LAKE WYLIE --
For the rewarding sense he feels toward it all, one might never guess Richard Barnes has been rejected more times than he can count. Yet it isn’t the mountain of rejection or the molehill of success that defines his work, but instead the pursuit of something he truly loves.
Barnes, a retired sales and marketing professional in international chemicals, self-published his debut novel, “The Faircloth Reaction,” in 2009. Since then he’s been writing – hours a day every day from his River Hills home or his summer home on Lake Huron. Now, he has his first deal with a publishing house, Wings Press. Actually, he has deals for two books.
“To get any kind of publisher interested in you is a big deal,” Barnes said. “I was just floored.”
Along with promoting his latest work, “A Corydon Snow, Barnes hopes his experience can prove to be more than one man’s story. He hopes it encourages other writers, too.
In the authoring game, writing manuscripts is the easy part for Barnes. Along with his self-published work, Barnes has “The Corydon Snow” out and “Brink” coming next, and is working on another novel. It’s getting someone else interested in his writing that proves difficult.
“They don’t take any chances anymore in the publishing industry,” Barnes said. “They’re only going to publish you if you’re famous or if they know it’s going to be a surefire thing.”
Barnes learned many top publishing houses only handled a few books a year, books “they know they’re going to sell.” Barnes tried a writing agent, but never found one interested in taking him on.
“I thought if I can get an agent, I can get somebody to hawk my book,” he said.
Finally, after seeing a similar effort from another author, Barnes began contacting publishing houses directly – lots of them.
“I think probably getting the first one is the big hump,” he said. “They know I’m probably not going to sell 5 million copies, or even be a bestseller.”
Since May, Barnes estimates he sent information about “The Corydon Snow” and “Brink” to 50 publishers. Most never contacted him back or gave feedback. Barnes sent five or six manuscripts, and was “turned down all kinds of different places.”
“When you make a submission, every publishing house has different rules for how they want them submitted,” he said. “They have steps. It’s just very, very demanding.”
First comes a query, then if he’s lucky the publisher might ask for a few chapters. If he’s extremely lucky, the entire manuscript. All with up to six months of hearing nothing between steps, “then it’s usually negative,” he said.
Even when he did get to send his manuscript, some publishers wanted hard copies of the entire novel.
“That’s 25 bucks,” he said of mailing the 100,000-plus word piece. “That’s an arduous thing.”
Of more submissions than he can remember, Barnes found three interested in publishing him. A painful rejection rate for some, but one Barnes celebrated after months worth of work.
“It’s very consuming,” wife Margaret Barnes said. “If you’re going to do it, you better be committed.”
She’s glad to see something he loves paying off.
“We’re still speaking,” she said of his focus on writing.
With his work in e-book formats and hard copies available on amazon.com, it might seem like Barnes could relax. However, he has another book to write and needs to continue promoting his books. Plus, he’s setting his sites on even larger publishing houses.
“I could take my next book and shop it,” he said of landing a publisher. “It’ll be much easier to attract attention from a larger house.”
Barnes also hopes his story inspires others to continue working hard. His advice – say as much as you can in the fewest amount of words, learn from rejection criticism, be persistent – is no different from what hopeful authors can find online or in local libraries, he said, but it is personal and from a Lake Wylie neighbor.
“Keep writing,” Barnes said. “If you like to write and you have thoughts of writing to make money, I disabuse anybody of having that as their main motivation. If you can read your own writing and say, that’s pretty good, then be persistent. Keep at it, and work hard.”
Want to know more?
Richard Whitten Barnes will sign copies of his latest book, “The Corydon Snow,” beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Lake Wylie Public Library. The book details the S.S. Corydon Snow in a 1943 voyage from Pearl Harbor that takes it into the most dangerous battle areas of the Pacific. The book, published by Wings Press, is available at amazon.com for $17.95, or in e-format for $8.95.
More about the author
A Minnesota native, Barnes grew up on the north side of Chicago. A band scholarship took him to Michigan State University, where he majored in chemistry. He is retired from a long career in international chemical sales and marketing, which has taken him all over the world. He is a veteran in the Army 82nd Airborne Division and an avid sailor. He lives in Lake Wylie, but he and wife Margaret spend summers at their cottage on St. Joseph Island, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron. Barnes is currently preparing to publish a World War II novel set in the Pacific Theater and working on a book about the homeless. For more information, visit richardwhittenbarnes.com.