Saturday, September 8, 2007

My First Copy Has Arrived!

My first copy of Stewards of the Flame arrived today (or rather, yesterday, since I'm writing this after midnight). It's surely exciting to see it at last.

It's always exciting for a writer to see a new book. But with this one it's particularly so because I created it personally, including the typesetting and even the cover, on my own computer. It is being printed and distributed by BookSurge,'s print-on-demand division, but I didn't use their subsidy publishing services; I sent them finished PDF files and paid only a small setup fee. For the past few years I've been working as a freelance copyeditor and I also have desktop-publishing experience, so I was able to do all the production work myself.

Why would an established author publish her own book? Because publishers of adult fiction (unlike the publishers of my YA novels) demand that it be strictly categorized by genre, and Stewards of the Flame doesn’t fit genre requirements. As it’s set in the future on another planet, it’s considered science fiction, yet it appeals more to general audiences than to those with extensive science fiction background. This means it’s not suitable for the adult SF lines that depend on mass-market paperback sales, and since the closing of Meisha Merlin -- which published my Children of the Star and expressed interest in the new book -- there are no small presses accepting submissions of this kind of thing. At my age, I feel it’s unlikely that marketing criteria will change during my lifetime; thus the only way get the story into the hands of readers is to publish on my own.

This wouldn't be a wise move for a younger writer hoping to launch a career. But I am long past that stage, and anything I write from now on (beginning with the sequel I'm presently working on) will be equally unsuitable for the specialized SF genre market, just as my past novels have been. That was one reason I originally chose to write for the YA market -- I always knew I didn't want to slant my work toward readers who've read a lot of science fiction previously, thus excluding other readers from my audience. I have never liked the genre system. I wish that fiction didn't have to be labeled. I think fiction about the future should be as accessible to general readers as fiction about the past. Commercial, not literary, factors dictate its separation from the mainstream. For many years I had no ideas for new novels at all; when I finally got one, I decided that I wasn't going to let such factors stop me.


Sondy said...

I'm looking forward to following your blog, Sylvia. I added a link to my own blogroll at

Sondra Eklund

Paula Blais Gorgas said...

Sylvia, I'm looking forward to reading your new book, especially since the idea of a future society out of control is a subject I've dealt with in my own fiction ("Megan's Widow," a short story in my anthology, OTHER WORLDS). I, too, have pondered the possibility of a government that takes control of life out of its citizens' hands. It's a scary thought and unfortunately no longer far-fetched. I'm a long-time fan of your work, and I wish you every success with this book and any future writings.

Paula Blais Gorgas
[Books available at]

Jessica said...

Grr to genres! If the stencil doesn't fit it can't be marketable, can it? Hurray for us that you're enterprising enough to bring us the novel yourself!

I'm really enjoying this blog as well as the novel's official site. It's fascinating seeing the large amount of information you work through just to get enough background to write a novel.