The Precariousness of Done

(An upcoming novel—a work of psychological fiction that stirs the head and the heart)

Stay tuned for publication details, but here’s a bit of history that may help you push through the self-doubt that continues to plague me:

Three of my critical readers didn’t finish reading my manuscript. One that did had several “running quarrels” with me throughout, including “over written descriptive passages” and my shifting gears into “what seems to become a travel guide, thus confusing the point of view and the unity of the text, not to mention endangering the dramatic tension.”

I listened to their criticism, reworked the manuscript as I saw fit, and sent out my initial round of email queries in September 2015.

I heard nothing.

So I retooled my query letter, approach, and manuscript and tried again in May 2016.

Here’s the redacted response I received in December:

“Mr. Houck:

Thanks for your kind patience while we reviewed your submission. We’ve had a flood of submissions over the past year plus, and have been giving each one a fair reading.

I’m excited to let you know that we’re interested in publishing your book under [name omitted] Books’ cooperative program. Congratulations! We receive upwards of 500-600 submissions annually, but at this time choose to publish only 25-30 books a year.

Given the commitments we’ve made to other titles through 2019, however, we are able to invest only a portion of the cost to publish, and you (or another sponsor) are asked to invest the remainder. Depending on the final specifications for your book, including format (hardcover or paperback), final page count, book trim size, quantity of copies printed, and other details, total cost will likely fall in the [amount omitted] range. We are interested in investing [percentage omitted] of this cost. Packaging and publishing includes editing/copyediting/proofreading, interior and cover design, proofing, printing, our marketing and promotion package, distribution to the book trade, including Amazon,, and project management. Ebook production is an option as well.

You would receive a small quantity of copies as part of the agreement, and will be able to purchase additional copies at an attractive discount off the retail cover price and sell them in the marketplace. We earn no portion of the revenue you generate from sales of your own copies to your own personal market. Once [name omitted] returns an agreed upon share of its investment, we pay a standard royalty on copies we sell through our distribution network on the wider market. With royalty and the sale of their own copies, active authors can often return their investment and earn profit over time.

Your share of the investment will be divided into 4 installments over the production period, which is generally 6 to 12 months, depending on a variety of factors.

If, based on these preliminary details, you’re interested in moving to the next step, I’ll be happy to prepare our proposal, which will answer most of your questions. Under this program, we charge a [amount omitted] fee for the proposal, as it involves planning by our editorial, design and promotional staff, but this fee is credited back to you if you move forward with the project. Our proposal is quite extensive and is our attempt to answer most, if not all, of your questions in advance. If you’re interested in moving to the next stage, I’ll send you more details about the proposal, along with the proposal consult agreement, so you can make an informed decision.

I will appreciate your acknowledgment of this email as soon as you receive it, as we have multiple projects under this program which are pending. Thank you.

I look forward to your response and potentially bringing your book to readers everywhere!

Thanks again for your patience.

Kind regards,

[name omitted]”