By Sherry who may be melting but it is July!
It took me a long time to get published – a long time. During that time I met all kinds of people and fortunately for me they were lovely. Unfortunately, not everyone has such a great experience. I was anxious to get my first book (still unpublished) into the hands of agents and editors. But I’d also heard there were predators and was cautious. So today I’m going to share a few stories as examples of what can go horribly wrong. Followed by a quick bit of advice.
This is a stack of some of the many rejection letters I received back in the day when we still used snail mail for queries. And yes, that tiny piece of paper is a rejection letter as is the index card. They came in all shapes and sizes. I can’t find my favorite one which was a torn in half, mimeographed piece of paper with a footprint on it.
When I was at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference two weeks ago I had time to chat with Darla, Kensington’s Director of Sales. Our conversation turned to publishing (big surprise). Darla told me a story that needs to be shared and is the reason I wrote this post.
A few years ago Darla was working the Kensington booth at ALA. A woman came by and tried to give Darla her manuscript. Darla explained to her that she shouldn’t do that and that anyone who was willing to take her manuscript under such circumstances probably wasn’t a good person. Darla suggested the woman look for an agent before she did anything else.
Fast forward a year and Darla is back at ALA. The same woman swings by and now has a tale of woe. The year before she’d handed someone her manuscript and never heard from them again. Then one day she stumbles across a copy of a book that sounds almost identical to hers – someone stole her story. Of course the woman was upset, but that isn’t the end of this story. She tried to give Darla her new manuscript! Darla, again said, “Don’t do that. That’s not how the business works.” Darla tried to convince her to protect her work, but she wasn’t sure the woman heard what she was saying.
A few years ago at a writers conference I met a woman who’d fallen prey to an unsavory publisher. She’d paid them $15,000 to publish her book. When she got the book it was full of errors and missing pages. They did nothing to help her when she protested. She was so surprised when a few of us explained how the publishing world should work, that we hadn’t paid the publisher, they had paid us.
Barb Goffman and I did an event together. After the event a woman talked to us about her publisher. She’d paid them $10,000 and she got her books, but they weren’t selling well. The publisher kept contacting her and telling her if you send us another $1000 we can place you on this list or in that review. She’d kept sending them money but her sales weren’t increasing. Barb told her not to send them another dime because they were scamming her.
It’s hard to be patient when you want to get your book published and the odds mean it isn’t easy. It was easy to get scammed when I first started querying, but is even easier now.
So what’s an author to do?
- Do your homework and learn about the business side of publishing. Arm yourself with knowledge before you send out your manuscript.
- Join an organization where the members understand what the business side of the publishing industry is like. If you write crime fiction join Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, or Crime Writers of Color. It will give you an opportunity to meet people who understand what you are going through, people who can help you through the process. If you write something other than crime fiction search out organizations for the type of fiction your write.
- Study the publisher. Talk to other authors who have worked with that publisher to find out what their experience was like. Order and read books by the publisher to check the quality of the books.
Take care of your precious words you worked so hard to write and don’t give up.
Here is a side view of my rejection letters.
Readers: Are you patient or impatient?