Getting Published – The Traditional Publishing Route.
My first attempt at writing a manuscript came in the form of a memoir: two years of my life where everything changed for me – you could probably call it my mid life crisis.
Encouraged by my writing mentor, Kenneth G Ross, who thought the story was print worthy, I slaved, day after day and month after month, until I was convinced it was a brilliant piece of work. As I mentioned in my previous blog, my mentor did not agree with me and sent me back to the drawing board time after time.
The day finally came when it was polished and ready and due for one last scan from Ken.
Mentor away on an overseas trip, I heard that manuscript assessor, Peter Bishop, from the Varuna House Writer’s Centre was offering free appraisals at the Byron Bay Writers’ Centre, and I booked in to see him.
Grasping the first fifty pages of the, still lengthy, manuscript in sweaty hands, I offered them to him and much to my surprise he was encouraging and gave me the name of a publisher whom he was convinced would give me a break into the heady world of publishing!
I was on my way!
The publisher thought the work worthy, albeit unpolished and raw, but agreed to take it to the board for a decision to publish.
I was on my way!
The board decided the manuscript was far too litigious and, fearing repercussions from the real-life characters contained within, they turned it down.
Back to the drawing board! Memoir discarded and put in the ‘too hard’ basket, I moved on to works of fiction. And back to my mentor with my tail between my legs. Off to writing courses, reading, internet research and studying. Pestering, pestering.
My first work of fiction was ready.
Off to the original publishers!
The G.F.C. hit. ‘Sorry, Jaci. We are facing the mass closure of bookstores. Not taking on any new authors. Downturn in the market.’ Etc., etc…
Not to be discouraged, I sent the manuscript away to a manuscript assessment and editing agency who suggested they could offer assistance in getting published. $800 odd dollars and six weeks later, I received the five page assessment which basically said that the manuscript need a name change (agreed), was professional, clear and clean, read well, was fast paced and a lively read (thank you), could do with another edit (What? I thought that was why I had sent it?) However, the lines that really got my blood boiling were:
I want to state, upfront, that contemporary women’s fiction isn’t my favourite choice for reading matter, especially with the market being rather flooded by it, so I probably approached it with some misgivings.
The market for contemporary women’s fiction has been huge but is currently under threat…
Well, yes, I knew that, which is why I sent the manuscript to them in the first place, and I was assured it would be read by an assessor/editor who enjoyed reading the genre.
Off to The Sydney Writer’s Centre to part with more money in order to attend the: ‘How to get your book published’ seminar.
Now, whilst I found the seminar riveting, fast paced and informative, there was not too much in it that I didn’t know. However, it was good to attend and meet other writing hopefuls and I believe that even if you lean one thing, it’s worth it.
Here’s what I learnt:
- Research publishing houses. Choose those who have published books in similar genres and align your book with their ‘parallels.’
- Write a winning book proposal
- Know your audience
- Write a winning synopsis.
- Send off a query letter containing your ‘elevator pitch’ (a 30 second pitch on what your book is about – as if you had to tell it after being asked during a short elevator ride) and include terms such as ‘similar in style to….’ or ‘covers the same subject matter as…’ Offer the publishers ideas to help generate income from your book and offer to help in the marketing. Attach the book proposal and synopsis along with the first 50 pages of your manuscript (check websites for amount of pages).
Now the lecturer advised us to ignore publisher’s websites stating that they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and to send off at least a query letter anyway. He also advised against sending off manuscripts one at a time and encouraged us to flood the market. He was not in favour of agents either.
That is exactly what I did.
And if I thought writing the book was hard, or that rewriting and editing it, ad infinitum, was even harder, I had now entered into a whole new Universe:
Within months, I had received enough rejection letters to wallpaper one wall of my office. And nearly every letter of rejection offered the same tired, uncreative and rote clichés – We regret to inform you that… blah, blah, blah. In fact, so much so that I began to wonder if there were any writers, journalists or editors left working at the agencies and publishers, or had they all left the country in search of a brighter future in books?
To say that I was truly discouraged by this stage was an understatement!
Until – I was offered an alternative I hadn’t even considered. Nor, had anyone – manuscript assessors, agents and lecturers, and most definitely literary agents and publishers (even though none of them had wanted to take on a new author) – suggested it to me.
Self publishing…. ahhh, interesting…
More in my next blog – Jaci