An Iowa State student has been professionally published after years of local marketing and self publishing.
Ryan Byrnes, senior in technical communication, published a World War I historical fiction novel through Blank Slate Press of Amphorae Publishing Group.
The novel, “Royal Beauty Bright,” is about an autistic man named Luther Baker in the trenches of World War I. The book goes through Baker’s journey with the war and discusses the nonviolence during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
“I wrote this book my senior year of high school,” Byrnes said. “It only took three months to write. That was in like 2016 but then it took three years to get it published [...] the publishing industry is hard to get into.”
The strategy Byrnes had for getting published was sending out query letters to agents throughout 2016. About four of the agents replied. The agents asked to read the novel and gave feedback to Byrnes.
Byrnes then sent query letters to independent publishers so he didn’t need an agent. Byrnes received four contracts from independent publishers, one of which he took. The publisher he signed a contract with was going to close.
“I got them in touch with another bigger publishing company that I had known from the past,” Byrnes said. “They talked with each other and they both decided to do a merger, which saved my publishing contract; so that’s how I got to Blank Slate Press.”
A struggle of getting "Royal Beauty Bright" published, Byrnes said, was the difficulty of marketing the novel, as it doesn’t appeal to certain audiences who are big into reading.
“I definitely would have written a different book,” Byrnes said. “[‘Royal Beauty Bright’] doesn’t really fit into any big genres, so that makes it kind of hard to sell. My next one that I’m writing very clearly fits into women’s historical fiction; 'Royal Beauty Bright' is kind of fuzzy.”
The cover for the novel was its own process. Byrnes worked with the cover designer at the publishing company to design it. He said the designer wanted two soldiers on it to indicate it’s about World War I.
“I didn’t want it to be too gritty because then that would appeal to the wrong audience who like to read war fiction” Byrnes said. “This book isn’t really about the combat, it’s about the relationships between the people. So that’s why we went for the blue and the snow to kind of make it softer.”
The next project for Byrnes is a novel he wrote and edited last spring, titled “Lady Roosevelt’s Moonshine Library.” He hired an editor to help with the process and sent it out to agents, six of whom asked to read it.
Byrnes said he began writing in first grade when his teacher gave him an assignment to write a story that his mother had typed and printed for him. He has been writing ever since then.
“From 2011 to 2016 I did a lot of self publishing,” Byrnes said. “So I would write a young adult book in my free time and then I would publish it. I self-published through CreateSpace, which no longer exists. It’s now Kindle Direct Publishing, which is part of Amazon.”
Byrnes wrote about eight novels — all self-published and marketed locally — throughout high school.
“Royal Beauty Bright” is available to purchase on Amazon in Kindle or paperback editions. The novel can also be found in Iowa State's Bookstore as of Monday. Byrnes also has a website where people can look at his various novels: ryanbyrneswrites.com.