off the ledge. Thank you!