The Road to Publication: A bit about Small Press

On the heels of the 2018 Writer's Digest conference in New York City, I returned home rejuvenated, riding that post-conference high. I had networked, conversed with talented writers (shout out to #5amwritersclub on Twitter!), participated in informative and motivational sessions, and listened to inspiring keynote speakers. Writer's Digest offered a commendable conference and it was 100% worth going [plus a few days in NYC with no kids, yup!]. At this stage in my publishing career I chose to attend mostly business and motivational sessions rather than craft  (though we could always hone craft and I swapped notes with other writers).

I left also feeling a bit meh. Why meh? Because not one session in the dozens offered addressed small press publishing. There was plenty of information on the agent to big publisher route (the dream of many an author) and the indie/self-pub route. But the hybrid in between the two? Nope. Shaking off my self-doubt and negative self-talk (hey, there was a session on that!), I decided why not share a bit more about the small press experience. I've had a wonderful journey with The Wild Rose Press and I've learned in life to turn struggles into opportunities. If I was feeling a bit down, I guarantee there may be others who felt the same way OR don't know that small press is an amazing route for publication.  So here's my take on it! (Keep reading, it's good)

A rainy, gray day in the lowlands of Scotland. A sheep and its buddy. Eventually we'll find our herd if we keep walking.   Fun fact that makes me smile: My first books are historical romances, and my editor at The Wild Rose Press hails from Scotland...and her surname is the descendent of my heroine's name. Ponder that interesting coincidence for a moment!

A rainy, gray day in the lowlands of Scotland. A sheep and its buddy. Eventually we'll find our herd if we keep walking. 

Fun fact that makes me smile: My first books are historical romances, and my editor at The Wild Rose Press hails from Scotland...and her surname is the descendent of my heroine's name. Ponder that interesting coincidence for a moment!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...oh, wait. Not that. Leave that to Chuck Wendig, one of our keynote speakers. Okay, a long time ago, in years far, far away (circa when I was ahem, 20, uh like twenty years ago)...

I had just written my first two manuscripts. Not knowing much on the biz, I researched and jumped into the querying trenches. Back then, it was mostly by snail mail with a SASE (anyone remember those?). I dabbled in querying agents and directly to editors at publishers (at a time when that was a more common method). Got some rejections, feedback, and a few requests. Ultimately, it went nowhere. Enter my blooming science career, parenting, and on and off writing for a decade. I finished a third manuscript. Did the same, but this time, email was the way to go. I even met with agents at conferences. I honed my craft, took in feedback from agents/critique partners, and filed away more research on the biz. Despite more queries and more requests, that book was still not "there" yet.

On to manuscript #4. Rinse and repeat the above, but at a more intense level. I was wearing my game hat by now. I had skills, was refining my craft, learning, growing. I got so close I could taste the offer! Still after close to 40 rejections (a small number, I know), I grew frustrated. The traditional route of agent to big publisher was not in my stars (yet...there is always a yet, for we don't know our future). I'd gleaned knowledge through the rejections/feedback but was still not capturing the eyes of agents. Yet, in the words of my always-first-to-read beta, "this manuscript was IT!" Yes, she texted that after reading my polished, revised version number 100 (or it felt like it). 

I took a leap and queried two small press publishers. The Wild Rose Press, a publisher with a very good reputation and who has been around for over a decade, said yes! That book, A Hundred Kisses, is now out in print, e-book, and audible/audio book.

What is a small press and what do you get working with one?

I will tell you because I did a lot of web-searching on indie vs. self vs. small press. Even Google searches lead to conflicting definitions.

Small Press highlights:

  1. Direct queries to editors, deleting the middle person (versus finding an agent).

  2. No agent fees/percentages (you get your full percentage of royalties).

  3. You earn royalties on sales, but with some you may receive advances, too. Royalties vary, and as a new author, don't expect a bestseller. Publication and developing readership is a marathon, not a sprint.

  4. Quicker turn-around time on all aspects of publication from query to release date. The Wild Rose Press prides itself on publication within a year from contract date.

  5. Niche markets -- many small presses specialize in and cater to one or a few genres. Those romance readers are dedicated and loyal (and I read a stat somewhere that romance is nearly 35% of the fiction market). The Wild Rose Press started as an e-book/print book publisher for romance, but has now branched out to other fiction genres, and audio book formats.

  6. You build a network of like-minded and cheerleader authors (I've established great relationships with many of the authors at The Wild Rose Press).

  7. Personalized support from the editors ( = TLC!). The Wild Rose Press has writer/promotion forums, weekly author chats (open to public), and makes efforts to meet with the authors at conferences or meetings. No question is too big or too small to your editor.

  8. Cover design, copy-edits, assistance with promotion.

  9. A team of editors and staff that are quick to respond and support you in your publication needs. Okay, this is like #7, but I just had to say it again.

  10. No-up front out of pocket expenses.

  11. Though supportive, be prepared to do a lot of your own marketing and promotion (this is even expected from big publishers, as I've been told). But also be prepared to have a team ready to support you in those efforts.

  12. Numbers of books published per year vary by publisher. The Wild Rose Press has published thousands of books by hundreds of authors in its 12-year span.

Enter manuscript #5. I had spent a year writing a contemporary Women's Fiction book, different from my usual historical romance. I queried the heck out of it with agents. By now, I knew my stuff (disclaimer: we are always learning and improving). I attended conferences and workshops, delved into the Twitter world, read books. I had my A-game. But over 70 rejections later, still nothing. And for the agents that did request it, the feedback was surprisingly vague. As painful as rejection is, getting specific, detailed agent feedback on a full request is gold in your hand! Though it's subjective, I find it to be the best information on what to do with my book: edit it more, change up the plot/characters, or follow my gut and leave it be? After another year of revision and input from countless beta readers and critique partners, I honed that baby the best I could. Feeling a bit defeated and hesitant, I sent it off to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. Though started as a romance publisher, they also publish other fiction genres, including Women's Fiction. I thought, "Why not?"

Guess what? My editor LOVED it. In fact, I need to go work on my first round of edits right now...

They are also publishing the prequel to A Hundred Kisses. So now I have one book published, and two more in contract. I have another manuscript pending decision. And you can guarantee that this fall, I am going to get working on the sequel to A Hundred Kisses, turning that series into a trilogy. My momentum is on...and it happened with a small press. Where do I go from here? I'm not sure. Can any author say where they will be in a few years? Just a few years ago I was in the query trenches. Now, I'm overwhelming satisfied and happy with the support and care I've gotten from my editor and fellow "rose" authors! Right now, I've found my publishing home.

I'd love to hear about your publishing experience.

Best,

Jean

19 Years in Numbers

Today is the day! My debut novel, A HUNDRED KISSES, is finally out! I’m not sure what most authors do on their big days (…notice that plural I snuck in there? I plan on having many more big release days…). Besides having a glass of Atholl Brose (although this non-drinker would rather celebrate with a frothy latte), and a fun book release party complete with bannocks & whisky, I am keeping it low key. Okay, yes, I am blasting social media a wee bit, too. So let’s get the plug for my book out of the way first. Hop over here to order it via Amazon or The Wild Rose Press [both have e-book and paperback options available]. Don’t forget to please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Authors value their readers’ feedback. Thank you in advance!

Next, I’d love to shout out a gigantic heartfelt thank-you to many people. First, to my mother, who continues to inspire me. She will always be with me in spirit, in the words that flow off my fingertips, and in my memories. Thank you, my dear husband, who has put up with my raving writer antics and ramblings about characters you have never met. Thank you to my amazing sons’ who were patient when “mommy was on her computer again.” [That won't be ending anytime soon, kiddos]. Thank you to my family - for cheering me on all steps of the way, including my dad, stepmom, mother and father-in-law, brothers, aunts, and my sister (and sister-in-laws). And my friends – you all know who you are – whether you were a coveted beta reader (Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!) or a friend who listened to this tormented writer's woes. [Quick plug for my writing warrior and sidekick for this entire journey, Lorraine – check out her website & blog]

Plugs – done. Thank you’s – done. Now back to numbers...

With the necessaries out of the way, I’d like to digress and talk about numbers. I’m a scientist by training and a list-maker. I do enjoy numbers and a list of organized thoughts, to-do’s, or “a top ten.” Certainly my logical scientist has shifted to the passenger seat while the creative artist jumped behind the wheel a few years ago when I decided to more actively pursue my writing dream. Right now the scientist has become map-holder and navigator. Sometimes that crazy driver takes me on detours, around bumpy turns, and down dead-end roads. But oh, what a ride it has been!

So, back to numbers. Well, since my book is called A Hundred Kisses, I thought the past 19 years in numbers would be fun to contemplate. Enjoy. And so many thanks to all!

Sláinte,

Jean

19 Years in Numbers and yes my son took that photo after I ripped open (with careful excitement) the delivery box!

19 Years in Numbers and yes my son took that photo after I ripped open (with careful excitement) the delivery box!

The time has come!

18 years…

3 non-published novels (practice, I daresay?)…

Too many hours (thousands?) logged in…

But, I did it.

I love Dr. Seuss. It only seems fitting that I quote him in my first blog post. But it won’t be his coveted “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” …rather it is one of his lesser-known books: “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!” The time has come, and the time is now! This book, a favorite of my children when they were younger, is not the usual “you will go big places” book. Or is it? 

It’s a story about a kid that needs to go to bed (or at least leave the room). He needs to get going! I love the trademark Seussical rhythm in it and the hidden message I take from it…will you please go now? Get on with it! Go for it. Just go. No excuses. I don’t care how you get there. In fact, the time had come, so he [Marvin] went. Perhaps he needed a fire lit under his bottom to get moving. Be it by foot, cow, skates, Zumble-Zay, Bumble-Boat, or by a Ga-Zoom…he finally went, and he went with a smile. That’s how I feel about my writing journey. If you dream to write and publish, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Just go. And go now. Do what it takes to get there and it may not be the way you expected, or it could be the simplest of ways (Marvin went on foot).

I’ve been writing on and off for over 18 years. With three practice novels under my belt (each one improved over the previous), number four was the magic number for me. Not that I didn’t try with the others, but perhaps my writing has matured or it just wasn’t my time yet. While venturing through college and graduate school, a career, marriage, and having children…I have spent much of those years also honing my craft, attending writing conferences and groups, filling my bookshelf with writing and grammar books, researching my fictional worlds, sending queries and manuscripts off to agents and publishers…and never giving up. 

As a part-time working mom, full-time advocate for my children, and as a woman who takes on way too many tasks, how do I find time to write? If you love it, you can do it and make time for it. Like the mom who gets up at 4 a.m. so she can run daily to prepare for a big race before she has to go off to work, I carve out time in my day for writing. I definitely have days that I can spend focused, uninterrupted hours on the computer writing (and editing and researching and promoting). However, sometimes I can’t. I write at my dining room table, at the kitchen island, on the couch, at my desk…but I also write in the car, in the shower, and at the gym. In those later cases, if my time is short, I stop at the first moment (disclaimer: always wait until your car is parked at your destination!) and I jot down my ideas. I send an email to myself for later. You don’t want to lose that fleeting moment of ah-ha. You’ll be kicking yourself later. I’ve even toted some manuscript-in-progress pages on my hike up Mt. Washington so I had some reading material (with red pen in hand) while we camped in the Lakes of the Clouds hut at the top. Talk about an inspiring view! No showers and no technology, but I had my deck of cards, a notebook, and some pages to edit. If I know I’ll have some down time, I bring my work (or a book or research material) with me. Nooks and crannies are your friend as a writer. And when I am not writing, I am reading. Books on CD are my constant car companion.

My little story aside, what can you expect to read in this blog? It won’t be your straightforward author’s blog, although I will do plenty of sharing about writing and my works in progress. Plus, I'll chat about some of my favorite topics (be it Scotland, the romance genre, volcanoes [stay tuned on that one!], time travel, or autism). Just call me a Renaissance woman. It’s also not a mommy blog, but my children do inspire me, and this is a great platform to also share about certain challenges they face. The beautiful world around us arouses my daydreaming and serves well as my muse – I love to travel, hike, and take whatever mother nature (and human nature) has to offer, so you will certainly be reading about that. I welcome you to my blog! My hope is that I can share my experiences and expertise with you, so that you can get out the door as well (or just get out of bed). We can all be like Marvin and get on our way.

I never stop creating. Inspiration is everywhere. So don’t stop! Get on your way. Today could be your day.

One of my many bookshelves.

One of my many bookshelves.