Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Publishing Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I've always enjoyed reading about how authors got published -- even the details of heartache and excitement and disappointment of their individual journeys.  Because reading those stories lets me know I'm not alone in my own experiences.

Well, here's my story.  I've decided to be quite detailed, but to leave out the specific names and situations regarding the publishers/agents involved.  I just always want to stay professional.  I think that's really important.  So, here goes...

In the Beginning...

I've been writing novels since I was 21 years old (I'm 43 now).  I got serious about trying to get published about thirteen years ago.  I attended writers' conferences and soaked up all the information I could about the process.  I was told, over and over, that I had to get a literary agent.  That it was the only way to be published.  So, I polished my novel and polished my query letter.  Then I researched agents and studied their submission requirements.  Then, I sent out my proposals.  And although I got a few "bites" of interest (requests for a full manuscript), I also got countless rejections.  It happens.  In fact, it's expected.  But that doesn't make it sting any less.  But during those challenging years, I did something very important.  While I was submitting, I kept on writing.  I wrote and edited five other novels.

Fast-Forward to 2010:

During my final round of submissions, about five years after writing the first book in my current series, I got a contract from a literary agent.  Hallelujah!  But unfortunately, after many months went by, it became obvious we weren’t a good “fit.”  So, after our contract length had ended, we went our separate ways.  Back to Square One.

Switching Gears:

Since I'd had no real success with literary agents, I decided to approach publishers directly, on my own.  Big and small.  It took weeks and weeks of new research, and of learning the publishing industry in a way I never had before.  I wanted to be equipped, well-informed.  Essentially, I was becoming my own agent.  So, I sent my book to several editors and got nothing but rejections.  It made me wonder if I was on the right path.  But--a few months into the process, I was offered a contract by a small publishing company!  I was beyond ecstatic.  It had finally happened.  As a courtesy, I notified the other publishers who had my book.  And I received two more contracts!  After some excruciating decision-making, I chose a publisher.  (Side note:  I'm a teacher, with absolutely no legal education, so I decided to hire a literary attorney to look over the contract.  I'm so glad I did.  Worth every penny, for the peace of mind).

Sadly, things went unexpectedly awry, regarding the contract.  I won’t go into detail, but after months of “issues,” the publisher and I ended up going our separate ways (a mutual decision).  Still, I was devastated.  

Back to Square One—again—with a weary heart.  The doubts started to seep in, in a way they never had before.  Would this ever happen for me?  After all these years of trying? 

After licking my wounds, I decided to re-approach one of the other publishers who’d offered a contract wayyy back in January.  What did I have to lose?  They could only tell me "no."  But they didn't.  They actually took me back!  Within forty-eight hours, I had spoken with the editor twice on the phone, had received and signed a contract, and had written an author bio for their website.  Success, lightning-fast!  After all these years.  Blood, sweat, and yes, even tears.

In the End...

One thing I've learned:  the publishing process isn't for wimps.  It's frustrating, maddening, and it will make you doubt yourself many, many times over.  But, if your goal is to get published, it's something you likely will have to endure.  Every writer's journey is different.  There are some true overnight success stories out there.  But they're rare.  Getting published takes dedication, perseverance (actually, it's more like stubbornness, lol), and hard, hard work.  And, the good news:  the publishing landscape is changing.  Writers have more choices, more opportunities than ever (including self-publishing).  This industry is rapidly changing, because of the digital age, and e-books.  Even publishers now have no idea what the publishing landscape will look like in the future.  And that's kind of exciting.

Question of Why

During the journey (or, preferably at the start of the journey), it's important for every writer to ask one big question:  Why?  Why do I want to get published?

If the answer is "money," heh, forget it.  That's, unfortunately, unrealistic.  If the answer is "fame," again, unrealistic.  Not impossible, but not likely.

I asked myself this question a couple of years ago, and here's what I came up with:
I want to see my book in print.  To hold it, to crack it open, to smell it (man, I'm such a book nerd!).  The thought of having my own words, my own thoughts/ideas/characters grace the inside pages of a book makes me giggly.  It just does. 

Probably the main reason I want to get published is this:  I love the idea of other people reading words I wrote.  I love the notion that someone, somewhere, maybe in Maryland or New York or California, will see the cover, read the blurb, and decide, for some reason, to spend hard-earned dollars to purchase it.  Even more, I like the idea of that person going home after a difficult work day, maybe even with personal burdens, and escaping his/her life, momentarily, through reading my book.  Because that's a huge part of the reason that I read.  I would love for someone to experience what I experience through books--the escapism, the intimacy, and even the reflection of oneself through a character or situation.  The notion that I, somehow, could be any part of that process for someone else is incredible to me.

The End...Only The Beginning

So, that's my story, with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, lows and highs.  My story is happy, it's sad,'s unfinished.  Who knows where my writing will take me next.  But the most important thing is that I never lose sight of one thing:  the love of writing.  Because that’s the fire that fuels everything else.


  1. Awesome. I am sooooo glad your hard work, dedication, and (yes) stubbornness is finally coming to fruition. You deserve all good things. Thank you for sharing your ups and downs along the way. You inspire and entertain me. :~)

  2. I've found that "being professional" is often a ruse promoted by corps and businesses to keep people from talking specifically about the bad things they've done. Like not being able to talk about your salary at work so that people won't know who is being paid more.

    I'm more of the opinion, at this point, that if something actually happened to you, you should name the perps. There's not really anything unprofessional, after all, about telling the truth.

  3. I understand what you mean, Andrew -- but I guess I have selfish reasons for not giving details. Yes, I was treated poorly by certain people in the industry. But I don't like to burn bridges and I don't want to get a reputation for airing dirty laundry online, especially now that this blog is no longer "anonymous." I just need to be careful. I certainly applaud those writers who have the guts to call out names and get specific with complaints, but I'm just not one of them. *shrug*

  4. Oh, well, I'm not suggesting that you actually need to name names; I'm just saying the "professionalism" of that is a myth.

  5. To be professional, as Traci suggests, is the "classy" thing to do. We need more who have integrity and "rise above" circumstances. - - Looking so forward to read your books when published!