The other day I was reading the story of how Nicholas Sparks was first published. He sent out twenty-five queries. TWENTY-FIVE?!? I have sent over three hundred. Now, granted in his day it was easier to get an agent and a publisher, however, I’ve heard over the years that he had such a tough time getting published. To him, I say, “Bullsh*t.” Twenty-five queries and a one-million dollar advance your first time out does not a hard luck case make. However, that being said, I don’t consider myself to be a hard luck case either. This business takes perseverance and I’ve got that in spades.
I have been a writer for as long as I have been able to write. I have written in journals, poetry, songs, etc. In my mid-twenties, I tried my luck at my first romance novel and I can honestly say it was terrible.
About seven years ago, I tried my hand at writing a memoir titled, “Am I Still a Daughter of God?” I was raised in a devoutly Mormon home, I married a Mormon man in the temple, and had three children with him. When I chose to leave my husband and the church, I decided to write a journal to my children. I knew someday they would come to me with all kinds of questions. Why did I divorce their dad? Why wasn’t I Mormon anymore? Why did I move us from Oregon to Arizona? Essentially, why did I change our entire lives? When I was finished writing it, I realized it was a book. I also realized that if there had been a book out there when I was leaving the church, I might have felt less alone.
And so, I decided to try and publish it. I sent out query letters (probably about 50-75) and got an agent. Within about six months, I had a contract with a publisher with a commitment of 500 copies in first print and a modest advance. Seems easy, right? Sometimes things are too good to be true. My publisher changed the title to, “Confessions of a Recovering Mormon.” With editing control, huge pieces of my story were cut out of the book and what was left was just a shell. They wanted a salacious story that would sell books. I begged my agent to help me return my book to its original state but she sided with my publisher (she had several other deals in the works with them and didn’t want to rock the boat). And so, I struggled to come to terms with the new book and my demanding publisher. However, sometimes fate steps in and takes care of these things. My publisher hit hard times and went bankrupt. I never got my advance and only fifty of the books I was promised but more importantly to me…I got the rights to my book back.
But I didn’t give up…
During the time between writing my memoir and publishing it, I started writing fictional novels. My dream is to be a writer and while I had one bad experience, I wasn’t going to just walk away from my dream. I spent about a year working on a beautiful romance novel I called, “The Sacrifice.” It took a great deal of research and I breathed, ate, and slept the war in Afghanistan, the Marine Corps, and the Taliban. As you can imagine, I had some gnarly dreams. No longer having an agent, I began sending out queries yet again. I probably sent out about two hundred this time and from that I got a few bites. One agent in particular asked to read my full manuscript, she read it in one weekend, and asked to represent me. She loved my book. I signed with her and my dream was off and running again.
It took us about a year to find a publisher (during which time I wrote two more books). The contract this time was more modest than before but it was with a small, yet established, publisher. I signed. This publisher also wanted to publish “Turning Point,” which was my second novel. As we began the editing process, I signed two more books with this publisher. I had a total of four to be published. I was assigned an amazing editor who suggested changes to my book but never pushed me to make changes that I wasn’t comfortable with. Seems like the perfect set-up, right? Again, too good to be true.
During the summer of last year, just after “Turning Point” was published and my editor and I were working on “The Sacrifice,” I noticed things about my publisher that made me uneasy. First off, no one was getting paid. I wasn’t getting any royalty statements and my editor hadn’t been paid since March. Calls went unanswered. Emails weren’t responded to. I asked my agent to look into it. As with my last agent, mine had several deals with this publisher and she was more interested in keeping the publisher happy than she was taking care of her client.
In November, after “Turning Point” had been out for six months with little to no marketing, I had received no royalties, and “The Sacrifice” publication date had been pushed back multiple times, I made the difficult decision to cancel my contracts with my publisher and fire my agent. I was on my own again.
I am still on my own. I made the choice to self-publish for now. I’m still hopeful that an agent will come along who will be as passionate about my stories as I am and will become my champion. Until then, I’m still working to achieve my dream.
To be continued…