So…you want to write a novel? Or more specifically, you want to get a novel published? Or, even more specifically, you want someone to actually read your novel? If you write and no one reads, isn’t that akin to the proverbial tree falling in the forest where no one hears its crash? But writing is only part of the journey. You have to get published to be heard. And here, as my late father used to say with equal parts backwoods humor and rural wisdom, is “where the cheese gets bindin’. "
Urban myth has it that you merely write a manuscript, carefully prepare your manuscript for a publisher’s review, find a publisher (or even more idealistically, an agent), have loads of help from that publisher in the editing and promotion of your future best-seller, then reap the rewards of fame and fortune once your book is on the shelves at Borders, Waldenbooks, and the like. That myth apparently lurks in the minds of a large majority of people who discover that I have a book published. I believe that the majority of people have the notion that they “always wanted to write a book" and that they can not only do so, but apparently believe the world is anxiously awaiting the arrival of said book. It’s a nice myth. You merely put pen to paper and…presto…fame and fortune await.
But unless you are already established like John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, or J. K. Rowling, your writing and publishing experience will likely be much different. True, lightning does strike, lotteries are won, unknown rich uncles do leave distant relatives in their wills, and an occasional publishing phenomenon like “The Celestine Prophecy" or “Harry Potter" does occur. As an aspiring and yet unknown author, you have approximately the same chances of experiencing any of these eventualities. As long as you realize this, then by all means, write to your hearts content. Perhaps my experience in the publishing maelstrom may prove of some value in preparing you for what to expect on the second half of that journey…getting published!
I began writing my first novel almost as a hobby. I was a full-time Information Technology (IT) professional and viewed myself as, at least, a part-time writer, and hopefully, soon-to-be professional writer. When I completed my first novel entitled “A Silence in Heaven", I was quite proud of my accomplishment. I then entered into my true part-time avocation…that of a professional manuscript submitter, or perhaps more accurately, a submissions junkie.
In this capacity, my duties included (but certainly not limited to) becoming a word processing whiz (the better to respond to the myriad publisher demands for specific formatting of submissions)…becoming expert on the intricacies of mailing bulky manuscripts…and developing relationships with local printers which verged on intimacy, the better to secure decent rates on the volume of printing required to support my submissions habit.
Years passed and I showed steady progress on my submission skills. I went from frequent non-response to my submissions, to form letters with the REJECTED box checked, to nice, encouraging hand-written rejections from editors and agents. This provided an endless stream of “fixes" for my habit. The pinnacle of my success as a professional manuscript submitter came when my unsolicited manuscript passed the initial screen and was elevated to FULL-READ status with an exclusive publishing house, before receiving the anticipated REJECTED notification via e-mail four months later. I was thrilled.
Not only had I achieved a lofty plateau in my submissions career, FULL-READ status, I had done it all electronically. Electronic submissions were unheard of in the publishing industry when I innocently entered into my chosen profession of manuscript submitter. This rejection opened up bold new vistas for my aspirations. All I had to do was find publishers who accepted electronic manuscripts and I could achieve even greater heights of submission/rejection success and feed my habit in a much more cost-effective manner.
Then a life-threatening illness nearly cut short my submissions career. The doctors thought it was due to a diet too high in fat or the fast-paced high-stress thirty years I had spent working in the IT profession. Both contributed to my severe heart-disease. But I knew the truth. It was my submissions habit that nearly forced me to premature extinction. The sleepless nights preparing manuscripts, the financial burden of submitting them, and the anxious months of waiting for the emotional release of my REJECTED notices…these were the things that were killing me softly.
I had to do something. I had to break this vile habit. In near desperation, I turned to Publish America (PA). I had no “rose-colored" glasses in considering PA. I had researched them. From what I gleaned off the Internet, I considered them basically a vanity publisher with a twist. They didn’t charge for their services. What I found with them was quite different.
I found a wealth of resources on all aspects of publishing. I found a helpful staff of people all motivated to help me as an author. I found a strong and supportive community of authors. My book is as well covered as I would expect any trade-paperback to be from any publisher and all of this cost me…not one penny!
More importantly, I found a company single-handedly attempting to revolutionize a tightly-controlled, elitist industry…one that is badly in need of re-engineering. In my IT career, I had been on both the receiving and the giving end of many industry revolutions and could recognize one right away. Much of the negativity which abounds on the Internet concerning PA is a direct result of PA’s progress in that very revolution. PA has done the hard part in this revolution. They have suffered the “slings and arrows" from the vested interests who are feeling the heat of their presence. It is up to the PA authors to take things from here through to a true Internet based re-engineering of the publishing industry. And there are enough of us to truly make the sting of our presence felt in the marketplace.
Subsidy and vanity presses are taking a beating. Why would anyone use them when PA will provide the same services at zero cost and with no less a burden on self-promotion by the authors? For that matter, why would you ever bother to submit to a “traditional" publisher when as an unknown author you’re going to receive roughly the same support from PA as you would from Random House?
So if you need to break a life-threatening submissions habit…if you are not afraid of participating in a little revolution…or if you just appreciate a good American underdog story…then discount much of what you’ve read and strongly consider joining the PA army of authors. We are legion, we have good products, and we are making in-roads into the last bastion of resistance…the book distribution and retail outlets.
Dallas Wilkinson is a retired IT professional. He is also a novelist, satirist, and social commentator. He can be reached at http://www.sidekickharry.com