In honor of the upcoming launch of my new website, I’d like to share my “Story Behind the Story” web segment with you. It’s my publication story … and beyond.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Just so you know, this is not a long story made short. It’s a long story that still has no ending.
Somewhere around 1999, I got inspired. I wish I could tell you I had a vision or an amazing dream that brought about that inspiration. But if I’m going to be honest with you I must tell you that my inspiration simply came from this deeply profound thought: “Heck! I want to write a book!”
So I sat down at the old desktop in the basement and pounded away at the keyboard until I had a chapter finished. It was called “Indoor Recess” (the chapter is now called “Blind Eyes”) and it was bad! Really bad! Of course, at the time I thought it was pretty brilliant.
Publication never even crossed my mind so I just took my time with the story which, besides that first chapter, was written in my closet. (I kid you not. It was a pretty dazzling set-up, actually.) Thinking back, it was a good thing I wasn’t considering publication at the time – I’d have gotten nothing but rejection notices if I’d tried submitting that early stuff! And trust me, I got enough rejections after I’d polished the manuscript to what I had thought was a high-gloss shine!
It wasn’t until a friend of mine started badgering me about finishing up the book and trying to submit it to publishers that I even considered taking it out of the closet to introduce it to the light of day. But, being the serious procrastinator I am, I just smiled and said, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll get it done. No worries.”
Six years later…
The badgering persisted. So, I finally caved, got the manuscript done, and then spent about six months researching my face off about how to get a publisher to even glance at a manuscript written by an unrepresented no-namer. I vowed, right from the beginning, that I would not self-publish, no matter what. It just wasn’t a road I was prepared to take. So I memorized individual publisher’s submission guidelines, the “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” of submitting manuscripts, and I read zillions of books on the subject, articles on the web, and anything I could get my hands on to make me feel like I wasn’t completely loopy for even trying to attempt such a long-shot! Once my brain was full of all the information I could absorb and I knew I was as ready as I would ever be (which still wasn’t ready enough!), I made the leap and sent out packages tailored to specific publisher requirements – even to ones who said they weren’t accepting manuscripts from no-namers.
Then, according to my infinity hours of research, I had at least six months to wait before I even heard anything (which would most likely be a rejection notice, they all assured me) from a publisher. Well, a few weeks later, I got a favourable email from a small publisher in the U.S. stating they wanted to read the whole manuscript! Yikes! Freak out time!
And then a few days later I got another email from a publisher in Canada wanting the completed manuscript. And then about a week after that, I got an email from Simply Read Books in Vancouver, also wanting the full meal-deal. Now, before you think all I got was positive feedback, let me assure you there were plenty of rejections tossed in with those heart-stopping emails – on a daily basis! Actually, the rejections kept coming in for months after. And I’ve kept each one. I remember actually cherishing my first rejection letter that came from a big NYC publisher. “I’ve made contact!” I exclaimed, hugging the impersonal form letter. My husband and kids thought I’d lost it. (FYI – I’m not crazy. I didn’t do that with every rejection letter. The novelty of ‘making contact’ wore off after that first one!)
So, considering I needed to send my completed, polished manuscript off to three different publishers, I quickly did another once-over and shipped them off. Pressing the “send” button on my email was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. My finger quivered over the key for a good long while. I was sending my baby into the hands of complete strangers! Strangers that had the power to make a final judgement and totally and out rightly reject my six years of blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, maybe not the blood part, but the sweat and tears, definitely.
One of the three publishers did the deed and swiftly hung my sweat and tears out to dry. But not too long after, Simply Read Books called one night. I thought my husband was playing a cruel joke on me when he said, “There’s a publisher on the phone for you.” “That’s not even funny,” I said as I took the receiver. But within a few minutes I was laughing! I couldn’t believe what the guy on the other end of the line had just said to me. All I heard was, “I want to publish your book,” and then my mind shut off and I didn’t hear anything else – except something about a contract. What? A contract? A real, live contract? And this from a publisher who’d said they weren’t accepting submissions from no-namers!
Once I hung up the phone and the happy-dances with my family died down and the days turned into weeks with not another peep from the publisher, I had convinced myself that the man on the phone had either called the wrong person or had changed his mind. I wasn’t going to get published after all. Time to embrace the rejections that were still coming in and drag my heart back to the place of rejoicing for at least “making contact.”
But a real live contract showed up in the mail a few weeks later. I read it about fifty times (the first twenty-five times because I was still in shock and the last twenty-five times because I was trying to make sense of it) and then I had a lawyer read it over before I signed it and sent it back. And then I cried. My baby wasn’t mine anymore. For the first time I could see why some people would rather self-publish and keep their baby in their own arms forever.
Now, before you shrug me off as just being “one of the lucky ones”… Well, maybe there’s a speck of truth in that somewhere. But let me assure you, the amount of “luck” I might have had can’t even come close to equalling the number of hours and amount of hard work I put into the whole process. Hard, hard work – right from the moment I started researching publishers to preparing submission packages to the never-ending editorial process to seeing my book through to print. And now, beyond. You may have heard it said that writing the book is the easy part. Well, let me tell you that is the absolute truth! So many people think publication is the magic pill and if only they could swallow it all their authorial dreams, goals, and ambitions would be instantly fulfilled and then all of their hard work will have finally paid off. Well, that may be partly true, but I’ve swallowed the pill and have learned that although it may provide a shot of instant relief, it’s actually designed to work as a slow release. And it’s only effective when working in conjunction with the mettle in your system.
There have been so many times over the years when I’ve totally felt like giving up and trashing this whole crazy idea of being a published author, just because it’s been such hard work. And continues to be. True, there are many moments of exhilaration and satisfaction and fulfillment and affirmation and love of the business. There are. Many. But it’s not always that way, like with anything in life. I’ve been bumped and jostled; I’ve stumbled and been tripped up; I’ve got scraped knees, elbows, palms, and chin. I feel I’ve now earned the right to include “blood” for a complete “blood, sweat, and tears” parallel to hard work. Publishing is a tough business. Period.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for anything. (Well, maybe for some things, but not just for anything.) It’s undeniable: The thrill of publication is grand – the Grandest of the grand! And the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced along the way have been life-enriching. Absolutely. And what’s more? I’ve learned great lessons; lessons about the importance of researching and doing my homework; about being patient and assertive; about practicing my craft; about networking; about perseverance, determination, and hard work. About how a no-namer like me can earn the chance to be published – and even published successfully – when all of the above are taken seriously. I’ve also learned that lessons like these have the potential to become great fuel to propel me forward and, conversely, they also have the potential to become dust if left to sit too long.
So as this brand new website emerges from the dust all sparkly and fresh, you’ll find me here among the rubble, donning my safety-goggles and doing what I can to convert my accumulated knowledge to rocket fuel.
Like I said, this isn’t a long story made short. But considering where I find myself today, looking to the future, I wouldn’t want to shorten it anyway.
To be continued …