It’s fabulous to have Book Country member Janice Peacock back on the blog this morning to celebrate the rerelease of her debut cozy mystery HIGH STRUNG, originally workshopped here on Book Country. Read on for the story of how Janice found her publisher, Booktrope.
A new edition of my novel, HIGH STRUNG: A Glass Bead Mystery, was released today. I had self-published my cozy mystery last year, but this time around it has been published by Booktrope—a real publisher—not just me winging it in the wee hours. And while this is exciting news, at least for me, the story behind how I ended up with a publisher is the stuff that good tales are made of: fear, dumb luck, bravery, and ultimately a happy ending.
In January I sat in a cafe drinking coffee with my friend Kim. The San Francisco Writers Conference was coming up in a month and I told Kim I was thinking about going, but that I was nervous about it. I was worried that I wasn’t a real writer, even though I had self-published a book the previous year. I hadn’t been writing for long and was worried that someone would expose me as an impostor or that I’d embarrass myself by being such a newbie.
Kim told me to go and just “breathe the air” at the conference. She encouraged me by saying that I didn’t need to do anything but be there and absorb what information I could. The next day I sat at my computer, shut my eyes, and I clicked the Submit button on the registration form for the conference. I was going. And I was going to be brave.
A month later I stood outside the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. I had arrived ridiculously early, so I sat in the lobby chatting with a couple from out of town, giving them sightseeing advice. When it was time for the first session, I filed into a large conference room with the rest of the attendees. The first thing the moderator did was ask each audience member who had brought a book that they’d written to hold it above his or her head. I held up my empty hand and told the moderator that I had sold the book I had brought to the tourists in the lobby, and received a small cheer. Maybe the weekend was going to be okay after all.
I hadn’t signed up to do the Pitch-a-Thon, that was over-the-top intimidating to me. For the uninitiated, a pitch-a-thon is like speed-dating with agents and publishers, instead of potential mates. Authors move from table to table pitching their story in three minute sessions with the hope that an agent or publisher will be interested in seeing a full manuscript. The prospect of pitching my book scared me to death. Instead, I went and sat on a bench in the park across from the hotel, soaking in the sun during the pitching session. I had breathed enough conference air for the day.
In the final hours of the conference, I sat at a round table in a ballroom with some of the other attendees. I’d learned a lot during the conference and I’d met authors like me who had a love of words, books, and stories. There was a raffle and I won a prize—a free pass to go to a Pitch-o-Rama hosted by the Women’s National Book Association in San Francisco. Of all the prizes, this was the one that I didn’t want. I was going to have to pitch my book to publishers and agents, the thing I’d so actively tried to avoid during this conference.
A few weeks later I was standing outside the Women’s Building at the Pitch-o-Rama, armed with my manuscript, business cards, and a look of grim determination. Okay, maybe not that grim, but determined, nonetheless. I’d done my research; I knew which agents and publishers I wanted to pitch my book to. This event would be good practice. I could learn to talk about my book in a clear, concise, and exciting way. I didn’t need to find a publisher that day, I could continue to self-publish. But still, did I want a real publisher? Yes, I did.
One of the leaders for the day explained the rules to a few dozen authors in the room: You may enter a queue to speak with an agent or publisher when the bell rings. Once it is your turn, you have six (short!) minutes to speak with the person on the other side of the table. Once the bell rings you must leave the table and move to another line. No pushing, no shoving. (I might have made that last part up.)
When the first bell rang all the authors queued up to meet their first agent/publisher. The line for the person I wanted to pitch to was long. The longer I stood there, the more nervous I became. But, I’d come so far, I wasn’t going to give up now.
When it was finally my turn I gave my best pitch to the publisher across from me. As soon as I told her that my book had been self-published she stopped me and said she was not interested. I left the table before my time was up, realizing there was no need to continue after being so firmly declined. The second and third publisher representatives said they loved the story idea, but immediately told me that they were not interested in my book when they heard that I’d published it myself. Rejection. Big time rejection.
During a break I stood talking with another author and told her that pitching had not gone well for me. She pointed out a woman named Julia Park Tracey who had previously self-published and now had a publisher called Booktrope.
I talked with Julia, author of the Veronika Layne mystery series, and she told me about the positive experiences she had working with Booktrope. Julia encouraged me to submit my manuscript to her publisher. That night I sat at my computer on the Booktrope web site filling out forms and uploading my manuscript. Then I closed my eyes, and clicked the Submit button. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t expect to hear anything from Booktrope, feeling dejected after my failed pitching session.
A month later I received an exciting email from Booktrope. My book had been accepted for publication! What amazing news to find in my inbox squeezed between all the junk mail that arrives each day. I was thrilled, and I must admit, nervous to sign on with a publisher—a real publisher, and me, a real author. The serendipitous path to a publisher started when my friend told me to just “breathe the air,” and in the end, through a series of twists and turns, I found my way.
HIGH STRUNG is available now at all major on-line retailers in eBook and paperback editions (go here for Amazon and here for Barnes & Noble). Look for A BEAD IN THE HAND, Book Two in the Glass Bead Mystery series, in November 2015, published by Booktrope.