When I wrote the first of the Dark Seas series I presented it to about thirty agents. I got a lot of help from them, quite a few responses. The first book became two, for example. A common response. “I love the writing, but your main character isn’t relatable, likable, etc.”
That confused me, because I wrote her as exactly the same military commander I’d expect her to be, man or woman. I felt, without any proof, that the reason she wasn’t likable was because she was a woman with a hard attitude. And these agents were, all but one, women, so that confused me even more. Weren’t we being told at the time, diversity, diversity, diversity?
I didn’t write for diversity. I wrote for my daughters, all of whom can be whatever they want. Screw “relatable”
My recent sales are telling me that these agents were wrong. My reviews are all but a few stellar, I’m shocked and grateful for some of the kind words I’ve received. All I can say about it is that I’m very glad I didn’t listen, and refused to change Sarah Dayson. She is a total badass, yet vulnerable and fallible. She makes mistakes, but she owns them. She takes it to the enemy. That is what a military commander does, male or female. I can entirely relate.
Was it sexism that held the series back? I don’t know. I’m a dude, so I suppose my opinion doesn’t mean shit anyway. But I’m certainly suspicious.
Thank goodness for self-publishing. I don’t have to share any of my 70% royalties with those agents. Even at $3.99, my books pay a higher royalty than most traditional authors make. And I am happier than ever for my decision, because sales are good.
Because of those rejections, the Dark Seas series has fans that I touched to bring them into the story. Heck, in the book just released, Beverly Coutts was written into the story. She bought my book at MalCon, and I’ll probably never forget her. I was very new as an author, and quite happy that someone was taking a chance on me. By the way, Beverly, you’re in Komi Syndicate too. Should I kill your character?
This is sort of rambling, probably, it IS almost 4am, but what I’m saying is this. If you don’t follow the formula, don’t be afraid to self-publish. When I refused to make my main character a man or more inside the social norms, it signed my death warrant for traditionally publishing the series.
And that was a gift horse.
I just didn’t know it until recently.
As an added bonus, cover reveal for Komi Syndicate, book 6 in the series.