Category Archives: publishing

Get your FREE copy of “With This Shield”

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As promised, I want to inform readers that The Wandering King (Book 2:  With This Shield), will be available for free from July 21 through July 25.  This applies only to the ebook available through Amazon.

While I made The Wandering King (Book 1: Summer, Harvest, War), available pretty much everywhere, one of the things I’ve learned over the past two years is that Amazon is king when it comes to book distribution.  Therefore, I’ve decided to offer book 2 through Amazon only. This allows me to take part in their Kindle Select program which makes the book available to readers enrolled in Amazon Unlimited.

While these are not exact figures, here is a rough estimate of the ebook sales book 1 has received from the following booksellers:

Amazon:  2,000+
Barnes & Noble:   20
Apple iBookstore:  10
Kobo Books: 5
Smashwords:  2
Scribd, and all others:  1

These are all ebook sales.  One of the big surprises in writing The Wandering King is that hard copies of books are slowly going the way of the CD, videocassette and the poodle skirt.  In comparison, roughly 50 paperbacks have been purchased through Amazon, 3 through Barnes & Noble and 10 at my local booksellers.

Also impacting my decision is that book 1 received 50+ reviews on Amazon, 1 review on Barnes & Noble, and no reviews on any of the other online sites.  Although I would like to place book 2 in as many outlets as possible, it just doesn’t seem worth the time and effort.

My apologies to all those who own a Nook.  If there is a bright side, CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution has placed the paperback version of book 2 for sale at Barnes & Noble.  I am unsure whether or not they make it available on any of the other bookseller sites.

If you pickup a free copy of book 2 and enjoy what you read, would love to know about it.  Even better, post a review on Amazon.  Your comments have the power to contribute greatly to the success of the book.

Just to mention it, a paperback version is available for $15.95.  It pains me to have to offer the paperback of book 2 for $1 more than book 1, but unfortunately the additional 60 pages of text added to the price.

Most paperbacks today fall in the 13.95 to 17.95 range.  A 375-page novel costs an average of $16.95.  Book 2 is 444 pages long, so although $15.95 is high compared to the $3.99 cost of the ebook, hopefully readers still find the cost reasonable compared to other books.

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It’s here! Book 2 of The Wandering King published.

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Apologies Department

I owe readers of the the first book in The Wandering King series a sincere apology.  It was a huge mistake on my part to think I would have the second book done by the end of 2014.

As you may well imagine, a book is, quite simply, finished when it is finished, nor will that conform to a set date.  Rather than rushing out an inferior story, I felt it was more important to get the job done right.

Book two, subtitled, With This Shield, is a longer than book one, Summer, Harvest, War, by two chapters.  Which I did not anticipated when I started writing back in the summer of 2013.

Book two is a more complex book.  Not that you need an engineering degree to read it, it’s just that the story line and characters are more multifaceted.  Whereas, book one was at its core, an adventure story, book two continues in the same vein, but also gets into areas of Greek philosophy, politics and religion, that I hope readers enjoy.

Too, I have also been remiss in keeping up with this blog.  When given the option of working on the book or creating a blog post, the choice was easy.  I devoted all of my free time and put all of my efforts into finishing the book.

So I hope my readers will forgive me.  The good news is:  the book is done.  It was placed on Amazon this afternoon.  By Monday, it should have been approved for sale by Amazon.  If book two is received half as well as book one, I will be immensely satisfied.

Appreciation Section

Several thank yous are in order.  A shout out to my friend and mentor, Dr. James Morris, for assisting me with the proofreading.   Though I probably gave him an ulcer by spelling many names using the Greek form when he preferred the Latin, such as Heracles for Hercules, and Asclepius for Aesculapius, I appreciate his ability to back off when needed.

Sincere thanks to Jean Cauller, at Green Eye for Design, for helping me with the book cover.

In addition to producing the cover for With This Shield, I also asked Jean to redo the cover for Summer, Harvest, War.  The primary change was to enlarge the book title, so that it’s easier to read as a thumbnail on Amazon’s website.  Jean did a great job, and will be assisting me with the paperback covers as well.

Anticipation Sector

While the book might be up for sale June 29, you might want to hold off for a few days.  My intention is to offer the book for free for 5 days.  When I do, I’ll tip people off here in my blog.

It’s my small way of attempting to repay my loyal readers and thank them for being patient with me.  Can’t wait to see how the story is received.

 

Absolute Write or Wrong?

AWAs a reader and a writer I enjoy reading other author’s blogs.  By doing so, I pick up valuable advice, and you come across the current issues facing the independent writing community.   The big issue of the day is the Amazon v. Hatchette debate, but I’ll save my thoughts on that matter for another post.

One of the other issues I’ve seen cropping up is the controversy over the writers’ website, Absolute Write.  On their site they have an extremely well trafficked forum called the Water Cooler.

The site was created in 1999 by an admirable freelance writer named Jenna Glatzer (who left in 2007).  Absolute Write (AW) boasts 60,000 users, and averages 8,000 posts a week, all on issues dealing with writing and publishing.

Over the past few months I began noticing AW popping up in a lot of conversations.  Some people claimed to love it, that it provided them with assistance finding an agent, getting a query letter polished, or critiquing their writing—while other’s absolutely hated the site, even going so far as to say they’d been banned for speaking their minds or they’d been the victim of cyberbullying by the members there.

Not belonging to any writers’ forums, I decided to check out AW.  Please understand, I did not go to their site with an axe to grind or any pre-conceived agenda.  I’d seen people speak for and against the site and was simply curious as to the truth of the matter.  So I put on my journalist’s hat and decided to do a little field research.

I spent a week ‘lurking’ to see if the site looked worth joining.  What I found was a bit overwhelming, a touch of information overload.  There are eighty active boards in the forum covering a plethora of subjects; everything from dealing with rejection, writer’s block, grammar, research, publishing scams, novels, short stories, poetry, literary agents, publishers, freelancing, songwriting, script writing… their list of topical areas is extensive.  Whether you want to talk to other writers working on westerns or greeting cards, you’ll find a home for it on AW.

Most of the areas of the site are open to everyone, but a few require you to have a minimum number of posts or six months of time logged on the site to access.

There are so many topical areas on AW that I’m willing to bet that most users gravitate toward their areas of interest and hang out there.  To visit all of the boards and read all the new posts everyday would be virtually impossible.  The boards that I visited, while some of the threads were silly, for the most part the users were respectful, encouraging and supportive of one another.

After two weeks I decided to join, and was a bit surprised when it took them three days to ‘approve’ my registration.  Not that it truly mattered.  Not being approved simply meant I could not post anything.  There was plenty to read.  Each board had their stickies with instructions and there were a mountain of FAQs to peruse.

Once approved, there is a board for new members, so I created a thread there and introduced myself.   About a dozen people welcomed me aboard.  So far, so good.

Over the next week or so, on the various boards I visited, I began to notice a certain amount of negativity pervaded many of the conversations.  People were depressed because they were getting rejection letters, upset because they had too many ideas and didn’t know which one to work on, gridlocked by writer’s block, unable to write because they were dealing with ADD…

In an attempt to be helpful, I decided to create a thread on ‘Famous rejection stories,’ and shared about a half dozen stories about famous writers like Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Dan Brown and J.D. Salinger, who were rejected numerous times before ever getting published.  My thought in starting this thread was to try to encourage people by showing how all authors have to deal with rejection.  It’s something all writers share in common, even the famous ones.  And if you persevere, you just might get lucky like they did.

After creating the thread, someone posted a response saying that he’d heard God had been rejected numerous times before ever getting the Bible published.  Ha, ha.  Sarcastic, but not a personal attack.  Next someone posted a comment that they hated hearing that J.K. Rowling was only rejected 12 times before Harry Potter found a home.  They went on to say they’d been rejected 400 times.  Someone else picked up the idea and added that that J.K Rowling was a horrible example of a writer having a hard time getting published, that her experience was nothing compared to the pain and suffering the average AW writer experienced.  Oi.

At this point I commented that if the posters were having such a hard time dealing with rejection and getting published, why not try self publishing?

This is where my experience with AW went horribly awry and I began to understand why certain people accuse them of cyberbullying.  I was too new to the site to realize it, but I’d stumbled into one of AW’s pet peeve subject areas.  All I had to do was mention self publishing and a dozen people, most of whom had in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 15,000 posts on AW, jumped on me and began ripping me to shreds for daring to even suggest such a course of action.

The basic line of thinking expoused by the hard core AW members was, self publishing is for losers, self publishing is too hard, self publishing is too expensive, self published writers don’t get read… on and on.

In response, I posted that self publishing might be difficult or expensive for some, but if you know how to follow instructions it’s actually fairly easy and doesn’t have to cost you a dime.  I went on to quote a recent research study by a group called Author’s Earnings that states 31% of the sales on Amazon are by self published authors and cited my sources.  You can find them here and here.  There are numerous articles in the media on the subject.

Unfortunately, it seems you cannot have a rational discussion on AW, not if you take up a position that goes against the convention wisdom of AW’s tenured elite.  Trying to back up what I was saying, merely caused more old timer’s to pile on.  It was as if I’d been thrown to the wolves, or perhaps more accurately, was being beaten by a bunch of old biddies using their canes and walkers.  People could see I only had made a couple of posts on their site, I was a noob.  You’d think someone, like a moderator, would have interceded and at least attempted to defend or rescue my bloody carcass, but nope.  I ended up at the bottom of a large pile without a voice raised in assistance or even in pity.

One person, with over 5,000 posts on AW, posted a novel length dissertation on the Author’s Earnings report claiming it was grossly inaccurate and that he and the other old time AW members had already concluded, self published authors never got read.  This line of thought was quickly supported by several other long time AW members.  They rather snidely told me that they’d disproved the Author’s Earnings report weeks ago.  Where had I been?  Living under a rock, no doubt.

I replied, asking as innocently as possible if the group had ever heard of Hugh Howey.  That got them howling.  I quickly learned that trying to argue or provide verifiable proof or evidence of what you are stating means nothing to the elite on AW, it only causes them to froth at the mouth.

Here I was trying to offer some simple information, stories about famous authors who had persevered and succeeded, with the goal of trying to dispel some of the negativism I saw on AW—and I was tar and feathered.

At that point, I threw in the towel and gave up posting anything additional.  I’d made a grand total of 12 posts on their site and felt like a group of vigilantes had run me off with pitchforks.

Do I see value to AW?  Yes.  Am I impressed by their long-standing members?  No.  I got the impression that they are an exclusive club, with a preset list of beliefs that you either subscribe to or they burn you at the stake.

Will I go back to their site?  For the past several days I’ve been licking my wounds, pondering that question.  If I do, it will be to read, not to share what I know.  What’s the point, when it appears their entrenched elite already know all the answers?

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The Good, the Bad, the Mediocre: Amazon Reviews

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Good Reviews: The Bubbles in the Champagne

Since publishing The Wandering King in April of 2013, approximately 2,000 copies have been distributed through various booksellers.

Ninety-seven percent of the sales have been e-books rather than hard copies, and 99% have been through Amazon. A distant second is Barnes & Noble (20 sales), and behind them is Apple iBookstore (2 sales). Dead last is Smashwords (1 sale).

The success The Wandering King has received on Amazon has been largely due to the reviews.  The average rating of your combined reviews gives your book a ranking under the ‘top rated’ listing and a special spot on Amazon’s web page.  This ranking has placed my book in the #1 to #3 spot under the Ancient Greek History category for the last 9 months.

To date, the book has received 40 reviews on Amazon.  Here is a breakdown of the number of 5-star through 1-star reviews:

                (28) 5 stars
                (9) 4 stars
                (2) 3 stars
                (1) 1 star

It has been a delight to read reviews such as:

  • Turning the last page of a good book, ending a good read, is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. One relishes the experience of both and longs for more time together…                    

                                       Dianne Smith

  • Many thanks to the guy who wrote this book. Really enjoyed it and have recommended it to all my friends. The book is something special, great character development; this man can really write.  

                                      Steve Fowler

  • Well-crafted historical fiction both educates and entertains the reader. Stephen Marte’s ‘The Wandering King’ achieves those goals. I’m looking forward to reading more of his story…

                                      Gregory Stoltz

  • Fantastic story, absolutely loved this. It is the story of a young Spartan growing from boyhood to manhood. The author portrays a character raised in a harsh world, but who still dares to defy tradition and what is expected of him. Brilliant, I cannot wait for the sequel…

                                      Tomas

A heart-felt thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review.  You have greatly contributed to the success of The Wandering King.

I do not know Dianne, Steve, Greg or Tomas, or the vast majority of my reviewers, which makes reading their reviews immensely gratifying.  Knowing people you’ve never met in Pittsburgh, Dallas or Portland enjoyed the story so much they can’t wait to read more, is music to any writer’s ears.

Admittedly, I do know four of my reviewers. My mom, my brother and two friends have reviewed The Wandering King, but they all read the book and enjoyed it, so their reviews are legitimate. Knowing Amazon will delete your book and toss you off their site if you try planting fake reviews, is all the motivation any author should need to play it honest.

I wish I could get more of my family, friends and co-workers to post reviews. When someone tells me they’ve read the book and loved it, my stock response is: “Put it in writing. Post a review.” Unfortunately, the majority of people who have told me they’ve read the book, never post anything.

Bad Reviews: The Worm in the Apple

The Wandering King has received only one bad review. After a year of nothing but good reviews, I received this in May 2014:

  • This is one I put down early. I’ve read Herodotus a number of times and have wondered what Doreius [sic] and His [sic] adventures to the lotus eaters could have looked like. The author tells his story rather than shows. The writing lacks even basic description. I do not have any idea where the other reviewers gave this book even a score higher than 2. It’s that briutal [sic].

                                    Sparta Fan

If Sparta Fan had an axe to grind with me, he succeeded.  His 1-star review succeeded in knocking The Wandering King off its perch as the #1 top-rated Ancient Greek History book on Amazon.  Seems hard to believe one review could knock me out of the top seat, but it did, which has adversely affected book sales.

As a professional writer who has spent a lifetime researching The Wandering King and three years writing and polishing his work, it is distressing to read, “the author tells his story rather than shows” and “the writing lacks even basic description.”

I refer Sparta Fan to the first chapter of the book, which appears here in my blog, The Planistai. To quote a sample of showing versus telling:

  • While we waited, I noticed Gorgo was trembling beside me. “Are you all right?”
    She looked at me wide-eyed. “I am so excited!”

If I wanted to tell the reader how Gorgo was feeling, all I had to do was say, “Gorgo was excited.”  Instead, these two lines show her trembling and wide-eyed.

Also in the same chapter appears:

  • “No girl is going to tell me what to do,” my cousin Pausanias snorted. Especially not the daughter of Cleomenes. Pausanias was a husky boy, with a thick neck, gloomy, deep-set dark eyes, a face full of pimples and a broad, pug nose that had always made me think of him as a wart hog.

If I wanted to tell the reader Pausanias did not like Gorgo, all I had to say was, “Pausanias did not like Gorgo.” Instead you see how Pausanias feels through his dialogue. Also in the paragraph is a brief description of Pausanias’ appearance. Why Sparta Fan would state the book “lacks even basic description” makes me wonder if he even read it.

Rather than continue to quote additional excerpts from The Wandering King, if you want to make up your own mind on the matter, please read the sample chapter on this site: The Planistai. It’s free.

I apologize if I sound defensive. I am. Writing is an intensely personal experience. Your books are like your children. Insult my son and like any good parent, my reaction is to leap to his defense.

A friend who read Sparta Fan’s review called it a ‘hatchet job.’ In looking over the other books Sparta Fan’s has reviewed on Amazon, I see he’s highly rated a number of books by British author David Gemmell. I’ve tried to read Gemmell’s work, but I don’t care for his style. I would describe his writing as, ‘historical fantasy,’ which doesn’t interest me. To be fair to Sparta Fan, I am guessing he was expecting historical fantasy like Gemmell’s work and instead got historical fiction. 

In the end, what I’ve learned from reading Sparta Fan’s review is that everyone has different preferences, and you can’t expect to please everyone.  It’s like looking at a painting by Picasso. One person sees an odd collection of blocks and colors that remind them of fingerpainting, while another person sees a woman weeping that is so evocative the viewer is moved to tears.

I suppose all I can do is be thankful that the majority of my readers appear to enjoy my writing.  On the flip side, I’ve learned that reading negative reviews can destroy your motivation.  Who wants to spend all of the time and energy required to write a book if some stranger with an axe to grind is going to piss all over your work?

Mediocre Reviews: The Flavorless, Chewy Steak

The Wandering King has only received two 3-star reviews. In one, the reviewer had nothing but good things to say about the book.

  • The Wandering King is an entertaining read that paints a different picture of the principal families of Sparta than other books of the same genre. Interesting stories, good detail, and enough action to keep the pages turning.

                                          David Nolletti    

David appears to have enjoyed the story.  Why he gave it an average rating is a mystery.  Perhaps to him a 3-star rating means it met his expectations or maybe some people are just tough reviewers.

The only other 3-star review commented that the book was “entertaining” but he found it troublesome that I used some modern language that he did not feel was appropriate to ancient Greece. Wish he had given some examples. If he had, I would have corrected them.

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Where initially I loved seeing a new book review appear, I am now a lot more tentative about reading them.  It’s tempting not to look them at all lest it sap my energy to keep writing.  That said, I have no intentions of quitting.  Yes, I write so others will read what I’ve written, but first and foremost, I write to create something I would enjoy reading, and that feeling is not likely to go away.

If others have had similar experiences or advice regarding book reviews, would be curious to hear them.

Stealing Helen

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Co-Authoring a Work of Fiction

In March, I placed a new short story titled, Stealing Helen, for sale on Amazon.  It was co-authored with my cousin Richard LaVerghetta.  I wrote about growing up with Rich in my blog post, The Calling.  Rich’s mother and my mother are identical twins, so Rich and I spent a lot of time together when we were young.  In the process we developed some similar interests, such as our love of ancient history.

One night while Rich and I were watching the movie Troy, we spent the majority of the time groaning at all of the movie’s errors.  For instance, in one scene the Greek city of Sparta appears on the coast.  In actuality, Sparta is inland, about 30 miles from the sea.

Sad to say, Troy is about as accurate as Sarah Palin’s 2011 comment that during the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere rode to warn the British, not the American colonists.  While laughing at the movie’s many gaffs, we wondered if the film had a historical consultant (it doesn’t).  If it had, we postulated that the poor fellow probably demanded his name be deleted from the credits as it would serve as a black mark on his career.

Thus the idea for Stealing Helen was born.  It’s main character, Donald, is a fictional history professor at Princeton University, and the historical consultant on the film.  Most of the characters are based on real people involved with the film, including; Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole, Diane Kruger and the director Wolfgang Peterson.

To let people know this is not journalism, this is farce, we added a sub-title on the cover, “A satire about the movie Troy,” and we added a disclaimer on the copyright page stating, “This is a work of satire.  All characters and events in this story, including those based on real people, are entirely fictional.”

To write the story, Rich and I adopted a technique we used when we were teenagers.  I wrote a scene of the story, sent it to Rich, who wrote the next scene, and so forth.

What began as a project to poke fun at Troy, became something else as the story progressed.  I’m not sure how it happened, but as we were writing we began drawing parallels between what was going on in ancient Troy and what was going on in Donald’s personal life.

The end result, particularly the ending of the story, was a surprise to Rich and I, as it concluded with a scene we had not foreseen when we initiated the project.  Chalk it up to the magic of writing.   Sometimes delightful things happen that you hadn’t anticipated.   What started out as comedy, ends with something poignant to say about relationships.

Decision to Place only on Amazon

The story appears only on Amazon.  At this point, I see no reason to place it on Barnes & Nobles or Smashwords, as neither book seller yields anywhere near the number of readers as Amazon.  From what I’ve noted over the past year, Amazon truly is king.

One additional note.  It appears that Amazon’s ‘free book’ promotion is drying up.  It’s no where near as effective as it was a year ago.  In April 2013, when I offered The Wandering King for free for five days it yielded approximately 900 downloads.  When I did similar with the short story Inherit the Flames early in 2014, it yielded about 150 downloads.  Stealing Helen yielded only 75.

From what I’ve read, Amazon has woken up to the fact that they don’t make any money by offering free content.  So it seems they’ve changed their mysterious algorithms related to book rankings yet once again.  Where in the past, after offering your book for free it ended up placed high in its book category, now there is no lift at all after the book’s free promotion is concluded.  Which gives authors one less reason to give their book away.

What Amazon is now pushing is their new ‘countdown deal’ promotion.  Instead of offering your book for free, this new deal enables you to lower the price of your book for 5 days.

I imagine these changes will help Amazon accomplish its goal of eliminating the mountains of free content on their site, and make them more money.

My apologies for not posting something here in my blog to let people know when Stealing Helen was free.  If you are interested in reading an amusing short story, the good news is that it’s only .99 cents.  That’s a bargain in any historical epoch.

Market Your eBook: Ereader News Today

entThis week I opted to try promoting my book through Ereader News Today.  They send out a daily email to their 400,000 members advertising 1-3 ebooks and provide a link to your book on Amazon.  Their service is strictly for Kindle users.

To get promoted in one of ENT’s emails you have to agree to two things:  lower the price of your book so that their members are receiving a deep discount and pay ENT 25% of whatever sales you make that day.

For me, that meant lowering the ebook price of The Wandering King from $3.99 to .99 cents.  Not sure yet what they will charge me, but I can see that over their one-day promotion I received approximately 270 ebook sales.  I’m guessing I’ll owe ENT something like:  270 x .99 = $267 x 30% Amazon royalty rate = $80 x 25% fee = $20.  Twenty dollars is a negligable price to pay for getting my book into 270 additional readers’ hands.  Plus, their fee is coming out of new sales, so it’s not really costing me a dime.

ENT also has a Facebook page where they encourage authors to interact with their members.  By doing so, ENT claims it helps get your book noticed.  I posted 2 messages there.  Whether it helped increase sales, I have no way of knowing, but I figure it didn’t hoit.

All in all, I’ve been quite happy with ENT’s service, and have noticed that even after I raised the price back up to $3.99, I continued to get a spike in sales, possibly from their members who spotted the email after the promotion.

If your primary goal is to make money, ENT may not be the way to go.  But if your goal is to get read,  ENT can help immensely.  I also have 270 additional word-of-mouth advertisers out there promoting my book and 270 potential reviewers that I may never have found otherwise.

bookbubThere is similar service called BookBub.   Like ENT, they offer to send out an email promoting your book to their subscribers.  What’s different is that:  (1) they’ll provide links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, (2) you don’t have to discount your book price, and (3) you do have to pay a fee for their service.

The price BookBub charges is based on the number of subscribers they have in your book category and the price of your book.  For instance, they have 430,000 historical fiction subscribers.  If your book is free they charge $200, less than $1 they charge $400, $1-$2 they charge $600 and over $2 they charge $1,000.

If I were to keep the price at $3.99 and to receive a similar number of sales that I got through ENT, I would spend $1,000 and end up making $800.  Odds are, at $3.99 instead of .99 cents, I’ll get less sales, so it could end up costing a pretty penny.  Even if I were to lower the price to .99 cents, and even if I received 270 sales, it would end up costing over $300.

Might sound foolish, but I am determined not to spend money marketing my book.  So for me, I don’t see where BookBub makes sense.  If others have tried it, I would love to hear about your experience.

The Trials and Tribulation of Publication

cartoon publishingThe true joy of writing a book is the daily routine of sitting down and writing.  The process of creating something out of nothing is magical.  For me, that’s been the most rewarding part of the journey.

The worst part has been trying to get my book published.  This part of the journey has been a nightmare akin to Martin Sheen’s trip upriver in the movie Apocalypse Now.

I began by going to the reference work the Writer’s Market.  You can find it in any library.  It lists all of the publishers of books and magazines in the U.S. and Canada.  It also lists a large number of literary agents.  I went through The Writer’s Market and made a list of all of the publishers interested in historical fiction, and quickly learned my particular genre is not exactly highly in demand.  Seems there are a lot more publishers out there looking for gay/lesbian themed books, cookbooks and ‘how-to’ books than they are fictional novels about ancient Greece.  When I was done I had a list of about a dozen publishers, not one of whom I’d ever heard of before.  All were small presses who typically publish 1-5 books a year.  It seems all of the big, recognizable publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins do not take unsolicited manuscripts.  They only work through agents.

Having met someone who published through a small unknown publisher, and who ended up with no support and a second rate looking book, I determined right away that I wanted to get to a well known publisher.  I needed an agent.  Where to begin?

On the author Bernard Cornwell’s web site is an active forum where readers can post comments and questions.  Atop the forum Cornwell asks readers not to send him their own writing, unless it’s been published, in which case, he invites readers to send him their books.  He also states that if you are in the process of trying to get published, he was willing to help and could suggest a reputable agent.  So I began by emailing Cornwell.  His personal assistant replied giving me the name of an agent in New York City that works at a large, well respected agency called The Writers House.  I followed the instructions on The Writers House web site by sending them a 1-page query letter.

Ah, the infamous query letter.  Agents are such busy people, they don’t have time to read through dozens of manuscripts, so they ask that you to mail them a query letter first.  In one sheet of paper, you have to explain why anyone on the planet would want to read a book you’ve written and give a quick synopsis of your story.  Knowing no one would ever look at my book unless I came up with a good query letter I spent a month writing and re-writing my letter, selling myself, my idea and what felt like my soul.  I sent it off to The Writers House and to my surprise I received a one sentence email from the agent’s personal assistant (doesn’t anyone in the book industry reply to their own mail?) stating that they were very intrigued by my idea and to email them my book ASAP.  Which I did.  And then began waiting and waiting and waiting…

The Writers House web site asks you to be patient, explaining they’re very busy people, so you might not hear back from the for 8-9 weeks.  I waited 10 weeks then sent an email to the agent and his personal assistant, apologizing for writing to them, and explaining that I was eager to hear what they thought of The Wandering King.  I received a quick reply from the agent saying, sorry, but he was very busy working with authors who made him money and sad to say, he’d completely forgotten about me and my book.  He promised to read The Wandering King and get back to me in two weeks.  In about a week’s time I heard once more from his personal assistant saying that although they were impressed by the amount of research I’d done and by my writing ability, they just weren’t ‘feeling’ my main character.

So after almost four months of waiting, I’d been rejected after what I thought was a promising reaction to my query letter.  Picking myself up off the floor, I wrote back to the agent’s assistant and asked him if he had any suggestions on where I might go next.  He replied telling me to try the Publishers Marketplace, a site devoted to agents, publishers and writers.  I went through the site, picked out five agencies who stated they were interested in publishing historical fiction and sent my query letter off to them, only to be rejected by three of them – two never even bothered to reply.

I keep telling myself plenty of successful authors, Joseph Heller, William Faulkner, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling among them, were rejected before getting their books published.  William Golding’s classic The Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers, one of whom wrote to him, “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy that was rubbish and dull.”  Still, my first foray into the world of book publishing was pretty deflating.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.  Stay tuned.