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Between the Pages, past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Having your first book published

      I will be attending a writer’s conference in a couple of weeks and I have been assigned to a panel who will discuss, “Thinking like an author; how publishing a book changes us.” I’m the relative rookie of the group with only two full-length novels in print but that puts me just a little closer to that transition date of being an aspiring writer vs. a published author.

    I’m guessing that at least some of the people who might read this column might be sitting on their first manuscript, unsure of what to do next. They haven’t been able to find an agent and no major publisher will accept an unsolicited submission. There are other publishing options.

  My first book was released by a publisher who didn’t accept returns, priced their products higher than the industry standard, and did minimal editing; the standard POD model of publishing. Being a newcomer to the business I really had no idea just how much of a disadvantage I’d been handed and how much of an uphill battle I would be facing. Undaunted, I sought out reviewers, contacted hundreds of bookstores, wrote to library agents nationwide, and registered as a speaker with my local Chamber of Commerce. I attended at least five writer’s conferences a year and spent literally thousands of dollars promoting my book.

  A few folks agreed to review my work and I’m happy to say that every single one of them was complimentary if not outright enthusiastic; even the ones who were reluctant to even read it. Bookstore signings? A total of four and two of them were quite successful. I’m not sure how many libraries picked it up but every once in a while I get surprised. The Chamber of Commerce brought me two speaking engagements with civic organizations in my local community.

   The point here is that even though my book was not offered by a major publishing house and chain bookstores refused to carry it in inventory, it sold reasonably well and helped me make that huge step in confidence that allowed me to consider myself a professional.

  Confidence is possibly the most key ingredient on the road to success. Confidence is what has allowed me to make some progress. I have done enough networking to gain a certain degree of respect among accomplished and successful authors and that leads to more confidence.

  My second book is with a fairly new but aggressive publisher that employs a full staff that includes editors and marketing experts. Their business is patterned after the big New York houses and is treated as such in the industry. I’m still not represented by a literary agent and still not pulling in the six figure advances but I’m a whole lot closer than I was a few years back and I’ll be ready when the opportunity pops up.

   Being published absolutely changes you. Even if your first publisher is sub-standard it has opened a door. There won’t necessarily be anyone standing there to invite you in but there won’t be anyone blocking your path either. You’ve moved ahead… Just don’t stop.


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