From Self-Pub to Small Press: Pretty Much True…
I have the nagging suspicion I should probably be concerned about publishing & book-selling anti-trust suits, monoliths, and monopolies.
But I’m already worried about enough things of my own, such as finding work after being laid off last week from a sweet senior editor position, how to maintain this ridiculously landscaped lawn left by the previous owner of my house, whether I can continue to avoid the dentist and for how long, what that red spot is on my arm, and how far inside my uterus conservative politicians will succeed in climbing.
I don’t want something else to worry about. Instead, I’d like to be excited, because Pretty Much True…, previously titled Homefront (when it was self-published), has finally found its place with a press!
“Good luck! Don’t you know about the state of the publishing indust–”
LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!
To be honest, I thought finding a publisher would be easier. Agents had nice things to say when I was sending out queries (although, because it was literary fiction from an unknown and therefore hard to market, any nice things they said/wrote were followed by “Sorry”), and once I self-published, it received some decent attention (Army Wife Network, Enlisted Spouse Radio, Huffington Post, Stars and Stripes, NPR, NBC [local, but still!], Pop Culture Zoo, and others).
But even after all that, it still wasn’t happening.
Why seek a publisher if it was getting some exposure already? Because too many doors were still closed. I understand why certain reviewers/publications/contests don’t accept self-published work (even if I do firmly believe they should give consideration to work that’s been vetted), but it doesn’t mean I don’t find it frustrating. I wanted to enter those contests closed to self-published manuscripts. I wanted to be considered for review in certain magazines. I wanted it to be easier to get into bookstores for readings or signings. In short, I wanted to be taken seriously, and rarely is a self-published novel(ist) taken seriously. Oh, sure, they’re taken very seriously when they achieve a certain number of sales, but sales blow-ups are like viral videos. Yes, it usually means you still have to put out something good (that is, something that resonates), but it has to be the right kind of good at just the right time. I do not have my finger on the pulse of the virtual virus.
Anyway – after a number of “we love it!” rejections, I released it myself in 2007.
In 2008, I found an agent.
In 2009, that relationship ended amicably. Moving on.
By mid-2010, I’d (hallelujah!) found a small publisher, so I removed Homefront from distribution. The release date was to be September 20, 2011.
Between 2010 and 2011, I saw Pretty Much True…’s new cover design come to life (thanks in no small part to an incredibly talented painter/artist who painted the original cover art on a canvas and took a picture for publisher use), received the pre-publication PDF interior to check it for errors, and even attended BEA, which has thus far been my most exciting day as a writer. Taking a train from Connecticut into Grand Central Station, seeing NYC from behind the windows of a yellow cab, and then walking through Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Norton booths? How much more literary could it get?
After BEA, a few things happened, one of which was not the publication of Pretty Much True…. Just before the release date, the deal fell through. No longer in distribution, the book sat inside a folder in my computer for almost another year.
A few months ago, a small press in Minnesota took an interest.
Pretty Much True… continued to sit in a folder in my computer. I considered re-releasing it myself. At least it would be out there, available. As it was, I was gifting it to people I thought would be interested as a PDF attached to an email. Why not Kindle-ize it, at least?
But then, in early March, Missouri Breaks Press came along. Publisher/Editor Craig Lancaster had read Pretty Much True… as Homefront and had liked it then, and still really liked it years later. He – who in addition to being a publisher is a fantastic writer and author of 600 Hours of Edward, The Summer Son, and Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure (all must-reads) – wanted to publish it.
. . .
A few days ago, he sent me the first few pages of interior design to see what I thought.
I thought it was beautiful.
In the fat, three-ring binder that holds the marked-up printout of one of the first very rough versions of Pretty Much True… is a page right up front with this printed on it, a little something I found online when taking a break from writing and looking for some armor to help minimize the bruising likely to be caused by whatever it was I was getting myself into:
I’ve been reading some journal entries by a writer, first detailing the problems of trying to get a publisher’s attention with no publishing credentials, then noting the demoralizing problem of form or even vulgar rejections on manuscripts, the terribly long wait of a year or more for responses from publishers, the lack of any feedback on ways to improve the works or any small mention of the merits of the book that might give the writer some will to keep going. Finally, after innumerable ‘no’s, a light appears at the end of the tunnel in the form of a small independent publisher… The writer was Charlotte Bronte and it was 1847.
I thought, “However hard this might end up being for me, hell, at least it also happened to someone like Charlotte Bronte.”
When I clipped that page into the rings in 2006, I had no idea I’d end up being welcomed by that same indie light.
Thank you, Missouri Breaks Press!
Causes Kristen Tsetsi Supports
Planned Parenthood, SPCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America