How to Get Published is a continuing feature at The Book Bin where we ask authors to tell us their publishing stories. Was it a rocky road or did it come easy for them? Did they start with an agent and get a NY publisher interested in their book or did they self-publish? What words of wisdom do they have for all of us who would like to be published one day?
Today’s guest is KJ Steele, author of the literary fiction novel, No Story To Tell(Fiction Studio)
Getting published can often be a bit of a tricky business for the aspiring author. Too much focus put on it during the writing of one’s novel, can disrupt the delicate flow of the emerging story. Too little focus can well leave you with a wonderfully written novel, that has no niche for it in the marketplace. My experience often straddled this dichotomy.
I was fortunate in a way, in that I never actually set out to write a novel. I had taken a writing class where our first assignment was to: create two characters and a conflict, and write a paragraph. When my pen engaged the paper, it literally took off, with me scrambling to keep up to the words streaming through my mind. When I tell people that my novel, No Story to Tell was a story that demanded to be told, I am not exaggerating.
Because I had not set out to write a novel, I was able to proceed for some time without the burden of publication expectations weighing me down. I was able to just write for the sake of writing. Once the manuscript began to take shape, however, I began to realize that I’d have to immerse myself in the business side of writing, as well.
Upon realizing this, I knew the first thing that I needed to do, was to have the work critiqued by well-qualified teachers, preferably writers themselves. I sent a sample of the novel to the Humber School for Writers, and was accepted into their mentorship program. Over the next few years, the manuscript evolved under the informed guidance of one of their excellent mentors, and Booker nominated author, DM Thomas.
I believe strongly that any work which will eventually reach the marketplace should be able to stand up to this sort of rigorous standard. Fortunately, mine did, and I knew it was ready to move it forward to the next stage, which was finding an agent, or a publisher. And, it was here, that I, like most new authors, found myself stymied.
For the most part, agents and editors were very positive with their feedback. They liked the work, and the quality of the writing. But, they could not take it on. Why? Invariably, it was because the novel was too dark for the books they brought to the market. So, there I was. A completed manuscript that the industry saw had merit, but which also held some challenges, as well. A very frustrating place to arrive at.
Fortunately, it was at that point that someone suggested I send the manuscript to Lou Aronica, of The Fiction Studio for some editorial advice. Lou has been the publisher, and deputy publisher at some very successful publishing houses. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. This was exactly what I needed. Someone who could provide the bridge between what was written and what the market was willing to accept.
Lou took my manuscript on an editorial basis. He read it and offered back some truly excellent advice. He immediately grasped the essence of my novel, and identified where I needed to make changes. Because of his understanding of the work, I was able to trust his advice, something I did not find with some of the other editors I’d dealt with. Lou knew his business. I set about weaving a couple of new themes into the novel, and saw its complexity and richness intensify.
I still didn’t know how I was going to get the novel into the marketplace, but I did know that it was now truly complete. Lou provided the answer for this dilemma, as well. Unbeknownst to me, he had started an, invitation only, writer’s collective for works he loved. He invited me to publish with them. Becoming published in this way has been a wonderful experience. With Lou’s expertise, my novel’s introduction into the industry, has been guided by a very accomplished hand, and I am fortunate in that.
I know what it is like to be a yet-unpublished author reading these words. I was there once, as well. The best advice I can give, is to keep pushing forward. Write from the deepest, most honest place within yourself. Don’t write to the market. Write the story that so desperately wants to be told. There will be time later, with the right guidance, to streamline the work into a story the market will be comfortable with. And try to remember that if you have a good story, and you write it with excellence, someone will be willing to take it on. But, they will not come looking for you. It is your job, to find them.
KJ Steele is an emerging writer who has learned that the process is not so much about choosing what to write as it is about having the courage to write what chooses to be written. Having spent the first half of her life creating an amazing family with her husband, Victor, she intends to spend the rest of it creating equally amazing fiction.
You can find out more about her and her book by visiting her website at http://kjsteele.com, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KJSteele4 and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Story-to-Tell/122592254511039