photo by Corey Holms

photo by Corey Holms

Greetings, lovely WU community. Kath here, back from the dead, with Therese. We invite you to gather ’round and let us tell you a story of endings, beginnings, and another WU experiment…

Prologue. The year is 2006. Kath is eagerly clicking open an email from her then-agent. She’s been working with said agent for a couple years now, shopping historical novels with a Gothic twist, but the traditional publishing world, awash in sexy dukes and vampires, with a voracious market looking for more of the same, isn’t interested.

But this, Kath thinks, this book is different. Written during a particularly dark time of her personal life, when a very close relative was sent to the Green Zone to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom, she channeled her emotions into a fantasy novel that is by turns mordant, part steampunk, part fantasy, a romance against a backdrop of war. There’s some inappropriate humor laced in it. It’s her best work, she thinks, and lord she’d been at the writing game for some time now, honing her craft, absorbing the lessons of good storytelling. Surely, this time, it’ll catch.

The then-agent sent a polite, three sentence note. Paraphrase: WTF is this? I need a sexy vampire story, not this war crap. And, uh, I’ll pretend you never sent this to me, okay, and I won’t drop you.

And Kath gets it. Which shelf would this novel sit, if published? It’s genre fiction, but could only charitably be called a mongrel, borrowing from many genres. It’s a weird book. An unboxed book.

Sadly, the book goes in a drawer. Kath starts working as a writer-for-hire for book packagers, to see if she can gain bonafides in a market that is starting to implode under the strains of an economic crash and the digital transition. Slowly, she starts to lose the love she has for writing fiction. An intense day job takes up even more emotional energy. It gets so bad at one point, she stops writing altogether, and takes a step back from Writer Unboxed.

December, 2013.

Kath, with Therese, at a restaurant nursing tea and chocolate:

I’ve been writing again, but nothing’s really gelling.

Therese: That’s awesome that you’re writing again! Hey, whatever happened with that story you wrote a few years back — Ailerons, wasn’t it?

Kath: Still in the drawer.

Therese: Dark and edgy and completely captivating. Fantasy/steampunk/romance? Come on. Why not pull it out again, have a read, see if you can reconnect with it? There’s something there.

Kath: Ugh, I don’t want to run the gauntlet of rejections again. Been there, done that.

Therese: It’s a different world now, though.

Kath: You mean publish the novel myself? I don’t know.

Therese: I’m just saying, it’s a good story. Your best work.

Kath, later, in an email: Dang it, Teri! I pulled that story out again, read it, liked what I read, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

Therese: Muahahaha. Told you it was good.

Kath, several months down the road: Do you have time to read Steel and Song?

Therese: What’s that?

Kath: Ailerons’ new name. Steel & Song, Book 1 in the Aileron Chronicles.

Therese: W00t! YES! Send it along.

(A few weeks later, after the read and critique, and Therese deciding the Aileron Chronicles has what it takes to catch fire with readers.)

Therese: You know, I was thinking…

Kath: Uh oh.

Therese: What if you pubbed this under the Writer Unboxed name?

Kath: You mean, list Writer Unboxed as the publisher?

Therese: Only if you think it might help you. I mean, you co-founded Writer Unboxed, too. You left because you weren’t writing anymore and you needed to find your mojo again. You’ve definitely found it, so why not?

Kath: But I’d want you and WU to get something out of it.

Therese: Well, how’s this? We’ve been talking about a test-launch of a Writer Unboxed publishing imprint for a few years. Maybe now is the time. Your book could test the waters for future projects, and if the experiment is successful, we’ll have the metrics to move forward with those projects.

Kath: Keep talking, because you’re totally persuading me.

Therese: Your call, but I’d be completely behind it. I believe in you and your book. And that’s what this whole journey has been about from the beginning, right? Writer Unboxed was created to support our stories. Our fiction. Yours, Kathleen Bolton, and mine. This seems like a very cool way to make that happen.

Kath: I’m in.

July 21, 2014.

And that’s how the first Writer Unboxed Publishing book came to be. Steel and Song: The Aileron Chronicles Book 1 will be sold exclusively by Amazon in the KDP program (also part of the experiment). Over the next few months, Kath will check in with the WU community, sharing insights into the publishing partnership, lessons learned from starting without a backlist in the world of independent publishing, ideas gleaned from the experiment for possible future endeavors, and more.

If this experiment goes wildly well, who knows what will happen next? We’ll have to see how it goes. We’re in unboxed territory from here on out, and we hope you’ll come along for the ride.

If Writer Unboxed Publishing evolves, what would you like to see happen?



Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in January, 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~40 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, or join our thriving Facebook community.