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We have a wonderful guest today. Lilian Duval, author of You Never Know: Tales of Tobias, an Accidental Lottery Winner, is her to tell us how she got published. Enjoy!
Getting You Never Know published started before one word of the book was written. In 2009, I began marketing my collection of short fiction, Random Acts of Kindness, comprising seven short stories and a novella. Four of the stories had been published in magazines, so I thought I had a pretty good chance.
Using AgentQuery.com, I made a list of 217 literary agents, most of them in New York, and set about writing to them exactly as per their instructions. Some wanted query letters only; some wanted the first chapter; in my case, the first story in the collection. Some wanted to be contacted by e-mail only; others wanted postal mail only. Many of them threatened that if you dared to contact them the wrong way, your query would be deleted or recycled!
Over the course of a full year, seven of these agents requested full or partial submissions. Again, I responded exactly as they specified. Two of these very seriously considered publishing my book. They called me on the phone, they sent me frequent e-mail messages, and so on.
After a few months of this nerve-wracking attention, both of these agents declared that, in the current economic climate, a short-story collection is too difficult to sell. Would I please, therefore, write a novel and get back to them?
Okay. So I did. Fourteen months later, I had a completely finished novel, You Never Know, the engaging chronicle of a man who wins the Mega-Millions lottery halfway through the book, and then spends years adjusting to his good fortune. Early reviewers and readers from all walks of life loved it—men as well as women, as there’s a male protagonist.
What struck me was what each person said, independently: “I was immediately drawn in by the story and identified completely with Tobias (main character). I finished the book in two days and could not put it down.”
Back I went to the two very interested agents. After dragging me along for a few months, they both said something like they couldn’t get involved with the characters and didn’t feel passionate enough about the project to take it on.
Okay. So I went back to my long list of 217 agents and queried all of them. Within the next year, I had eight requests for full or partial submissions. Again, I followed all their specific guidelines for submission. Again, they dragged me along for months. Some of them still have not responded to requested material. Sigh.
One of these agents remarked, after reading the first chapter, which she requested, that I hadn’t gone into depth in characterization. Really! The first chapter is only the exposition! The next 24 chapters reveal everything. But she didn’t stay around long enough to find out.
A year after finishing the novel, I decided not to wait any longer. I’d heard from a literary publicist that Wheatmark, Inc. is better than most self-publishing companies in that the final product is truly professionally prepared, and I’ll have to agree. Wheatmark took some time to evaluate and accept my manuscript. The entire publishing process took seven months, which was longer than I’d expected, but the book is beautifully put together.
Now my major challenge is marketing, but that’s a topic for another post!
Meanwhile, my advice to authors who want to get published is: try your best to follow the traditional route through literary agents and publishers, because that will save you money on publishing and publicity. But if that fails, carefully investigate the many independent publishers out there.
Buy two books each from the companies on your final list. That’s what I did, and I’m very glad, because some of the books coming from these publishers are substandard. But the reputable firms, like Wheatmark, create books that are indistinguishable from those printed by big traditional publishing houses.
If your independent publisher provides an editor, work closely with that person on goof-proofing your manuscript. If not, carefully choose an independent editor so that the book you write says exactly what you want it to say in good, clear writing. And good luck to all!
Lilian Duval has been fascinated with lottery winners for years, and they’re the inspiration for her intriguing novel You Never Know, which explores how an ordinary man copes with terrible luck, and later, amazing luck, when he wins the Mega-Millions lottery. Her story collection, Random Acts of Kindness, will be published in 2012.
Lilian and her husband are both survivors of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. They live in a small house in New Jersey overlooking a large county park. She’s an amateur classical guitarist and enjoys attending concerts, plays, and movies in New York City.
You can visit her website at www.lilianduval.com or follow her at Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/lilianduval and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lilian-Duval/121776657899250?sk=wall.
About Carole Waterhouse
A creative writing professor at California University of Pennsylvania, Carole Waterhouse is the author of two novels, The Tapestry Baby and Without Wings, and a collection of short stories, The Paradise Ranch.
Her fiction has appeared in Arnazella, Artful Dodge, Baybury Review, Ceilidh, Eureka Literary Magazine, Forum, Half Tones to Jubilee, Massachusetts Review, Minnetonka Review, Oracle: The Brewton-Parker College Review, Parting Gifts, Pointed Circle, Potpourri, Seems, Spout, The Armchair Aesthete, The Griffin, The Styles, Tucumari Literary Review, Turnrow, and X-Connect.
A previous newspaper reporter, she has published essays in an anthology, Horse Crazy: Women and the Horses They Love, and Equus Spirit Magazine. Her book reviews have appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Pittsburgh Press, and The New York Times Book Review.
Her latest novel is The Tapestry Baby, a novel depicting a mother who believes her child is born to fulfill some special destiny and discovers her life is intertwined with six other people, raising the question of whether any of us really control our own decisions, and through the process learns that greatness can be defined in the simplest of gestures.
You can visit Carole’s website at www.Carolewaterhouse.com.
About The Tapestry Baby
Karin lives in terror that her child will be born a multi-colored version of the mysterious tattooed man she met one night. When Anna is born normal instead, she becomes convinced her daughter is meant to fulfill some special destiny that she herself can’t provide. A believer of signs and premonitions, she takes off on a journey with Vonnie, a writer friend who can’t complete any stories because the peacefulness of her own life leaves her without inspiration hoping she can make a decision along the way. The choice, however, may not fully be her own. Their lives are randomly connected with six other people. There’s Ward, a cross-dresser who chooses his lovers based on their ability to make him look good, and Daria, a photographer who wants to feel emotion with the same level of intensity she can show it in her work. Mrs. Brown is a librarian with a sordid past who masquerades in her own dowdiness and her secret admirer Ned, a music teacher experiencing a nervous breakdown who finds that his images of make-believe women are deteriorating as notes break on his piano. Pivotal are Reggie, a massive tattooed man who despite his best efforts lives in fear of destroying women the same way he once accidentally crushed a bird he held in his hand and Clarissa, a fake fortune-teller who is responsible for bringing them all together. The Tapestry Baby raises the question of whether any of us really has control over our own destinies.
Visit Carole’s official tour page at www.pumpupyourbook.com/2011/05/07/the-tapestry-baby-virtual-book-tour-2011 to see which blogs and websites he’ll be stopping off at during her The Tapestry Baby Virtual Book Tour 2011!
F. W. vom Scheidt is a director of an international investment firm. He works and travels in the world’s capital markets, and makes his home in Toronto, Canada.
He is the author of Coming For Money, a fascinating and highly readable literary novel about the world of global finance … and a human quest for success, understanding and love.
More details are available at: http://www.bluebutterflybooks.ca/titles/money.html.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, F. W. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: This is my first published novel.
More accurately, it is the first writing that I have wanted to publish for wide circulation.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: I have always written.
Because I have an encompassing business career, I suppose I have not had the same opportunity to organize a novel, and I suppose I have not felt the same need to publish, as many other writers.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: I suppose I did not really go down the traditional road of submission and rejection.
Upon completion, I retained a professional editor for final proofreading; the editor showed the manuscript to a publisher; and the publisher accepted it.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
A: My work in all things has always flowed from a great deal of creativity.
If you are creative, you will always meet rejection.
Dealing with it requires the deep belief that rises from an examined life.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
A: Blue Butterfly Books accepted my manuscript for publication.
As incredulous as it may seem, I would not have published with them simply because they offered me a contract.
Upon introduction, I was greatly impressed.
The company is founded on the mission statement of the publisher, Dr. Patrick Boyer, to bring to the market “interesting and important stories that are well-written for a wide audience.”
All facets of the organization are entrepreneurial, and the people have great energy and dedication.
They publish some engaging and thought provoking non-fiction, especially in politics, public policy and biography; and they are building a selective list of high quality fiction. Their books have been very well received.
The website is: www.bluebutterflybooks.ca.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
A: I write from personal experience; I write from what I know best.
In Coming For Money I’ve written as truthfully as possible of the world of international finance — not with the over dramatization so common in film and television, but with an intimate telling through a first-person narrative … of what it can be like to labour in the world of money spinning … of how the money’s immense leverage for triumph or disaster doesn’t so much corrupt people as corrupt the way they treat each other … of how the relentless demands of the money so often deprive you of sufficient time and energy to live through the events of your emotional and interior life.
Yet I have tried to tell this story in a way that will let others in our increasingly isolated society know that they are not alone. I have also tried to say something about the value of not surrendering to the seduction of victimizing others as a defence against being victimized. In writing a narrative about not giving up, I attempted to capture something true and evocative about how all journeys toward the light begin in darkness. And I have offered readers some assurance that, of such journeys, they can become restored to wholeness.
So there was a certain satisfaction in knowing that work would reach others.
I celebrated by giving the first copy to someone special.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: I retained Pump Up Your Promotion.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: I have not been published since; I am working on my next book.
I’m not sure how I would define growing as an author … but, as a human being, I try to grow in small way every day.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: I would not have changed anything.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: I have chosen another profession.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: I have combined the best of both worlds.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: Never slowing down.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Candis C. Coffee grew up in West Texas where her family has lived since 1848 when they immigrated from Ireland. The house in Mariposa is based on the 150-year-old home of her grandparents on the banks of the Concho River in San Angelo.
Candis spent nearly fifteen years in Santa Monica, California, where she was employed as a writer for various organizations. She later moved to New Orleans where she helped Chef Paul Prudhomme write the cookbook of his dreams and titled it Fork in the Road. Candis longed for the desert, however, which inspired a move to Santa Fe and graduate school at the University of New Mexico. She has since returned to her birthplace in West Texas where she currently resides.
After receiving a BA in Literature from the University of Texas, she pursued graduate studies in Creative Writing, Literature, and Spanish. She is presently at work on a children’s book and is pursuing a doctoral degree in alternative health care and the healing arts.
You can visit her website at www.candiscoffee.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Candis. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
I co-authored a book with cartoonist, Rick Detorie (One Big Happy), titled ILLUSTRATED SEXUAL TRIVIA, in the mid-eighties. The book sold a lot of copies. Rick had written a number of cartoon books by this point and was about to become famous.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
My own very first book was MARIPOSA.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I spent two years each, with three huge NY agents, such as Writer’s House and McIntosh & Otis, being groomed for publication. Representation was assured, if I would just tweak the book a bit, here and there. This is not a good idea, to agree to work with agents under these conditions, for I’ve come to believe that they will not ever be satisfied. In fact, I read an article about this phenomenon in Writer’s Digest decades ago. The author advised writers to avoid doing re-writes for publishers or agents unless a deal was on the table, for there is a psychological force that comes into play, and the publisher/agent will not or cannot reach that needed point of satisfaction. There is always just one more spot that needs work. None of the agents actually ended up representing me, though they’d expressed great enthusiasm for my book at first. I spent most of my time with agents and then was finally accepted, without the help of an agent, by a new, small traditional publisher in California, one that I accidentally stumbled on.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
I would be completely devastated for 24 hours. Just finished with writing, crying to friends, full of pronouncements of my next step…to become a stockbroker, jump into the Mississippi River, etc. Then, after a day of misery, I’d be right back into the game, ready to send out new queries.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
MARIPOSA was published by Behler Publications of California. I chose them because they loved my book and so many years had passed by this point. I had recently lost a beloved friend and was grieving. I just wanted to have my book become alive in the world, as it was in my heart.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I felt a mix of excitement and distrust. I wondered if Behler would come through for me. An established publisher in South Carolina had long pondered whether or not to publish MARIPOSA, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake, not giving him a bit more time. I celebrated quietly because I was still in mourning. It just felt finally right at least my book would be in the world after so many years of rewrites and rejection.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I set up book-signings in my region. A friend contacted the local paper and an interview was arranged. I was nominated for a local contest for best writer in the area.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
No, I don’t know of another route, except that after one re-write, if an agent or publisher does not offer a contract, I would find the courage to walk away from them, even if they are the big guys.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
I have not yet been published again. I don’t know that I have grown as a writer, but I have changed. I no longer see writing novels as a career choice. I, like Mickey Spillane, used to see readers as customers. I wrote MARIPOSA to be read. I have writer friends who write first for themselves, and if the book sells, all the better. That had not been my attitude. Now it is.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
I don’t think I could have speeded things up. I sent multiple queries often. The one mistake I might have made is to not have immediately started on another serious writing project, while sending MARIPOSA out. The only problem is that I didn’t have a serious writing idea.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
I was Writer of the Month for the West Texas/Dallas District of Barnes & Noble. I have heard some lovely words about my book.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I would have become a veterinarian or wildlife biologist. Or a professor of Romance Languages.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I am interested in animal communication though I would want to write about that rather than counsel people about their pets.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
My wish is to study animals and learn to genuinely communicate with them. I know that it can be done because I have had very real, though sporadic dialogues with them, in terms of mental words or pictures. I am interested in their true intelligence. I’d like to travel the world and write about both domestic and wild animals, fiction and non-fiction.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Writing is perhaps 15% of the process. The other 85% is being fabulous, so that people fall in love with you and then want to buy your book. This is true for most writers, though not all. A few writers, the really good ones as far as current culture is concerned, can still be true to themselves. They can be weird, unattractive, unfriendly, and it doesn’t matter because someone somewhere discovered their work and told others about it. That is my dream. Not to be weird, unattractive and unfriendly necessarily, but to have that option if I wish.