We shall podcast/live-stream from the Indiana Writers Center on Saturday, April 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Our guest panelists will be Barbara Shoup of the Indiana Writers Center and Lynn Swayze Wilson, a local writer. Barbara has published seven novels and has taught creating writing. Lynn has written a great deal, but has yet to achieve publication.
I understand how difficult it can be to get published. I will pick up where I left off yesterday.
I had sent out 186 query packages for my first novel, "1975." At one point, through channels of DePauw alums, it appeared that the rights to "1975" might be purchased by a major film company to be shot as a mini-series. A prominent agency expressed interest in representing me. These prospects were very real. As quickly as they had appeared, they dropped from sight. The company no longer was interested. The agency's enthusiasm had passed.
A publisher in New Mexico responded "positively" to one of the query packages and suggested we could cooperate to publish the book. A flight to Albuquerque, a car rental, and a drive up the road to Santa Fe later and I met with the head of the company. He explained that for $20,000 his company would edit, provide cover work, publish, and elicit reviews from one hundred book reviewers. I also was given a copy of a book about how to promote a book. I reviewed the contract. I did exactly what a lawyer should not do: represent himself or herself in a matter. I signed, paid, and later regretted my action.
When I received proof copies of the covers, and saw my name on the byline, I was ecstatic.
However, I sensed there would be problems when the first 20 edited pages came to me. Such phrases as "stupid fat son of a bitch" and "Greasy Mac's" (for a national fast-food chain) were to be changed to "big fat dummy" and "Micky D's." I nixed those changes. I don't know that much else was done via editing in the rest of the book. The title was changed to "Nineteen Seventy-Five" as, the head of the company told me, numerical book titles do not work well. Roughly the same time my "Nineteen Seventy-Five" was released, so, too, was the best-seller "1968." The covers were okay. The description on the cover sounded as if someone had made fun of me, instead of society, as was the thrust of the book. After the book was "published"---and my checks to the company had cleared---I asked about the reviews, and what else would be done to promote the book. The guy reminded me about the book on book promotion he had given me, and said we had "agreed" I would promote the book. When I checked where the book was printed, I found out he had sent it to Lightning Source, a print-on-demand publisher. I later did that on another book for under $1000 on my own. When I tired of the hassles with him and his company and said I wanted to terminate the agreement, he said he wanted to retain a percentage of any future proceeds on film rights. I explained I felt I had been through enough on the arrangement and his company was entitled to nothing.
"Nineteen Seventy-Five" received really good reader reviews on Amazon. I never read a review by anyone who wrote for a publication to which the book was sent for review.
I learned very valuable lessons from my first experience with a publisher. I began to read articles and books about self-publishing and the changes wrought by the internet. I continued to write. I would publish my next work myself, I decided.