The Brave New World of Publishing

By Debbie De Louise

I wrote my first novel, Cloudy Rainbow, a paranormal romance, in 2008. I decided to self-publish it with, a self-publishing company. At that time, self-publishing companies were beginning to gain popularity among authors. Today, self-publishing is a whole different ballgame. Self-publishing companies are still around and continue to offer a gamut of services, most that include ala carte choices from book cover design to editing services, to marketing and promotion assistance. However, many authors are now self-publishing their own books and some are reporting success.

In 2015, I found a publisher for my second novel, A Stone’s Throw. I’ve learned a lot since then. While I was thrilled to land a publisher, albeit an Indie publisher, it might’ve been better for me to have spent more time querying agents so that my book could’ve been considered by a larger publisher. I think many new writers make a similar mistake. They don’t wait because they feel, rightly, that agents and traditional publishers receive tons of queries. They don’t believe they can stand out in a sea of authors. That’s how I felt and still feel after having published 7 books, a novella, and a dozen or so short stories and having sold my works to three publishers without advances or any substantial royalties and doing all this while working full-time and having a family. There have been rewards, though. I’ve garnered a small fan base composed of online readers as well as those who have read my books in the library, some of whom also purchase it and ask for an autographed copy.

I found my first publisher through a twitter contest. They contacted me after I posted a pitch for A Stone’s Throw. I was shocked and hurried to sign the contract they sent me. I spent time reading it and even had an attorney review it but basically jumped at their first offer. I was equally excited that I was able to see my book on Amazon as an eBook and paperback within a short, three-month period that included two months of working online with an editor. I never questioned that traditional books take about a year to be published which allows a long lead-time for promotion and opportunities for journal reviews such as the ones I read when I order books for the library where I work. It was just great to see my book in print by a publishing company. This bedazzlement wore off as soon as I submitted the second book in my series because the publisher rejected it.

At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I knew that many publishers wouldn’t consider the second book of a series. I entered another twitter contest and attracted the interest of a different Indie publisher. I was just as eager to sign with them especially when they offered to also represent my first title if I asked for my rights back. This will be my third year working with Solstice Publishing. I have the four books of my Cobble Cove mystery series with them, a standalone mystery, and a dozen short stories of various genres. They even reprinted Cloudy Rainbow.

Despite my prolific publishing, I still yearned to see my books in more formats than eBook and paperback. I wanted to see my work in large type, hardcover, and audio. I dream about a review in Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, or one of the other professional publishing journals. I hoped that I’d eventually earn enough money to list my business for tax purposes, that I’d make more in royalties than I spent on promotion, conference travel, and even the purchase of my own books. I envisioned an advance, possibly a movie or TV deal, that would make up for all my hours of non-paid work. I knew the only chance I had to achieve any of this was to keep querying agents. There was one I particularly liked. I was friends with some of the authors she represented. I sent her a proposal for the first of a new cosy mystery series. I was hurt when she turned it down, even though I’d been rejected in the past and knew that was all part of the process that all authors endure even those who are now famous.

Then I met another author who wrote mysteries and also had a cosy mystery series. I inquired about his publisher, and he suggested I might want to query them. Unlike other Indie publishers, his publisher, Creativia (now renamed Next Chapter) was planning to publish books in hardcover and audio as well as eBook and paperback. They’d already begun publishing large type books. In addition, they helped promote authors worldwide, although authors had to promote themselves, as well, something I was used to, anyway. I sent a query for my unpublished mystery, Sea Scope. It was accepted and published this past May. I haven’t yet seen any royalties from it and am not expecting a windfall, but I’ve met some great new authors and am looking forward to having my book appear in new formats.

Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she returns to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.

Sarah hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.

After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope. Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home.

When past and present collide, Sarah must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?

I have to admit, after all this and trying to write another novel, I still hope to land an agent one day. I’m holding on to that unpublished first book of a cosy. The problem is time. How do I prioritize my writing, promoting, querying time when there are so many other things to do? Eight hours of my day is spent at work; six or seven sleeping. I have a teenage daughter, a husband, and also three cats. I need time for them, too. I also need time for my friends and for myself. I know other authors suffer a similar dilemma. We’re told you have to write because you love it. Forget the money. Forget fame. If it happens, it will. If not, at least you’ll be memorialized. Your words will live on.

What would I advise a new author to do? It depends on what they want. There are so many options for publishing today. It’s perfectly acceptable, even admired for one to self-publish, either on their own or through a self-publishing company. It’s also great to find an Indie or small publisher, but there are so many that you can shop around. Talk to other authors. Check websites that evaluate Indie authors. If you’re determined to publish traditionally with a larger publisher, there are benefits as I’ve mentioned but also negatives. Like in any business, most people start out in the red. Don’t let that discourage you. Networking is important. There are lots of great genre and local writing groups out there. I belong to Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, Long Island Author Group, and the Cat Writers’ Association.

There are also plenty of blogs, fellow authors, and others who are willing to help you sell “the first ten thousand copies” or “turn your book into a movie,” “tweet your promo to 100,000 readers,” “guarantee a hundred new reviews,” etc. all of this at a sale or discounted price that still exceeds what you’ll make back. At the same time, there are many free or low-cost sites if you look for them and/or find them through fellow authors. Being an author is much more complicated than I ever imagined when I started writing. It’s a brave new world for authors. There’s so much to learn, and many paths that you might choose. What works for one author, may not work for another. It’s a tough field, but someone has to do it. It might as well be us.

My name is Debbie De Louise. I’m a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island and the award-winning author of the Cobble Cove cosy mystery series. I have a B.A. in English and an MLS in Library Science.
I’m a member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters-in-Crime, the Cat Writer’s Association, and Long Island Authors Group and have published articles in Cats Magazine and Catnip (Tufts University Veterinary Newsletter). I won the Glamour Puss special award from Hartz Corporation for my article, “Brushing your cat for bonding, beauty, and better health,” (June 2016). My short mystery, “Stitches in Time” was published in the Cat Crimes Through Time Anthology, (1999). I have also published several other short stories of various genres in Solstice anthologies. I live on Long Island with my husband, Anthony; daughter, Holly; and our cat, Stripey.

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