133. The Long Road to Cyan (1)

Keir and his friends travelled eleven light years to get to Cyan. I sometimes feel as if my journey has been longer. I first wrote down the names of the ten explorers, carefully chosen to represent ten different countries, in 1978. That was about the time my first novel, Jandrax, was accepted by Del Rey.

Cyan will be released in e-book form from Edge, probably in the next month or two. As of today (Mar 30) I don’t know the exact date.

A lot has changed between the two releases. Since many of you are here primarily to find out how to get your own novels published, I’ll give you a rundown on the old and the new of it.

Publication in the age of Jandrax (1979)
(You can skip this until part 2, tomorrow,
or you can stick around and laugh at the bad old days.)

When I sent Jandrax around, most publishers accepted queries, then often asked for samples or full novels. You never sent the original. Once a typed and corrected manuscript was complete, it was precious. A coffee spill could destroy weeks of work and you couldn’t just push print to get another one. You sent a photocopy, and you included postage for its return. After a few publishers had seen your novel, the ms. copy started looking pretty ratty.

All this was expensive for a would-be writer, since photocopying cost a dime per page, coin fed, one page at a time, at the local library. There were hard learned tricks to this process, as well. Without computers, there was no headers function. Typing your name, address, phone number,  book title, page count, and page number on each page was out of the question. I typed all this once (with the word page, but no number), trimmed the copy close, and taped it face down on the platen of the xerox machine when no one was looking. After copying all the pages, I filled in each page number by hand.

I’m sure Heinlein had people for this.

In August of 1978, Del Rey bought Jandrax. It was published in April of 1979, which is a pretty quick turnaround. I didn’t have much to do with the process, and certainly had no say in decisions made. I didn’t see the cover until I got my 20 free copies in the mail. It’s a great cover, even though the “reviewer” at Locus mocked it instead of reading the book.  The back blurb was another story:

As a scout he’d tamed
four planets — and more women than
most men ever see . . .

Well, not really. I wasn’t too embarrassed though, because every reader knows that back blurbs are made up by sex crazed maniacs who haven’t read the book.

My only input between purchase and publication was to review the galley proofs. Galleys don’t exist anymore, but before computers, the typeset version of the book was run off in long sheets, about four inches wide and eighteen inches long, and sent back to the author for approval.

From the obsolete word file — stet. Not stat, that’s doctor talk for right away. Stet means “No, no, no. Put back that sentence you red-lined out. That was exactly what I meant to say, and I don’t want it changed!”

Truthfully, despite horror stories you might have heard, all the proofreaders I’ve encountered have been good at their job.

Jandrax came out and sold some copies, but never paid back its modest advance. That was normal for a first novel, back when first novels got any advance at all. There was an article in the local newspaper, I had a book signing at a local bookstore, and my wife bought me a T-shirt with Jandrax printed on it. That was the publicity campaign.

Things are different today, as I will explain tomorrow.

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