Stroking my Ego

Self-publishing Achilles Wept

Welcome to the Pub Crawl’s second post. I’ll be posting once a week, like clockwork, but I’ll be tossing in a thread or two in between. And, yeah, I’ll be reminding you now and then to get others to subscribe so that I can 1) get my potential book readership up and, 2) stroke my ego.

In the first post (6 Books) I asked you to come along for the ride as I journey down the road to publishing each of my 6 books. Today, I’m going to let you in on where we stand with that effort with one of the six, Achilles Wept.

Before we go further (and you’ll notice I use this phrase a lot because I like it and it’s my newsletter), I should make it clear that it’s my preference to have all of my work published by traditional publishers, preferably big name ones. This is so that I can 1) get my potential book readership up and, 2) stroke my ego.

That said, Achilles Wept is a one-off, adult murder mystery thriller, so it’s way off my usual genre of action adventures for middle grade and YA audiences. For this reason, and because I’m curious, I’m going to self-publish this puppy. 

So, what does self publishing mean?

For one, it means I don’t need to write a Query Letter. As you’ll find out in future posts, condensing your 500 page multilayered epic novel into the literary equivalent of an executive summary of 200 to 300 words, is one of the more excruciating processes an author must endure. 

For two, I don’t need to send those queries to literary agents and/or publishers. They are hateful creatures. For instance, I just received a response to a Xingu query I sent with the following reply, “expect us to take up to 12 weeks to review your query.” Their way of saying F off. That said, most of them send a “thanks, but this is not for us” canned reply, without even reading the email. So, yeah.

Tres, once you’ve signed with an agent and publisher - and I know from whence I speak - it means not having to spend more time getting the book ready to publish than you spent writing it in the first place. This is called editing in Lit Lingo. This is called tearing up your wonderful story to pieces and rewriting it so that it resembles nothing you wrote or could ever write and makes you feel so sad in My Lingo.

Four four, it means not having a cover for your book that they will run by you and ask your opinion, knowing full well that they’re going to do what they want because they have all those rights in the agreements we signed. It means ending up with a cover that reflects nothing that you envisioned and leaves you wondering how your Stand by Me-ish book cover ended up with a hunky and shirtless Fabio kissing a scantily garbed young lady somewhat dressed in a Victorian way on a wind swept beach with a British Man-of-War silhouetted on the ocean horizon. So, yeah.

Finally five, and there are others, I don’t have to settle for 10-15% of the overall book sales with a traditional publisher. Self publishing means 70% or so. Of course, self publishing means having to do your own publicity like, say, writing a newsletter so that I can 1) get my potential book readership up and, 2) stroke my ego.

So here’s the status of the Achilles Wept journey. I’ve done my final edits and imported the text into Kindle Create. It’s all formatted and ready to go. All that’s missing is the cover and the hook you put on the back cover of the book to get a reader to buy it.

So, I’ll tell you what. I’ll end this post with the full length query letter I put together for Achilles Wept, before I decided to self publish. It should give you a good idea of the story, enough to form your own opinions on the right cover for the book.

That said, I’m probably going to ignore your comments and opinions, because I’ve already settled on a book cover concept that my extremely talented friend and artist C.R. Dimalla has put together based on the story in that query. I’m including a snapshot of that concept (aka wireframe) at the end of the post.

Here is the query as it would appear to a prospective agent or publisher:

Subject: Achilles Wept is a thriller about an ex-operative who sets out for Eastern Europe to find the cult bastards who tortured and murdered his wife.

William McVane gave it all up when Angelina was tortured and murdered in a sadistic ritual, only months after they were married in Paris. McVane had already given up his clandestine career for her and, after her death, he pretty much gave up living. He drank and smoked too much, slept too little. The only thing that kept the barrel of his 45 out of his own mouth was a cold determination to find the cult bastards who had taken her away from him - to stick that same barrel down their throats. 

With the help of John Brooks, his ex-partner and a brilliant analyst still in the agency, McVane decides to take on cases having anything to do with cults, one a year. As a former assassin, he does not lack the training and skills to go after them. 

Two years after Angelina’s death, Red Petrakis finds McVane at the dive bar he owns in Paris, slaps the shit out of him for sending her brother to the prison where he’s murdered, and then tries to hire him. It was McVane who caught Panos and had him locked up. It was Brooks who suspected something cultish about Panos’s grisly death, so he had sent Red to McVane. 

The huge bald-headed, track suit-wearing simian, with the tattoo of a Greek letter A on his calf, that McVane finds in his house the next day, proves it. The guy tosses him around like a toy, rips a Michener hardback in half with his bare hands, and gets a McVane 45 through his skull for his efforts. 

Someone is killing people all over the world, mostly in Eastern Europe, where McVane spent most of his old career. They’re killing with their hands, in brutal fashion, like ripping the arms off of people and beating them to death with those limbs. Brooks sees a pattern. The killings are being done to maintain the purity of a race. The partners of couples are being murdered, meaning the survivors are part of the race. It means that McVane and Red are part of the race. Made sense. Both were orphaned and never knew their real parents. 

McVane goes back to his old stomping grounds, starting in Athens. Dimitri, an old mafioso friend, tells him it’s the Cult of Achilles. The next day Dimitri is found strangled with his own intestines, so they’re not playing around either.

Based out of the estate on the coast of the Black Sea he built for Angelina with some dirty money, McVane sets out in search of the Achilles; from the monasteries in Meteora, to the catacombs of Odessa, from the Vatican to the Hagia Sofia. But it’s a two way street. The Achilles are after him too.

My debut novel, Avery McShane, was released by Bloomsbury Children's Books on March 1st, 2012. My editor was Emma Matthewson (of Harry Potter fame), and my agent was Sterling Lord. I have recently resumed my writing career, dusting off six completed manuscripts, including this one.

I grew up in South America, and my real-life experiences in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina are the inspirations for my stories. I am an alumnus of Harvard Business School and UC Santa Cruz. For more on my biography, and details on my other works visit

I hope this query piques your interest in Achilles Wept, a completed 57,500 word manuscript. This novel should appeal to fans of murder mysteries and spy thrillers. I would be happy to send sample chapters, a more detailed synopsis, or the entire manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Here’s the cover concept:

I’ll be sure to include the final cover in a post or thread once it’s done. Of course, you will soon be able to buy the book, with its wonderful cover, in a virtual bookstore near you. Wink.


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