Many of us have a book inside that we would like to write if we just knew how – I am not talking about putting pen to paper, but to construct a story that others would wish to read. For years I wanted to write and would throw away my attempts, because I was not sure if my efforts were good enough to be read by others.
I attended a writer’s class, which was organised by my local council, and Nick Bleszynski the Scottish author of Shoot Straight, You Bastards! took the classes.
The classes consisted of a mix of people from teenagers to let’s just say retired hopefuls. Nick was kind but firm in his judgment.
Over the following years years I had finally completed a story that I thought might just be of interest to a reader, but how to find an unbiased reader – after all my family and my friends would not like to be too critical and any enthusiastic response would be very nice, but not particularly helpful.
I needed an unbiased person who would read and comment honestly, however hurtful. I researched and researched and realised I need an ‘assessor’ to advise me and to be honest about my ability to write a good story, after all writing is a branch of the entertainment industry and fiction has to be entertaining if you wish to keep the reader’s attention so that he or she will keep turning the pages.
Thanks to the internet I was able to research a number of assessors before deciding on Tom Flood of Flood Manuscripts.
In 1990 Mr Flood’s novel Oceana Fine won the Miles Franklin Award , which is Australia’s most prestigious literature prize. The prize is awarded each year for a novel of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in many of its phases.
I checked the list of authors who have also won this award – very impressive.
I never did meet Mr Flood during all the time we corresponded via e-mails. His business address was a three-hour train ride from my home so I stuck to e-mailing.
My original manuscript was over 160,000 words and with Tom’s guidance I managed to reduce it to around 120,000 words, which was still high for an unknown author.
Once I’d received the report from Flood Manuscript that in their opinion I could write, I started searching for an editor, and I wanted a female editor so to have input about the story from the opposite sex.
In today’s ‘enlightened age’ I suppose I was being politically incorrect by choosing an editor by their sex, rather than by their qualifications, but I was sure that I could find the right editor who just happened to have both qualifications. The other small detail was that I was paying!
It took me some time to find the ‘right’ person, because I’d never spoken to or had any dealings with an editor of either sex.
Eventually I found Louise Wareham Leonard, a writer who was born in New Zealand, moved to New York with her parents at the age of twelve, attended the United Nations International School and then Colombia. She has BA in Comparative Literature and Society.
Her first book Since you asked won the James Jones Literary Award.
Once again all correspondence was via e-mail because ‘my’ editor lived in Western Australia and I live in NSW. The tyranny of distance was not a problem and we soon built a rapport and the manuscript was pulled apart, tweaked and rebuilt. Of course all this takes time.
I like facts and figures so I collated some facts and figures about trying to get a book published.
After months of research and many more months of writing I had completed my historical novel, called Ice King , all I required now was a publisher or agent who might be interested in my work.
Ice King is a trans- Atlantic centred story set between 1804 to 1807. The story takes place mainly between Liverpool in England, and Boston in the US, so I had my doubts of any interest in this type of story from an Australian publisher or agent, I was correct – unfortunately.
I sent out thirty five proposals, which generated a 45.7% response – all negative, I am sorry to say.
UK – twenty two companies approached – nine answered – all nine sent personal e-mails – which were polite, but they were all rejections.
Of the thirteen that failed to reply, three sent auto replies that they had received the submission. The other ten failed to reply to the initial approach.
I was heartened by the fact that Richard Adams was rejected twenty six time by British publishers for
USA – Ten companies approached – six answered – all six sent personal e-mails – polite, but they were rejections.
Of the four that failed to reply, one sent an auto reply, one asked for additional sample chapter & didn’t communicate further, the others didn’t acknowledge the initial submission.
Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ was rejected thirty times by American publishers.
I only approached agents and publishers who were interested in new authors or specialised in historical fiction. I didn’t wish to waste the time of a publishers or agent who focused on westerns, crime, horror, or fantasy books etc.
I was in good company Margaret Mitchell was rejected thirty eight times – I don’t consider myself to be as good as this author, but her number of rejections gave me hope.
Australia – three companies approached – one answered – my work was rejected.
Of the other two, one asked for a synopsis & two chapters, which were sent. The agent didn’t communicate further. The other failed to reply to the initial approach.
Mathew Reilly was turned down by every publishing house in Australia before self publishing.
His book was picked up, after he self published, by an Australian publisher and republished under the publishing house imprint. He is now in great demand with twenty three books and numerous short stories to his name.
I decided to self-publish. I hired an American company (thanks to the internet again) to format the manuscript so that I would be able to give a computer file to any book printer, and they would be able to produce a paperback edition of the book.
At the same time, I had a web site created, Geoff Woodland, which included the front cover in an effort to market the book. My problem was that the sales of the book were of more interest to British and American readers than Australian readers. The postage charges from Australia killed the European and American sales, so I opened an account with Lightning Source of the US & UK for print on demand, and this worked reasonably well, but I was not selling as many copies as I’d hoped, which I put it down to price, because I had to include local US or UK postage.
Lightning Source issued a monthly catalogue of all their available books to booksellers. To be included in the catalogue there was a cost to the author, but competition between hundreds of authors for recognition swamped many small book sellers, and large booksellers only stocked popular selling books of well-known authors. An author not living in the UK or US was at a definite disadvantage.
I looked around for an outlet that would allow me to sell Ice King at a cost that was not too expensive. I found e-books! Amazon & Smashwords would be my salvation. I had the Ice King Word file created in to a mobi file to upload to Amazon. I also uploaded to Smashwords, which was easier, because Smashwords had a program to auto convert Word to their own system.
Ice King became an e-book and sales picked up. Flattering reviews started to appear and I had a feeling that it had all be worthwhile – or had it?
A few months after the release of the e-book version it was picked up by a UK publisher, and they wanted to republish under their own imprint.
I was over the moon! A real publisher, who had been in business for over one hundred and fifty years, wanted to publish Ice King.
I was offered a contract, and with this under my belt I felt sure I would be able to secure an agent. . . . . . .