My path to publication was such that I didn’t experience your usual “day in the life of a sale.”
As I tried to get Sleeping with Ward Cleaver published, I entered plenty of contests, because often editors judged contests, which meant surpassing slush piles that could be years long. So when I read that Dorchester Publishing was seeking submissions of humorous women’s fiction for their American Title contest, I figured I’d give it a chance, and submitted.
A few months passed, and I learned that the publishing house liked both of the partial manuscripts I’d submitted enough to request the full manuscripts, and I sent them off and promptly forgot about it and continued to submit elsewhere. Months passed, and one day I picked up my mail as I was leaving the house, and found the telltale Fat Envelope of Rejection—something all writers learn to dread. Usually a fat manilla envelope means a returned manuscript, which means the editor isn’t interested.
However, this time there was a twist—the manuscript they did not choose was in the envelope, along with a congratulatory letter telling me that my novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver was selected as one of ten finalists for the North American-wide contest. So while I still didn’t have a publishing contract, my odds became considerably more in my favor: all of a sudden I had a one in ten chance of getting my book published, which is huge. As I held that letter in my hand I felt as if I had received one of the much-vaunted Golden Tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
I was ready to whoop it up but I had no one to call–my husband was unavailable in meetings, my kids were in school, several of my friends were incommunicado on a school field trip with their kids, and so I just had to sit on my news until later that day.
What then ensued was six months of voting frenzies—two weeks per month in which I spent many hours each day seeking out votes online. It’s a wonder i didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome! At the end of each round of voting, two contestants were eliminated, and each time I felt enormous relief when I wasn’t cut. As the contest ensued, I had to come up with more and more ways to get my book title out there and in the minds of people who were potential “voters” for it. I knew I’d reached the saturation point when I was at my hairdresser’s one day last winter and saw my business cards (with details on voting) in their bathroom (the folks at my hair salon were tremendous supporters of me)! You know you’ve made it when you become restroom reading material…
The final voting occurred last February. I had been up against talented and formidable writers, and there was no telling how well I’d done in each round of voting–we never knew of voting numbers. I didn’t learn for a few weeks that I was the winner, and I ended up missing the phone call and playing phone tag for about an hour before I finally learned the good news.
It was really quite surreal, after having gone through so much to get to that point, and it took a long while to sink in that my book was finally going to be published. The following month, I was feted at a convention and got to go up on stage in front of a very large group of hundreds of writers and readers and they gave me a crown (guaranteed the only time in my life I’ll done of of those!) and I even got to have my first signing—albeit an excerpt, not the actual book. Heady treatment for this girl!
The funny thing about the contest is I was able to sort of “follow my nose” in figuring out how to market my novel, skills that put me in good stead for what all authors ultimately have to do—-sell their book. In the process, I met so many wonderful people who pulled for me, and there were so many strangers all over the world who contacted me, offered to help out, to forward emails of support on to their friends.
It was a hugely gratifying experience and I am so very indebted to my publishing house and the many, many people who had a hand in giving me a chance to publish this novel. I hope I do everyone proud.
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