You wrote a book!
You want it published! Now!
Congratulations! I’ve felt that same excitement. However, I urge you to resist that impulse to self-publish right away.
I know you’re excited and, trust me, I know time is the downside of traditional publishing. It can take years. First you have to query agents. That can take a year or more of submitting your manuscript and waiting for responses. Then, when you get an agent, she may request edits before she queries publishers and editors. Then you both wait to hear back from them. This can take months. Then, if you get a publisher, it’s often a year or more till actual publication. Who wants to waste all that time?
As excited as you are to have completed your manuscript, and as much as you think it rocks, please hear my story first. It may help give you perspective.
It was six years from the time I finished my manuscript until it was traditionally published by a literary press. To be honest, though, two years out of that six was when I took a much-needed total break from writing, but I still count those years because life happens to us all. Either way, four or six years is a long time… However, none of that time was wasted.
My Road to Publication
In 2009, I finished my manuscript, then titled The Real Story, and began searching for an agent. I vowed I would query 100 before I gave up, and had reached 83 when I got two offers of representation. I signed with The Maria Carvainis Agency in early 2010. My amazing agent helped me strengthen my manuscript and then submitted it to publishers. It was a lengthy process of rejection after demoralizing rejection, and a second major revision where I reordered the entire novel.
It didn’t sell. Editors overwhelmingly praised it, but obviously something was lacking. Agent Rachelle Gardner says among the top reasons for publisher rejection are: 1) the book has a fatal flaw in form or content, or 2) the book has a strong premise but weak execution, or vice versa. Looking back, I can say the manuscript simply wasn’t ready.
Then, in October of 2011, tragedy struck our family when the eldest of our three adult children died by suicide. I had to stop writing for two years.
In 2013, still struggling with grief, I decided I couldn’t give up on this manuscript. I rewrote it with an entirely new point of view, using a second-person address (I-to-you) and retitled it In the Context of Love. The change was dramatic. Excited, I then sent it off to a respected author/editor, Marcy Dermansky, who loved the story. She also had some ideas on why publishers might have rejected it. Following her advice, I rewrote the beginning, again, and sped up several scenes by paring them down, and added more of what she said she liked best (happily it was more “you.”) The result was a much stronger, more compelling story that I believed readers would relate to.
Since my former agent had already shopped it around to publishers, I couldn’t go back to them and say “Hey, I rewrote it!” They’d already said no. My only recourse, since I was not interested in self-publishing, was to send it myself to small presses she hadn’t queried.
I sent the revamped manuscript to a handful of small presses and just a few months later, in early 2014, Buddhapuss Ink, LLC offered me a publishing contract. We worked hand in hand on the cover, inside design, and copy edits, and in September 2015, In the Context of Love was published.
The book is a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist, a Readers’ Favorite Book Award Finalist, a USA Book News “Best Books” Finalist, and it earned an Honorable Mention from the Great Midwest Book Festival. To say I’m delighted is an understatement.
Take Your Time and Get It Right
If I’d taken the advice of those who urged me to self publish in 2010 after the agent couldn’t sell the manuscript, I doubt I would have won those accolades and received so many five star reviews. The manuscript was half the story then as it is now.
I’m not knocking self-publishing. What I’m saying is, please, take your time, even if you’re convinced you’ve written the greatest novel ever. Seek out a worthy editor for honest feedback. Time is not your enemy when it comes to putting your best out there in the world.
Media/publishing speaker Jane Friedman states in a recent post, Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish, that one of the WORST reasons to self-pub is being in a hurry:
I see some writers self-publish mainly because they lack patience with the querying and submissions process of traditional publishing. Or they want the instant gratification of getting their work on the market. But again, this is one of the worst reasons to self-publish. I find many authors on my doorstep because they thought “Why not self-publish now and shop it around later to agents/editors?” — and ended up disappointed with the results. If you have any interest whatsoever in traditional publishing, exhaust all your agent/publisher options first. Get thoroughly rejected (as much as that may hurt), and then self-publish. It’s very, very hard to go in the other direction successfully.
And if you’re getting rejections from agents or publishers, don’t give up. Keep working. Make sure your book is the best it can be. Despite rejections, disappointments and tragedy, I never gave up, and look what happened.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters