We've all heard that you need talent, hard work and determination to get published and Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam proved it when they got their co-authored book published not once, but twice. In this piece Lorraine is kind enough to give me some of the credit for their success but trust me: Lorraine and Maureen did all of the hard work and I'm thrilled that it's paid off for them both.
In these credit crunch times it’s harder than ever to get a publishing deal, far less have the same book published twice by two different publishers, but that’s exactly what I and Maureen Vincent-Northam, my co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist, managed to do. We didn’t set out with that intention, but sometimes life makes you work harder at your dreams than might initially seem fair.
Maureen and I ‘met’ on a writers’ site many years ago and enjoyed (still do) a great online friendship. When it came to co-authoring a book, we were the perfect match. We share a sense of humour, have similar writing styles, and were already proofreading each other’s articles for various magazines. We’d also critiqued and edited each other’s e-books and non-fiction titles prior to publication.
One of the things that we both felt strongly about was that a book containing advice on how to present your work to the industry would be useful to any writer. Not a book on how to write, but a guide to presentation, because it is this area, more than any other, that causes so many writers to lose sales. We searched, couldn’t find what we were looking for, and so decided to write one ourselves.
The first publisher we approached liked the idea enough to take it to the acquisitions stage, but it was ultimately rejected. The second publisher was so impressed by our proposal (practising what we planned to preach) that he invited us to a meeting to discuss taking the idea forward. Until this point, Maureen and I had no idea what the other one even sounded like. Not only had we not met, but we’d only ‘spoken’ through messenger and email. We met in person for the first time in a hotel lounge while waiting for our publisher to arrive.
Once we’d sorted out a deal, signed contracts and received the first half of our advance, we settled down to complete The Writer’s ABC Checklist. Everything in our writing garden was rosy. Not expecting anything to go wrong, we worked hard and delivered the book ahead of schedule. The ms winged its way to the publisher. Corrections, amendments and additions were requested – we complied and the final ms was accepted well ahead of the contract’s delivery date. If only the same could have been said about the remaining payment due on our advance!
The first intimation we had that something might be wrong was when the publisher asked if would agree to an amendment to the contract, which would mean he didn’t have to pay us the outstanding amount. We politely stuck to our guns – and the wording of the contract – and, after advice from the Society of Authors, finally received our long overdue payment plus interest.
The book appeared later than planned, but at least it appeared. At one stage we’d feared it might not. Despite no advertising whatsoever, the book sold well. Word of mouth and some great reviews on writing-related websites and in writing magazines took care of that.
But then requests for review copies to be sent out went unanswered. Phone calls and emails were ignored and all contact with the publisher ceased. When we finally tracked him down, it was no surprise to find that he was on the verge of going under.
Thanks to some great advice from Jane [you're welcome!] and the Society of Authors, we were able to get the rights reverted to us prior to his business folding.
After a brief period of feeling sorry for ourselves and a fair amount of wound licking, we decided to try again. We believed in our book and, if the emails we’d received were anything to go by, then so too did the writers who’d bought it.
It was at this time that an email from Accent Press, promoting their forthcoming titles, dropped into my inbox. When so many independent publishers were going to the wall, here was one that appeared to be doing okay. Although exercising due caution (they were closed to new submissions) it seemed Accent Press was thriving.
I sent the MD an email telling her about The Writer’s ABC Checklist, explaining what had happened to our publisher and giving a full history of events, and she replied by asking to see the manuscript. She liked the book enough to take us on and a new version is published today.
So, what is the purpose of this blog post? Basically, there are two important points I want to make. The first is that if you have a book you really believe in, no matter what goes wrong, or how impossible achieving the goal might seem, you should never, ever, give up. Believe in yourself, believe in your book, and don’t allow anyone or anything to take your dream from you.
Secondly, if things go wrong, always seek professional, informed advice. Don’t listen to what the bloke in the pub, or the woman in your office, has to say. Ask someone who knows the publishing industry and who is able to give impartial recommendations. Without the excellent guidance Maureen and I were given, we might not have been in a position to have our book published the second time.
Lorraine Mace is a columnist with Writing Magazine (UK). A former humour columnist for Living France and Spanish Magazine, she was the winner of the Petra Kenney 2006 Award (comic verse category), she writes fiction for the women’s magazine market, features for monthly magazines, is a writing judge, and a tutor for the Writers Bureau. She is the author of The Greatest Moving Abroad Tips in the World (Oct 2008) and co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer’s ABC Checklist. Her children’s novels are currently being submitted to publishers by her agent.