The road to publication is well-traveled, rife with potholes and detours, and yet the journey is different for every author.
Today, I’m happy to introduce debut author, Susan Boyer. Susan talks about her publishing journey and reveals why she chose a small press. Susan is also giving away a copy of her book, LOWCOUNTRY BOIL, to one lucky commenter!
Welcome to the RU, Susan!
The first thing I need to tell you is that my knowledge of publishing is limited to my own experience, and I don’t have much. But I will happily share that experience in hopes that it’s of help to someone.
In February of this year, I was a very frustrated writer. I’d played by all the rules. I polished my manuscript until my characters begged me to leave them alone. I’d queried agents—forty-nine of them to be exact—until I found one who loved my manuscript enough to offer me representation. My agent was on a second round of submissions. The rejections were virtually all a mix of “not right for our list,” “love a, b, and c about this project, but we don’t have a place for it in our list at this time,” and “I’m just not passionate enough about this project to make it a must-have for our list.” It was all about their lists. This was not something I could fix.
I spent a lot of time mulling over my situation. I remembered the day I first saw Darci Chan’s self-published novel, The Mill River Recluse, on the USA Today bestseller list. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the book, priced at 99 cents, had earned $130,000 as of December, 2011. The Mill River Recluse had not fit a publisher’s list, either.
I weighed the pros and cons of self/independent publishing. My self-published friends spoke of the freedom they enjoyed and this aspect appealed to me. I confess, I’m a bit rebellious, and the notion of writing with the goal of fitting neatly into someone’s list chafed. And the alternative, continuing to write what I wanted in the hopes that somewhere down the line it would fit someone’s list seemed foolish. It was like trying to hit the bulls-eye on one of several moving targets.
My agent still had a few submissions outstanding when I left for Sleuthfest in early March. While there, I spoke to two editors who wanted to see the full manuscript, and followed up with another who was considering it. These were reputable, mid-sized, independent publishers.
One only accepted exclusive submissions, so I’d have to have my agent pull the outstanding submissions before he could submit to them. Another had a list so full they were looking at eighteen months after signing a contract to publication. The third also had an eighteen-month time frame, but had the additional not-right-for-me policy of not considering a second book until six months into the royalty period on the first book. This meant there would likely be two years between books.
I came home from Sleuthfest with a clear vision of the three things most important to me.
- I wanted to get my first novel into the hands of readers sooner rather than later.
- I wanted the second and subsequent novels out in roughly six-month intervals so that I could build an audience for my work.
- I wanted to be in print, but I wanted simultaneous e-book publication at a price-point that would be attractive to readers who preferred that format.
I also knew at this point that, while some aspects of independent publishing were very attractive to me, I could not manage all the technical aspects myself without taking my eye off the ball relative to the two things I had to focus on: writing strong stories and publicity.
Knowing what I wanted gave me clarity. The best fit for me was a small press. Generally speaking, small presses are more nimble than their larger counterparts. Larissa Reinhart wrote a post on small presses in August that outlines all the things one should consider in looking at small presses, as they are not all created equal.
Because the founder of Henery Press was a fellow member of Sisters in Crime, I knew a bit about her—that she was a successful entrepreneur in another business. She’d also been doing freelance covers and editing for a while. She had savvy business sense and a skill set that made this new press seem viable. And their niche was mysteries and romance, which are the genres I write.
I think Stephanie Laurens’s keynote address at the RWA National Convention holds a lot of truth. If you weren’t there and haven’t read it, here’s a link: http://www.stephanielaurens.com/rwa12keynote.html. To briefly restate what I took away from her speech, authors have more choices than ever before. While not very long ago there was only one route from author to reader, now there are several viable routes. An author need only decide which one is the best fit for her.
For me, that was the key—figuring out which path best fit my goals. I could not be happier with the results. I signed my contract in late March. My debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, was published September 18th. At every step of the process, Henery Press has exceeded my expectations.
The next book in the series will be out in early May, and could have been out earlier but for my own failure to accurately estimate how much time would be invested in certain aspects of publicity.
We learn as we go.
Thanks so much for your time!
What three things relative to publication are most important to you? Is the prestige of publishing with a Big Six (or Seven) house worth whatever it takes? How have the recent (and ongoing) industry changes impacted your goals?
Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape.
When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated.
When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.
For a chance to win a copy of Susan’s book (print or e-book format), leave a comment!
On Friday, October 26th, Trish Milburn presents: Setting as Character.
Bio: Susan M. Boyer has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient and a RWA Golden Heart® finalist.
Susan also contributes to several blogs: Golden Heart® Firebirds, Mysteristas, Get Lost in a Story, and Little Read Hens. To learn more about Susan, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.
- For the Love of a Small Press with Larissa Reinhart
- Writing for a Small Print Publisher
- The Road to an Agent with Adrienne Giordano
- Anne R. Allen presents Who Are the Big Six? What Does “Indie” Really Mean?
- Weekly Lecture Schedule: October 22nd to October 26th