I Got Published
By Daniel Pann
People kept saying, "You should write a book." So I did. The process was akin to watching cheese age. It had to be done, took forever, stunk at times, but the results were satisfying. My journey encompassed the better part of two years, from scribbling thoughts onto paper, to the moment author copies were dropped onto our porch.
Everyone has their own approach to writing, some of it methodical, some of it sporadic, and some of it weird; but my style would reveal a growing feeling of frustration, and ultimately resulted in the sure-fire method, "whatever works."
One magazine suggested surrounding oneself with sights, sounds and pictures associated with the particular genre he/she was writing about. I chose not to employ this strategy because "genre" wasn't something I wanted to admit doing, especially in the presence of my friends. Another told of a fellow who hung clipboards around his house, each one representing a different chapter. He'd flitter back and forth whenever inspiration struck, jotting down this or that until his literary light shut off. I opted out of that exercise also due to the high cost of boards, string, pencils and paper, not to mention wear and tear on shoes.
My original venue was lying in bed with a spiral notebook and black pen. I could afford one of each. Unfortunately, from a reclining position gravity causes ink to run backwards, a process taking about thirty seconds, seriously hampering any attempts at inspiration. I broke down and bought a pencil even though I didn't agree with the clipboard guy's style, but at least there was no waiting for ink to reverse itself. Later the trusty computer was introduced, which wasn't without its own pitfalls – like when an "insufficient memory" warning flashed after I'd only typed seven words, or the times I accidentally hit the delete button instead of save. Still it was faster than longhand.
A couple of Christmases later, the piece was complete and I now had this stack of papers called a manuscript. It was about the size of a phonebook and at first blush, read like one. By the time every rejection letter had been collected, it might as well be converted to a manhole cover, but that will come later.
I remember reading about the importance of securing a publisher, which made sense to me, seeing I needed someone to make my effort look like the real thing. A few quick calls with a mouthful of bologna sandwich and extra crunchy chips would have done the trick, but industry standards stress the need for procedure, protocol and presentation. Seems editors are a persnickety lot, and presumably busy as well. Something about the factoid, "less than ten percent of submissions get accepted" demands budding authors to follow the ancient rules handed down from Uncle Ralph, Casey Writeminder or Edith P. Editor. (Nobody really knows where they came from.)
These instructions include words and guidelines I'm not comfortable with. For example:
1. The Query letter. (What's so strange about a letter, and if true, I'm not going to write one for fear of getting arrested.)
2. Simultaneous Submission. (Who wants to be humiliated by two people at the same time?)
3. S.A.S.E. (Secret code for "Stop Anticipating Something Encouraging.")
4. No phone/fax. (Sounds immoral)
A more seasoned author said this was all normal stuff and part of the publishing process, so I grudgingly went along, though keeping an eye open for any Literary agents.
I made a list of publishers and tried to match my genre with theirs. For the most part success was achieved with the exception of when I accidentally tried to pair my book on ministerial experiences with a company that specialized in kitty litter boxes. Surprisingly, that was my first rejection.
Others would follow like past due notices, and each letter opened the door of discouragement a bit more. After six months of "Sorry, your work is not a good fit for us, might we suggest a writing group," or, "Have you considered selling toothpaste door to door," my wife dropped another envelope in my lap. Knowing what was inside, I tossed it onto the sofa. Later that night we read the good news together. I had finally been accepted by a publishing company. We celebrated over Chinese food and a fortune cookie. (I think we both got sick.)
Contacts, edits, re-writes and proofs would follow. A final chore was picking out an attractive book cover. My first choice arrived via email and showed a guy laughing at the sky – or maybe himself, I'm not sure. He looked a lot like Goober. I knew I was ugly, but was that supposed to be me? I settled for a cross in the background rather than the unknown happy mechanic.
The big day came with author copies via pony express. Later bulk purchases were delivered for promotion and distribution. My first book signing was complete with grape juice for toasting and a birthday pen I'd been saving for such an occasion as this. I autographed thirteen copies. Not knowing how much was in excess, I launched into a dissertation on freshwater crabs before someone politely suggested ten words and my signature would suffice.
What to do with the remaining supply. Mother wants a dozen, my granddaughters – age six months and four years – each want one for a teething ring and coloring book, in that order. I overheard a comment from elsewhere about using my picture on the back to keep mice out of cupboards. I suppose I could contact the local paper, stop by a few bookstores, email some friends.......
God has a way of keeping us humble. One of the first recipients called to inform he'd found an error on page forty six. I asked if he wanted his money back, but he graciously declined. He's since found another so whenever the book is finished, maybe he'll return it with regrets.
Looking back, the fun has just begun. I have yet to see any royalty. (Does that mean Prince Charles is supposed to visit?)
There are three more books in progress, I love/hate them all, still I would encourage anyone with a desire to write, do your homework...before graduating from high school. Become familiar with the aforementioned writing terminology, and oh, one more thing...learn how to blog ( abbreviated computer lingo for a round slice of meat surrounded by two pieces of bread; mustard optional).
Dr. Daniel E. Pann has pastored churches for twenty four years. He and Cindy reside in southern Michigan along with their children and two grandchildren. His first book, A Pregnant Woman Beat Me, released by PublishAmerica, can be purchased online at PublishAmerica, Amazon.com and Barnesandnobel.com" His second book, Fished All Night For Nothing. is scheduled for release by Tate Publishing in September 2005.
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