I wrote this article for Publish Myself, a great web-site for people wanting to boost their writing resumes or just like to share ideas. This was my first published article.
The Woes, Fears and Promises of an Expectant Writer
The “wannabe” writer
At the end of December 2011, I was a hopeful “wannabe” writer who just completed one of the many “final” drafts of her first novel. The San Francisco Writers Conference 2012 was coming up in February, and I just learned that their Indie Publishing Contest deadline was soon approaching. I asked my niece to do a rushed final edit, and sent in my entrance application, which included the first 50 pages of the book, believing with all my heart that I had a good chance at winning. When I made the finals and they asked for the complete manuscript, I was ecstatic that other people would be reading my work.
They announced the winners near the end of the conference, and I was nearly devastated when I did not hear my name called. I spoke with literary agent, Elizabeth Pomada, who stated that initially my book had won because the story was engaging and the writing was wonderful. This changed, she said, when they got to the Christian parts. She said the judges, of whom she was one, believed it was preachy, that Christian audiences would not like the dark parts of the book and commercial genre readers would not like the Christian aspects. She made other comments that I took to heart. At that time, I had not heard of Christian speculative fiction and, looking back, it seemed that no one at the conference had either. Afterward, I did a search of various Christian fiction and learned of this growing genre.
Although I didn’t win the contest, I took in Ms. Pomada’s comments and set out to make changes to the book. It was reduced from over 98,000 to about 93,500 words, and I spruced it up in areas I felt Ms. Pomada made good points. After an ad finitum set of revisions and edits, I felt it was as complete as I could get it, and set out to send query letters.
The conference had introduced me to query letters, pitches and organizing a database of submissions. I was on my way to becoming published! I knew I was still clueless, did some research, and finally came up with a query letter I was pleased with. It took over six months and 53 failed queries for me to realize that my pitch was horrible. I learned this when someone from Authonomy.com (a free site where you could upload your manuscript and get advice) finally commented that my pitch put her off, but that the story was great.
I became weary of sending out query letters, especially after learning and becoming more shocked everyday with the number of people who have written books and are looking for agents. Later, I made a book trailer with a different and better pitch, which I’ve been using ever since.
Should I wait or should I publish?
I decided to research other avenues of publishing besides the traditional, and learned about vanity press companies. Ignorant of it all, I had seriously considered using Tate Publishing, a company that claims to be a traditional, Christian-based publishing company. They offered me a contract to publish my book for $4000, which included editing, creating the cover, book trailer, a television commercial ad and marketing, and stipulated that my investment would be returned after I sold 1000 books. I probably would have accepted the contract, except that they gave me only ten days to decide. I hadn’t heard back from enough people who had used them to make that decision. So, I declined.
Then came WestBow Press, which used to be a traditional publishing company, but is now a vanity press affiliated with Thomas Nelson Publishing. They were also willing to offer me a contract, but I had enough debt and, after continued research, decided to stay away from pay-into publishing companies.
Once that decision was made, I learned about CreateSpace and Lulu, two top-rated self-publishing companies. I researched both, and felt that CreateSpace met more of my needs. So I decided to publish!
The hard part was over. Or was it?
The book was finished, I had a publishing venue, and I was making headway to putting my book out there. The hard part was over! I so naively believed.
I have accepted myself as a writer who loves to create short stories and books, and have one novel in slow-working progress, and two others on hold. I believed that I could finish the publishing process, do some marketing (although I dreaded the idea of it) and focus more on writing. The further I got into the process of self-publishing, the more I realized that if I wanted to be even a slightly known author, I needed a second job: Self-marketer-networker-promoter, all in one long job title.
And this is where I’m at. My book is out there in paperback and eBook. I have made some formatting changes in the print version and corrected a few typos, and now I have my first copy in hand. I’m also realizing that my second job, although it causes me to I pay out more than is coming in from my writing, it takes up more hours than my pay job, it is learn-as-you-go, and it consists of countless hours of research, it is nonetheless very enjoyable and fulfilling.
The promise of the future
Looking ahead, I dream of when I can retire from my day job because my writing brings in enough money, when I will have time to write regularly, and when I will know that each passing day more people are discovering and loving my work. I believe God gave me this gift and desire to write, and that he will lead me to the fulfillment of all of these desires. I count these dreams as promises from God that will one day come to fruition.
Nancy LaRonda Johnson has recently published her debut literary Christian speculative novel, Anticipation of the Penitent. She has written short stories, poetry and personal journals most of her life, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Juris Doctorate, and works as a deputy probation officer. She maintains the blog “Writer’s Mark – Christian and other fiction, poetry, and ideas” at www.nancylarondajohnson.blogspot.com, and is working on several projects, including a sequel to Anticipation of the Penitent.
Anticipation of the Penitent was a front-runner in the Indie Publishing Contest sponsored by the San Francisco Writers Conference 2012.