A Note From the Personal Files of April Kempler: Unknown Author or How Long Does it Take to Get Published Anyway?

I get asked all the time How long did it take you to get published from inception to published book? I have an answer but it is a bit complicated. First, I will give the short answer: I started May 23, 2007, I will have a published book in hand November 13, 2013, so that is 6 years, 5 months, and 21 days. Math really isn’t my thing, so I hope my math is good on this.

These dates don’t tell the whole story of how it began or the long, and sometimes arduous journey it has been after signing a publisher’s contract. But, I will try to explain it as best I can.

Here is the longer version and I hope you stay with me. After finishing the manuscript I did what every author is told to NEVER do: Don’t send your entire manuscript to a publisher and for heaven’s sake don’t send one that hasn’t been properly edited! Yes, I blundered this one right from the get-go. I figured it was edited. I know how to spell and my husband read it and made all his little adjustments, so it was ready, right? Wrong. Only after I had delivered 174k, or so,  words in a large, and I mean LARGE, binder did I bother myself to read anything on how to actually get a publisher. Then in big, black and white letters I read: “Always hire a professional editor before submitting any manuscript.” Oh! A professional editor, like one I had to pay. I get it now! Silly me.

Then I realized no one in the professional author realm ever sends their entire manuscript to a publisher unedited, no one in the professional author realm ever refers to their manuscript by page number (blunder # 277). I fumbled and bumbled my way through this entire thing. There is a process to getting published, and had I learned it I might have saved myself a year or two and maybe several months. So after slogging through (all 417 pages) of my tome, the publisher called me for a meeting. The bottom line: get it edited and re-submit. This took additional time and research not to mention weeks, turning into months of waiting for the edits to be complete.

From reliable sources I read that the average time for an unknown author to get published is around 5 years. By some miracle the publisher still was interested in the manuscript after all the false starts and offered me a contract. If you count the time to signing the contract (which is considered being published) then I come in around 4 years, and approximately 5 months. That is near average for an unknown author so I’m pleased. But somewhere along the way I had managed to cause some concerns for the publisher. After handing in my copy of the contract, with all my changes in bold, black ink, I was told that they were rescinding their offer.

Wait! What?

What had I done wrong? Aside from everything in the beginning, what had I done wrong to get myself out of a cherished and much anticipated publishing contract? I thoroughly researched it. I read books, asked questions, hired an attorney. Perhaps it was the myriad of changes I made to the contract (I might have gone overboard), or perhaps it was the rights I wanted to reserve without a good reason (e.g. could I actually hope to secure publishing rights in Turkey? No. Impossible. I have zero connections for  getting my book published in the middle east!) whatever it was, it sent up some kind of red flag and just like snuffing out a candle, my publishing dreams went up in smoke. I was free to roam about the country to find another publisher.

Did I rant and rave, break down sobbing WHY? No, for the first time I behaved like a professional. I wrote a nice letter thanking the publisher for all their work, all their advice they had given me over the course of several months. I thanked them for giving me the opportunity to be published and I hoped we could remain friends, in a business sense.

I’ll skip ahead, about two weeks later I received a message from the publisher saying they would like to revisit the terms of the contract.

They were giving me another chance!

I couldn’t believe it. But first they wanted to, yes — maybe you have figured this out already — rewrite the contract. I had to wait some time for this, another 5 months, or so. Then the day came, which according to my contract was: March 27, 2012, I was legit, I was a published writer.  So from signed contract to book release it will be 1 year 7 months, and 17 days, but who’s counting?

I have come to understand one thing about the publishing world. It is that everyone’s publishing journey is different. Some paths chosen are shorter and some longer. But each writer, published or unpublished, self-published or traditionally published, has a similar goal: to get our written words out there into the universe. Hopefully to be read, enjoyed, cherished. Hopefully to give pause for thought. Or create an emotion (love, sympathy, anger, shock, horror), or to learn something we never knew before. Hopefully to share something of ourselves with another person. That is what it’s all about isn’t it? We write to encourage one another, to inspire one another, to sharpen each other.

What has your writing journey been like? Are you a published author? How long did it take you?

Or, are you hoping to be published some day?  What are your goals to getting published? I would love to hear about it in the comments section, don’t be shy, share!

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The Diary of Anne Frank: Perhaps Hiding was Not a Great Idea

Melk train station in Lower Austria

While watching The Diary of Anne Frank, the 2009 BBC version, I was suddenly struck with the idea that going into hiding was not the best thing the Frank and van Pels (van Daan) family could have done. My opinion stems from something Joe said in his memoir, THE ALTERED I. He told me that in the concentration camp of Melk, big, strapping, strong men (soldiers, prisoners of war) came in, but quickly died. They couldn’t take the transition. Camp life was just too hard, too horrid and squalid. Joe said that within six weeks some of them hadn’t survived. He on the other hand, scrawny, starved, and barefoot had survived some of the worst situations.

Perhaps going into hiding did a great disservice to the Franks, van Pels (van Daan’s) and Mr. Pfeffer (Mr. Dussel). Although they had limited rations, had to be as quiet as mice, could hardly stir all day long, and lived in cramped quarters, they still had it more comfortable than living inside a concentration camp. When they were inevitably found, a tragedy to be sure, they were ill-prepared for the hardships of transportation, starvation, and camp life.  It’s no surprise they died. And so close to the end of the war too. That’s the disturbing part.

I wish they hadn’t been found in their secret annex! I wish they had all survived. I wish Margot Frank’s diary had been recovered as well as Anne’s. But sadly this didn’t happen. Although I had seen this movie (not necessarily this version) many times, read the book, and often pondered the cruelty of their demise, I was touched more deeply this time around.  Although she is just a young girl, Anne’s diary had a profound effect on future generations of young people. Those Nazis who rounded them up were so superior, so full of self-importance. But who remembers them? Who were they? No one knows. Their names are forgotten. As weird as this sounds, I wanted to shout out to the Nazi oafs on the screen Leave her alone! Don’t you know who she is? She’s more important than you’ll ever be!

Anne’s name remains. Anne’s story will continue as long as people want to know it. . . so I guess that means forever. That very little girl and her diary became a treasure to us who value such things.

A part of me wishes they had taken their chances in the selections to begin with, but then that beautiful diary might not have been written. That goes to show that we can’t know the impact our decisions will make on our lives. We can only hope for the best. Decisions like these aren’t easy to make, and who is to say which way is the better choice? If they had all made it and only come out of hiding after the war was over, then definitively we could say  that was the right decision. People during those times had to survive the best way they knew how. That’s a true statement where Joe is concerned. He made drastic decisions in order to survive.  For him there will always be that guilt, that question mark.

Of the eight souls in the hidden annex, only Otto Frank survived, and Anne’s diary. At least we have that.

What to do (and not do) While Waiting for Your Book to be Published

I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands lately since signing that Holy Grail of a publishing contract and waiting for said book to actually be published.

The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, by Dante Gabrie...

The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: medieval romance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most authors who have been around this publishing block a few times dig in and write another book. Of course, if you are like me and barely know how to use the tools in your Word program, then you’ve been gobsmacked!  There are a number of things you should be doing. Sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for your publisher to tell you what to do isn’t one of them.

Not that I ever thought that. I went into this situation with my eyes wide open. I knew the rules had changed since the early days of publishing and now a substantial amount of marketing was squarely on my shoulders. I just didn’t know where to go or how to get started and it all seemed daunting, and techie, and alien to me. So here is a brief list of things I discovered and that just might be useful to you, the burgeoning writer:

Step One: learn how your computer works.

Step Two: learn how to back up files. For some time it has been suggested opening up a drop-box account and simply shift your files there. I have been too overwhelmed with learning everything else there is to learn that I haven’t taken this step myself. . . yet. But I will! In the meantime, my computer automatically backs up to an external hard drive and I feel comfortable with that system. And yes, I hired someone to help me, just so you know before reading step three.

Step Three: if any of this is over your head hire an IT guy, or a computer fix-it guy, or gal (don’t want to presume) and let them handle it!

Step Four: set up you social media sites. This will take time, cause a headache, make you crazy and cross-eyed, but you just have to do it, so there! Not to mention all the passwords and user I.D.’s you will have to set up. Write them all down and keep them somewhere safe.

Step Five: learn how the social media sites work. Sometimes just a picture will suffice. Sometimes a sentence or two and a link (go back to Step One: learn how to work your computer) Simply cut and paste the URL and this will take readers down a rabbit hole right to where you want to lead them, hopefully. If it is any consolation I’m still learning. For example Twitter. I had no idea how to work it, I just wrote something and clicked on the tweet button. I had no idea where it went or what it all meant. You will also want to learn about ow.ly and bit.ly for Twitter. . . take my word on that.

Step Six: Start a Blog. If this proves problematic for you, don’t stress it, don’t do it. Content yourself with social media, or whatever is easiest or suits your personality. There are a lot of different ways to market yourself nowadays. Don’t limit yourself.

Step Seven: write blogs or short articles for other bloggers. Where to start? Facebook, Writer’s Literary Cafe, LinkedIn. These are all excellent places to find bloggers looking for content for their blog. The easiest is to write an author interview.  In your search engine look up typical author interview questions (you supply the answers) and customize the questions for your book, your genre and your personality.  This really works. I am personally grateful to all those bloggers out there who generously invited me to write for them. You can also write for news sites like examiner.com or Yahoo!Contributor Network. Click here to read my articles: April’s Yahoo! Articles.

Step Eight: if you have all this down cold, are already doing this sort of thing, then by all means write your next book!

In my opinion these steps are good to follow even if you are going down the self-published lane. It all comes down to marketing. So while you are designing your font, your front cover, your back cover, getting expert reviews, setting up your author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble (and where ever else you can dream up), and learning how to create your space, you will need to tack on some of the above-mentioned steps.

Whatever you do don’t do nothing at all. Now is the time to build your platform, make a brand for yourself, make your unique voice heard. Many authors are doing this very thing, so don’t hold back and don’t be shy. I fondly remember what my publisher said to me in an email: “You are an author now, act like it. Get out there and get some interviews done.” Then she kindly shared some helpful links. Remember you are authors. Get out there and act like it.

April signing her book publishing contract with LeRue Press for THE ALTERED I

April signing her book publishing contract with LeRue Press for THE ALTERED I

What other suggestions do you have while waiting for your book to be published? I would love to hear about it.

Teaser Tuesday: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of  Should Be Reading.  Anyone can play along! Just do the following;

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Be careful not to include spoilers! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.)
  • Share the title and author so that other TT particpants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

My Teasers:

Arno River

“He had been dressed just as he had been dressed on that day, Isabel remembered the colour of his cravat; and yet in spite of this familiar look there was a strangeness in his figure too, something that made her feel it afresh to be rather terrible he should have come to Rome.”

“He appeared never to have heard of any river in America but the Mississippi and was unprepared to recognize the existence of the Hudson, though obliged to confess at last that it was fully equal to the Rhine.”

I have to admit I’m having a love/hate relationship with this book. It is our chosen Classics/Impossibles read on my Facebook Book Club. Since it was collecting dust on my shelf I jumped right into the group read when it was suggested our next big read was The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I’m glad I did it, now I can check that off my To Be Read Shelf. And perhaps in time I will look back on this story with great fondness. For right now, it is at times work getting through it! I am interested in watching the movie version of this book.

Our next big read is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I’m really looking forward to it.

How about you? Would you read a book like The Portrait of a Lady? Let me know in the comments section below!

Please leave a link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your “teasers” in a comment in the section below. 

Fall Resolutions: Plunge into the Project at Hand and Fight Off Hesitation

As so many of my fellow bloggers have posted it is finally autumn! I didn’t realize how much in common I had with so many people who really love this time of year. The mornings are crisp, bright, and clean. No wonder each day I wake up and feel energized to take on my day. By take on my day I mean clean!

Autumn

I am in an eternal cycle of re-organizing right now. I don’t know why I can’t get ahead of it, maybe it’s all the marketing on my social media sites that is taking up some of my vital energy? Could be, but I won’t lay all the blame on Facebook. I’m a natural born procrastinator.  Something I have been trying to break free from for some time. I must be doing somewhat okay because how else could I have finished my first book, right? Well, now I’m using the excuse of “I have to organize first,” as my next ploy as to why I haven’t started that historical novel I’ve been daydreaming about for five years.

English: Hesitation by Alfred Garth Jones

English: Hesitation by Alfred Garth Jones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must confess, I did write my first sentence. Want to read it?

I’m still too shy, but I will give you a clue: the story is based on actual occurrences in my husbands family during WWII, plus a lot of made up stuff that didn’t happen. The main characters will be a boy, around thirteen, and his older sister, about age twenty-five. They will be caught up in the whirlwind of the Holocaust and each of them face obstacles to their survival. Each will learn to survive in their own unique way. Along the way they will meet others trying to ensure their own lives as well. Since I love art, there is going to be a mystery thrown in about a missing, priceless work of art. How can a book about the Holocaust not have a Nazi or two thrown in? So there will be that too.

I have more to tell you, but I should really save that for the manuscript. There will most likely be several drafts and then a professional edit, but not before my husband critiques it in his usual tender way: “Eww, take that part out. It doesn’t make sense!” or “Yuck, re-write!” Truthfully, the re-writes always turn out better with his review. My pride must endure the pain of it all. I’d rather take the bad review from him than any of my dear readers. For you, I want only the best before your eyes.

Why am I explaining all of this? I’m telling you so it will be out there that another book is in the works and I will be held accountable for finishing the story. I work well under pressure! I realize I’m only accountable to myself, no one is out there holding their breath, waiting for a book. There are so many wonderful talented authors actually getting the writing done. I know because I’ve been reading their fantastic stories! So what is another book? Well, I guess it’s just something I have to do.

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

English: New Year’s Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to take this quote by author Steven Pressfield to heart: “Resistance knows that the longer we noodle around ‘getting ready,’ the more time and opportunity we’ll have to sabotage ourselves. Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.”

Since the fall is usually my time for starting a new year, I’m diving in now.

What are your autumn resolutions? I would love to hear about your projects.