Thank you, Elizabeth, for the opportunity to post on your blog site. As you know I write crime fiction and am indie published, and I wanted to trumpet indie publishing through some stories of my own experience. Over the years I’ve lost count of the rejections I’ve received. Suffice to say they were in the hundreds when I stopped collecting them; I think I lead the league in the rejection department.
After penning my first work of genius, I mailed off forty or fifty query letters, each a page in length, the first two paragraphs a brief outline of my blockbuster, the third paragraph, two sentences highlighting my unique charms. I sat back and waited for competing offers. After all, who wouldn’t be eager to sign me?
It turned out no one. Less than half even bothered to reply using my self addressed, stamped envelope. Undaunted, I penned a second classic and mailed more queries, sat back and received similar form replies.
“I don’t get it, you’re such a good liar,” a soon-to-be former girl friend waxed eloquent.
I didn’t get it either. Genius groveling at the door of the publishing industry, I guess. So I wrote a third masterpiece, received the now requisite 30% return on my queries, plus one. An unopened envelope addressed to one of the big six New York publishing houses arrived with a rubber stamp slapped crookedly across the front. Purple ink reading: RETURN TO SENDER. On the back of the unopened envelope was a hand written note: “This does not fit our needs at this time.” Even I was beginning to catch on; there wasn’t a snow ball’s chance.
One night over the course of two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and encouragement from a date, we crafted a clever query using the back cover notes from To Kill A Mockingbird. I signed the letter Harper Lee and mailed it off. Not so much as a blink amongst the form responses I received. I think they saw my Minnesota post mark and automatically filed me in the reject pile.
Undeterred I set back to writing. I was in Dublin having just finished the draft of my next best seller (my term) when a friend back home phoned. A local publisher was holding an ‘Invitation Only’ open house and he could finagle me an invite, interested? It wasn’t NYC, but it was a start. Six weeks later I returned to Minnesota, landing two hours before the open house. I had conjured up a scenario during the intervening month and a half. The open house would most likely be in a large ballroom with a few hundred people. Probably over champagne in an hors d’oeuvres buffet line some literary higher up would call another VP over, “Margo, someone we should be talking to,” he’d point at me, then nod in that all knowing manner.
I was pumped. I donned dress slacks, a pressed shirt and a sport coat for the proper casual author look. I drove to the publisher a stylish thirty minutes after the start time. Amazingly it looked like I wouldn’t have to leave my car out on the street, but then it turned out the parking lot was empty too. I drove round the building and at the far end a distant light shone dimly over a door. Four semi-disabled cars, even worse than mine, wheezed off to the side. I entered, tentatively convinced I had the wrong night.
There were five women sitting in the room. The uniform of the day was elastic waistband jeans and sweaters sporting cat hair, a lot of cat hair. One of the women was knitting something purple. The hors d’oeuvres, cocktail wieners in a crock pot, were already eaten. Not so much as a lite beer in sight, but there was a drinking fountain against the far wall. Over the course of the next fifteen minutes I learned they were all writing cozy mysteries wherein their cat helped them solve the crime.
The employee unfortunate enough to draw the short straw and address us that evening made an offhanded remark that has stuck with me. “If we accept your manuscript tonight, it will be eighteen months before it becomes an ink on paper book.” Even I started to get the message, again, there has to be another way.
Fast forward a few years. I’ve been publishing my own books, adding two to three per year. They began as eBooks but are now paperback versions as well, all selling on the Internet. I’m with my pal Dan and we’re shooting the cover for my book Russian Roulette on location. At least on location as much as you can be on a Sunday.
The shot is a guy sitting at the bar with a woman holding a gun to his head. The bar is The Spot bar in St. Paul; it figures in my book. The guy is my son, the woman holding the gun is his fiancé. He announces to the Sunday liquid breakfast crowd that this is really the ‘save the date’ card for their wedding. Everyone laughs. We’re the toast of the bar this morning. I get to tell the bartender I’ll buy a round for everyone. Shots and a beer before ten-thirty in the morning, no one is on their first.
The writing is a labor of love, but with the help of friends, the patience of family, support of my wife and hard work, I’m published. Me. Ex-soldier, bartender, sales guy, businessman, Dad, dull guy from St. Paul. I’m published, and I’m even selling. I still have most of the rejection letters. I’m holding on to them. I read somewhere JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame has a Christmas card list and all the publishers and agents who rejected her get a Christmas card every year. It’s polite, wishing them all the best. I’d like to do that. Not have the last laugh, but maybe have one more.
I encourage everyone who may be thinking about writing or publishing to write, write, write.
All the very best to you, Elizabeth, and your readers, whom I encourage to read, read, read.