Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book publishing 101 or: Riding the Waves of Rejection

A friend told me this week his wife is writing a book.  The topic is “human struggle.”  She is seeking a publisher.

Caused me to hearken back to my own simple, 23-step process to see Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph and Success (EC) through publication.  While cleaning out files recently I found these notes on its history.  Here’s how it went:

Concept for EC emerges during jogging.  I resist,  A still, small voice pushes me on.  Can't shake it, and I start to plow some ground.

Lined up a noted self-help guru as co-author.  Why?  The magic of collaboration.  He already had success in the market, an audience and had a big-time agent.  So I started writing, wrote the first 25 of what would (ultimately) become 700 comeback stories.

My guru, and his agent, renege.  I decide to go it alone.

An editor as Crossing Press expresses interest, then never responds again.  Still, I settle in to write the actual book, it would take more than one year.

Finished principal writing.  For the next 16 months or so, I research, rewrite.

Still believing in the power of celebrity, for better or worse, I seek the support of luminaries for marketing reasons, to provide foreword, blurb or otherwise.  I gain the support of a very major luminary.  He agrees to provide material help, then reneges, and repeats this process twice more.  His paranoid PR people provide me with the shabbiest treatment in memory, accusing me of planning a hatchet job on their media star (!!!);   (my background is in PR, and I am astonished).

Bought Publishers Guide, queried all appropriate tradtional publishers.

A nibble.  An editor at a major independent agrees to see proposal.  Immediately sent.

Editor misplaces, asks for a resend.

Breakthrough:  editor requests the ms.

Editor declines, citing derivative nature of stories.  Very deflating birthday present.  I go jogging to try to shake it off.  I resolve not to quit.

Second effort contact with same editor, but no go, editor declines again.

Same time I recontact major agent who had earlier expressed interest.  He sends one email re ms., never responds again. On follow up, no response.

Extensive review of self-publishers, e.g. Author’s House, and many other such.   Not ready to capitulate.

I go back to independent publisher with proposal on how I would make changes to satisfy them.  This time I write to president as well as editor.  President agrees to reconsider.

Publisher accepts ms. for publication

Date of publishing contract

Editor requires major changes or says 'no publication'; I agree to rewrite every word.  I do.

Publisher sends cover art 'with title Try, Try Again" vs. my working title “364 Great Comebacks.”  They had never bothered to inform me of the change.  I hate "Try, Try Again" on a visceral level.  It seems to me sing-song, exasperated and patronizing.  Title dispute goes on for five weeks.

Publisher  relents, chooses instead a title created by my family member as a compromise:  “Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success”

Publication.  Border's buys large quantity, promotes in stores.  (Remember book stores?)

Publisher arranges successful “media tour,” radio interviews.  Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success goes on to become a category best-seller on Amazon.

EC2, EC3, EC700 follow in subsequent years, as well as numerous other titles.

In subsequent years, life happens.  Our poster boy for great comebacks, Lance Armstrong, who beat cancer to win the Tour de France seven times, finally confesses to the doping allegations that dogged him for years.  I change my web site, accordingly.

Others of our stars fell from the firmament as well:  Bill Cosby, Paula Deen, most notably.  One notable symbol of male, Olympian athletic prowess switched genders, creating a media firestorm while winning a major award for his/her courage.

Some climbed even bigger mountains, like debt overcomer and now President, Donald Trump.  Some passed into eternity, like we all will some day.

How fragile this thing, life, and how easily a comeback can turn into a comedown.  And how fast the clock goes by.

And how long the steeplechase, littered with rejection hurdles, from concept to printed book, in this case, six and one-half years.

And so it is that we wish all prospective authors like our friend's wife only the best, and to keep their eye on the prize, no matter how serpentine the road becomes, and no matter how many tell you that you are lost on the way.

You are not lost.  You just have farther to go.....

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