Mary's Bio: Mary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family that allows her time to write almost every day. She grew up in the Merrimack Valley and graduated from Providence College with an English degree. So far, she's published two novels, Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear. You can find her online at www.maryrowen.com
My name is Mary Rowen, and I been writing stories all my life. My two favorite college courses were creative writing seminars, and I also taught creative writing to seventh graders for five years. In other words, even before I wrote my first novel, I considered myself a writer.
But all of that changed at a party one night. Somehow, I ended up talking to a pompous guy who informed me that his first novel was being released soon. Of course I congratulated him and asked questions about the book. Then I told him I was a writer too, and his facial expression turned cynical. “Oh,” he said. “Where have you been published?”
“Well,” I answered, laughing nervously, “I’m working on some stories. They’re in notebooks right now.”
The guy didn’t smile. “Then you’re not a real writer,” he said. “You need to publish to be taken seriously.
I excused myself from the conversation, realizing the guy was a jerk. Not to mention incorrect, because anyone who writes for enjoyment is a real writer. But the word publish got stuck in my head. Published books got into bookstores and libraries, while I had notebooks under my bed. If I didn’t do something about that, they’d stay there forever.
Almost twenty years later, I self-published my first novel, and a year after that, I began working with a hybrid publisher called Booktrope. During those twenty years, I did a lot of research, tried a lot of things, and made a bunch of mistakes. But here are some of the basics. If you’re thinking about publishing a novel, some of this may be helpful.
One of the major benefits of traditional publishers is that they pay advances to authors. They also have good relationships with large bookstores, as well as major newspapers, TV shows, and radio programs that feature authors. On the downside, traditional publishing houses won’t usually market a new book for very long. They’ll get behind it for a few weeks, but if the book isn’t selling, they’ll often backlist it (i.e.: stop marketing it), leaving the writer to market the book on her own. And once you sign a traditional publishing deal, you’ll typically have to wait a year or two before the book comes out in print. Finally, you won’t make a lot of money for each copy of your book that sells. A typical author gets between 8 and 10 percent of the cover price in royalties.
Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it’s great, if you can find readers. But as a formerly self-published author, let me tell you that doing your own marketing can be tricky, and you have to work very hard. The good news is, there are lots of things to try: sending out email newsletters, promoting your book on social media, putting chapters up on Wattpad (as Ali does!), having a launch party, making a book trailer for YouTube, asking people to review your book online, taking part in local book/art fairs, making magnets and bookmarks, asking book clubs to read your book…the list goes on. Creativity is the key. And if you’re persistent—and a bit lucky—you can really sell some books.
You’ll also need to come up with a book cover. If you’re an artist, you might be able to make your own, but if not, you’ll probably want to pay someone, or bribe one of your friends. And assuming you want to put out a professional product, you’ll need to find an editor and proofreader as well. Again, you may have friends who will do this for free, or you might decide to pay people.
In the meantime, here are some reputable hybrid publishers:
~ SheWrites Press
~ White Cloud Press
~ Turning Stone Press
Are there other ways to publish? Heck yes! One of the cool things about writing today is that new options keep popping up all the time. It’s not always easy, but I believe that any writer who wants to be published can be. You’ll probably have to work very hard and take some chances, but if you keep your eyes open and keep believing in yourself, you can achieve success.