When signing with a publishing house turns out to be a nightmare...
Francisco Javier Olmedo Vázquez recalls writing since he was a kid, hitting the keys of his father's Olivetti Lettera-32 typewriter that his mom had put in front of him to distract him, so he'd eat the lentils she had cooked for him. In elementary school, his Spanish teacher praised the imagination he displayed in his writing school work. That's how the writer, winner of the Premio Forolibre 2018 for his first work Bajo Nuestros Pies, began to develop.
But it wasn't until he began to study computer engineering that a friend introduced him to Howard Phillips Lovecraft, one of the greats in the Horror genre. "Lovecraft gave me the tools I needed to channel the surreal ideas that were trapped in my head since childhood, that imagination in the subconscious that I didn't know how to set free," explains Olmedo Vázquez. "I was fascinated by his cosmogony, by the mythology he created around him."
After reading Lovecraft, he continued with other authors like August Derleth, Robert E. Howards, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, Edgar Allan Poe, and Arthur Machen. It motivated him to write short tales, sharing them with his loved ones, but with no real intention of ever publishing them. Thanks the insistence of those who read his tales, he decided to write his first book, giving birth the Cosmic Horror novel Bajo Nuestros Pies.
"The Cosmic Horror genre is a sub-genre of Horror that represents fear of the intangible and ancestral. It's fear of the decree of beings more ancient than the universe itself, who have been treading the flow of time even before our lives came to be," he expounds. "It's a distant echo of forbidden sects, the forgotten secrets of occult and perverse societies. It's the resounding of trombones that proclaim the coming of the apocalypse, which is only apt for the more devoted and demented. Cosmic Horror is the realization of our own insignificance upon a superior and frightening reality. It's the artistic representation of the most horrifying nihilism."
His intention is to eventually move into the Science Fiction realm.
What motivates him to write is, "A need to discharge the turbulent ocean of ideas that normally live in my head," he says. "Writing is like a lucky strike of catharsis, because when a new project surprisingly springs from my imagination, propelled from my subconscious, my mind doesn't stop molding and refining the story until I manage to put it on paper. Only at that moment can I rest. Let's just say that, for me, writing is a therapeutic method at my disposal to heal my heart."
Yet, his love for writing was tested after signing with a publishing company, which promised him heaven and delivered hell, one from which he has not been able to come back from all together.
It all started when he attended a "writing seminar for new authors" in his city, offered by Exlibric Publishing. The purpose of the seminar was to educate new authors about the ins and outs of the publishing world, the challenges and obstacles, and how they could help authors overcome them.
It all sounded rational and exciting, since the company claimed their quality control standards were so high that they only took on two or three manuscripts of the thousands and thousands they received. Upon getting the news that Bajo Nuestros Pies' manuscript was one of those two or three, it meant that Olmedo Vázquez was going to be one of the star authors of the publishing house.
But he soon found out that he had to join forces with the company, by paying a certain amount in order to publish his book. "Exlibric," he was told, "was taking the risk of betting on new authors," and that risk had to be shared. Besides, the publishing house would professional and rigorously copy edit the manuscript, promote it, do book signings, etc.
"They had my head in the clouds, practically calling me the new Stephen King,
In spite of this, agreeing to take on part of the risk to publish was a minor thing, because they had him thinking he would sell so many books that his "investment" would be well worth it.
"They even spoke to me about figures I could be earning in my first year," he says. Those figures were so large that he didn't think twice about quitting his job to dedicate himself fully to his career as an author. "They had my head in the clouds, practically calling me the new Stephen King, Spanish version."
"Later," says Olmedo Vázquez, "I came to find out that the 'investment' was simply the cost of their printing service."
None, or very little, of what they had promised turned out to be true. Their rigorous quality control and copy editing did not exist, as the proofs he was getting were full of mistakes, like words cut in half, paragraphs that were missing the last sentence, commas where there should be periods and periods where there should be commas, entire paragraphs in italics, etc., affirms Olmedo Vázquez. The promotion was nothing more than a few mentions on Exlibric's Facebook page, whose followers are mostly other writers within the publishing house, explains the author.
Book signings at book fairs were not even close to what had been promised. "It was in the book fairs where reality hit me, when I realized that the size of the banner that said 'We're Looking for Authors' was three times larger than the one with the name of my book."
That appearance at the book fair, he says, was an hour in which the author had to sell his book, not a space to sign pre-sold copies. And even worse, Olmedo Vázquez personally saw how other authors from the same publishing house were experiencing his same fate, and how people that had bought books were complaining about the mistakes in them.
After freeing himself from Exlibric's claws, Olmedo Vázquez had no other choice but to accept his mistake and find a way to fix it. But the consequences of that experience persist, and he's not completely well yet. "I'm completely and utterly ruined, because I ended up without a job, without money, and with a bunch of books filled with mistakes."
"Don't let the big publishing houses decide what you should read. Read what you like."
Olmedo Vázquez now publishes his books independently. In fact, a second – and corrected – edition of Bajo Nuestros Pies is now available, as are his other two novels Mal Nacido and La Codicia del Pescador.
"I don't consider myself self-published, but indie," he states.
Being indie places all the possibilities and responsibilities in the author's hands, but it's not easy to sell a book to someone that doesn't know you or your work, he explains. "The job of getting visibility is a herculean task." That's why he claims that Instagram is the tool that has helped him the most to get the word out and one he heavily relies on.
Surely, having been through such a negative experience is not an easy feat, and all he can do is learn from it and share it. Maybe a word of advice from him on time will prevent others from falling into the same trap.
To those who wish to publish, Olmedo Vázquez advises they don't follow the advice of editorial marketing "gurus" nor fall for tutorials that claim things like, "Learn to write up to 3,000 words per day," or similar offerings. "Before writing," he says, "you have to have read and written a lot, but without publishing. After that, look into and learn how to publish independently, and get in touch with other indie authors that have experience. I'm sure they can give you good advice."
His dream for the future is to be able to live off his books, and as a person, he states, "I'd like to be able to reach the end of my life without having to feel ashamed by the way I lived it."
In closing, he's grateful for the opportunity to reach new readers through this interview. "Also, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read about the experiences and aspirations of this humble author. I'd like to end with a thought that I like to share with my followers: Don't let the big publishing houses decide what you should read. Read what you like."
Thank you, Francisco Javier, for sharing your experiences because, though burdensome, they are a lesson for future authors. I thank you for your honesty and for taking the time to give me this interview.
To the readers, thank you for taking the time to read this piece! Please check out Francisco Javier's books and follow him on social media.
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If you'd like to explore my books, click on the tabs above to learn more about The Thing About Love… and The Thing About Ever After…, Book 1 and 2 of my trilogy – Book 3 is in the works.
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