Publishing: A Cry for Help!

Posted By :
Comments : 8

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I really do need opinions, though. I’m facing an important decision about something that matters a great deal to me. So naturally, I’m seeking advice from the internet. :)

Many years ago, I wrote a children’s book (my first book ever, in fact.) It was called “Astray: the Puppy Who Needed a Name,” and was (if I say so myself) a funny and heartwarming tale. I tried mightily to secure mainstream publication for it. I submitted the manuscript and my query letter to some 35 publishers and agents.

The result? Thirty-five rejections.

Most were form letters, a few actually included some words of encouragement (usually along the lines of “this is well-written, but it doesn’t fit our needs at this time…”) I still have those letters somewhere. Yes, they were actual letters. All this took place in the pre-Kindle, pre-Amazon Dark Ages of the late 1990s.

Fast forward to today. I’ve self-published 4 mystery novels and 1 essay collection – but I’ve never quite forgotten about that children’s book.

A few months ago, I revisited it. Trimmed extraneous scenes, tightened up the dialog and the pacing. I still like it a lot. I renamed it “Astray and the Shelter Dogs,” and submitted the manuscript to several agents, again trying to find a mainstream publisher.

The results? Again, so far, all rejections. (I just get form emails instead of form letters now.)

I’m wondering if I should keep shopping the manuscript around, hoping mainstream publication, or if I should self-publish again.

Self-publishing is fine – nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. I know that. I work as hard on my manuscripts (and rewrite crappy sentences just as often!) as any mainstream author. But when I tell people I’m a writer, and they ask who my publisher is, and I say I’m self-published, the reaction is always the same:

A split-second hesitation and then a knowing “oh.” Often followed by a too-enthusiastic “That’s great! And hey, at least you’re doing it!”

“At least.”

On the one hand, self-publishing would give me total control over the project, control I’d cede to a mainstream publisher (if I ever got one.) That’s especially important with illustrations. Come to think of it, I love the covers of my 4 mysteries, but I never could have used them with a mainstream publisher. They would have chosen and directed the illustrator, not me.

On the other hand, I still have that dream. Random House or Penguin-Putnam. My titles on sale at every Barnes & Noble in the country. Doing book signings where people don’t mistake my table for an information desk or avoid making eye contact as they hurry by. Validation. Ego boost. The feeling that I’m a REAL writer at last.

It’s not about money. Perhaps it was, once, but I’ve both wised up and changed. There’s no money to be made in this, and anyway, I don’t write for the money. I write because I have to, full stop. And now that I work from home and set my own hours, I even have more time to devote to it.

So there’s my choice: 1) self-publish and get this book I really love out there while keeping control of the process, or 2) keep tilting at the windmill of mainstream publication and hope it happens someday?

My own opinion changes day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. What’s yours? Please leave a comment and help this indecisive would-be author make up her mind!

About the Author
Writer of whodunits, blog posts, humor essays, children's books, and medical copy. Either flexible or indecisive. Your choice. :)
  1. Andrew Runion Reply

    I might not be much help in answering your question, but here are my two cents on the issue. Much like the battle between journalists and bloggers, the publishing industry seems to be at an impasse. Blogging was created because journalism became the relegated domain of an elite few through a predetermined set of channels. Journalists looked down on bloggers, but just look at how things have worked out. Most of the people I know care more about what they read in their favorite blog than they do about what’s said on the Situation Room, or what George Will is saying.

    I think the current exclusivity of the publishing world will eventually go the way of the do-do as more and more people seek entertainment and enrichment off the beaten path. That said, it still may be a long way off. My advice is to keep trying with publishers, even if it may mean losing a bit of creative control. Let us know what you decide.

    • Katy Reply

      Thanks Andrew – appreciate the feedback (even if I’m more confused now than before!)

  2. JSchroeder Reply

    Do a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign!

    I’m just starting work on an Indiegogo project, but actually prefer Kickstarter for myself! Let me know if you need any help.

    • Katy Reply

      I’ve looked into it (to pay for an illustrator) – the model doesn’t work as well for books, though. But I’ll count this as a vote for self-publishing, and I hope you’ll post a link to your indiegogo project! Thanks for responding!

  3. Rhonda Ferntorp Reply

    Send me it again Katy. I loved it and I know kids will too. It’s beautifully written, one of the best I’ve seen.
    Don’t give up on your dream of getting a publisher.
    There may be one down under.

    • Katy Reply

      Rhonda, thank you so much! Yes, I’ll resend the manuscript – it would be funny if I got an Australian publisher! Would the book “play” over there, do you think? I researched it at an American SPCA, but I guess animal shelters are pretty similar, even halfway across the world.

  4. Nicky Reply

    I remember reading it years ago and thought it was very charming and poignant. Also thought it might have some potential as an animated show. Any interest in expanding your search to include TV/entertainment? Maybe adapt it into a tv script?

    • Katy Reply

      Aw – thanks Nick! It’s actually better now – what you saw was my original version. I’ve really worked on the pacing, and think it’s helped tremendously. That’s a cool idea about the animated show – I don’t have any idea how to pursue that, but I’ll look into it!

Leave a Reply


captcha *