Category Archives: career reboot

Another Writing Career Reboot – Considering the Offer

The emails expressing interest in the first two books of my mystery series raised a number of emotions. First, I was quite surprised by the timing, about five weeks after submission. Second, I was thrilled with their enthusiastic comments indicating that the team had clearly read both manuscripts. Third, I was cautiously optimistic given my experience with a previous publisher. Fourth, I was skeptical since the particular publisher, Zimbell House Publishing, requires an author’s investment.

I’ll go right to the heart of my dilemma. In the 1990s when I set out to be a published author, I was told that I should not have to pay anything to reach that goal. Furthermore, the vanity press was not used by real writers and real writers groups did not recognize a self-published individual as a legitimate author.

I don’t believe that such a stigma continues today. Furthermore, what ZHP offers is not self-publishing services but a partnership between the publisher and author. I knew about this requirement when I allowed my manuscripts to be matched with ZHP on the Authors.me website and put the issue in the cross-that-bridge-when-we-get-there category. ZHP’s emails brought me to the bridge.

The process I went through is not important. I considered many things that any writer would when evaluating a publisher’s offer. In the end it came down to these questions:

  • What will ZHP provide in ancillary services, such as marketing tools?
  • Does the organization/team seem up to the task based on what is known about ZHP?
  • Is the investment amount reasonable and feasible?
  • If not ZHP, what am I waiting for?

My research was limited to reviewing the author list and product catalog via the ZHP website and asking process and contractual questions of the acquisition manager. I also took a look at ZHP’s footprint on Amazon and the internet in general.

An unfortunate reality stuck in my brain: The 2016 publisher that went out of business while working on my book was known to me personally as were writers published by the company. I was also familiar with the publisher’s personal work ethic. None of that knowledge or familiarity helped me get my book published by that publisher.

Clearly limited information and a leap of faith would play an important part in my decision about ZHP. The most important question – What am I waiting for? Do I think there’s a publisher out there who will take on a first-time author free of charge or even give me an advance? Will that publisher provide all the support and the higher royalty rate that ZHP promises? How many more months or years will it take to find that theoretical publisher?

With some nervousness, but mostly confidence, I signed the contract two weeks later. Much progress has been made on both books in the intervening months. Check out my Books tab for info about the Kate Starling Mysteries series and an opportunity to review the first book, Mistaken Identity.

The partnership has worked for me in my particular circumstances. It may not be for everyone. But it is an option available in this 21st century and I am delighted.

Another Writing Career Reboot – Renewing the Search for a Publisher

If you’re familiar with my blog postings from 2017 and 2018, you know my writing career has been full of starts, stutters, stops, and restarts over the last three decades. While I’ve learned a lot about writing and the publishing business through conferences and networking, there’s been limited success. I’ve completed four novels—one has been hidden away, one has been put aside for future consideration, and two are currently in play. The 2005 publication of Suspect was not successful or even memorable, and my short-term experience with a publisher in 2016 was disheartening.

But there’s always hope, right?

In 2017 I pitched both Mistaken Identity and Connections to an editor and an agent. I received some good comments from one and nothing from the other. I took those comments and the advice that I received from the editor I worked with in 2016 and set about polishing the two manuscripts.

My next task was to send out more queries. The internet is great, but it was quite tedious to find viable editors, publishers, and agents to approach, even with the help of Writer’s Market. This is not news to any unpublished writer. Many publishers require a writer to go through an agent. Some are no longer accepting new authors or unsolicited submissions. Nevertheless, I found a dozen feasible prospects in January 2019. It was a start.

While all those I queried were accessible through the internet, only a few accepted email queries with attachments. A few accepted email queries only and would ask for chapters if interested.  About half provided a link to either the Authors.me or the Queryme.Online website, each of which provided a platform for the author to submit a profile and manuscript.

The first time I used Authors.me it matched my work to other perspective editors and publishers as well as the publisher who “sent” me. I was able to do a quick look up to research the match and agree to or decline the opportunity. I was also provided a link to my profile so that I could monitor progress for all my submissions.

Queryme.Online linked me directly to the particular editor/publisher’s account and provided me with a link to monitor the status. As is typical, some of the queries were rejected immediately while others went unanswered for many weeks. Painfully slow progress was visible through the review cycle on Authors.me or Queryme.Online.  

As time went by, I questioned if working on the third novel in the series was a waste of my time since neither of the earlier series novels had been published. I considered starting a totally new book with a fresh idea. Still, I was determined to continue sending out queries. In addition, I made plans to attend a couple of regional conferences to do pitches and network.

Unfortunately, the notion that I might never be published made itself comfortable in my mind.

And then I received the email I had been waiting for. A publisher was interested.

Considering the Offer—in my next blog.

Writing Career Reboot

Determined to fulfill my dreams of being a published author, I realized I’d have to write full-time. Given my aversion to risk-taking that meant I would have to be financially independent, with a little help from Social Security. Toward that end, I developed a list of must-dos:

  • wait a few years until eligible for Social Security benefits, including Medicare
  • no big purchases I couldn’t justify and pay off quickly
  • pay off car loan early
  • pay off house mortgage early
  • save as much money as possible
  • depart from my job in an orderly fashion by giving plenty of notice, documenting job descriptions and procedures, organizing files and archives, and locating and training my replacement.

There were a few bumps along the way, but by March 2014 everything fell into place. In May, my replacement fortuitously transferred from a sister store and required very little time to train. I stuck around until early July to fill in for an office vacationer and to tie up some loose ends.

Through the end of 2014 my primary goal was to put my house and yard in order—cleaning, culling, organizing, and fixing things that had been ignored for a decade or more.

But I also began the reboot on my writing career. All I had to do was finish the second book (ultimately titled Connections) of my mystery series and maybe polish the first one along the way, then sell them both to a publisher. Piece of cake, right?

The first draft of Connections was completed in September of 2015. It would be another eleven months before reviewing, reworking, and revising were “completed.”

Nevertheless, from October 2015 through March 2016 I submitted numerous queries via email and made many pitches at writers’ conferences for both Mistaken Identity and Connections. Two regional publishers expressed interest and I signed a contract with one of them in April 2016 for the publication of Mistaken Identity. The publisher hoped the book would be in print by October 2017.

My experience working with an editor over the next several months was illuminating and beneficial. My editor’s suggestions gave me a new perspective. It turns out that the best advice writers are given is to engage a professional editor to objectively review your work and make suggestions.

Bad news first: Due to unforeseen circumstances with the publishing company work on Mistaken Identity stopped in January 2017. I did not become aware of the situation until May and did not realize until August that it was unlikely work would resume.

Good news: It’s easier to “re-reboot” one’s career when you’ve done it a few times. And so I have begun anew making pitches and submitting queries. And I am working on the third novel in the series.

There’s always hope!!