Self Publishing or Not?
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 6:16:00 AM
by Roxanne M Sackville
|A piece I wrote on my experiences with Self publishing has been put up on www.sootoday.com. I have added it for everyone to view. This is my first piece to be displayed online and I am quite pleased.
The long road to fulfilling a dream
By Pete Vere
Monday, January 07, 2008
Readers often ask me what it takes to land a book contract with a reputable publishing company. That is, besides divine intervention. It's not an easy road. Like many writers, I received rejection letter after rejection letter before a mid-sized American publisher (Servant Books) offered me my first book contract.
As too many aspiring writers discover, finding a publisher is easy; there are many publishers that will publish your work if you pay whatever they charge. The difficulty is finding a publisher that pays you.
For the past year I've been following the journey of Roxanne Sackville, an aspiring local author, as she seeks her first publishing contract with traditional royalty-paying publisher. Throughout that time I've watched her deepen her understanding of both the writing craft and how the publishing industry functions.
It was in this spirit that I invited Roxanne to share a guest editorial on her experience seeking a publisher, and I was delighted when she accepted.
Self Publishing or Traditional Publishing?
By Roxanne Sackville
Many people have asked me over the past two years how I went about publishing my first book and usually my response starts with a deep breath. Not because I don’t want to tell my story, but because the story is an arduous one, full of daily fighting and many disappointments. I believe that my story is not only one to teach, but also to learn from. I, like many other aspiring authors, thought that getting a book published was easy. You sit down, write the book, and then ‘voila’, it’s ready to be published. How wrong was I.
Starting Misery’s Companion, my first book, was easy. The story flowed from me for six months. I never fully understood editing and thought that with my straight A’s in English there was nothing wrong with my manuscript. I searched the web immediately after writing the final word and looked for a publisher. I found several and without knowing the complexity behind querying, I sent off my manuscript. Little did I know that the publishers I queried were self-publishers.
I received my response within two days. It was an exciting one - they wanted my book and for a small fee would publish it. I was elated. I filled out their forms, made my payment, and waited impatiently to hear back from them.
The publisher was Iuniverse. I have nothing bad to say about this company. They did all they promised, even though it was not the same thing that I had envisioned. I was naďve. It was not until a year later, with a successful book signing later and having received criticism both bad and good, that I realize what I had done.
Like many new writers, I had jumped into the pool forgetting to take along my swimsuit. I was very unprepared and therefore ended up learning much from this first leap.
I learned the difference between vanity, subsidy, self-publishing, traditional publishers, and small presses. I learned that each one has its own rules for what they do and don’t do for the author. I also learned that self-publishing, either through vanity or subsidy, will not land you a contract with a large press unless you have a horseshoe up your butt or a good editor behind you.
Trying not to let this one downfall deter me, I wrote a sequel called Tools of Terror. At its completion I began the tedious task of looking for another publisher. I sought one that would edit and help me promote the book. I thought I hit gold when I found my second publisher. They promised to be a traditional publisher, albeit with a very minimal advance. They did not require the author to pay any money and they would make sure the novel was edited to market requirements. Little did I know.
After receiving the contract, I mulled over it for almost a week. I decided to research this company before signing. What I found, I thought, were good signs. The Better Business Bureau stated the company was in good standing with a few complaints over the years, all but one being resolved. I figured I would give them a chance because nothing else popped up online saying anything seriously troubling about the company.
Within weeks I received my edited copy back. Nothing much had changed and I naively thought my book was flawless. Another lesson learned. While waiting for them to create my cover, I decided to research the company again. To my horror I found things I could never have imagined.
The company, which has to remain nameless due to a gag order, was found to be questionable. Many authors had fought the company over the accuracy of sales figures as well as the company's treatment of its authors. My heart sunk. Again, I had been fooled into thinking I had finally made it. Their kind words and excellent review of my novel in the acceptance email had raised my hopes. I discovered later that this email was generic and sent to all writers they accepted, and that they had had accepted a novel with repetitive paragraphs and even chapters.
I was mortified, but not beaten down. That same day I emailed a request to have my contract cancelled. They sent me the same refusal as they did others, however, I emailed them everyday. I found an author online who used to publish with this company and learned how he got himself released from the contract. I set out doing what he had, which was refuse to sell, market or work with my novel. I finally agreed to sign a gag order. Much to my glee, I was released after months of fighting.
It took me over three months to get the courage back up to fight for my books again. In the interim I had completed a another sequel called 360 Degrees.
With the help of others, I discovered where I went wrong - editing. I began searching out how to edit my novels myself. After going through all three of my novels again, checking for passive voice, split infinitives, and fragmenting errors - some of the main reasons for past rejections - I fixed what I could and left the rest to fate.
I searched online for proper ways to write a query letter and was shocked to find out how truly difficult it is. Yet I was not discouraged and rewrote my query until it was perfect.
I began to query agents, small presses and traditional publishers. Four months later, I received the response for which I had waited two years for - a request for a partial from a small press called Enspiren. My hopes were renewed.
The company was one of the few that would take sequels, and requested a partial from the best of the three books. I knew which book to use and that was my third and final, which I had renamed Revelations. A month passed and my nerves were frayed, my hair falling out and my fingernails chewed to the bone when I received their response to my partial. I read their email. One editor did not like the book, but gave it to another within the company for a second opinion. This second editor requested the first three chapters of my first book, saying she liked the ‘showing’ of the storyline.
I was excited. It did not bother me that one editor did not like it. I knew not everyone in the world would fall in love with my story, but the fact that she gave it a second chance with another editor pleased me. I quickly sent her the first three chapters while trying not get my hopes up. Another month passed, and I was checking my email three to four times a day. Finally, after much pacing through my house, I got the email with their final decision.
Now before I share their response, I want to say how very pleased with Enspiren I am. The publisher was very professional and gave my book as many chances as it could. For this I am grateful. The response was a fair one. Even though it was not what I had wanted to hear, I understood their position.
The company decided not to take my book; they felt it needed too much work to be made ‘publishable’, and that my ending for all three books should be changed. They also offer me some advice. With a solid, complete rewrite and possibly some writing courses, they invited me to try with them again.
At first, I was hurt. I had received their final response on Christmas Eve and toiled over it for almost a week. I took their response personally during that time and could not see past it. But after mulling it over, I realized one big thing - they were right.
What could it hurt to rewrite the books? I had already invested almost three years and I felt so strongly about the storyline that I would not just throw it away. So why not try at least?
And that is now where I am now. I am in the midst of rewriting all three books into one, watching my passive voice, fragmenting errors and split infinitives. I am immersing myself in reading books written by other authors to compare their writing styles to my own, and taking as much feedback from those who have read my books to make this one book better than any of the three separate books could have been.
I have learned much from my three years down this long road. I have learned to take good and bad criticism and use them to enhance my storyline. I have learned that even though I may feel I know what I am doing in a writer’s world, I don’t - but I am not willing to stop learning.
I love to write, it is my passion, and to me it is worth fighting for. If it means six more years of writing, reading, editing, querying, and being denied another three hundred times, then that is what I will do. I have always been a fighter and fighting for things I want is what I do best. I know that being a contracted author one day, pumping out a new book a year and having a fan base of those who love and hate my books is what I want, so I plan on sticking it out and fighting hard for it.