I vividly remember typing the last sentence of my novel. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes wide to hold back the tears. Years of work had come to completion, but little did I know that the really hard work was yet to come—getting published.
I knew that an agent was needed and that the agent would find a publisher for my genre—mystery, suspense. I was told by my writing professor to use agentquery.com and put in my genre and then a list of agents would pop up. I was also told that it was time consuming, because you had to make certain that the agent is a good fit for your novel. Things had to be sent—summary, author bio, first ten pages, or first three chapters, whatever the agent requested, and some wanted it done in one document, or some were done on a computer program. Easy enough, I thought; I will repeat, I thought.
A few fun facts: agents receive thousands of submissions a year; agents take on average between 4-6 authors a year; agents don’t always read your work (their assistants do); agents have a slush pile (manuscripts that go unread); it takes about 45 minutes to complete each online query, which entails reading about the agent, completing the work on the computer to send, which varies with each agent, so you have to know your way around the computer. To put it simply, it’s a lot of time and work.
After sending out 110 queries (yes, I know exactly how many because I wrote the name of each one down so I could follow up if I didn’t hear back), I got two requests to send on the entire manuscript. When I got the first one, I literally walked around my apartment covering my mouth and repeating, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God…” I felt I had finally got this (this was around number 65 that was sent). I remember I had gone to New York City that day, and all I could think about was the agent reading my entire manuscript and loving it (if you don’t believe in your novel no one else will, so this isn’t a sign of being overconfident—this is your baby). As exciting as that day was, the next day was equally as disappointing, as I was thanked for sending and told it wasn’t a good fit but to keep writing.
The next rejection came at around number 88, and it gave me a glimmer of hope, but I was a bit more cautious this time about getting so excited. I would wait to see. Again, the very next day, the same thing and basically the same message. At this point, I decided to set a goal of going to a hundred and then I would have to figure out something else, but I wasn’t going to continue this process after I reached that number. I got to one hundred and then decided for good measure I would do another ten, which I did, but then my new addiction had to stop. Maybe just one more?
Reality set in, and I started to think about self-publishing at the advice of an author friend of mine who had gone the traditional agent/publisher route (it’s amazing how far some encouragement can go when you believe in the person who is encouraging you). But at the same time, a really good thing happened: I asked LinkedIn contact Marnie Schneider who published her children’s books—Football Freddie. She told me she worked with Mascot Books, a hybrid publisher, and connected me with Naren Aryal, the owner. He got right back to me, as well as Jess Cohn, an Acquisitions Director, and both read the full manuscript.
At that time, I had never heard of hybrid publishing, but soon learned that they take on the roles of both agent and publisher. Anyone can self-publish, but not everyone can hybrid publish. To hybrid publish, the publisher has to believe that they can sell books, because they profit, as well. They supply all the necessary components of staff to get you through the process to publication—editing, book design, and marketing. And, yes, you pay for this since you keep your copyright, but you also profit when your books sell.
The most difficult part of the publication process was not being able to actually see the book—to feel it, touch the pages, but you work together and go back and forth getting to the point where you are satisfied. Having been a building and design consultant of beach homes, the look of the book was very important to me. For example, I went with white pages rather than the typical ivory, at their recommendation, because I wanted my author photo to be in color. They worked with me on getting the cover photo to represent my book in the best way possible. It went through several iterations, but in the end, it was a great representation of what was inside.
So, after all of that, I waited 8-10 weeks to have the book printed, and when that day arrived and I cut open the box, I was a nervous wreck as I anxiously pulled back the cardboard and saw the books. To my relief, they looked great, felt great, and again, I had to hold back tears.
The next step was the marketing. Mascot assigns you a marketing manager, and because I am part of their new fiction imprint, Subplot, I have been able to participate in a few blog posts, so the writing continued. The manager gets your book out to online sites, e.g., Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., and reaches out to various other contacts for promotion, e.g., bloggers, book reviewers, local media outlets, podcasts, and retailers.
And of course, I have done some things myself in the promotion process—a podcast with an advertising contact; several book clubs, my university, a contact in Turks & Caicos, where a large part of my book takes place.
In the end, as I reflect on the process, I’m glad that I thought outside of the box and found a way to get my book published when the traditional way failed. Hybrid publishing worked for me, and maybe it can work for you. Go for it, and in the words of the two full-manuscript-reading agents, “keep writing.”