How I got here:
My long road to publishing a book
Publishing a book is not for the faint-hearted. My novel, Soda Springs, has been critiqued, edited, revised, polished, rewritten again . . . and yet again. It's been through the gauntlet of my writers' groups and several writing workshops. Two professional editors blue-penciled the entire novel, as have several experienced writers and readers, not to mention my wife, also a professional editor, who dripped her own sweat and blood all over the manuscript.
Soda Springs won the 2006 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest for mainstream fiction. After that, I rewrote it twice . . . and with the help of a professional editor, cut 40,000 words.
In short, Soda Springs isn't fresh out of a typewriter. It's well polished. It's ready to be published.
So, homework done, I sent off queries to a horde of agents.
I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . and finally got a trickle of replies. Some of them were quite positive, as for example the following:
"You write well, the subject matter is excellent, and you explore it with an expert's investigative eye. I felt the scenes in Alabama, especially in the church, meeting MLK, the mother, all very real, very accurate. And, the historical context felt accurate as well. For me, the text shows you have done your homework thoroughly. You have an assurance about the setting and the story you want to tell, and, like Richard Russo, you pick an excellent canvas against which to play out that story, moving from the context of civil rights movement in the south to Colorado and the Mexican farm workers. The feelings of authentic setting and people drove me forward in the reading."
Alas, despite the glowing comments, this agent said she couldn't take Soda Springs on. Go figure!
From the New York agent who judged my manuscript the best mainstream novel in that Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest:
"I'm afraid that although I clearly enjoyed your sample, I ultimately don't feel this is right for me."
From another agent:
"I found the writing very engaging, but . . . I am unable to give it the attention it deserves at this time."
And yet another:
"We (two agents in her agency) both agree that you're a talented writer . . . (but) it is not right for our agency."
In the end, all those positive comments . . . but no takers. Mostly form-letter rejections. Many wrote a version of the following: "I am swamped with submissions and current commitments and so I'm simply not able to consider your project."
Several agents noted some iteration of "the business of publishing a book is so subjective."
Yeah, it is subjective . . . too darned subjective. It makes publishing a book illusive, even for the persistent.
Soda Springs is well written. The story is compelling. Despite that, the manuscript remains here on my desk . . . not at a major publishing house.
So . . . I've decided to bypass the roadblocks and tar pits and the swamped literary agents. I am publishing a book. Let's put the novel out there so readers can decide for themselves whether they like it or not.
Thus, the decision to self publish my book. Onward!
Next time: Where to from here? The search for a print on demand publisher.
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