Your dream is likely
to find an agent, then a publisher, get a huge advance, and hook an
Although a stigma is still
attached to self-publishing, there are times when self-publishing is
not only the sole alternative, but also the best alternative.
was a story I had to write. While driving in the Colorado countryside,
I came across a meadow ringed by mountains and I heard in my heart, a
very clear word. Write a screenplay about a girl in a wagon
train going to the California Gold Rush. The entire story
played out to me. The problem was I had never written a screenplay,
much less knew what one looked like. I had no knowledge of the
screenwriting program, “Final Draft.”
After much wrestling over
whether or not I was hearing from God or just going crazy, I used the
Internet to research the trails the wagon trains took to California in
the 1800s. I found the story I thought I had made up the Mountain
Meadow Massacre. I cried when I read the story and knew that not only
would I have to write it, but also I had no doubt that it would become
I wrote the novel September
Dawn after the screenplay was already in pre-production. I
had done a lot of research to maintain historical accuracy and had
drawn my characters in order to clearly demonstrate their character
motivation within the tapestry of history. It’s important to know your
characters and setting while writing a screenplay. Like poetry, a
screenplay has to be tightened up every word must count.
So much was left unsaid in the
movie because of time limits. That is why I wrote the novel. However,
like all other first-time novelists, although I had an agent, I still
suffered a series of rejections. As time went by, and the movie’s
release date approached, I faced serious time constraints. I wanted to
capitalize on the opening of the movie by having the book released
around the same time. But my agent told me that no publisher could or
would put it out that fast. My editor, Kathi Macias, recommended that I
go the self-publishing route. She had self-published with terrific
results and suggested Authorhouse.
I was disappointed not to be
able to use a traditional publisher but realized I couldn’t miss that
window of opportunity. I discovered some very famous and hugely
successful authors had started their writing careers by
self-publishing. Some of them continue to self-publish because, as one
author told me, “I get to keep all the money.”
Jack Canfield self-published his
first book. When he and Mark Victor Hansen compiled their first Chicken
Soup for the Soul book, 140 publishers turned them down. At
over 170 million books and still counting, they are among the most
successful authors on the planet.
Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich
Dad, Poor Dad, which has been on the NY Times Bestseller
Lists for seven years, self-published after being turned down by
countless publishers and agents.
I’ve learned that unless you are
a best-selling author, most publishing houses won’t help you with
advertising. So even if you publish through a traditional publisher,
you are still expected to self-promote your book. It took me a while to
realize that I needed to learn how to market my books myself.
I am now writing two other
books, the first is an inspirational self-help book for which I already
have an offer. (I’m still deciding whether to name my inspirational
book The Answer to Miracles or The Answer
to Life. Help me out here and tell me what you think.) But
this is my dilemma. Do I wait one-two years to see my baby published,
or do I do it myself? Because I am learning everything I can about
marketing and promotion, I should be well-equipped to promote the books
myself. In my
case, my main concern is timing.
My second book is called The Ohana,
which means family in Hawaiian. Spanning the 20th century, it is a
historical family saga about three generations of three families in
Hawaii. On its completion, I will be faced with the same
If you are an author trying to
decide which route to go, I would certainly first try to get an agent
and a traditional publisher. However, getting an agent can be as
difficult as getting a publisher. Good agents are typically busy and it
is difficult to sift the good agents from the sharks. Warning. Never
use agents who charge “reading fees.” Also, beware of agents who send
you to “professional editors,” who are most likely to give a kickback
to the referring agents. Look for good, credible editors on your own
before you send your manuscript to an agent. Get recommendations from
fellow authors. Otherwise, do your homework and Google the agents and
the editors. A great resource is the Preditors and Editors Web site
Finding agents, editors, and
publishers takes a great amount of time, sometimes as long as a year.
But if you have the time and a great manuscript, it may be worthwhile.
Even so, be ready to market your book yourself.
If you don’t want to wait and
you can afford to self-publish, this might be the ticket for you. It
may be the only way if you can’t get an agent or a publisher. Your
dream is likely to find an agent, then a publisher, get a huge advance,
and hook an editor who believes in your book so much that he or she
helps you promote it. Unless you’re Jenna Bush, Hillary Clinton, or
Barrack Obama, I wouldn’t count on that happening.
Authorhouse was great. They
provided me with a wonderful finished copy. Their costs are fair and
they are very professional. They run promotions where an author can buy
advertising in major newspapers at reduced prices and periodically have
book sales for their authors. I have never encountered a problem with
them. I would definitely recommend them. Who knows? You might be the
next Jack Canfield or Robert Kiyosaki.
If you are keen to try your hand
turning your novel into a screenplay, I am offering a free ebook of my
screenplay and the double blue one line which is the daily production
schedule with proof of purchase of my book, September Dawn.
Meanwhile, keep writing, and
never give up.