How Do You Publish Your Book?

Does your book have a thing that’ll grab your audience in a way no other book will?  Figure that thing out, and lead with that.

Over the past twelve months, hell, it’s been longer than that, I’ve been working on Snapshot, a suspense/thriller novel about what happens when a woman discovers her grandfather has a dark secret, by way of finding a blurry snapshot that might or might not be him, burying a body.

There’s a whole lot more to it than that, but if you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve got a clue or two about the story. It’s almost all I’ve talked about on here over the past year. I love the story. Love the characters, love the way it’s written. (Again, if you know me, you know I’m not one to play the modest tortured artist. If I like my work, I’ll tell you.) I like this one.

I wrote the novel last November while I recovered from back surgery. I’ve workshopped the book in a writer’s group, I’ve bounced it off an incredible editor, and I pitched it and queried it to over tens of agents. And over fives of small publishers.

When all those agents and publishers passed on my query, I was sad. I was dumbfounded. This story – it’s a damn good story. Maybe I was pitching it wrong? Or describing it wrong? You see, there’s a way queries have to be submitted. You get between three and six paragraphs to interest a party in your story.

And I just can’t pull it off. I thought about some of my favorite books; The Life Of Pi, for instance. How can you sell that tale in a short space? A ship sinks, leaving a boy who questions all religions stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger. But, does that really tell you what that book is about? It’s so much more.

Or what about a movie like Pulp Fiction. How in the hell do you tell a friend about that movie, in just three or six paragraphs? It’s an odd number of tales that overlap where a boxer throws a fight, a contract killer has an epiphany, Zed loses his motorcycle, another killer wins a dance contest before his date overdoses on heroin and… and… there’s just no way.

If I wrote that story, (Pulp Fiction) and tried to pitch it to agents today? They’d pass on it. Maybe they’d pass because I didn’t sell the sizzle well enough, or maybe they’d pass because it didn’t include a tween dying of cancer who’d fallen in love with a vampire she met attending wizard school.

Okay, in all fairness, perhaps I’m a little jaded in this process that I barely know anything about.

Back to the topic at hand. How to publish a book, My Way.

I know what you’re thinking already. “Wait, so, you self-published your book then, right?”

No. Nope. I did not.

I found that key thing that would make it interesting to a particular publisher. In my case, I found a regional publisher, and pitched it as a regional story about a woman who suspects her grandfather of murder. The publisher wrote back the very next day, and asked for the manuscript, and asked to meet me.

Seven days later, they’d read the entire 60,000-word manuscript (something they’d only done once before) and a deal is in the works. They’re excited about it, I’m excited about it. Holy crap I’m excited about it.

So, what have I learned?

First, I believe I suck at pitching/querying a book. I wrote and refined a query letter a hundred times, getting the story’s description filed to a razor-sharp point… but what I think I should have been doing was researching every agent and publisher; finding out WHY my book was right for them, and then telling them that.

Second, it wasn’t until I considered this book as a product just like my CD that it made sense to me to market it locally. Let it grow here, in Marietta. It’ll sell nationally as well, it’s not a story with a limited scope, but that local connection will be one of the things that hopefully grabs that first audience.

Does your book have a thing that’ll grab your audience in a way no other book will? Figure that thing out, and lead with that.