Feedback (Part 3 of 3)

In a way, Aethon Books’ beautiful rejection of my novel stole the thunder of Montag Press’s acceptance, a mere week or so later. Already feeling “seen,” after so many years of rejection and omission, I received Montag’s acceptance and thought, “All right, but I need to research this place to make sure it’s not a scam.”

[And here is where I would have told you all about a story I once read in the Washington Post‘s Book World supplement, years and years ago, about a would-be author getting scammed by a bogus publisher and how it has placed me on guard against such a thing happening to me and my work. I actually had it all written out, but then WordPress conked out just as I was applying some finishing touches, and since I hadn’t saved the draft it all disappeared. Now the idea of retelling the whole stupid story strikes me as a terrific bore, so never mind, let’s move on. Just know that Montag Press isn’t a scam, though I plan on remaining watchful up to the moment I am holding a bound copy of We Take Care of Our Own in my hands.]

A few days later, I signed a contract with Montag, happily accepting their advance offer. This all took place in early October of 2019, and we have yet to delve into the editing process, though I am told we’re getting close…

As for the advance money, well. A couple of months ago, I joked to my wife that I like to think of the advance as being in the five figures if one counts the figures that come after the decimal point, but she said I should refrain from telling this joke outside my immediate family because it makes me sound like a loser. Fair enough. That said, to a long-struggling writer who never got into it for the money, an advance is an advance, and if a company is willing to give you one plus take on all the expenses involved in publishing your work, you better take it, dummy. All those years of banging my head against the wall taught me one thing: this is as good as it’s going to get.

And it’s been great, so far. Montag may be dragging its feet a bit for my taste, but everyone there with whom I’ve interacted—all both of them—strike me as kind, down-to-Earth human beings who are doing their level best to put stories that they like out into the world. That’s a goal that is well-aligned with mine. And they just included me in their Authors page, which is nice.

Addendum: Last month, I received an odd email from a Portland, Ore.-based independent publishers called Unsolicited Press, saying that a portion of submissions they had received in 2019 were lost, and so they were requesting that these submissions be resent.

Normally I would have merely snickered and deleted the email, but here’s how desperate my personal campaign to get We Take Care of Our Own published had become by mid-2019: I paid these guys $25 to consider my work. It must have been part of a contest or something, or else the deal came with a promise to share personal feedback. In any event, instead of deleting the email I complied with their request and forwarded my initial submission, figuring it couldn’t hurt to receive some honest feedback on the book before starting the editing process with Montag, whenever that was supposed to be. A week later, I received Unsolicited’s feedback:


AUTHOR: Chris Clancy
GENRE: Fiction

Points of Praise
• Largely the manuscript is free from major spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. But there are errors that need to be addressed, though minor.
• Character: The character development is well done. Linda, the main character struggle to do her job while also honoring her morals. It’s a classic story of moral dilemma and the struggle to overcome what feels wrong. Not only that, but I like the character in her everyday life – she is normal…she feels real and that is very important.
• The veteran transcripts are riveting and they read as legitimate – this may be a spot to cut words though.
• Style: The style the writer employs is unique. It’s a prose novel interspersed with transcripts and other modes of communication. It works because it breaks up the traditional novel and adds a depth readers would enjoy.
• Dialogue is purposeful and used to advance the plot. The author understands that dialogue moves the story along and doesn’t talk for the sake of talking. It’s strong.
• Theme: Big Government, Surveillance, Censorship, Government Fallout – the themes are well established and the author succeeds in threading them throughout the novel.

Points of Criticism
• Length is its biggest flaw. It needs to lose about 25-30K words.
Decision: Accept with the contingency that author agrees to cut the manuscript down.

Pretty good, right? Six points of praise versus one point of criticism, and that criticism has to do with the novel’s length, a standard toward which I am skeptical, for reasons touched upon in “Feedback (Part 2 of 3)“—I’ll take it as further proof that small, independent publishers are where it’s at, particularly for us folks whose work is liable to go ignored by the crumbling mainstream. I feel lucky to have found them.