It's been two weeks since I finished writing the story, and I finally took some time to read it start-to-finish and proofread it as a complete work. I was very pleasantly surprised to discovered that it all flowed nicely, and that it had a very compelling story arc which is easy to follow. It also surprised me how well the thing works: it starts as a whimsical story, then turns into a scary adventure, and ultimately into an epic triumph of good over evil, with presents and parties and lots and lots of candy!
I did find some typos here and there and a few questionable word choices or turns of phrase, which I marked for editing, but they were very minor. Of course, this is one man's opinion, and you could say I am sort of biased and self-selected to have a positive experience. OK, you could say I don't qualify to judge my own writing, but what's wrong with liking your own story?
My dear wife (who's a saint for surviving through all my projects and still find the energy to encourage me to do another) took the time to read the story and she loved it. Yeah, she did. She tried very hard to avoid giving it much praise (something about "stroking my ego" and it "going to my head," and "never hearing the end of it"), but I could tell by the way she talked about it that she really was into it. Of course, the story is as much hers as it is mine, for she has been there since its inception, and even helped in resolving some plot-holes.
Anyway, my wife read the story, for which I am eternally grateful, and enjoyed it, for which I'm immensely proud. She did provide some useful feedback and caught yet another couple of embarrassing typos.
I also sent copies of the completed manuscript to two of my sisters who volunteered to proofread it, and to a dear friendly elf, who's helped me beta-test my games and has spent the past several months providing feedback on the progress of the story. I can't wait to hear what they say as well.
In related news, I prepared a manuscript edition of the story for submission to publishers. I followed general guidelines I found online, such as no fancy fonts or formatting, double-spaced paragraphs, basic 1" margins, etc. Considering that this is the typical format used to rank the size of a work, we finally can have a more objective way to gauge it. The final tally is:
- 15 chapters, plus epilogue
- 113 Pages
- 29,537 words
That's only story content and excludes any additional material, such as the cover and dedication pages and the introductory "dear readers" letter.
My research says that this falls under the "middle-grade" range, although considering the topic and theme, it's rather at the very bottom of that range. Still, larger than a "chapter book," which typically goes from 5,000 to 10,000 words. I think I found my niche.
I also did some research on publishers of children's books, and found that there are quite a few of them out there accepting unsolicited submissions. Some are even smaller imprints of gigantic publishing houses, such as Penguin, Boyds Mills, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, etc. Anyway, I compiled a list of the most likely candidates to accept my story and their submission requirements. I shall spend the balance of January, 2019 submitting my work to them.
Almost all of them say they don't respond unless interested in your work, and state that you can assume rejection if you haven't heard from them in about three months. Some of them say four and at least one says six, but it's typically three months. That means that after making my submissions, I will give them until summer and then I'll know for sure.
My hope, obviously, is that the story gets picked up by at least one of them. However, if by summer it becomes obvious that I've been rejected outright by all my prospects, then I shall endeavor to self-publish.
If it comes to that, rather than going the cheap "print on demand" route, I plan to print several hundred copies from a respectable book printer (I've worked with DiggyPod press before) and handle promotion, marketing, and distribution myself. Yes, it'll be a lot of work, but I'll have my wife by my side, who's eager and willing to jump into this enterprise with both feet. We both truly believe in this story and really want to see it read by others.
So that's it, that's the plan. One way or another, this book is getting out, even if I have to press the ink to paper myself -- and hopefully, it'll be out into the world in time for Christmas, which would be perfect.
I have no illusions of hitting it big as a writer, or making lots of money out of silly little book. What I do have is a deep and powerful conviction that this story will appeal to a general audience of children and their parents. And if that doesn't happen at a massive global scale, then at least it'll happen with a more local and focused approach.
I'll keep you posted of the progress.