The Success of Ternary

Now that I’ve shared one of my failures, let me tell you a little bit about one of my personal successes. If you haven’t already seen, my sci-fi romance story Ternary was selected for publication. Here’s a little bit about how that happened and why I ended up taking the path I did for this particular story. As usual, I hope my experiences will help others on their writing journey.

Shortly after writing Fire Master Marley, I got to work on a YA sci-fi story. Although I was enjoying it, I started to have this reoccurring daydream. My daydreams usually have full-on plots and characters, and this one wasn’t any different. It featured a young woman who was able to communicate with a man’s deceased spouse. Despite serving as a bridge between them (essentially a third wheel in their marriage), she eventually ended up falling in love with the man herself.

Before I knew it, I was obsessed with this idea. I couldn’t get the story and its characters out of my head. It became kind of a guilty pleasure of mine, and I was so distracted by it, I decided to write it. I all but forgot about that YA sci-fi and switched to writing this new story exclusively. It is now a completed sci-fi romance called Ternary.

I knew Ternary wasn’t marketable. It was a silly love story bordering on the weird. You know, the kind of thing I thought only a very specific kind of person would like (me). On top of being a sci-fi romance (lets face it, people who read sci-fi typically don’t want romance, and people who read romance typically don’t want sci-fi), it was also LGBTQ, and the romance element was non-monogamous. Even while I was writing it, I thought, “I am only writing this for myself. No one else would ever read it.”

Then, a remarkable thing happened.

People read it.

In the past, I’d struggled getting beta readers to commit to finishing my work. With Fire Master Marley, I ended up hiring readers because so few people were willing to read it for free. I expected the same this time around, but overnight, I had over 20 people asking to read Ternary. Within two weeks, almost all of them had read it to completion, many of them reading it within a matter of days. The results were in. People liked it.

(It just goes to show, even if you think a story doesn’t have mass market appeal, if you like it, other people will too! So, go ahead! Write that story that isn’t “marketable.” You never know what will happen.)

That said, I knew the story was still [mostly] only appealing to a niche audience. It’s my dream to eventually get an agent and publish with the Big 5, but Ternary was likely a better fit for a small press. A press who would be willing to take a risk on a book that might not have mainstream appeal. A press that wouldn’t mind something a little oddball.

Of course, even with this knowledge, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try for the dream anyway. I queried agents first. And you know what? It got a few nibbles! I was actually surprised at the positive reactions I received. But alas, as expected, no bites.

So, I researched small presses to find a few I was interested in. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I did with Fire Master Marley. I wasn’t going to resort to sending it off to just anyone and accept whatever came my way. It was very important to me to find a press who would be a good fit. In the end, I narrowed it down to five publishers. And once I’d had my fill of querying agents, I submitted to them.

I was resolute in my decision to stick with just those five. If those presses weren’t interested, I’d put Ternary on a shelf. At that point, it would be what I always planned: a fun story just for my personal enjoyment. With that in mind, I buckled up and waited for the results to roll in. A few months later, they did:

Two rejections and two revise and resubmits.

The two RRs didn’t work out. One of them wanted me to change something fundamental about the story, something that would leave Ternary unrecognizable. I wasn’t prepared to make that kind of change, so I opted out. The other said they would send me an explanation of the changes they wanted, never did, and didn’t respond to further attempts at communication.

Ternary was headed for the shelf.

Now, if you can do basic math, you’ve probably realized that’s only four responses. It was a few months later before I received the fifth and final response. I didn’t have high hopes, but given the title of this blog post and my previous announcement, you can probably guess the ending of the story.

Ternary is scheduled to release in the spring of 2021.

Questions here.

2 thoughts on “The Success of Ternary

  1. If you are satisfied with your story and any publisher can’t give you a written reason as to why you should change any aspect of the story then tell them to forget it, they work not only for their benefit but for yours

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am always willing to make changes if those changes will ultimately strengthen the work. A writer should always be prepared to revise and edit. But yes, I agree. When an editor wants to make sweeping changes that completely alter the writer’s vision of what the book is supposed to be, that’s not a good thing, and neither is an editor who isn’t able to tell you what changes need to be made and why (because writers are not mind-readers).


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