THE ROCKY ROAD TO PUBLISHING – PART 1
edited: Wednesday, February 07, 2007
By Laurel Dewey
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2007
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You want to get published? Here's one woman's story.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ENTRY MAY DEPRESS, CONFOUND AND SERIOUSLY IRRITATE ASPIRING WRITERS WHO CHOOSE TO READ IT. WHILE EVERY SINGLE WORD IS TRUE, IT MAY CAUSE FRUSTATED AUTHORS TO PUNCH A FIST-SIZE HOLE IN THE WALL, THROW THEIR KEYBOARD ACROSS THE ROOM, SMASH THEIR COFFEE CUP INTO PIECES AND GENERALLY FEEL LOUSY. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
It’s easy to sit where I am right now, reading five star reviews of PROTECTOR from both the pros and the public. From this vantage point, none of the drama that went into writing PROTECTOR or getting it published is evident. It’s all just cake and frosting to the unknowing observer. In fact, the comment I hear the most these days from readers is “I can’t understand why you had such a hard time getting PROTECTOR published.”
Well, let me tell you, it was a journey on a rocky road—a road that was filled with so many potholes and dead end streets, it took every ounce of gumption to keep going.
The reason I’m writing this passage is that I think it’s important for people to realize that behind any successful book is a story of how nobody wanted that book. It’s easy to look at what I’ve accomplished so far (and there’s so much more I plan to accomplish, believe me), and get the impression that the process was effortless and devoid of second-guessing. I can’t tell you how many people who look at the OUTCOME of PROTECTOR and remark to me, “Wow, I’m in the wrong business. I should be a writer.” The next person who says that to me is going to risk a fast fist in their solar plexus.
Let me tell you a little bit about the very long, very depressing, very ego-bashing, yet very rewarding journey of getting PROTECTOR into your hands.
Once upon a time, in a little Colorado town, back in February of 2000, I decided to seriously begin formal research on a fiction novel that had no title. I’d been gestating the idea of Detective Jane Perry for over a year in my head, and had written an extremely long and detailed back-story on her life. I had a good feel for Jane (although as readers of this blog already know, I hadn’t named her Jane yet…see the article "The Day Jane Perry Killed Kate Lincoln," January 3rd, 2007).
While I’d written two non-fiction books and over a thousand articles for magazines, my only foray into fiction writing was a western novella I penned in the mid-1990’s. The genre of PROTECTOR was always a crime drama. The paranormal/mystical element came a few years later. So, in an effort to create a realistic flavor to the book, I started calling various Colorado police stations and Sheriff Departments to request interviews. Since I wasn’t working for anyone and I had zero credentials, I had a lot of tart rejections from dubious detectives and deputies. But a few very kind deputies, detectives, patrol officers and Sergeants agreed to talk to me. Thus, I got into my two-wheel drive, Toyota 4-Runner and went from city to city, chatting up law enforcement officials. One particular homicide detective was kind enough to let me view explicit crime scene photos to give my story more validity. Now, I’ve got a weak stomach. I once passed out in line at Disneyland as my cousin described a nasty gash he received after crashing his motorcycle and sliding 50 feet on asphalt. But I knew if PROTECTOR were going to carry any weight, I’d have to gird my loins and peruse one gruesome full color photo after another of death and dismemberment. So, I did it and I quickly learned how cops learn to disengage in order to stay reasonably sane.
During this same time period, I decided I wanted to get to know Jane Perry even better. I needed to know her world intimately, from where she shopped for food to the car she drove. I decided that Jane wouldn’t drive a straight-laced car. I went to a couple dealerships and looked around for an interesting vehicle that would fit her personality and chose an ice blue 1966 Mustang. Vintage. A few dents here and there, but a cherry car that fit her maverick personality if there ever was one.
Next was her abode. I trolled the streets around Denver’s Cherry Creek locale (an area I was somewhat familiar with) and took photos of various homes on different streets. I was looking for Jane’s house. After about six different locations, I chose a house on Milwaukee Street that I felt defined Jane’s personality. (I later took that photo and pinned it up on the wall in front of my computer so I could have a constant visual reminder of where my main character lived.) I wanted to really understand Jane and walk in her shoes. So, to that end, I got out of my two-wheel drive 4-Runner and started walking down her block. I noted how long it took to get to the main drag and then I cruised around looking for a bar. No, I didn’t want a drink. Jane needed to have access to a bar and she needed to be able to walk to it in case she was too drunk to drive her car. Yes, I thought of everything. I found a bar called RooBar and a friend and I spent a few nights there, playing pool, soaking up the atmosphere and meticulously taking notes on a pad. I did everything from count the booths to factor the distance between the pool table and the front door. RooBar is Jane’s second home and I needed to know it as well as she did. I repeated this detailed excursion around Denver, Colorado with every single location that is mentioned in the book, including the house where Emily lives. Oh, and there are many other locations I visited as well that never made it into the book. But I spent just as much time researching them.
Obviously, this took time. But it was time worth spending because I couldn’t sit down and write a story about a woman’s life if I didn’t resonate on some level with her reality. It took as long as it took. And then on one March evening a year later in 2001, I turned on my computer and wrote the first chapter. I averaged six hours a day of writing time. Towards the end, I was working from 3:30 pm until 2:30 am each and every day, seven days a week, on the book. I was fortunate to be able to arrange my outside work schedule around the book writing. Still, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t bone tired most days after my head hit the pillow at 3:00 am. On May 22nd, 2002, I finished the last line of the 650 page first draft. (No one ever accused me of being brief.) During those 14 months, I poured my heart out onto the page and found that Jane Perry’s story was as healing to me as it was to the few friends I let read the manuscript.
When it was done, I let three people read the whole thing and each of them commented that it was powerful and I should find an agent.
Great. An agent. That should be easy.
I didn’t know any agents. I don’t have friends in the business. I’m not connected, as they say. So, I started sending out blind queries (i.e., emails with a paragraph pitch about my story) to reputable agents. During this time, I also had a few promising leads from friends who knew a friend of a friend who they thought could help. None of these panned out except for one. The one that did turned out to be a great guy in his late 70’s who had been in publishing and had connections with some major names. We were just starting to make headway when he died. Yes. Died.
My luck continued to falter until February of 2004 (that’s right, nearly TWO years later) when I finally got an agent to say “yes.” And it was one helluva enthusiastic “yes.” He was excited. No, he was beyond excited about PROTECTOR. He expected to sell the book within “weeks” and broker a film deal shortly thereafter. He was even talking to me about possible actresses to play Jane Perry.
Life was good. I was on my way to debut writer’s heaven.
Good Lord, was I ever ignorant.
That’s when the insanity of the publishing business really began.
I’ll continue the saga in Part 2. Stay tuned.