Monday, November 19, 2012

The road to publication.

So after reading the manuscript, I knew The Kabrini Message had be published.  As anticipated, this was much easier said than done, but as with anything important and worth doing, the process is basically the same:    
Work like hell, BELIEVE and NEVER give up!
With any important goal, stay focused and repeat as often as necessary:
"The voice on the inside needs to be louder than the voices on the outside."

I started by asking around as to how to go about getting a book published.  The only published author I knew of explained (through a friend) that his book was non-fiction, which is handled totally differently than fiction and therefore, his contacts would be of no use to me.  While I realize this was probably a  “brush-off”, at the time I thought he was helpful in that he pointed out that I should not go directly to publishers and that I had to get an agent.  He explained that he spent two years being turned down by publishers and then obtained a literary agent, who secured a publisher.  Had he never gotten an agent, he felt his book would probably never have been published.  In response to the question of exactly how one goes about getting an agent, he said to just go on the internet and research it.  Again, that did not appear to be a tremendous help at the time (I could have thought of that!), but it actually was good advice.

BTW...his book became a HUGH bestseller and now has a tremendously popular HBO series based on it on Sunday nights about gangsters in Atlantic City (enough said?).

So I started researching online and I discovered an incredibly helpful website: www.querytracker.net.  There I learned how to write a query letter and submit it to agents and I also compiled a list of 68 literary agencies who specialize in science fiction.  From there, I was able to research each agency's criteria and submit only what they are interested in.  Some want the query only, some a synopsis, some the first 5 pages, some the first chapter, some any random chapter, some a combination of several of the above.  I promptly realized this process was not going to be a simple matter of writing a letter, attaching a standard "something" and hitting the send button 68 times!  Oh, no - far from it.  I researched each agency by links to their websites, read bios for each agent at the firm to determine who was best suited for the submission and submitted (via e-mail) a customized query to all 68.  In addition to a query letter and an excerpt from the book, many agents also requested a synopsis – and Joe had never written one.  So I spent the next few weeks re-reading  The Kabrini Message, making detailed notes along the way and then writing a synopsis.  That alone, was quite a project, as this was all new to me.  Of the 68 agents I queried, I had one particular favorite that sounded and just "felt" absolutely perfect.  I received 3 requests for additional information (one of whom was from my favorite!), 30 very polite rejections, and the rest I never heard back from one way or another, so I guess you could say they were rejections, too.

When that phase of the project was completed, my quest for a literary agent netted 65 rejections and 3 maybes.  I thought that was pretty good considering it was the author’s first novel and being submitted by me, who had no idea what I was doing!  The important thing to remember is that it’s not how many rejections you get, but that you get at least one offer.  You only need one.

I did not have a firm offer at this point though.  Just suggestions from "my favorite" agency.  These suggestions included (among other things) having the book professionally edited and polished as well as working out some major issues, involving the fact that the author is no longer alive.

The first concern was who would manage the revisions and editing the author normally handled?  At the time, I had no idea how I would accomplish this - only that if it needed to happen, I would see that it did - one way or another.

The second (and biggest) issue was that this book could be a “difficult sell” to publishers since the author, who passed away in 2010, would not be available for marketing, book signings, interviews, etc., which again, would make it a “tough sell”.  To me, however, "difficult" and "tough" are manageable.  No one said it would be "impossible" (although that would not have discouraged me either) and I never thought this process would be easy.

Regarding marketing, I wish with all my heart that Joe was here to promote his book.  I believe nothing would have made him happier.  However, we have to work with the situation we have ("it is what it is", as they say). 

What we do have is the "story behind the story".  I literally FOUND an envelope containing the loose pages of Joe’s 25 year old manuscript in my attic recently and until then, never even knew I had it.  Joe wrote The Kabrini Message and my mother painstakingly typed (I believe on a typewriter, not a computer!) the entire novel for him and encouraged him along the way.  It was a project they worked on together and they are both gone now (at least physically) and I want to see it published for them.  In fact, I believe that's the reason I came upon the book in the attic while looking through old photographs, a quarter of a century after it was written, just waiting there for us.  Perhaps Joe and Mom wanted me to find it, but waited for just the right time, when we needed it most.

Next up, two "heaven sent" partners...