Abaddon Books

Abaddon Open Subs Month: my submission, Cassandra Khaw

2 years ago

I wrote my first novel at the age of twelve.

It had unicorns. And soulgems. And my best friends reinterpreted through as human girls freshly emerged from a portal. And the kind of ambiguously handsome, ambiguously nice guy that prepubescent Cass thought she was meant to date, one day.

I actually finished the thing. Three hundred words of fiction, an entire year’s worth of everyday events translated to fantasy. I’m not going to demean twelve-year-old Cass by saying it was terrible. But it was certainly not something publishable. (My mother disagreed. She tried to bribe printers with RM5000 to put the damn things in stores. I love you, mom.)

The years passed. I ended up a programmer, thanks to a combination of pragmatism and parental insistence. Then, I became a journalist. And then, I became a writer – or at least, I sheepishly waddled up to the idea.

I had no clue what I was doing.

(I still don’t have any clue what I was doing.)

At some point while I was haphazardly submitting stories to slush piles everywhere, dazzled and deeply perplexed by the world, Abaddon Books opened up their submissions queue. They wanted pitches for their various licenses including Gods & Monsters, which I fucking loved. I’d read Chuck Wendig’s Unclean Spirits and I’d devoured Stephen Blackmoore. I remember excitedly discussing both with anyone who’d pay me more than a few minutes of attention. American Gods, I said. Except grittier, gorier, fiercer. I loved the series.

So, when the opportunity came, I leapt. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to tell the story of non-Western pantheons. I wanted to show people Malaysia in all of its glamour, all of its weirdness, all of its multi-cultural textures. I wanted desperately to turn the lens of that universe onto Southeast Asia.

And I wrote.

And I wrote.

And I wrote.

And when I was done, I had friends (Stephen S. Power, I’ll never stop being grateful to you) look over the finished product before sending it to Abaddon Books, fully expecting to be rejected, but hoping against hope that the publishers would fall in love with my mythpunk interpretation of the land I was born to.

Spoiler: they did.

Work-for-hire is not what you’d traditionally expect of publishing. It is a sum paid upon delivery with no royalties. A decent sum, to be fair, especially for a relatively small division of a larger outfit. But nothing that’d really fill the well of your dreams.

But if you’re thinking about trying out for this open submissions period, especially if you’ve never published anything before, you should. You really, really should. It won’t change your fortunes overnight, but it’d show you how publishing works, give you a book to curl your (virtual) fingers around, give you a rock when you’re floating around in the sea of ‘I cannot do this, why did anyone say I could do this.’

And you’ll need that in those early days of publishing, assuming you plan to keep going. (I hope you do, reader. I need more people to rejectomance with.) If you get through those rounds, if Abaddon Books comes back to you with that email, I promise you it’s going to be great.