Guest Post: Sheila Deeth
I started trying to get published in 2004, after a few false starts earlier in life (in elementary school, junior high, college, when our oldest son went to elementary school…). I sent nicely printed sheets in flat brown envelopes with stamped self-addressed envelopes stowed inside, and I got form letters back that read “Thank you for your submission. If you enclosed a stamped addressed envelope we are returning it.”
A few years later I attended a writers’ conference and learned you’ll never get anywhere in writing without a platform. I even learned what a platform was, though the thought of writing a blog was way more scary than writing a novel. After all, a blog’s like real life, diary, journal… why would I imagine anyone wanted to read about my life? So…
I self-published. I picked the books I’d had the least success with at the conference, where agents said the market was overloaded. Putting them on Lulu, learning to edit, proof-read, format, use cover creators, set prices, choose titles etc. all furnished articles for my blog. But of course, no one was reading my blog so I chased the internet following strangers and making new friends. I sold ridiculously small numbers of books to neighbors at the Holiday Bazaar. And I wondered if I’d ever make enough money for Lulu to bother paying me. And then…
Then I spotted Gather.com’s first chapters competition and entered it. I entered Amazon’s breakthough novel award too, though neither led as far as I might have wished. I entered some short stories to e-magazines and anthologies too—no pay, but at least they gave me some publishing credits.
Meanwhile those new friends, many of whom were writers, started asking me to write reviews. It wasn’t something I’d ever imagined doing, but I love to read and I love to write, so I said I’d give it a go. Three hundred book reviews later I noticed I’d reviewed and enjoyed several ebooks from the same publisher. And the publisher was running a contest. And I rather liked the prompt.
My novelette (I’m still learning what qualifies as novel, novella and novelette) won the contest and I added my first professionally published ebook to my name. It didn’t have that “thump factor” of a real paperback of course and I couldn’t put it on my stall, but it’s a wonderful step on the path.
By now I’d learned to read like a reviewer, so I finally opened that long neglected novel on my computer and re-read it. I’m so glad it hadn’t been published. It was time to write like an editor.
Three ebooks later I checked the websites of print publishers I’d reviewed for. They’re not the big houses, just small presses—the sort of place that might maybe say “yes” to an unknown writer. And one of them did.
Actually, they sent me an email which started “Thank you for sending your submission…” I thought I knew the next line by heart, the one that starts “but…” Except this one said “We would like to offer you a contract.” I ran around the room, then demanded that everyone come and check the computer to make sure I’d not misread it. I printed out the email (and the contract) and read them again. And it was real.
So now my first real novel’s out in genuine thump-factor paperback—I thump it on the table every once in the while just to hear the sound. It’s even going to be stocked in my local Powells! I still want to make a name for myself, I’d love to have an agent, maybe get published by a big name too, or at least get sales as if I were, but my journey’s moving determinedly forwards and dreams are free.
My Ten Steps from Self-published to published:
- Make lots of friends on the internet. (Real-world friends help too!)
- Self-publish something you don’t mind not sending out to publishers.
- Say yes when your friends want to be guests on your blog or ask you to review their books. It’s called networking. It’s also called being a good friend.
- Research the publishers. Reading a lot, writing book reviews, and networking with writers can help you find them.
- Start small. A story in an e-magazine is a genuine step on the way, even if it doesn’t pay.
- Take baby-steps. The big publishers really aren’t likely to care, so try the small ones. Try an e-publisher. Find a niche and fit yourself in.
- Take those rejected pieces and work on them again. Get friends (and efriends) to read and comment on them. Read them yourself with your reviewer’s hat on and see which bits you skip and which bits you hate. Then edit them.
- Keep taking baby-steps. Send a submission to a print anthology. Maybe the publisher will remember you name later.
- Try matching your writing with the small presses you’ve researched, then take a deep breath and send that novel out again.
- Celebrate rejection with chocolate and coffee, ’til one day someone says “YES!”
Good luck, and enjoy the writing, the reading, and the making of new friends.
About Divide by Zero:
It takes a subdivision to raise a child, and a wealth of threads to weave a tapestry, until one breaks.
Troy, the garage mechanic’s son, loves Lydia, the rich man’s daughter. Amethyst has a remarkable cat and Andrea a curious accent. Old Abigail knows more than anyone else but doesn’t speak. And in Paradise Park a middle-aged man keeps watch while autistic Amelia keeps getting lost.
Pastor Bill, at the church of Paradise, tries to mend people. Peter mends cars. But when that fraying thread gives way it might take a child to raise the subdivision—or to mend it.
About the author:
Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States near Portland Oregon, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, telling stories and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.
Divide by zero is free on Amazon kindle on October 28th: http://www.amazon.com/Divide-by-Zero-ebook/dp/B0090NFH56/, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Divide-by-Zero-ebook/dp/B0090NFH56/
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