Chandra author, Joseph Tamone, shares his publishing journey.
I’ve been working on The Fusion World Project and its sequels and prequels for over a decade now. I read a lot, specifically science fiction, and with an overactive imagination and growing boredom with so many things I was reading, I took to writing as a hobby, which soon thereafter turned into a passion.
I created an environment, story, and world, and filled it with characters representing different aspects of my own personality. I wrote a story called The Fusion World Project when I was 14, but I had no direction at that point, so I stopped writing and kept the original handwritten manuscript locked away until I met my wife. I told her that I had written a book, and she convinced me to take it out and continue writing.
I took a look at my old work and rewrote it. The writing process took a few months, and at the end, I had a copy of manuscript that I was satisfied with. Over the next couple of years, I kept editing the story. I wouldn’t show it to anybody because I didn’t think it was ready, and earlier this year, I printed it and let my wife read it for the first time, and she loved it. So, I printed a few more copies and let other people read it, and they gave me positive feedback as well.
At first, I wanted to take the route of independent publishing. I had researched methods to get a publishing contract, and most of those methods required having a publishing agent. So, I tried to get a publishing agent. I sent my work in to a few people, but nobody ever got back to me. Then I started looking at ways to print and sell my book independently without a publishing contract. I sent my work in to a few companies. Employees of those companies would respond within days, stating that they’ve read my work, love it, and would like to print it, but not before I shell out $500 to $2000 for a printing package. That sounded like a scam to me, so I started researching alternate methods.
I researched and found a company that I’d never heard of called Chandra Press. They were accepting science fiction manuscripts from authors with no publishing agent. I figured I had nothing to lose. So, I sent in a request to submit my manuscript. They responded and I sent it in. About a month later, the CEO of the company, Erik, contacted me via e-mail. He told me that he read my work and liked it, but it isn’t without its problems. He told me he was getting an editorial plan together and would get back to me in about a month.
I was unsure about this company. I had never heard of Chandra Press and didn’t really know what they were about, but what really got my attention and made me a bit less skeptical was that Erik actually took time to read my book and took time to come up with an editorial plan. That was so unlike my experiences with these vanity publishers that I had looked into, who supposedly read my book within a few days, saw no issues with it, and were ready to sell me publishing packages to have my book ready to sell immediately.
I had never worked with an editor before, so when Erik got back to me and I saw just how much he had edited my initial work, my first thought was “Do I really suck this much at writing that so much of it has to be changed in order for it to be good?” But then I started reading his changes. First and foremost, he fixed grammatical errors that I didn’t even notice, so that’s good. The other things he fixed were things like dialogue. He told me that in places, the dialogue seemed sort of forced, and he tweaked it to make everything flow better.
He also made sure that the book itself was logically consistent. There were two chapters in particular that needed full re-writes. I didn’t even realize that these chapters were a mess until he pointed it out. In my initial third chapter, one of my main characters confronts the commanding officer of an invasion army in opposition to the invasion after it had already happened. So that it makes more sense, I wrote an entirely new chapter where this character confronts his commanding officer before the invasion. The new chapter is engaging and very well-written.
I was a little bit frustrated with some of the changes they recommended. At certain points in the editorial process I looked at my story and I didn’t recognize it. I had the mindset of “I wrote the story a particular way and it’s being changed. I don’t like this at all.” It felt like my voice was being eliminated from the story, which isn’t the case at all. I was just being stubborn. When I read the completed work now, it has a definitive focus, and it didn’t have that before. The book is very polished and refined, and I have to credit Erik and Lindsay for that, because they absolutely guided me in the right direction.
Late in the editorial process, there was an issue with the book that nobody had seen earlier. There were a lot of earth-based names despite that neither world in the book are earth. For example, one of my main characters was named Martin Oswald. It’s a fantastic name for a character, but it’s a name that you would find on earth. In order to make the story feel more authentic, it was suggested that the names would need to be changed to something a bit more original, the idea being that since this isn’t earth, there shouldn’t be as many earth-based names, and I was very, very opposed to this. I created this story and developed these characters a certain way, and all of a sudden I was being told that something as fundamental as a name had to be changed.
The idea of changing the names of my characters just felt wrong. It was something that I couldn’t do, but the team at Chandra insisted. They told me that the earth-based names are a glaring issue that can’t be unseen. I was told that the names would have to be changed in order to produce the most authentic work possible, and if not, they wouldn’t be able to publish it.
I started thinking about alternate names for my characters and came up with a plan. Change the spelling to make the names unique but keep the pronunciations more or less the same or very similar. So, for example, Martin Oswald became Marden Aswalde. Raymond became Raemund. Steven became Stevyn. Cain became Cein. All these names are unique to this world, and as I read through the manuscript with the new names, the story does feel a lot more authentic to the worlds that I created. I fought the editing team regarding this change, but they were right. They had the best interest of my story in mind and wanted it to be the best that it can be. Because I was being stubborn, I didn’t see this initially, and nearly backed away from Chandra, which would have been a mistake.
I’ve never gone through an editing process before, and it’s a lot of hard work. It’s hard to read through criticisms of something that I spent years writing and editing, but at the end of the day, it’s better now than it was before; it feels like more of an original story.
I had a bit of fun during my last round of editing. This is one of my favorite changes that I made in the entire book. There’s a part where my character Sajaelar curses at a situation. Initially the line read “Oh, damn,” but I didn’t think that was creative enough, so I spent a good deal of time coming up with a more colorful curse, and I found it. “Cock toboggan!” I’ve never heard that curse used before, but as soon as I came up with it, I thought it was amazing. So I put it in the story, half expecting for it to be edited out and changed back to “Oh, damn.” To my surprise, everybody loved it and it’s staying in the book, and I’m so thrilled about that.
I have a friend who is also a writer. She rolled her eyes at me when I told her the new curse that I had come up with. I kept using it in replace of other curses, and her response every time was “Stop trying to make cock toboggan a thing. It’s never going to be a thing.” So when I got an email from Erik, and at the bottom of the bullet points it said “Everyone loves the term cock toboggan,” I specifically took a screenshot of that and sent it to her just to shove it in her face.
My initial reaction to the editing process was wrong. It isn’t about eliminating the voice of the author, it’s about refining the voice of the author. The work that I had written before, while I thought it was great, people who have experience in this business found a few issues with it and helped me to resolve them. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done, and I can say without a doubt, the story was good before, but now it’s great.