Writers And Misinformation, Or: “How Did You Publish?”

So, the other day I saw these tweets from a fine and funky fellow I met at the Crossroads Writers’ Conference in Macon GA — here, I’ll let Mike tell the sordid tale:




Then, the other day, a comment at this very blog suggested that publisher non-compete agreements could stop a writer from authoring blog posts and that agents (who would arguably protect against such draconian clauses) were all in the pockets of publishers anyway, and so on.

Here’s the thing:

This entire writing-and-publishing thing is shot through with pulsing black veins of misinformation. That’s not good for anybody, writer or publisher.

So, here’s my proposition:

I want you to tell us all about your experiences in getting published. That can be through traditional means big or small or through self-publishing. Feel free to drop it right into the comments or in a separate blog post (though hopefully you link back here). Tell us as much as you care to share: agent yes or no? Good? Bad? Did you get screwed? Do you have warnings to pass along? Are you happy? Rich? Poor? Fucked? Triumphant? We need to start painting a picture for people — now, this will be an incomplete picture, for we’re talking anecdotes here, not data born of some official survey. Just the same, we need more authors, I think, to start planting signposts in this hard and alien earth. And I’d like for this post to help start sketching a map.

If you want to use the comments anonymously, you most certainly can.

I don’t want to hear about someone you heard about. If it’s not an experience you personally have had, then forget it. Primary sources only please — no friend-of-a-friend fuckery.

This is also not a place to stage the “self-pub versus traditional” bullshit battleground. Let us assume that both options are equal in the Eyes of the Publishing Gods, kay?

Tell us whatever it is you feel is valuable about your experiences getting published. No need to restrict it to information from just authors or self-publishers, either: small presses, agents, employees of big traditional publishers, IP/copyright lawyers, whatever, whoever.

Jump in.

Please share.

Let’s spread around some real information to help undercut the misinformation.

Thanks in advance.


88 responses to “Writers And Misinformation, Or: “How Did You Publish?””

  1. I have to say that as somebody who’s finishing the last 10k words of his first draft, it’s nice to hear so many different publishing stories from so many different people, especially all these ones about getting a deal with a Big 6/5 publisher. It feels more like an achievable goal than a silly pipe dream that a child would have (or that people tell me it is).

    Thanks for all of the anecdotes, everyone!

  2. I have been pretty successful as a self-published author. I don’t have crazy numbers, but I do well enough to be able to do it full time and live just as I did when I had a normal, 9-5 job. And I’ve managed to do that without having some sort of fame before I first published. People said that the only successful self-published writers were those who were traditionally published but were putting their back lists up, so many people think you already have to be somebody to be successful self-publishing. It’s not true and thank goodness for that.

  3. I submitted my ideas properly and they purchased them. Though I did sell a screenplay pitch in a 2 mile taxi ride. If there is a market and it is strong enough work they will buy it with actual dollars.

  4. I’m published with three, soon to be four, small genre publishers. Direct submissions, no agent. I have one novel, three novellas, and several short stories “in print” (the novel and an anthology are actually in hard-copy print; the others are digital only). I haven’t tried for an agent or targeted a big publisher for a number of reasons, but I haven’t ruled it out for the future.

    Oh, and in all that, I’ve gotten one rejection and one revise-and-resubmit, for the same manuscript. Acceptances on everything else. 🙂

  5. I’m traditionally published, and got super lucky.

    I wrote a manuscript, the first in an urban fantasy series, and spent 6 months editing it.

    I researched publishers in my area (urban fantasy) extensively. I decided, based on that research, that Ace/Roc (Penguin) was the best fit, and submitted a 10-page sample and query letter. That was June 2007.

    Penguin was the only publisher to whom I submitted. I did not have an agent, so my manuscript went into the slush pile.

    Three months later after my submission (Sept. 2007), I got a request for a partial.

    Four months after that (Jan. 2008), I got an offer from Penguin for the first two books in the series.

    Contract in hand, I queried agents, and got an offer.

    Since January 2008, I’ve contracted for 10 books the series, and 3 more in a separate YA series.

    At the time of my submission, I knew no one in publishing; my manuscript was pulled from a slush pile.

    I’ve never had a creative writing class, although I’d learned to write via multiple writing-intensive degrees and jobs.

    I made no payments to anyone (and never have, other than for my own marketing efforts).

  6. I started back in 2004, wrote some novellas, sold them to small epublishers who’d just started. Made tiny amounts of money. Wrote a novel, wrote a query letter, sent it out to 20 agents, got lots of rejections, then one said, yup, I’ll take you on. He sold that book in a week, I got a 2 book deal with Kensington, then a two book deal with Avon, then a 2 book deal with Harlequin. All within a year. I thought I had it made.

    Except I didn’t. My sales sucks, and my first published dropped me. The 2nd one also stopped publishing me. Then I fired my agent and got a new one. With that new agent, I started writing in a different genre, and we shopped many books. Got lots of praise, but nothing sold. So I left that agent after 2 yrs and decided to self publish those books.

    Since then I’ve gotten rights back to some of those books that sold, and have put them out on my own. Now I have 13 selfpublished titles out. And I make more money now than I ever did. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want another traditional deal. I do. I sold 3 books to Carina Press. And I am shopping another book to publishers.

    My plan is to write another book and query agents. I would love a new agent, a new publishing deal and to selfpublish what I wish when I wish it. I still write for Harlequin.

    It is not an either or situation for me. I’m not rich from selfpublishing, not by a long shot, but I make enough monthly to live and care for my daughter.

    To me its about making a living as a writer, writing what I want to write.

  7. I am both traditionally and indie published. My traditional publishing experience started in 2008. I have published with three different publishers, two small press and one that is quite large in the erotic romance genre. My traditional experience taught me a lot, but ultimately, I wanted to have more control.

    After my contracts expired with two of my three publishers, I hired my editor (who I met through one of these publishers), hired a cover artist and got busy doing it myself. For me at this point it was the best move I’ve made. My urban fantasy series sales soared and made it onto Amazon and iTunes bestseller lists. I went from making barely enough in a month to put gas in my car to making more than enough to live on and pay down personal debt. It has also allowed me to make some serious business connections that I wouldn’t have made otherwise.

    As great as self pubbing has been for me, I am so glad I worked with traditional publishers first. I learned so much with each of my publishers. I fully believe it gave me the ability to do as well as I have as an indie author.

  8. Since you asked, here is my adventure, as found in my blog (The Goat Rodeo), and entitled: Why Fat People Make the Best Editors (With Apologies to Erin Morgenstern)

  9. My experience in publishing has been good. I’ve seen two of the companies who paid me for stories fold, unfortunately. Since I work with smaller publishers, I don’t worry so much about an agent. They have their merits, I’m sure. they just don’t fit into my writing world at the present time. As far as the editors I’ve worked with (provided by my publishers) some are harder than others but I’ve developed a good relationship with them. Their goal is to kick my ass into shape. Good thing I got plenty of ass to go around. I have one publisher that I have seen very little in royalties. I suspect something’s amiss on their end because their reasoning doesn’t gel. Again, I’m with a couple of publishers so I know how it works with third party sites (AKA Amazon) when it comes to getting paid. Though I pitched another story to them, I might have to withdraw if the unease doesn’t go away. I know I’m not going to get immensely rich, stand out on my lawn in a silk bathrobe with a glass of champagne, and yell across the street at the church that writing smut stories has won me the mother load and my sin money just bought me a diamond studded thong.

    One thing I’ve learned to do, even with the companies I’ve dealt with for a while now, is read the contract thoroughly. If something is suspect, ask the question before scrawling your signature using your drool. Being published is great, being screwed over not so much. The only screw job I got from a publisher was on a piece of custom artwork I did for one of my friends. Totally my fault for signing it without questioning the vague writing. Thus, one must read every mind-numbing word.

    I also believe that going with some of the smaller publishers is a good way to go. Just remember they pay you, not the other way around.

  10. I have one novel published with a US small press, and a second due to be published with a Canadian small press, no agent. I certainly don’t feel I’ve been screwed over or had my ideas stolen, except by the inevitable pirates. I have two short stories that I self published. so I appreciate the work that a publisher does for you in return for a share of your royalties. My experiences have been positive, but as quoted previously make sure you read your contract and what you’re agreeing to. Use Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors to research agents/publishers.

  11. I sold my first short fiction to Analog Magazine in 1979. Over the next thirteen years my short-fiction career was over-the-transom sales to major SF & F genre magazines starting with the letter ‘A’. Analog, Asimov’s, Amazing, I did not “know” people though I often met the editors =after= I’d been selling to them. In early 1991 I sold my first novel to Tor books. Yes, I did know both editors to whom it was sent, but that’s what happens when you’ve been in the field for 13 years. I had three offers of agent representation for that first novel. They looked at the book because I’d been on the hugo ballot twice and the nebula ballot once for my short fiction. The novel, JUMPER, sold to one of the houses. The other passed on it. No bidding wars, darn-it. I’ve published 8 novels in total since then. 16 years after the first novel came out, it was made into a theatrical release movie and that 16 year old book was briefly on the NYT bestseller list. In 2010, I began publishing my own backlist (the 5 novels for which I retained ebook rights) in ebook venues. I still publish my current novels through traditional publishing.

    I have never had a my fiction “stolen” by a publisher or agent.
    I have never had my work not looked at because I did not live in LA or New York (though I did live in New York for five years.)
    I have never paid money to have my work produced (even when I did my own ebooks, I did the work, covers, and crowdsourced the copyedit.)

    New writers are breaking into traditional publishing today in much the same way I did, though there are now paying markets on the web that did not exist when I started. New novelists are selling to the big 5 publishers. New short fiction authors are selling to the traditional magazines for actual money.

    While it is true that there are now non-traditional paths to publication, such as kickstarter, Kindle, Nook, etc, if you are a new writer, don’t give up on traditional publishing without giving it a good chance.

    Stephen King received dozens of rejections for CARRIE but he persevered and he seems to be doing okay.

  12. Hi! I went the trad-route. I’m as happy as a pig in shit with how things played out, and if you want to see the process outlined from query letter on? It’s here: http://hillarymonahan.com/2012/10/15/books-from-manuscript-to-offer/

    As I don’t want to re-write what I’ve already written before, the best thing I can say is, “With traditional publishing, a good agent is your champion and your best resource. Use it, don’t abuse it, and if you have questions, ASK THEM.”

  13. I happen to be one of those new-fangled indie/traditional author hybrids. I started out in February of 2012 self-pubbing some YA paranormal novels. I sold okay, but it wasn’t until I wrote a contemporary romance in an up-and-coming category (what has been dubbed New Adult), that things started to pick up. Honestly, I can say that I am very, very, (emphasis on the very) VERY lucky.

    Within three days of the release of my book, I had an agent contact me and within two months of that, I had a two-book deal with a major house. I am still self-publishing (with the encouragement of my agent) and I wake up every day and get to do what I love full-time, and I’m only 26.

    It’s an interesting transition from indie to trad, and I find that I’ve learned a lot about publishing and marketing by “being in the trenches” as an indie. It’s a nice change, though, to have a whole team of people behind me.

    I never looked for an agent. I never submitted to a publisher, or wrote a query letter. That path works for some people, but I didn’t think it was for me.

    From what I’ve seen of the traditional side, they are not a bunch of snakes or sharks or other beasties that want to hurt unsuspecting authors. Or at least the people I’ve met aren’t. I’ve had nothing but support, and I get along with both my agent and my editor really well.

    Moral of the story? Go with your gut. I always follow mine, and it’s led me to where I am. Also, keep writing. My fifth book was “the one”, but I spent years before that writing “not the one” books. Keep trying.

  14. Per Mr. Wendig’s request (I really like your name good sir), I’m here to testify ~HALLELUJAH~ and let you all know a bit about my experiences as a relatively soon to be published author.

    So let’s get down and dirty and awkwardly specific. I’m twenty; I started writing my novel, “Paper Hearts”, when I was 18. Finished it at nineteen got accepted to be published August 2012, three months before my twentieth birthday. It hits the shelves ~BAM~ February 2014.

    I also prefer Prego to Ragu.

    Now, with all that said, I want to say that my publishers, Medallion Press, had no reason to take a chance on me. My work is, in my opinion, kinda shitty. My credentials? Next to none. My “talent”? In the shit heap too.

    But you know what? They’ve been nothing but fair, patient, professional, and kind. One agent in particular has been my main means of communication and she has been absolutely wonderful. As in first name basis kind of wonderful. Yes, authors are an investment, but at Medallion I’m a person. I’m heard praise the Lord!

    So, my first point: great communicators. The communication was great, even before they signed me on. As in I-send-an-email-and-get-a-reply-within-24 hours kinda quick. Folks, that may not sound very important, but trust me, when you are fighting tooth and nail to get someone, anyone to notice you, being spoken to by a real person means a lot. (Especially the copyright permissions people who’ve you’ve been repeatedly attempting to contact for the past, oh, three months . . . WHY WON’T YOU NOTICE MEEEE!!!)

    So yeah, moving on.

    After they flashed the green light on the project, I was immediately put in touch with all the head poohbas. I was encouraged from the get go to ASK QUESTIONS, THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE THERE FOR! Being under the impression all publishers were eeevil, I asked one of my agents if they intended to do a massive overhaul to my work. She told me in no uncertain terms that they were editors, not writers, and that they just wanted to make me look good.

    I was sent the contract, which of course I can’t tell you the legal details of but let me say that it was beyond generous for a no name newb with no credentials aside from that paper award from high school that said “BEST WRITER EVAR!”

    They went through the manuscript and I got that fearful call; we would be discussing exactly what they wanted changed in the story. I feared the worst but got only the best.

    That wonderful agent I mentioned before? Yes, that one. She made a few suggestions, told me what I was doing right and wrong, once again answered any questions I had about the process in general, and we hung up.

    Simply marvelous. I got off the phone feeling ten feet high. Nothing makes you taller than an adrenaline shot to your ego, knowwhaddImean?

    Let me just say things have just been friggin’ great. I did the pre-publishing worksheet, took my author photo, etc. etc. and even have a cover now. No, they didn’t throw some turd heap together and tell me THIS IS IT BITCH! We discussed it first, then they sent me a concept that they’d come up with. Then they asked me, ME, if it was okay. Like, who the hell am I to be telling YOU guys yes or no to anything?

    Sorry for blathering on and on (blame Mr. Wendig, he let this jabbermouth out her cage). But what I’m trying to get across here is that the writers are an investment to the publishing companies. They don’t WANT to piss you off or fuck you over, not the legitimate companies anyway. They want to make money, and for you to make money, and for you both to look good. Think about it: you’re going into this deal, more often than not without ANY money upfront, and these people are going to spend God knows how much money on marketing, design, editing, etc. on YOU. They’re not some creepers lurking in the recesses of your toilet, waiting to rip your innards out through your hiney hole. They’re PEOPLE doing their jobs. Their job is to be as successful as possible and you, you’re included in that. With that said, do your research BEFOREHAND! Whore your work far and wide, but make sure the publishers you’re throwing yourself at are willing to pay up after the nasty is all done. (I don’t think a prostitute metaphor is helping my case any . . .)

    But yeah. Another snippet of advice: if the publisher checks out and you reach the contract stage, get a professional to look at it; it’s worth a few bucks to insure any and all future royalties. If you can’t afford the fee, ask a relative or friend with some law school savvy. I know, I said publishers aren’t out to fuck you over but-it is a business. And they’re already taking a huge risk on you (assuming you’re a first time publishee) and they’re going to need to get back their money somehow, assuming you’re work is a flop.

    Hmm . . . I’ve seem to run out of things to type . . . Oh well. I was never good at conclusions anyways. 🙂 Hope some of that nonsense helped! 🙂

  15. So my story is pretty much useless to anyone–or at least not duplicate-able–but here goes.

    A friend who’s a Big Name Romance Author talked me up to an agent. I was an illustrator at the time, working on a comic. I had written a bad fantasy novel in my youth, and that was it.

    The agent went to my website, looked at the art, and more importantly, read the weird little stories I was writing for descriptions of the art. This hit her in exactly the right way. She read my comic, called me up, and asked me to write a children’s book.

    I wrote one in six weeks, because I was a little panicked that she’d lose interest.

    My agent pitched the book around, and eventually sold it for a $15K advance. (Debut children’s book author, with one of the not-quite-Big-Six-but-still-pretty-good.)

    She told me to write another one. I wrote it in two days, because I was a little panicked she’d lose interest.

    My first book was orphaned. This happens when your editor leaves the company. This is bad for your book. I was lucky enough to get a second, truly awesome editor.

    Then that agent left the company, went to Dial, and promptly bought that other book my agent told me to write, plus a sequel. (Again, 15K apiece.) My first book, orphaned AGAIN (this almost never happens) limped to publication and did not earn out for three years, because there was no editor to champion it.

    Meanwhile, over at Dial, my second book really impressed the marketing department who threw their muscle behind it. Walmart bought half the print run. It earned out in the first period, they marketed holy hell outta the second one, they came back for a third and a fourth and a fifth and…well, we’re up to eleven in the series now.

    They have also bought a second trilogy and a stand-alone novel. The advances for the series keep climbing, they have never screwed me over (thanks largely to my relentless and brilliant agent, and to the fact that they are very far from evil) and I could not be happier with the whole experience. The series has sold half a million copies so far, been licensed through Scholastic, and sold foreign rights in a fair number of countries. It’s…kinda insane, honestly, and not what I was expecting when I was hammering out a script in a vague panic because the nice woman told me to.

    Every now and then, for Nanowrimo or general amusement, I write a few thousand words on something else and send it to my agent. She either shakes her head sadly or says “I LOVE THIS!” and then sells it.

    My webcomic, which was published in print through a lovely small press, went on to win a Hugo. The small press sends me checks about once a year, and bottles of alcohol on a quarterly basis. Occasionally they take me birdwatching. I love them dearly.

    There are projects that I would rather like to try self-publishing some day, but I lack time, energy, and knowledge, and trad has been really, really REALLY good to me.

    • (I should also add that that small press took my bad fantasy novel and, with the help of a REALLY good editor, made quite a decent fantasy novel out of it, in addition to the comic. So there’s that as well. It’s not a huge seller, but I’m very grateful that they helped me pull a good book out of that enthusiastic but occasionally questionable raw material.)

  16. I wrote my first two novels in Italian (of a fantasy trilogy). Published the first one by sending the manuscript to 20 publishers, getting one rejection, one pay2publish offer and one “real” offer (they asked me to buy the first 50 copies as part of the contract. I went with the last one as I had no other offers, sold the 50 to friends and family and another 100 through friends of friends and family, presentations in book stores and general nagging. The small publisher, while brave enough to put my first work out there, did nothing in terms of promotion and marketing. I got my rights back and I am preparing the definitive edition for self-publishing (I already paid my own website and book cover)

    Second novel completed and ready to go to publishers, hoping in a better deal than first round. Plus, as I now live in Hong Kong and work as a journalist for an English publisher, I have made the decision I should have made years ago: just write the damn thing in the Queen’s idiom. First English novel (same universe as my Italian trilogy, different era) is now under plotting ICU.

    This thread may have well changed my life. I think all the above (please exclude me from the equations) are worth a book in itself. There are some wonderful testimonies around here.

  17. I agree; there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I wandered into writing for profit about 13 years ago–when self publishing was called Vanity Press (you paid to have your books printed and bound). I’ve always been a writer, but I never considered any road for my novel except the traditional publishing route after I joined a local writers group that included traditionally published and nonpublished writers. This group helped me dispense with a lot of the garbage info out there. I saw new writers getting book contracts every week fm NY publishing houses (in fact, my entire 4 member critique group started as fledgling novelists and we are now all traditionally multi-published with varying degrees of literary success.

    I admit I was lucky with my first try. My first attempt at a fiction novel (100K+ words) was queried to only one publisher who’s line I thought my suspense story would fit; within a month they asked for the entire manuscript (which I hadn’t finished). I finished it six months later and sent it to the requesting editor at one of the top NY publishing houses. Within a few months, they offered a multi book deal. I had no agent, but I asked for time to get one. It took me less than a week to get agented, and we negotiated the first of (for me) four book contracts.

    As a newbie at that time in the business, I accepted “standard” advance money in that first contract until I was able to leverage more in later ones. The agent guided me very well through contract language and percentages & acted as my filter when issues arose. Was it fair? That first contract probably wasn’t, but fair is subjective; it allowed me to get my foot through the door, they took care of cover art, editing, and distribution. I have since written eight novels for two large NY publishing houses. I had great relationships with some of my editors and copy editors; sometimes, not so much.

    I worked a full time, 9-5 demanding job the entire time I was being published. I took personal time off from writing about six years ago, and even then, a change was in the air for traditional publishing. Now that I’m back to writing, I find the industry has indeed experienced a seismic shift and I feel as though I’m starting from scratch. I’m now securing rights to my earlier novels and re-publishing them in ebook format. I don’t pit traditional against self publishing because each has its merits/downside. So far, no one has ‘stolen’ my ideas (there are too damn many of them floating out there anyway), I live in the deep south–far away from NY, and I’ve had multiple literary agents.

    While my story is not every writer, I’m proof positive that you can get an agent and get traditionally published; but it’s also grand that if you’ve tried and tried the traditional route, and still believe your product has an audience, self-publishing is an alternate way to go. I’ve done that too with my reverted rights of earlier novels. You can live in both worlds.

  18. I’ve self-pubbed a couple of short stories with Amazon (one of which was a reprint of a previously-sold story, one of which I got a lot of positive feedback but no sale on). I’ve done absolutely no promotion, have fairly mundane covers (one was self-done, the other was something I commissioned and it turned out pretty much like I wanted it to, but it’s apparently still not a very good cover), and have, in just about a year of having the stories available, not yet made the $10 in royalties necessary to get a check.

    I’m currently working on a series of novelettes that I’ll try to take to Amazon with better covers, and actual attempts at promotion, and see what happens with them.

  19. Got an agent with an established agency by cold-querying. I was nobody and knew nobody and did not live in NY, Boston, or LA. But I had done my research on both the genre and the publishing business.

    Submitting to publishers via the agent, I noticed an immediate improvement in the submission process over my previous attempts to go via the editors’ slush piles: my manuscripts got read, they got read sooner, and I got an answer (as opposed to the “we’ll only let you know if we’re interested” policy now adopted for the slush piles of most major publishers).

    My novel sold to a Big 6 publisher. So did my next two novels.

    When I saw the contract (a dozen densely printed pages of legal jargon), I was very glad I had an agent to negotiate for me. Especially when I saw all the exceptions to the boiler-plate that my agent was able to get.

    The publisher did some promotion for me. No book tour, no splashy ads, no bookstore co-op. But they arranged some high-profile interviews and media features and reviews that I could not have gotten on my own.

    My books are available in print and electronic versions. Print vastly outsells the e-versions. Only a small percentage of my sales come via Amazon. Libraries are an important market for my books.

    My agent has sold sub rights that I couldn’t have sold on my own.

    I got decent advances but don’t make enough to quit my other job.

  20. Let’s start off by saying when I sold my first novel, I was a 39 year old housewife/graphic designer, poverty-stricken nobody from Iowa. And this was in 2003, when accurate information was a lot tougher to come by online, and I knew ZERO actual writers. I queried a couple of agents found by calling the library to see who represented my favorite authors and sent them a business letter asking if they wanted to see my manuscript which, at 247k words, totally kicked ass but was also far too large of a doorstop to actually sell. Only there wasn’t anything readily available then to tell me that, at least not that I could find.

    When I’d exhausted what little agent info the friendly library help desk ladies could assist me with, I bought Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents which proved to be both exciting (OMG! It’s a smorgasbord!!) and a let down (Fuck! I’ve screwed this up!) at the same time. Anyway, from it I found a long list of agents who handled the kind of thing I wrote, and I followed the more precise instructions for querying them. I sent out ten queries, most of which came back as rejections and, in my second batch, I included an agent I almost didn’t query at all because he requested – gasp! – 50 pages. Back then, I didn’t have a good printer so had to pay Kinkos for digital copies. Whee. Plus postage for more than a couple of envelopes and a one paged letter. Anyway, I coughed up the money and sent the package on a Friday. The following Tuesday, I received an email requesting 50 more pages. Again, we paid to print, to ship. By the next Friday, he wanted the rest of the book. This time it took dipping into our change jar to get it done, but it went out that evening. The following Wednesday I had an agent at a top tier agency, and he was the only one to read me. I sent a total of 22 queries and received 17 rejections (five never did respond), most of which came AFTER I was agented.

    After suggesting I split the doorstop into two books (which I did), my agent sold that novel, and two others, to Bantam a few months later. Yay! My final contract barely resembled the initial boilerplate at all and he fought to keep everything but print/ebook rights 100% for me. I even get 50% of ebook price, still, and ebooks were brand new territory then. All three novels are still in print and I couldn’t be happier with my contract. The first book, Ghosts in the Snow, won the 2004 Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and the second, Threads of Malice, was nominated (not short listed, alas) for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award in 2005. 🙂

    One thing I didn’t expect was my editor (Juliet Ulman who is AMAZING and now freelances) really loved the murder mystery opening of the book, not the epic fantasy remainder, so I ended up cutting about 3/4 of the split book’s first half, tossed all of the second half I’d reworked into it’s own novel, and all of the followup book I’d nearly completed. But the story was better for it. My second novel went through editing with only teensy changes, but the third novel also was severely restructured. I followed editorial instruction, though, and Valley of the Soul (2006) is the best of the three.

    Afterward, I took some time away from writing to deal with my own issues and a whole lot of life/family crap and am finally back to writing again. I have two books done with one in the midst of agent requested changes. Tbh, the money’s been meh, but the people have been fantastic. 🙂

  21. My novel was done, but after watching the publishing industry change for six years I reevaluated my own personal goals in publishing. I have never written to make money; my published short stories and poems haven’t even paid my Starbucks bills, and I have a very lucrative day job that I love. So for me, publishing was a little about my own vanity (having a book out there) and a little about readership over money. I could put the effort and time into trying to get a publisher’s attention (while the pipeline was already clogged with books in my genre) and maybe get my book out in 2 to 3 years, or I could self publish and enjoy the instant gratification.

    About the time I figured all that out, I happened to stumble onto a mentor who guided me through the self-publishing process. She demystified the system, pointed me to great resources, and even helped me with both free and paid promotion after publication. Having her mentorship made a huge difference for me. A HUGE difference.

    Once I made the decision to self-publish, the rest was cake. I did my own cover (a mostly harmless mistake), formatted the manuscript, signed up with KDP and CreateSpace, and in about a month had printed copies in my hand and sales on Amazon. Unfortunately, I got my ebook up on KDP Select about a week after they changed the algorithms, so my free runs didn’t generate the kind of numbers my mentor had seen even only a few weeks prior. In addition, my genre (YA post apocalyptic) doesn’t do as well as thriller and romance generally… even worse, the cover I made myself was not doing me any favors.

    I tried a few free runs of the ebook through KDP Select throughout 2012 and enjoyed mixed success. I tried running a contest (waste of time). I finally hired someone to redo my cover at the end of the year. After not quite a full year of very little promotional effort, I’d had over 10,000 downloads (most of them free) and about 250 print copies sold or given away. I didn’t make much money–enough to pay for the covers and my Starbucks and whiskey bills while writing the sequel–but I’d accomplished my goals, and then some.

    I don’t believe I would have had a publishing contract in a year given what I know about the industry, myself, and the market at that time. But by self publishing, a year later I’d had a number of emails and reviews from people all over the world that I’d never met before, and my book was even the subject of a teen’s 11th grade book report. Mission accomplished from where I stand.

    In January of this year I self-published the sequel. After an initial strong launch, progress has been slow. Then again, remember that lucrative day job I mentioned? It’s been taking all my time, so I’ve put exactly zero promotion into my books for two months. I know what to expect; I know my objectives. This has been the perfect path for me at this stage of my life, and I have no regrets (except doing that first cover myself… that’s one decision I’d change if I could). Knowing that I own all my own rights and can expand out of KDP Select to other platforms, and that I’ll be writing more in the future–I’m keeping my eye on 10 and 20 years down the road and am very happy with the path I’ve taken.

    Thanks for letting me share.

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