Sunday, February 1, 2015

Foibles and Faux Pas on the rocky road to publishing

I wanted to be many things as a kid: doctor, lawyer, teacher, actress, and singer though I am tone deaf, scientist... you name it.  My ambition changed daily but the one consistent thing I wanted to be was an author.  Of course when I communicated it to my mother she simply told me of the poor homeless author who sat on the side of the streets peddling his books and begging for food. Her point: get a job and write as a hobby.

I kept writing anyway and eventually published.  Along that obstacle strewn path to being published I made many mistakes.  And not an author in this world can say they’ve never had foibles and faux pas on the rocky road to being published.  I’ll share with you a few lessons I have learned from my mistakes.

Lesson # 1- never submit your only copy
The summer between third form (9th grade) and 4th form (10th grade) I wrote what I thought was a wonderful full length teenage romance novel, similar to Sweet Dreams romances.  I wrote it in pen on loose leaf paper that had my mother complaining that I was wasting paper.  At that time my father had just died, my older siblings were transitioning to other countries and not a person in my house was working.

My second oldest sister migrated and left me with her electric Brother typewriter.  I was in heaven.   I typed that entire manuscript, about 200 plus pages, despite my mother’s objection.  Paper didn’t come cheap.  Then I looked up the address of the publisher of the Sweet Dreams, and I got every penny from my piggy bank and mailed it.  It was my only copy.  I hadn’t considered photocopying it, and even if I did, I could not afford it.

I waited.  I’m still waiting.  They neither responded nor returned my manuscript!  To make matters worse, the original ink copy got wet and bled making everything illegible.  Now my first original novel is lost forever.

Lesson # 2—if something seems too good to be true, it is
“A Marriage of Convenience” is my first published novel, but it is not the first novel I wrote as an adult.  12 years ago I wrote a full length romance.  This time I submitted the query to multiple publishing houses.  Within two days, I got an email from a publishing company requesting the full manuscript.  I was elated.  The next day, they accepted it.  That gave me pause.  It couldn’t be that easy.  A day later they asked to send money for editing services etc.  Suspicious, I wrote a garbled piece of crap and submitted it to the same publisher through their online portal.  The same thing happened.  They requested the manuscript because the writing was so wonderful.  So I did an internet search for the publishing house and immediately it showed up as a scam.  That’s when I discovered Preditors and Editors with a big warning not to use that company which takes your money and never publishes your work.

Lesson # 3 – have a strong back, thick skin and don’t give up
Needless to say, that first manuscript was rejected by just about every legitimate agent and publishing house.  So I decided to write another one.  That’s where “A Marriage of Convenience” came in.  I first entered it into a competition and lost.  Then I sent it to every publishing house with positive ratings on Preditors and Editors.  And the rejections came in.  So I reworked it, submitted it again…rejection.  I put it aside and started working on another manuscript.  It was then that I got a snail mail from Dorchester publishing saying they were interested in my story.  I left the letter on my refrigerator for three days while I looked up Dorchester.  I didn’t even recall submitting the manuscript to them.  But as luck would have it, when I called, it was Monica Harris and I was in.  She had received the manuscript by snail mail over six months earlier. 

Lesson # 4 Negotiate your contract
I was so happy to have my book published that I signed a horrible contract giving me just 2% of net sales.  Can you imagine?  A coworker of mine worked it out to 15 cents per book.

Lesson #5 being a published author does not make it easier to get a second book published.
Dorchester published two of my stories back to back then went bankrupt.  I thought, I had two books published surely it would be easy to publish another.  How ignorant of me.  So I began writing and submitting again.  I even went to conferences and pitched.  Nothing. 

Then a ray of hope… Amazon bought out Dorchester and I resigned with them.  Wow.  Lots of great changes:  renegotiated contract that was much better than Dorchester and many of the other major publishing houses; actually being paid; royalty statements each month, a special portal for submission and better communication.  More importantly they actively promote the books.  In fact, A Marriage of Convenience has been included in Amazon’s February 50 for $2 in the US Kindle Store, starting 2/1/2015 and running through 2/28/2015.

I submitted my new manuscript with high hopes because Amazon had invited me to write for the launch of their Kindle Worlds.  Much to my surprise it was rejected.  I submitted another…rejected.  Their reason?  Only erotica and historical they were taking at that time.  Really?

Lesson #6 – never thumb your nose at alternative publishing.
When I first got published traditionally, I was walking on air.  I questioned the validity of self published authors.  That sentiment was echoed by many other traditionally published authors and in my mind supported by the flood of substandard material that made their way into eBooks.  But with the upheaval of the publishing industry brought about by the eBook revolution, and many traditionally published turning to Indie, my mind began to change.  Indie publishers gained validity in my eyes.  Since then I have explored many more options for publishing, including going with a very small publisher.  My children’s book was published by Caribbeanreads, a small publishing company owned by fellow Novelnaught Carol Mitchell.  It was such a wonderful experience that I’m going with Caribbeanreads again for my next full length romance novel, “Hurricane of the Heart” to be released this summer.

So the bottom line is, on the road to publishing there will be foibles and faux pas.  But treat them as lessons to be learned along the way and keep writing and publishing.  I look forward to hearing your anecdotes about writing and publishing, which is incidentally, the theme for this month.


Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice, learned the hard way. Glad you kept going through it all.

Liane Spicer said...

So many déjà vu moments here for me!

I wrote my first novel long-hand on legal-size foolscap then invested in a Brother electronic typewriter that I couldn't afford on my teacher's salary. The tape cartridges cost an arm and a leg! Photocopying 400+ pages per shot and mailing--more expenses that had me doing financial gymnastics.

I also got that horrible contract from Dorchester. My agent was able to get that 2% up to 4%--still roughly half the industry average at the time. She also got them to double the laughably minuscule advance...and it was still laughably minuscule.

Amazon's Montlake has indeed been much better than the Dorchester fiasco. No decent promos in the US store yet but the UK promos so far have generated--shock!--several royalty checks. (I also assumed my second novel would be an easy sell to them.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Liane we should be twins-- our journeys reflect each other so much.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Charles, you should guest post some time this month about your journey