Well, the group header says to tell your story, so here's mine.
Let me begin by saying when I first wrote my novel, I did it out of pure pleasure and a determination to prove to myself that I could write a book. At that time, I had no aspirations to getting it published because I knew that was immensely difficult, it was just something I wanted to do.
I tried a couple of publishers in the UK (where I'm from originally) but not too seriously and nothing ever came of it. The real turning point for me came when I emigrated to the US. When I first got here, I spent three months sitting on my backside, twiddling my thumbs while all my papers went through. I couldn't do anything. My wife to be knew that I had this manuscript and encouraged me to go through it again and edit it and try sending it out.
After two rounds of editing, I started sending out queries. This was the most frustrating stage. I discovered there's a whole vicious triangle in the publishing world which is this - Publishers don't want to touch you without an agent and/or editor. Agents don't want to touch you without a publisher and/or editor and Editors don't want to touch you without an Agent and/or Publisher. It really was a brick wall. So anyway, I tried as many places as I could that would accept unsolicited submissions and in my genre (sci-fi) that's actually quite a lot. I mailed queries and sample chapters to many of the big publishers (DAW, TOR, Random House) and used any contacts I had. (My wife used to coach the daughter of a guy who worked at Time Warner books, so we managed to sneak one in there by that route). Despite some nepotism, all of these places rejected me.
However, I don't think I got the standard form rejection letter. A lot of my responses were very personal and very encouraging. Random House said something along the lines of "We think you have something here. It's very commercial, it's just not for us" That gave me the impetus to keep trying.
It just so happened that Book Expo America was coming to NY that summer and my wife managed to get me a ticket to get in. I set to work creating some flyers and printed them up - basically just with a short bio about me, a synopsis of the book, information about the book (word count, the fact that it was a complete manuscript) and contact information.
I hawked myself around that EXPO for three days, trying many of the genre specific small presses - and one of them bit.
Silver Leaf Books (www.silverleafbooks.com) asked me to submit a full manuscript, which I did and a couple of months later they got back to me telling me they wanted to run with it. Despite being overjoyed at the news, I was a little dubious. I wanted to be published but I knew very little about them.
In short, I took a lot of advice, even contacted Piers Anthony (he has a great website with info about publishers) and his advice was to run with it and use it as a stepping stone to getting an agent. I thought about it for a while longer and figured it was best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. This, after all, could be my one shot. If I turned it down in the hope of getting something bigger, I could be resigning myself to dozens of rejections further down the line.
So at this point, I am a published author with one novel under my belt and the second well on the way. There is a trade off with going with a small press - being that they don't really have the money to put into marketing and really get behind you, but the flip side of that is, you do get treated much more personally and feel valued as a part of their house.
At the present time, I still don't have an agent - and that suits me. I'm also on a royalties only deal - which again suits me. I don't need the pressure of trying to recoup an advance. I'd rather just see the royalties when the come in. That said, my first check probably wouldn't even buy the wife and me dinner so I'm not giving the day job up anytime soon - but it's a real thrill to have my book on my shelf and know that other people have read it and enjoyed it.
Hope this story was helpful. If there's one take home message from it, I think it is that sometimes you've just got to create your own luck.
Stuart Clark started this discussion 6 years ago. ( | permalink )