Over the last few weeks, I have been approached by many people asking how I got published. Many of them are local, and read the recent article about Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude in the newspaper.
What have I been asked? Am I self-published or published through a publisher? Do I have an agent? Why did I go the route I did? What is the difference between self-publishing and going through a publisher? How much money am I making on my writing? How can other people get published?
Some of the questions I answer in general terms. How much money have I made on my writing? I’m not quitting my day job any time soon… Am I self-published or published through a publisher? Publishers. Do I have an agent? No, I don’t.
To be clear, I didn’t come to quick fame and glory in writng. I completed my first full version of The Phone Call (then titled Stepping In It) in 1995. Then I got books about agents, and I sent letters, old-fashioned letters mailed in envelopes with stamps on them, to agents. After about fifty letters later, one agent asked to read the full manuscript. I still have that letter framed. I got rejected so many times it was amazing. Then in around 2002, I did get an agent for that book. He represented me for a year, and nothing came of it.
Through all of this, I kept writing. And my family kept believing in me. They never questioned when I had piles of letters on the kitchen table ready to send them to agents. They never minded when I was in my own little writing world. And when I got rejected and said I was giving up? They picked me up, dusted me off, and told me it would happen. And Sam would tell me it would happen, that someday I would be a published author.
Then the internet really came into our lives, and I could do research on agents online. And I sent a least a million email queries for now my two completed novels, and I got rejected with amazing regularity.
Then Sam died. I put away my fiction writing and thought I would never look at it again. A couple years after his death, I started having the urge to write again, and I could hear his voice in my head telling me to keep trying. And I talked it over with the rest of the family, and decided to give it a try again.
This was when I got serious about writing. I had an incredible local editor, but to push myself further as a writer, I hired a professional fiction editor. Working with her was completely different than working with a friend. Once we were done the full editing and formatting process, I started a two-pronged approach to getting it published. First, I started sending queries to agents, looking for representation. Then I also started researching publishers who allow submissions without an agent. I did my homework. Hours and hours, days and days, months of research. I kept detailed records of who I contacted, how, when, and the response.
Then one morning in June 2017, I opened my inbox, and found an email from Solstice Publishing offering me a contract on The Phone Call. A month later, a contract for That One Small Omission also arrived from them. Five months later, a contract for More Than I Can Say.
During this time, I was also finishing Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. I was sending the proposal to agents. As a family, we talked about self-publishing, but felt that it would be picked up by a publisher — they believed. So while I was still contacting agents, I also started sending proposals to publishers. And in May 2018, I was offered a contract.
What is the difference between self-publishing and a publisher? Truly the difference is that in self-publishing you have more complete control of your work. Both have their advantages. You need to know yourself and your work to know which option works best for you. For me, it was working with publishers, but for many other authors, it is going through a self-publshing process. If you go the self-publishing route, please, please, please get your work professionally proofread and formatted so it has the best chance possible in the marketplace.
How can others get published? Do your homework. Get organized and focused. Decide on your audience and then research what the best options are for that particular type of work. Get the best editors you can. Then try, try, try.