Networks and Breakthroughs
Please tell us about your “breakthrough” publication—that first publication that felt really significant to you. (of course, goodness knows, they’re all significant!)
I’ve published in many genres over the years, but I think that having my novel Seeing Things accepted for publication made me feel that I’d arrived as a writer. I wrote the kind of book I want to read and can rarely find—one that has rounded characters, suspense, romance, humor, and a plot that I haven’t read before. The book goes beyond plot to explore the idea that we choose what we see—not just in the paranormal realm, but in all the realms of our lives. I spent a year crafting and polishing Seeing Things, tweaking chapter after chapter, incorporating suggestions from a dream team of writers. By the time I was ready to send that baby out into the world, it felt like I was sending a kid off to college.
How long had you been writing before you published a piece?
My first piece published in print was a short story that appeared in a junior high literary magazine! I think I was twelve.
What was you reaction upon learning your piece was accepted? Disbelief? Joy?
When I learned that Seeing Things had been accepted, I jumped up and down screaming, then ran around the house, totally alarming the family. Our cat didn’t recover for days.
How do you go about trying to place your work? How do you choose markets?
That depends on what I’m writing. If I have a new poem or short story, I send it to an editor whose taste runs to what I’ve written. For instance, one editor might like political satire, while another publishes nature poetry. If I have a newspaper article about an author, I send it to local papers and to publishers for posting on their sites. If I have a play, I submit it to whatever group I’m aligned with at the moment. For this novel, I surveyed the requirements of various publishers, read articles on publishing, found publishers and imprints that matched the novel I’d written, and submitted the manuscript to two or three houses before the last one accepted it. I don’t think I consciously chose a market, but I now realize how vital knowing your market is.
Any advice for writers still working for their “breakthroughs?”
First, network. You can meet other writers and editors at various readings. Sometimes editors will hear a piece at an open mic and request it. Small presses are easier to break into that large ones. If you write romance, joining a chapter of the Romance Writers of America can prove very helpful. Finally, pick an editor who deals with books like yours and learn to write the query letter, since an unsolicited manuscript generally winds up in a publisher’s slush pile.