In September 2017, I decided to leave my NYC agent, who had been submitting my manuscript unsuccessfully to editors, and move forward on publishing Always Gardenia independently.
I had fretted about this decision in much the same way one does about a romantic break-up: “Should I give it another chance? If I leave this relationship, will anyone else want me ever again? He’s not keeping in touch and seems to be losing interest in me, so I need to leave; oh wait, he’s paying attention to me now, maybe he does like me, and I’m being too hasty. . .”
But after we’d received nineteen rejections from editors, I’d found it tricky to get information from my agent, and, through his dwindling email communication, understood that he didn’t want to spend more time on the project. I told him it was time for me to move on; he didn’t try to woo me back. Hmm, guess I’d made the right choice. . .
But I was uneasy about publishing independently.
Editors and designers at a traditional publishing house want to produce an excellent book because their professional reputations are at stake. How could I trust that freelancers would do their best work for me? Would a for-hire editor fix a few typos, tell me the book was great, then take the money and run?
I wanted the finished book to be indistinguishable, in cover and text design, from those produced by traditional publishing houses. Where would I find a top-quality designer who could help me achieve this goal?
And without the legitimacy of a traditional publishing house, how would I find readers and book reviewers?
So many questions, but I decided to go for it anyway:
- I started by forming my own publishing company, Bryant House Books, and funded the enterprise with a gift from my dear mother as well as a bank loan — I knew that I’d need a sum in the thousands, not the hundreds, if I wanted to hire the best professional help. I reasoned that I was now a writer who had stepped into the publishing BUSINESS, and BUSINESSES need a capital investment. I also believed that if I had to pay back a loan, I would take the production and marketing work seriously and would not back away if I encountered obstacles or set-backs.
- I googled “Editor, Seattle,” and found the Northwest Editors Guild and there, a Seattle-based freelance editor who turned out to be a perfect fit for my manuscript. We met for coffee, and I (nervously) handed her a comb-bound copy of the manuscript. I asked if she would first sit down with a pot of tea and just read through it, as if it were a book she might have picked up from a library or bookstore shelf. She did so and followed up with a detailed editorial letter highlighting everything I had hoped a reader would enjoy in the book.
- I was thrilled and hired her for an “into the weeds,” as she called it, copy-edit.
NEXT WEEK: The editing process and finding a great designer.