Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Publication Party third session - author Alex J Cavanaugh tells us of his journey to the publication of his first novel, CassaStar.

Welcome to the third session of our great Publication Party. You all enjoyed Clarissa Draper's talk last week and you were so pleased to be at the beach with the sun and champagne (as soon as the cranberry mocktails ran out!) that I had trouble getting you to leave. So many enthusiastic comments afterwards. We all learned so much. Your writerly aspirations were obvious with the overwhelming requests to win the critique over the books.  

So today I've moved the party inside again. Help yourself to the drinks and nibbles and let's party! Firstly, a big drum roll for last week's prize winners. Congratulations to Tony Benson who won the chapter critique from Clarissa, (and I note that you're a little bit nervous at seeing it posted so we'll respect that) and to Kari Marie for winning Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs and to Simon C Larter for winning Ernest Hemingway's Across the River and into the Trees. Those looking for a CP have been contacted by email and I'm waiting on your details.

Hello to all you aspiring authors here today. In case you haven't met today's honoured guest, he has been all over the blogosphere lately as he recently released his first novel, a science fiction work, CassaStar (one of my current reads.) Many of us have followed Alex's journey as he posted about the process of writing, then suddenly, whammo! (or so it seemed) he'd found a publisher. Behind the scenes Alex was seeking publication, but I for one never knew the story of how the contract got signed. Alex's story is different again to our two previous guests and that's what we're here to learn about. So now, over to Alex as he shares his journey with us...

Here's a short bio of Alex accompanied by his latest picture:

Alex J Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Thanks Denise. I'd had a hard night when that photo was taken so excuse me if I look a little green.

Great to be invited along to the Publication Party.  Thanks for coming along all you keen writers. I hope you'll find something in what I say today to help you along the road to publication. Okay, let me tell you my story folks.
While I was writing CassaStar, I kept reading that science fiction was dead. Real encouraging, huh? I decided to just write the story and worry about the popularity of my genre later. I completed my book and it went through test readers, an editor, and a lot of polishing.

Now that I was ready to seek a publisher, it appeared heavy tech science fiction was growing in popularity. Obviously, my genre hadn’t died, but I was faced with a challenge. CassaStar is very low-tech. It focuses on adventure and characters rather than technology and science. My manuscript wasn’t in tune with the growing trend.

I never even considered an agent. I just started querying science fiction publishers. Many take direct submissions and I scoped out the guidelines before sending my query. Of course, most were seeking the high tech or political science fiction manuscripts. It didn’t take long to realize my approach wasn’t working.

Frustrated, I looked for another angle. I decided to capitalize on my main character’s youth and started submitting CassaStar to small young adult publishers instead. After all, there is a science fiction category for young adult.

That approach eventually landed a publisher. Ironically, Dancing Lemur Press decided to classify CassaStar as adult science fiction. I was right back where I’d started - in the science fiction - adventure/space opera category.

Do I recommend a small publisher? Absolutely! I’ve been very pleased with my publisher’s efforts. No, you won’t make a lot of money - but you might not make any with a large press, either. I make more a month at my job than most authors do in their lifetime. I think if a writer does it for the money, he’s writing for all the wrong reasons.

It was never about fame and fortune for me. It was just knowing I could do it, even if only once! And I did!

Thanks Alex. Your story is inspirational. I believe Alex has just completed the first draft of CassaStar's sequel.

Here are the details for Alex's debut novel, CassaStar, followed by the synopsis.

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh - $12.44 in paperback through Amazon. Also available in ebook format - Kindle $4.95.
Science fiction/adventure/space opera, Dancing Lemur Press LLC
ISBN Print 9780981621067 eBook 9780982713938

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron, a talented young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life. Much to his chagrin, Bassa, the toughest instructor in the fleet, takes notice of the young pilot. As war brews on the edge of space, Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive. Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

Here is an excerpt from a review by the Library Journal:

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Note: I am going to review CassaStar on Reading at Dawn, a book review blog I collaborate on early next week (Tuesday Oz time, Monday US/UK time,) so please visit if you wish to read my review.

You can contact Alex directly at:

If  you'd like to learn even more about Alex's journey he has posted at Selling Books today. Catch what he has to say. 
Thanks again author Alex J Cavanaugh. Now to the prizes...

TODAY everyone who comments and leaves their email address will be in the draw to win EITHER of these books:

As today is Australia Day in my country, I'm offering an Aussie read by another of my favourite authors - Belly Dancing for Beginners by Aussie author Liz Byrski. This is a fictional story, not a how-to-bellydance non-fiction guide! It's both funny and serious (a great combo) showing that women can have hugely rewarding lives no matter what their age.

And for all the Dean Koontz fans out there, here is Relentless. It's a spine-chillilng thriller by one of the masters of the genre.
So thank you all for coming today. Before you leave would you mind doing the following:
  • leave a comment with your email address if you want to be in the draw for this week's book prizes or the GRAND PRIZE and giveaway books and writing paraphanelia at the end of the series (you must comment on each post to win, starting at the first post. If today is your first day, go back to the previous sessions, read and leave a comment. I'm keeping track...)
  • tell us which book you'd like to win today - sorry, no critique, Alex is shy 
  • ask Alex a question
  • if you're published, share your story in the comments
  • tell us if you'd like to find a Crit Partner. Last week there were more requests. Contact like-minded souls and we may be able to help each other in this way too...
Thanks for coming everyone! Winners for this week will be posted at the next party Wednesday February 2. Don't forget you have until Monday 31 January at 8 pm NY time to enter for this week's prizes.

Next Wednesday February 2 we have very successful short story writer, autobiographical writer, blogger, book reviewer and novelist Helen M Hunt coming to our party to speak to us. Don't miss what she has to say! I, for one, want to know how Helen became so successful in selling her clever short stories to so many magazines. I want some of that to rub off on me.

Denise :)


Al said...

A great post by Alex.
Really good advice on small publishers. In the end the success you have is likely to be driven as much by your efforts as by the publisher.

I'm in an ongoing experiment, self publishing. I've really enjoyed the process so far and have had some great reviews.

The biggest problem I have is time to get promotion rolling. I guess that is an issue that is all too common. Our day jobs and lives in general get in the way of what we'd ideally like to be doing.

Al said...

I forgot to say (inexcusable really) thanks Denise for hosting this great series!

Denise Covey said...

Such a useful comment Al. Promo would be a big task. I hope you're enjoying Australia Day!

Ellie Garratt said...

Ooo...I absolutely loved this post for so many reasons. As an aspiring sci-fi writer I've spent the last few months following Alex's journey into publication with keen interest. I've had several short stories accepted by small press publishers and have found them to be nothing but professional and a great source of help and encouragement. Certainly, they have given me the courage to start writing my first novel.

His advice about those who write just for money is also spot on!

Thanks Alex and Denise.

p.s. please don't enter me for the book drawer; I'd rather they went to someone who appreciate them more.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks so much Denise!
And nice alien photo...

Dawn Embers said...

This is going to bug me: That book looks so familiar and yet I can't figure out why. I'm stumped.

Thanks Alex for sharing your story.

Old Kitty said...

Thank you for hosting the fab Alex J Cavanaugh, L'Aussie Writing!! He took a chance with his amazing novel and we are all the better for it!! Yay!!! Well done Alex!! take care

Margo Benson said...

I'm learning so much from these parties, Denise. Many thanks to you and Alex today.

Alex, your publishing experience is so interesting. I think some of it goes to show that when authors stay true to their original passion, the story and audience will find each other. CassaStar should be arriving in the Benson household very shortly.

Denise - came across your French blog on Alex's it! Mr B and I adore France so I'll be dropping in there too.

HelenMWalters said...

Great to hear Alex's story as the genre he writes in is so different from my own. Thanks Alex and Denise.

Su said...

Great post! Cool to hear from someone who went directly to publishers instead of getting an agent.

Megan K. Bickel said...

Another great post! I'm really enjoying all these different roads to publication. It makes me hopeful that a unique road is out there for me. Thank you, Alex, for sharing! And thank you, as always, to Denise!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Denise for hosting Alex! I like reading of an author's path to publication. I have a list of small publishers I'm going to hit hard and heavy beginning in February so we'll see if things work out. If not, there's always self publishing.

Unknown said...

Great post, Alex! It's so inspiring to hear about successful authors' journeys.


Tony Benson said...

Thanks Denise for hosting this excellent series of blogs.

Alex, thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience. I'm interested whether you had to edit the book specifically for the YA audience, or whether the young characters carried it there anyway.

Great and inspiring post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Congrats (again), Alex! Best of luck with the next one, eh?

Zan Marie said...

Alex, Great story and one that makes me have hopes for the low tech SciFi I have on the back burner. Science Fiction isn't dead and not even sick around my house. It's the only genre my husband will read. ; )

Alex, do you recommend trying to go straight to small presses over the agent route or do you think it would depend on the genre? I write comtemporary fic also.

And thanks, Denise, for this publication blog tour. It's been wonderful. I want the Liz Byrski book. The title hooked me without any details.

zanmariess [at] gmail [dot] com

N. R. Williams said...

I'd love to win CassaStar or the others offered. Alex, your journey is amazing and I'm so glad you found a publisher willing to work with you.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Francine Howarth said...

Hi Alex,

Nice one!

Write for the love of writing, anything else is potential for a mental breakdown unless a small press (guardian)angel steps in to save one's sanity. The latter far more likely to than a dwarf-minded editor dwelling in a giant publishing turret.

Whom ever finally picks up a manuscript and says yay the author's work is far from over: publicity is now part & parcel of an author's every day nightmare. So, going with a small pub makes little odds, because even a big pub will expect an author to work their butt off! ;)


Lenny Lee said...

hi miss denise and mr alex! i been enjoying all the trips so far. mr alex going on his own to those small publishers is just real cool. i like hearing how a author got there. im just real happy mr alex stuck with it and believed in him self and his book.
...hugs from lenny

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Dawn, it came out last October, and a hundred bloggers featured it - maybe that's where you saw it?

Thank you, Kitty!

And big thanks, Margo! Hope you enjoy it.

Tony, after my publisher accepted it, they decided to classify it as science fiction instead, so I never had to rewrite anything. (And I hadn't changed anything when targeting that market, either.)

Simon, I'm working on it!

Zan, I had no background or experience, so I figured going after an agent would be like beating my head against a brick wall.

Francine, you got it! I was told to get my butt online and start promoting a year before my book was released.

Thank you, Lenny!!

Unknown said...

It's not about the money for me either.. although, my husband's still hopeful that I'll make millions. I love knowing that I can do something so challenging.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of high-tech sci-fi. But I'll read it if there a "human" story, which is why I like CassaStar.

Thanks, Denise, for hosting Alex. I enjoyed getting to know him.
Ann Best, Author

Denise Covey said...

So far everyone seems to be learning something from Alex. Keep those comments coming!

kerrie said...

HI thanks for you infomative blogg
I am working on a comedy sc fi. I went to a writers workshop and the agent who dealt in sc fi insisted that comedy sc fi was dead
I must of asked him before during and after the meeting each time he got more insistant what about Terry Pratchett I said who he said
I gave up - still working on it cause it is so much fun
thanks for you info

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I don't know why Alex is so nervous about showing his face on the internet! That green pic of him is gorgeous! Green suits him :)

Thanks for another great post (I'm enjoying the drinks too)

Would love to enter the competition:
lynfaw[AT]gmail[DOT]com Either of the two books is good :)

Arlee Bird said...

I enjoyed hearing Alex's story and he's one heck of a nice guy. He deserves any of the success that comes his way

Denise thanks for hosting Alex today.

Alex, you are a true Blogpro!

Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Ann, it's a human story with space battles!

Kerrie, don't give up on that story.

Lynda, there was enough of me all over the web last October!

Thanks Lee!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

That's great advice to just write what you must, don't worry if it's "dead". Seems to have worked for Alex!
Thanks for the interview!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Alex, you came to this writing project with exactly the right attitude. But now I'm betting you want to see if you can do it again?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I write for two different small publishers and a medium-sized one. I'm not making enough to leave my day job but I'm doing okay.
I did recognize your picture, Alex. You have one of those ageless faces.

Denise Covey said...

Yes, I too want to see Alex get that sequel out!

What's wrong with my choice of books? Tell me!

Kari Marie said...

It was great to get to know more about you Alex. I've seen your name all over the blogosphere and just recently got connected up with your site.

Denise- as always, thank you for hosting such a lovely party.

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Alex! It's very inspiring, as it seems there's always someone out there willing to proclaim a certain genre 'dead' or passe.
I might ask you about your wonderful self-portrait [g] but if I'm not repeating others, I'd like to know what other projects you have in the pipeline!
Hmm, I'd take the Australian book if I won!

erica and christy said...

Yay! Thanks. I'll have to go back to read Clarissa's story! I haven't been to her blog for a while either! I've seen Alex around, but never knew his publication story. Very nice! I'm not entering to win, just wanted to say thanks! I'm enjoying your party. Super idea! christy

Denise Covey said...

I'm glad you're getting to know Alex better and want to know more about his projects.

Melissa said...

Awesome post! Alex rocks!

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...


You know you're levitating, don't you? Must be the amazing resonation of energies simmering and sparking around an Aussie lass on AussieDay throwing wide open her doors and welcome for sharing success stories and hopes to dream-schemes.

You've certainly plotted yours upon the publishing trail and the resplendent sequel journey -- in your case, through space. I join in this bright soiree's *applause* and ask you about the naming of your book. It caught me instantly, as an author, as a promoter and as an avid appreciator of simply (thus strongly) great life-stuff. "CassaStar" has a cache and ambience as well as a far reaching but soft'spoken omnamonapia (sp) - It sounds when spoken aloud as a "magic word". Is it? Does it? Invoke? Evoke? Is it constellation-conjured or deep in my childhood that song my mother listened to, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day" - CassaStar sounds it. CassaStar should go far.

sailing HARBINGER*33
and showcasing authors AT THE BIJOU,

Michael Di Gesu said...

What a great interview! Great to know more about you Alex!

Hi, Denise,

How are you doing? Thanks for hosting.

I am definitely going to check out small publishers for my first novel.


email: mculi at aol dot com

Tara said...

Everywhere I go, there's Alex ;D

This has been a great little series, Denise. Thank you.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Patricia, I am going to try again!

Gee, thanks, Susan!

Deniz, I am working on a sequel now.

Thanks, Melissa!

Hey, Kate! CassaStar was the original title from the crappy rough draft I wrote as a teen. Cassa is actually Byron's home planet. Not sure how I named it, but I'm sure it wasn't through a stroke of genius or anything. I was just pleased the publisher liked it as well and kept the title.

Thanks everyone! And thanks again, Denise.

Jeff Beesler said...

There's no one true route to publication, that's for sure. I'm glad you were able to get CassaStar out into the world, Alex!

Rachael Harrie said...

Great interview Denise. Alex, I loved hearing about your journey to publication, sounds like it's been really rewarding. Must say, you're looking a little green around the gills *chortles*

Here's a question for Alex: Do you think you'll continue to go straight to the publisher for your future books, or do you plan to seek an agent?

I've always been a Dean Koontz fan, so yes please! rachael[dot]harrie[at]gmail[dot]com


Nas said...

A great post by Alex.
Really good advice on small publishers. Thanks!

Elissa Graham said...

Congratulations Alex! Another interesting and new path to publish-dom.

Carol Kilgore said...

Alex, you handsome devil, you :)
I'm so happy to finally see a picture of you.

Great post, too. Thanks for hosting, Denise.

Lydia Kang said...

I just want to say thanks to both of you for posting this. Alex, I appreciate you sharing your story. No doubt you will inspire a lot of other authors!

Amie Kaufman said...

So interesting to hear from somebody who went a different route, especially with such success! Loving the party as well! Bellydancing for me, if I'm lucky enough to win!