In the end, my publicist, Chris Olsen, who did a lot of ‘talking me down’ from walking away, and constantly offered encouragement, was correct that everything would work out. I always knew Salvation Station was different – it isn’t a mystery, so much as a crime novel involving not only murder but religious fraud and its effects in three separate stories that eventually come together. I couldn’t have asked for more thoughtful reviews or wonderful, invested readers who helped spread the word about this unique story. Going back to all the agent rejections, I think the story was too different for most to want to take the risk.
This publishing experience taught me a great deal and I’m passing along some of the most important aspects I learned, many of which can be applied to traditional publishers as well:
- Make certain your manuscript is in top notch form before the final submission to a publisher. Read through it again while hiring a trusted editor to do the same.
- Don’t sign anything until you’re absolutely certain of the costs and that you’re healthy. Healthy you ask? Yes. It sounds like a no brainer, right? However, I was battling a massive sinus infection that would last nearly three months and entail six rounds of antibiotics. I let the excitement of having my book published get in the way of honestly taking stock and realizing I needed to wait until the summer or fall to sign a contract. Adding to my stress I fractured my elbow in May 2019. In serious pain, I made some poor decisions I would not have made otherwise.
- Be sure to have a sounding board or confidante you can talk to when you’re questioning the entire publishing endeavor. Understanding that surprises you didn’t anticipate are more than likely (everything from cover design to editorial feedback to additional costs) and having an ally will definitely help you keep your sanity.
- Learn as much as possible about publishing a book. I had self-published, but wasn’t as prepared as I should have been on the different components of the more traditional publication process.
- If you decide to take the hybrid route, you’ll be responsible for a lot of the work, especially editing and proofreading. Make certain you’re up to the task.
- If you land a traditional publisher, you won’t have as much control, but there will still be editorial headaches. Editors will want revisions, etc. The publisher will select the cover of your book. Your agent will generally deal directly with many of these issues, but you still should be prepared for changes/choices you may not love.
- Use your networks for support and encouragement. Many author book launches, bookstore appearances, signings, etc. were cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. I was no exception. The support and action (buying the book, writing reviews, positive word-of-mouth, etc.) from authors, readers, friends and family helped me deal with the frustration of events that were beyond anyone’s control.
- Think outside the lines of the box. My publicity team worked extremely hard to take lemons and make sweet lemonade by finding new ways to implement technology when the virus changed everyone’s life.
She Writes Press stepped up as well as all of their authors with spring 2020 launches were affected. Then I saw the date when my book would be featured: Easter Sunday. For a novel that has religious fraud as a major storyline, the timing was awkward.
My publishing journey had many bumps along the way, inducing a great deal of stress and frustration. But I do know I will publish more books. How I choose to do that will probably look very different. One option for certain is the good friends who witnessed my publishing journey, and decided to found a publisher of their own dedicated to enhancing the author experience.