The following essay was published in “She Writes,” a community, virtual workplace, and emerging marketplace for women who write, with over 20,000 active members from all 50 states and more than 30 countries.
By the time I was ready to submit my memoir, Loveyoubye, for publication I was already burned out from my efforts to get my two YA African-based novels, Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, published. A real sob story that one. At the last moment my publisher merged with another house and I was dumped. This was during all the changes taking place in the publishing industry, along with the advent of vampire and teen fantasies.
My agent and I parted company and I launched back into the fray to get published. But then my husband started disappearing for weeks at a time and I threw myself into writing Loveyoubye to try to make sense of it all. After I finished the book, I went through the whole rigmarole of querying again and got a few nibbles. But it was only after I was rejected by a well known agent, a solid recommendation (which assured me of at least a fair chance)—“the writing is excellent, but it would be a tough sell in today’s publishing climate”—that I decided to check out other publishing options.
As I’m sure anyone who has researched alternatives to traditional publishing knows it’s a mind-boggling, soul sucking process. Even the terms given to the various available options are confusing. Literary agent Jane Friedman breaks it down to “Partnership,” “Fully-Assisted,” “DIY + Distributor” and “DIY Direct,” while others contend that overall there are only two options: “Subsidy” and “Self-Publishing.” The more I researched the more frustrated and discouraged I became. The “subsidy/partnership/fully-assisted” publishing services were either too expensive, or in the case of Windy City, who published a friend’s book, very expensive plus they did a bad editing job.
And as for self-publishing. I’d read every how-to book I could get my hands on as well as all those online guides. I knew that if I set my mind to it, I could do it. But honestly, I really didn’t want to. The whole proposition made me want to take up drinking the hard stuff. And then there was the stigma attached to self-published books because of the generally poor quality of the writing/editing, along with the fact that unless you’re a marketing maniac like Amanda Hocking, et al, most self-pubbed books don’t have a long shelf life. I didn’t want to be another Wile E. Coyote charging over the cliff, beep-beeping all the way to the bottom of the canyon floor.
So while I agonized over which path to take, I had Loveyoubye professionally edited. Whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to make sure I started out with a scoured and polished manuscript. I chose Thomas White, a recommended professional editor and Pushcart nominee, who not only helped me tighten and clarify, he asked all those questions my mentor and other readers hadn’t; he made me dig clear down to my toes.
Enter She Writes Press. Something a little different. Although it called itself Partnership Publishing, SWP vetted submissions. That’s a biggie. It took three months for me to decide to sign. Still hoping for a publisher on a white horse to come galloping along with a huge advance in hand? Probably. But the fact of the matter is I needed to move forward, a big theme in my book. So I signed. Decision made. And then it struck me. I had committed to having my heart, guts and soul laid out in print. The final step forward.
In tailoring my essay as to how I made the decision to publish with SWP, I didn’t mention the recently added bonus of having Ingram Publishing Services come on board as SWP’s distributor. They usually only handle traditional publishers. It was a coup for SWP. And a coup for me. Now I’ll have a sales force behind me, as well as become eligible for reviews by Publisher’s Weekly, and similar outlets that normally don’t review “partnership” or self-published books. Loveyoubye will be coming out in March 2014.