Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My First Publication

My writing career has been challenging. It takes a lot of patience to be a writer, especially if you plan to one day be published. Today, I thought I'd write about my first publication. Maybe an aspiring author will read this and pick up a few pointers.

Throughout my teenage years, I wrote short stories. It wasn't until I was all grown up and living on my own that my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) challenged me to write a full length novel about one of the characters in her favorite short story of mine. This short story was a vampire romance titled "The Heart of the Cove." In a nutshell, it was a story of love, loss and immortality. My vampire, Blake, was different than vampires from other stories because he was not made into a vampire by blood or the bite of another. The ocean, with its mysterious life-giving power, brought him back. What I created in this story was a natural, more "Earthy" vampire--one that was bound to the ocean and wandered the midnight coasts.

Well, I accepted the challenge and wrote about Blake. It took me over a year to finish the first draft of my first novel, "Timeless Love: the Legend of Black Water." Like all writers, I was proud to have completed my first book. Holding the manuscript in my hand, I asked, "now what?"

I shared the story with a few people and they enjoyed it. I wondered how to go about getting it published. My next stop was Barnes and Nobles. I was surprised to learn that they have an entire section in the store for "how to get published." I picked up a few books and read about the publishing industry.

Skipping a head a year or so, I pitched my query letters all over the country. One rude publisher wrote back to me saying, "Dear Mr. Browning, you are more likely to get struck by lightning than get published. Good luck."

A storm must have rolled in without me knowing because, after only eight months of rejections, a small publisher in Wisconsin asked to read the book. I sent it and after another four months, they got back to me and offered a contract. You can imagine my elation having just been struck by lightning!

Skipping ahead again, after working with this small publisher for a year, my book was released (after several delays). They sent me a box of free books. I remember rushing home from work to open the box with my wife--the first time I would hold "Timeless Love: the Legend of Black Water" in my hand as a bound novel! To my horror, sadness, disgust and every other awful feeling, the books were garbage. The cover art was grainy, the titled was misspelled, the binding had glue all over it, the edges of the pages were not squared. The worst part was when I opened the book, page one fell out and fluttered to the floor.

My first novel was published full of typos, unedited and bound with shotty cover art and barely able to keep itself together. I was enraged and embarrassed. I fought with the publisher, forcing them to fix it. I had them change the cover art and send me more free books to make amends. After three drastic changes, the book was finally printed without typos, with a better cover and cleaner binding. It still lacked proper editing but they would not pull it back.

Thankfully, the publisher closed six months after my book was released. In that time, I sold nearly a thousand copies at book signings. How? By being honest with people and holding my belief in the power of a good story. To this day, I receive praise for a story well told (despite the typos.)

I learned a great deal through this horrible experience. I learned to be patient, to be cautious about small publishers, and to protect my work. I learned that there are scammers out there, people who claim to be publishing companies but in truth, they are just a person with a fancy printer in the garage peddling an authors dreams for retail/cover price. This experience was humbling and strengthened me as a writer.