Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Road to Publication-Part I

Becoming a Published Author

Recently, I was involved in an on-line discussion titled "What Do You Want From a Publisher?" There were many visitors who had definite opinions, both positive and negative. Without a doubt, the relationship an author has with a publisher is as important as writing the book itself.

When I first began to search for a publisher in 2005, the only names I knew were Avon, Berkley, Dorchester, Kensington, and Harlequin--all New York Publishers. By that time I had five completed manuscripts in my computer files, although my knowledge of acceptable writing was sorely lacking. After spending a good deal of money printing and mailing three chapters and a synopsis for the one I chose as a trial, I realized the project might not work for me.

The rejection letters piled up. Every one of them was a form letter. And I might go broke.

About that time, I joined Romance Writers of America in order to appear more professional, and also to receive their magazine.

The articles opened my eyes to facts I never knew: (1) most manuscripts were never read--only the first page before it was placed in the discard pile, (2) for every manuscript I submitted, that one was in competition with maybe ten thousand others, and (3), while a publisher opened submissions to new and unagented writers, the fact was that to land a contract as such an author was rare, indeed.

I abandoned the plan, and decided perhaps becoming a published romance author was not for me.

However, those RWA magazines opened another door. I learned that some contests were offered to unpublished authors, and most importantly, I could submit online. In addition, I would receive three critiques for each manuscript.

But the most important fact I discovered was some publishers were called "small electronic presses," and the contests were open to anyone who paid the fee. I invested a certain amount of money and began entering selected contests.

The contests opened the door. One of my contemporary romances, "The Stars at Night," won third place in one of the contests, and my name was published in an issue of Romance Writers of America.

Two good things came out of the contests:

(1) I made spread sheets of the positive and negative comments taken from the judges' sheets, thereby discovering my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. At last, my scientific background paid off. I used the negative comments--which were consistently the same--and began a steep learning curve.

2) I discovered numerous electronic publishers and a whole new world of opportunity.

Next Step: to land a contract with an electronic press.

Coming Friday--stayed tuned.

Becoming a Published Author
Part II: If It Doesn't Fit, Don't Submit  

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. Hi Celia,

    The road to publication for you is very similar to my road. Wrote a few books, joined RWA, learned how little I knew, entered contests, and continued to target publishing houses. It took me 10 years from joining RWA before I landed my first contract. And I had been writing steadily for a number of years before that.

    Publishing is not for the feint of heart!

    Excellent post.

  2. It's a long and dusty road indeed!I don't imagine too many stories are very different. Off to oick up the WIP again since I've been doing heaps of marketing ...

  3. Contests are a great way to get feedback on a WIP. Having a win or two also helps when sending that cover letter!


  4. My early publishing history goes way back to BC (Before Computers, so when I started writing romance fiction again about 5 years ago, I discovered the whole world had changed! It's been (and still is!) a steep learning curve!

  5. Celia, your road to publication was similiar to mine. I sent out to the big names, got rejections, then found Writing.com and the Writer Digests Contests, where I really learned a lot about the craft of writing in itself.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's very inspirational.

  6. Celia, I enjoyed this first part of your road to publication and I'm looking forward to the next.I climbed the same mountain but did get published by a NY pub in the mid-90s, then became an orphaned mid-list author when the market shrank. After an unplanned thirteen year hiatus, I found success in the digital world. There is more than one road up the mountain!

  7. MAGGIE--yes, I guess it's a familiar theme. And like you, I mainly learned how little I knew. You really have to be strong to publish a book.

  8. Nancy--that's my job, too. I should be writing instead of so much promoting and marketing. Sometimes I think I'm addicted!

  9. Debra--you are so right! I used that for a while on that book when I first began marketing. I've told anyone who will listen to use those critique sheets as learning tools.

  10. Paula--you're funny. I bet you did find a whole new world. For me, that's all I know, and got into it just as it began to take off. All good for me.

  11. Steph--good for you! Yes, all those things are good study guides, and you were smart enough to take advantage of them.

  12. Linda--I'm amazed at your long history of writing and getting published--even though there was a big gap inbetween. But you've donned the mantle well, and moved right on up.
    Thanks for the idea for the posts--I'll have three in all.

  13. I sent in my first story when I was thirteen to Seventeen Magazine. It was rejected and it broke my heart. After that, I took writing classes and joined RWA, all the while writing, submitting and getting lots of rejections. Some of the rejections had some very helpful advice included in them.
    At the suggestion of one of my instructors, I added romance to my sci-fi, paranormal stories and, gloryoski, I finally got an acceptance by a romance magazine. I had 4 more short stories published in 2 different magazines before I decided to devote my time to a novel. My first novel, completely written on a manual typewriter, never saw the light of day. Finally, I work The Dark and sold it to a digital publisher after it was rejected by Dorchester (I didn't have the word count they wanted.) After that, I learned a whole lot about publishing and how to market and sold several more books, some to other digital publishers. With each book I learned more about writing, publishing and promotion. It's been a long, bumpy road and it just proves that persistence does pay.
    A very interesting blog, Celia. It was good to know I haven't traveled this road alone.

  14. Sarah--you truly had an interesting ride. Mine pales in comparison! It sounds like you now have found your niche with western romance--good for you!

  15. Celia, as usual I am late. Contests were good for me. I won or finaled in two dozens and had several requests. After wasting three years doing revisions for Mills&Boon and seeing the editors leave, I gave up and sent to small press. You know the rest.