My Path To Publication:

How As the World Dies Came to Be

My road to the Tor book deal was not the one usually traveled. Don’t get me wrong. I tried for years to find my way into publishing through traditional means. I met a lot of rejection because I was basically doing everything wrong. I didn’t realize that at the time and stopped writing for several years discouraged with the process and drained of all hope.

A few years later, a friend of mine started editing for a small press. She remembered I had a vampire novel in progress (more like on indefinite hold) and offered to help me get it ready for submission. The publisher wanted to see it as soon as it was done, so it seemed that I would finally get my foot in the publishing door. I set about rewriting my vampire story (it needed a lot of work) and was happy to have someone guiding me.

It was about this time that I had a vivid image come to mind one day while I was at work. I saw a woman, in a pink bathrobe, long hair flowing in the wind, standing on her front porch, staring down at tiny fingers pressed under the door desperately reaching for her. I knew instantly that it was the first day of the zombie rising and that her zombified toddler and family were trapped in the house. She was the lone survivor and in shock. That is how I came to meet Jenni. I took a break, wrote a quick “short story,” posted it to a forum, and went back to work. I had never written a zombie story before and I was surprised how easily it had come.

The response on the forum was very positive and people asked if I was going to continue the story. I sat at my desk and wondered if there was more. It was like the scene from the Matrix when they jack in and get a massive download of information. Suddenly, the whole story was just there…just sitting in my mind…just waiting to be written.

Over the next two years, I wrote the story in “mini-chapters” and posted it online. It garnered a huge following. I was surprised to have a growing fanbase that clamored for more and reviewed the chapters as they were posted. When the epic zombie tale was done, the fans wanted it published so they could own their own copies.

The small press interested in the vampire novel had closed their doors before I even finished the rewrite, so I knew I had to buckle down and send out query letters. My query letters suck. They really do. They’re awful. I was turned down over and over again. Yet, the fans kept begging for the story to be published. I was receiving emails on nearly a daily basis. The fans just couldn’t understand why a big NYC publisher wasn’t snapping up the story.

It was my husband who sat me down and said, “Look, with all the new media taking off, we can publish As The World Dies ourselves.” I was very resistant to the idea, but the more we researched, the more possible it seemed. I already had a fanbase waiting, a blog that I could use to update the fans, we knew artists, and had friends who could edit. As the last round of rejection letters came in, it made sense to go our own way. The fans were waiting.

As The World Dies ended up three books. It was over 1,600 pages long when I finally compiled the entire thing and over 300,000 words. It was enormous. Luckily, there were places in the story where we could cut it and make it into three books. As The World Dies: The First Days was released August 14, 2008. Sales were slow the first month, but within three months the book had caught on and it hasn’t truly slowed down since. It has garnered very good reviews from the horror community (dreadcentral.com gave it four stars). Because of the strong female protagonist, Jenni and Katie, the books have gained a large female following as well. The Hathor Legacy, which highlights strong women in media, gave it a very good review, and Rainbow Reviews also gave it a great review, concentrating on the bisexual character of Katie. Bitten by Books has given the first two books glowing reviews.

As The World Dies: The First Days won the 2008 Dead Letter Award for Best Book (Fiction) and was named one of the Top 10 Best Zombie Novels of the Decade in December 2009.

As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive, also received positive reviews and won the 2009 Dead Letter Award for Best Book (Fiction). As The World Dies: Siege was released on August 14, 2009, completing the trilogy.

The TV/Film rights for the series were optioned in September 2009 and the paperwork was signed at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh where I was attending as a guest author. The producer is currently working on trying to bring the books to TV. He had approached me about the film option in May and I liked his vision. Since the option was signed, I have been approached by other directors, producers and screenwriters about the option.

Permuted Press, an indie publisher that is now co-publishing books with Simon & Schuster, had approached me soon after the release of the first book about publishing all three novels. I had considered the offer then refused it, feeling I needed to give the Indie Author route a good shot before giving up. After the Tor deal was announced, he told me I did the right thing turning him down.

Right before Horror Realm I was approached by another publisher (who shall remain nameless). Luckily, I had an entertainment lawyer (due to the TV/Film option) and he advised me to find a literary agent after hearing the offer (yeah, it was that lackluster). He offered to refer me to literary agents he works with and I agreed.

Within a week, I was mailing off copies of my novels to Hannah Brown Gordon, literary agent from Foundry Literary + Media in New York. It was just another week before I heard back that she liked what she was reading. Within two weeks, we had a phone conference and she offered to represent me. I discussed it with my husband and I signed on with Foundry right before Thanksgiving.

Over the Christmas holidays I compiled all my reviews, interviews, awards, etc and sent the whole package to Hannah. She wrote the pitch and put together the package in January. In the last week of January, she pitched As The World Dies: The First Days.

On February 8th, we got word that Tor was interested.

March 15th we had a good deal for all three books.

The moment it all became real was when Senior Tor Editor, Melissa Singer, sent me an email that read “A Deal! We got a deal!”

In all my dealings, not once did the fact that I had self-published work against me. If anything, the fact I had a fanbase, an author’s platform, solid sales, good reviews, and support from the horror/zombie community worked in my favor. I have actually been congratulated on my success and Tor has told me they look forward to building on the foundation I laid.

To think, I self-published to make my fans happy and inadvertently ended up fulfilling my greatest dream.

This post previously appeared on Rhiannon Frater’s Blogspot blog April 21rst, 2010.