Wednesday Writers: Saul Garnell

Often, in all the noise and furor that comes with the debate about which publishing model is superior to all the others, we lose sight of the fact that we are incredibly fortunate to live in a time of vast opportunity where there is more than one path to publication, and that people are finding success in both traditional and non traditional avenues. In today’s guest post, Saul Garnell (a stand up guy I had the pleasure of meeting at Conflux and have stayed in touch with ever since) talks about his road to publication and why he chose to take this path.

My Journey with Independent Publishing

I write with Hotspur Publishing, a small independent publisher finding its way in the ever-changing marketplace. And though I’m quite satisfied with how things have worked out, I have to admit that being part of the independent-publishing phenomenon wasn’t my original goal: it just sort of worked out that way.

You see, back when I first had the notion to write a novel, I had made up my mind to write a book acceptable by traditional publishing standards. To that end, I knew I had the basic skill. But I never felt that writing science fiction should be a hermetic activity, and I realized early on that I needed a partner to help guide me. So after searching for about a year, I found David Bischoff. At that time, Dave was one of the few freelance editors with an extensive background in science fiction and fantasy. However, back in early 2009, the market had not yet gone through any of the upheavals we’ve recently seen, and few editors with Dave’s background were available on a freelance basis. I was lucky to find him and thankful that he took me under his wing. Together, we began to work on my first book, Freedom Club, which ended up getting completed around mid 2011.

Then the big day came: what to do with my finished manuscript. Submit to traditional publishers and agents? It was a real problem because, at that particular time, the market no longer looked anything like it did in early 2009. Things had been turned upside down. Self-publishing was all the rage, and some traditional publishers were either closing their doors or reorganizing. Very important was that (most if not all) large publishers relied more heavily on known writers to guarantee their bottom line. So yes, I could submit my book to traditional publishers and agents, but it seemed increasingly apparent that new writers like myself faced an uphill battle getting any kind of recognition.

That’s when something interesting occurred.

You see, David Bischoff had come up with the idea to start his own publishing house, not only to republish older works now out of print, but also to publish backlog and the works of new authors. He named the organization Hotspur Publishing, and asked me if I would be interested in being one of his new authors. In some sense, it was a natural evolution. Dave and I had already forged a strong editor/writer relationship, and at this point I should probably say that I jumped at the opportunity he offered, but in fact I mulled about it for a few days. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I wasn’t excited about what Dave had presented me. After all, opportunities like this don’t appear every day. The problem was that I had to reevaluate the market and decide if my first novel still had a chance with the traditional route. To make a long story short, even though I felt strongly that my book met the requirements of New York publishers, the chances of getting picked up as an unproven author were not favorable in 2011. At that  time, the market was simply too unstable for either a publisher or reputable agent to go with someone like myself. I am of course a businessman by trade, so this logic wasn’t alien to me. All successful businesses would lean towards less risky ventures during times of market upheaval. And here we were, in the middle of The Great Recession. All my instincts told me that if I wanted to go the trad route, I’d be putting off getting published for some time, or just waiting around and never getting published in the end.

But I had a choice laid before me. Namely, to join Dave and help him establish Hotspur Publishing at a time when the market was open to new ventures. To our advantage, barriers to entry were at an all-time low. The e-book channel was growing at a fast pace, and Print On Demand had become a low-cost option if paper copies were required. On top of all that, Dave  brought into the picture Chris Lampton and Amy Gilbert from Illuminated Pages. Chris and Amy together have many decades of publishing experience and support Hotspur with both line editing and graphic design. As a team, we’ve worked out a low-cost method of quickly producing books of high quality. So even though we had some white space in our business model, there was no significant money at stake. Under those conditions, there seemed no reason to resist, and every reason to give it a try.

That brings us to today. It’s been just under one year, and irrespective of commercial issues, we’re having a lot of fun at Hotspur. Not only did we get my book published, I began working with Dave on other projects, namely the reboot of Star Hounds, a series of three books published by Ace Books back in the early 1980s. For those of you unfamiliar with Star Hounds, it’s classic space opera, with a kick-ass cyborg heroine who loves adventure, space pirates and, well…kicking butt. Dave not only let me rework the original manuscripts, but he agreed to co-author a new 4th book, one that we e-published earlier this year.

The great thing about projects like Star Hounds is the reboot process itself. I was surprised how fun it was, and how much it taught me about the art of writing and packaging a book. It’s more than just scanning a book and converting printed text into digital format. I found it fascinating to document and reshape the original Star Hounds universe that Dave had created decades ago. Once the rebooted novels were complete, we soon jumped into writing the new story. Honestly, it was amazing to learn about the art of collaboration. Every team has its own methodology, I suppose. For us, it was a back-and-forth process. Dave wrote some chapters, then I picked up the story and wrote a few more. Dave edited my text and vice versa. Slowly but surely we forged a new storyline from which a grand new vision emerged.

If you ask me what I’ll be doing with Hotspur next year, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you that a huge benefit of indie publishing is the control one has. We have no lack of projects and no burden upon us to write books beholden to the needs of an antiquated business model. Dave and I craft our books under the philosophical belief that genre fiction has literary merit, while also being able to entertain a wide range of readers. This idea has been at the heart of genre fiction ever since its inception. It thrived decades ago, and I do believe indie publishing will spearhead genre publishing’s revival against the homogenizing effect of mass marketing and profit taking.

So let me sum things up as best I can. I’m satisfied with how things have progressed and I’m quite certain Hotspur Publishing will continue to thrive over time. As more authors join us and we publish a greater body of work, we’ll continue to explore what’s possible in all types of fiction (and some nonfiction too). At some point, Hotspur will take off into a new dimension. When will that happen? I don’t know, but at the same time I’m not so concerned. That’s because of the sheer enjoyment I get from writing under an indie imprint. I work under the guiding hand of professionals and produce quality science fiction with the greatest degree of freedom an author can expect. From where I stand, it’s what writing is supposed to be about, and more than enough compensation in the near term.

Saul Garnell – I was raised in New York State, and now living in Arizona. I work during the day for a company called SAP and having lived in Australia, Japan, India, and Germany, I bring an international perspective to my writing, along with an unusual point of view driven by many years of experience in the banking and software industries. Freedom Club is my first novel, a speculative fiction in the near future. However, I have delved into other genres by writing some horror, and Military SF pieces. I only write part time, but enjoy writing Science Fiction as a hobby and look forward to publishing more with Hotspur Publishing in the near future.

For more information on Saul and his books, please see the following links:

Hotspur Publishing’s Website:
The Freedom Club Blog:
The Voodoo Robot Chili Blog:
Twitter: @sgarnell

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