Post #50: The Path to Publication, Part 1



Thanks, Benjamin, for inviting me to post on The Almost Right Words about the publication of my book, SAD JINGO. It’s an honor and a privilege, and I’m grateful.

You mentioned in an earlier post that my book took a nontraditional path to publication. You are right. But also wrong. Let me explain (don’t worry, I hate riddles, too).

I wrote the book in the late 1990s and with it was able at last to secure an agent. The agent was an eager young fellow named Jeff Rutherford, who at the time was a junior member of the Denise Marcil Literary Agency. He repped the book long and hard, and nearly sold it to HarperCollins, where Larry Ashmead, an eminent editor who has since passed away and has had an annual editing award named after him, wanted to buy it for the hardcover side. But HarperCollins at the time had a strict “hard/soft” policy, meaning it only bought books for hardcover that it also was willing to reprint later in paperback, thereby foregoing what could become expensive crapshoot auctions for reprint rights (not that I’m presuming anything for JINGO, honest). Unfortunately for Jeff and me, Mr. Ashmead’s counterpart on the softcover side didn’t like the book so much, so there was no deal.

Some time passed. I wrote another book that Jeff didn’t like as much, and neither did editors. I got discouraged. My wife and I had two kids. I stood on a street corner across the street from the World Trade Center one September morning and watched the world change. Time passed.

I guess you could call it a midlife crisis, or maybe the kids got old enough that I could no longer blame them for not having the time to write, but eventually I got back in the writing saddle and began working again, on novels and short pieces. And in the background, SAD JINGO still loomed, sort of a 65,000-word version of The One That Got Away.

Fortunes changed for my former agent, but still friend, Jeff Rutherford, too. Agenting didn’t pan out, and he moved on to form his own PR agency, and kept in touch.

And then the ebook revolution happened.

My erstwhile agent Jeff Rutherford started up an ebook publishing company. He asked me if he could publish SAD JINGO.  I demurred for a while, fearing it was a friend feeling sorry for another friend and doing him a favor. He insisted that was not the case. I tried Two Dollar Radio. No luck. Hard Case Crime — Charles Ardai said send it in, but I decided not to, as it really isn’t crime and I don’t want to waste people’s time (I know, I’m nuts). I went to the Algonkian Pitch and Shop and heard lots of feedback about the book. The instructor wanted me to change the title to SYMPATHY FOR A PSYCHOPATH. The nice folks who wrote YA books and urban fantasy smiled politely and endured my turns in the discussion groups. The editors invited to hear the pitch all passed, but one.

I sent my sample and synopsis to Akashic Books at that kind editor’s request.

Months passed.

Jeff called. How’s it going, he asked. Fine, I told him. Still interested in publishing SAD JINGO, you know, he said. Thanks, I said, but you’re not just doing me a favor, are you? No, man, I think it’s good.

So after the third or fourth email correspondence with Akashic about how the editor still hadn’t gotten to the book, I decided to join the revolution and withdraw the book from a traditional publisher in favor of going with my gut and the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of my friend, former agent, and now publisher, Jeff Rutherford and his company, Delabarre Publishing.

But there was one issue: How to make the book professional. Which means editing. Copy editing.

And there was another rub. In the decade since almost selling it, I’d revised it. “Updated” it. I now had two versions. One of the two main characters was significantly different in the later version.

What to do?

In my next post, I’ll talk about hiring a freelance editor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s