Guest Post from Betsy Wagner: Life is Full of Surprises—Part 2: Publishing

Part 1: Writing

Earlier this week, I shared the surprises of my writing life—the ten years from 2008 to 2018 digging out the facts and discovering the names and dates of my family’s story. It was a great wallowing in the weeds. At last I realized it needed to be published. But how?

I began to talk to anyone I thought knew anything about publishing. I found them resistant. Could it be I was so green it showed in my face? Was it possible that in spite of my efforts, my ignorance surfaced in my conversations? No one wanted to partner with me. I was too needy.

Late in 2017, I began to give serious consideration to the possibilities.

FIRST – I consulted with a traditional publisher in Houston. They advertised “We are everything Texas!” That sounded like a good fit for a historic novel about a family in Gonzales! They had cookbooks, travel books, picture books—all about Texas. But after three re-writes they still said, “At this time we feel your book is not a good fit for our catalog.” So, I asked myself if I really even wanted to work to their perfection, only to give my work away with no ownership rights. Maybe traditional publishing wasn’t right for me anyhow.

SECOND – I considered the many vanity presses. I searched the internet and requested publishing kits. I called their offices and discussed my need for editing, illustrations, a cover, and whatever help I could buy. My inbox was bombarded with reminders that I needed to send my manuscript to them and they would take care of everything. In this case, I had a sense of abdication. Could I trust someone thousands of miles away, someone I’d never meet? Could I feel good about the changes they would make in my ten-year project, a personal story about my own family? Could I just send the pages, pay their fee, close my eyes, and hope it was something I’d be proud of in the end? I waited and searched.

THIRD, and finally – I got the surprise of independent publishing. Sometime in the spring of 2018, my husband took me to attend a friend’s book launch. We arrived early and chose a seat at a table with a nice lady who welcomed me and talked to me as if we were already friends. I felt comfortable with her, and I remember wondering, Who is she, and how does she know my author-friend? By the end of the event I learned she was Lillie Ammann, my friend’s editor. I hoped maybe I had found my publishing partner.

Lillie and I consulted several times. In late 2018, we signed a contract. She began editing, sending me each and every suggested change or correction. She recommended two other specialists who worked with us for layout and illustrations. We exchanged our input throughout the winter. I had a voice in every decision. In February we agreed the manuscript was ready.

Lillie sent the manuscript to the printer (Kindle Direct Publishing) in the last days of February. On March 6th I got notice that my proof copy was ready. If you read my book, you will see that these dates coincide with the most important historic scenes in SPIRIT OF GONZALES. I called Lillie to thank her for being so concise about the dates and making these amazing memories for me. She said, “I didn’t do it—it just happened that way.”

 Life really is full of surprises!

Next time I’ll share my marketing experiences.


Part 3: Marketing

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