Tag Archives: Publishing Contracts

My Descent into Publishing Purgatory:
Part 4—Goodbye Professor Higgins


DeeDee discovers a new Form of Torture
(click picture to read)

Meanwhile, I worked harder at coming out of my shell. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I attended local SF/F conventions and set a goal for myself—not just to attend panels but to raise my hand out of the audience and make a comment. I gave myself permission to say dumb things or just agree with what someone else said. It was too soon for Eliza Doolittle to become My Fair Lady and command the attention of the entire room with eloquence. My goal was to just… speak.

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More good things happened. I got a short story accepted by a magazine! Okay, it’s a very small e-zine that is not a SFWA qualifying market. Even so, it was a “yes” after so many years of rejection. Since then, I have sold 2 more stories and another will be appearing in an upcoming anthology. At last, I am building a list of publishing credits to put in query letters. My fan fiction is not the only thing to put on my resume!

A-to-Z Publishing disregarded my personal leaps and my incredible forward strides to reinvent myself. I felt sure my awesome book would be a sleeper hit but they were not willing to take a chance. All they wanted was numbers… numbers… In other words, if I could not guarantee big sales right out of the gate, they would never start work on editing. More than a year after I submitted the manuscript, no one had ever read beyond the synopsis.

Also, as part of my so-called prize package, I was entitled to write blog posts on A-to-Z Publishing’s Web site for a full year, The president and I agreed on a list of topics. I wrote half of them with a promise to write more. She heartily approved, “These are wonderful, informative blogs! I know I am going to enjoy your book.”  Yet to my surprise, she refused to post the blogs until after my book’s launch. “No author has had their blogging start prior to their book release.” I never got a clear explanation of why she would hold back doing something so simple to give me more visibility. If my book’s release was delayed because of my low numbers, why not boost me up?

A phone call with the president of A-to-Z only increased my frustrations. She scolded me for thirty minutes about the lack of friends listed on my Facebook page. Seriously, I took notes and marked the time. At the end of that call, my action items were: 

  • to work harder to build up my social media numbers
  • to fill out her newly designed self-assessment and time management worksheet

Yeah, that was it; my publisher’s solution to get my book published was to make me work harder on extraneous stuff and fill out forms.

Part 5: Waking up from the Dream

My Descent into Publishing Purgatory: Pitfalls of My Novel Contract

Part One: The Dream of an Acceptance Letter

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“At least they returned your novel with a personal rejection letter.”kevinspear.com

I am happy to be not published.  Yes, you read that right: not. This is a difficult story to tell. It must sound crazy that I wanted to get out of a signed publishing contract. Isn’t that a struggling writer’s dream come true? Yet, today I am thrilled to hold a termination and rights-reversion letter in my hands.

A year ago, I would have felt differently: I did feel differently.

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I used to be desperate. It’s embarrassing to admit how long—and how badly—I have carried the burden of this dream. Turning fifty was painful because I had always imagined being on the other side of a successful author career by now. In my youth, I envisioned myself as an adult wearing dark turtleneck sweaters at bookstore signings and enjoying my well-earned fame.

My first self-publishing efforts in seventh grade used my dad’s electric typewriter and hand-drawn covers. A simple peasant girl discovers she belongs to a race of magical beings living secretly among us.  A female Tarzan dwells on a mystical island inhabited by space aliens and eloquent great apes. The margins of my school notebooks were full of amazing creatures and swashbuckling cavaliers.

In college, I majored in English lit and creative writing. My teachers praised my space operas and vampire stories, but I was rejected by the campus literary journal. Now I understand that they were probably looking for mainstream poetic literature, not SF/F genre, but at the time I took it personally.

Life happened. I got married. I worked a series of office jobs. I raised two daughters. I took night courses to become a paralegal. Somehow I squeezed in time to keep writing. I joined critique groups and workshops where I’ve met some of my dearest friends. In the days before email, I spent a fortune on postage and photocopies.  There’s an expression among us writers, that you can paper the walls with your rejection slips. Well, I need bigger walls!

I turned 30…then 40…then 45… The unfulfilled dream got heavier as the years went on. Going the self-publishing route was no better. I tossed a book up on Amazon in 2009 and, to date, it has netted a handful of sales. It weighed upon my soul, the longing to hear “yes” from a publisher. Instead I heard this:

  • After thoughtful consideration, however, we have concluded that unfortunately it didn’t work for us, so we’ll have to say no.
  • Unfortunately, we do not feel this piece is right for us at this time. We do wish you all the best.
  • I’m afraid it’s not quite right for us, but wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of publication.
  • Unfortunately, [title] is not quite right for us. I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.
  • Unfortunately, it does not meet our needs at this time.
  • Unfortunately, it does not meet our needs at this time.
  • Unfortunately, it does not meet our needs at this time.

Part 2: Winning the Contest