A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Getting Published
I began work on The Scottish Thistle in 1990 while attending a faculty meeting at the school where I taught. I don’t remember the topic discussed; I wasn’t listening. Instead, I played with the image of a stormy night and a caped rider illuminated by a streak of lightning. That idea became the opening paragraphs of my first novel. Over the next ten years, I researched Scottish history, geography, culture, and many other topics to recreate eighteenth-century Scotland. After numerous revisions and listening to what others had to say about my writing, it was time to research where to submit The Scottish Thistle for possible publication.
Initially, I looked at traditional publishers and encountered two problems. First, most shy away from historical fiction unless they can market it in another genre, i.e. mystery, suspense, or romance. Second, many publishers prefer to work with literary agents who represent authors. Many agents, however, prefer to represent authors who can prove their writing is marketable and that they can meet deadlines. Also, once a manuscript is accepted for publication, it can take upwards of two years for that novel to be published. Should it be one of the lucky ones to actually make it onto bookstore shelves, it will probably have a shelf-life of only six weeks. This time line fails to include how long it takes to find the publisher who wants to publish the book in the first place.
Faced with these realities, I turned to the world of electronic publishing. E-publishers are more amenable to publishing novels that cross genres. The Scottish Thistle is historical fiction, but it’s also a romance. Yet it’s not traditional romance because I emphasize history over love. While reading an issue of Of Ages Past, I came across a review of Carolyn Ivey’s Beaudry’s Ghost. Intrigued by the story, I took the plunge and bought my first e-book. Then M. J. Rose offered free copies of the book she co-authored with Angela Adair-Hoy entitled The Secrets of Our Success: How to Successfully Publish and Promote on the Web. I also read Leta Nolan Childers’ e-Lectrify Your Sales: A Writer's Guide to e-Publishing Success and Karen S. Wiesner’s Electronic Publishing: The Definitive Guide. E-publishers prefer to receive queries directly from authors rather than agents. They also accept historical novels. My second e-book purchase was Trace Edward Zaber’s Civil War novel Sins of the Father, a fascinating historical that blends mystery and romance with fiction. This purchase also allowed me to sample Pulsar Books’ product. In the end, this publisher became my first choice to submit to, and I was delighted when they asked to read my manuscript, then offered me a contract.
E-publishing, however, isn’t without perils. By the time The Scottish Thistle was first published, Pulsar Books had merged with the other publishing houses under the Romance Foretold umbrella to become RFI West. The company I contracted with no longer existed and, while some of the people in charge remained the same, others left. Six months after the release of my book, I terminated my contract with the publisher for cause. Although a bit depressed and wondering if I had erred in my judgment, I still felt e-publishing provided the best opportunity for me as an author.
A fellow author, Dorice Nelson (The Gunn of Killearnan and Unlawful) recommended a new publisher, NovelBooks, Inc. Once again I researched the company and its founder and CEO, Penny Hussey. Impressed by the company’s professionalism and Penny’s enthusiasm and plans for NovelBooks, Inc., I submitted The Scottish Thistle for their consideration. In April 2002 NBI released my novel in both e-book and trade paperback formats. I stumbled along the path, but I landed on my feet anyway.
On 1 January 2005, unforeseen circumstances caused NovelBooks, Inc. to close its doors. In June 2006 Amber Quill Press asked me to submit a manuscript for their consideration. AQP doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Rather they are a “submit by invitation only” publisher. They hand-select writers “who not only possess enormous talent, but who . . . excel at their chosen craft.” They released The Scottish Thistle in e-book format in November 2006, and the paperback edition came out shortly thereafter.
When I began writing The Scottish Thistle, I didn’t know where the path would lead me, and in spite of the missteps, I’m delighted AQP chose to publish my first novel. I may have encountered unexpected curves along my path to becoming a published author, but I learned from the rocks strewn in my way and kept looking forward. The real reward on this adventure, though, has been the readers who let me know how much they enjoyed meeting Rory MacGregor, Duncan Cameron, and all the other characters in The Scottish Thistle.
Thank you, Cindy, for stopping by! While there was quite a bit of uncertainty along your journey, I'm glad it all worked out in the end.