Saturday, July 21, 2012

ON TOUR: So You Want to Publish a Book—One Writer's Publishing Journey

So you want to publish a book and have no idea how to go about it. My own publishing journey is chronicled in the 365 Lessons I wrote in 2010. Each person who has published a book has his/her own experience of the process. The best part about having a blog is all the great bloggers and writers I've had the fortune of coming in contact with. Hemmie Martin, UK author, is one of those people. I believe I met Hemmie on Twitter and later discovered her blog called Hemmie-isms and found that she too had a first novel coming out around the same time as mine.

Her book, The Divine Pumpkin, is a very engaging story about Forensic Nurse Paloma Parker who appears to have her life in order except for a meaningful relationship. During her counseling sessions with a young offender named Ella, she discovers a connection she never expected to find. I loved this book so much and was completely drawn up in the characters' lives. I was particularly fascinated with how Paloma's life ran so parallel to that of Ella's life, the young offender who she was counseling. It seemed like they both had so much to learn from one another and that they weren't that different from one another when we were able to get a closer look at their lives. Interestingly, Hemmie is not only a writer, but has also worked as a Forensic Nurse working with young offenders. I wondered how much of her life experience found its way into the book.

Do you find that is true in the work that you do? Do we have a lot to learn from people who live on the margins of society or who have committed an unspeakable crimes?

I believe we all have a lot to learn from one another, no matter where we are in the social structure imposed by life. Some people are able to overcome adversity, some people can do jobs others couldn't imagine doing, whilst some people are exceedingly charitable and forgiving. Life is one long learning process, we never stop and we never know enough.

And here are my questions to Hemmie about her publishing experience. Enjoy and I hope you are able to learn from her book publishing process. Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section!

1. When did you become a writer or decide you wanted to write? When did you decide to write The Divine Pumpkin in particular?

I suppose I would count writing a diary through my teenage years as part of becoming a writer, as it was something I've always loved doing. I have also written professional articles in the past, so writing has always been part of my life in one way or another. I decided to write The Divine Pumpkin in the beginning of 2011.

2. You also have a blog called Hemmie-isms. Do you think it is necessary for book writers to also have blogs and/or websites?

I think it is important as it shows potential publishers and agents that you have an on-line presence and that you are willing to promote yourself and your book. I didn't have a Facebook account, but the publishers requested that I get one and have a fan page—which all felt weird. I'm still not overly keen on FB but I do love Twitter. I also joined Goodreads where authors and writers 'meet' and there are lots of free books being given away, and it's a great place to discuss books.

3. Can you describe your journey to publication for other writers hoping to get a book published. Did you write the manunscript first and seek a publisher after? Did you submit your book to several publishing houses? Do you have an agent or do you think it is necessary for a first time author to have an agent? What are your thoughts on self publishing?

I first began seeking an agent after I wrote my first novel, which I now know was a mistake, as it was too raw and poorly crafted. The Divine Pumpkin was actually my 4th novel and the others will never see the light of day, except Attic of the Mind. I wasn't really aware of indie publishers and I knew that other publishers wouldn't see a manuscript unless sent via an agent. I believed that without an agent I would never be published. I had actually decided to try and self-publish in 2012. My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas so I could see what it looked like. However, I received a contract from Winter Goose Publishing in Dec. 2011. So no, I don't believe it is necessary to have an agent, and if all routes are seemingly closed, then self-publishing is a very real option.

4. Yes, I noticed that Attic of the Mind is due out February 2013! Congratulations! Is that story similar to The Divine Pumpkin? In what ways are they similar or different? Can you give us a synopsis of the next book?

Thanks! This one leans more towards a psychological thriller in some ways, but like The Divine Pumpkin, it does explore people's behaviours and why they may respond to life the way they do. I love people watching in real life and so I love to people watch in my books too. The story revolves around secrets, deception and fear between four people who meet up again after twenty-five years.

5. How did you discover Winter Goose Publishing?

Winter Goose Publishing followed me on Twitter first. I was curious to know more about them, and when I saw they were open to submissions I decided to send off The Divine Pumpkin. Twitter truly offered me what I was looking for, as Winter Goose Publishing has an extremely supportive and talented team. Their philosophy is to nurture and develop their writers, and it shows in the way they deal with me.

6. Have you written anything else for publication?

My second novel is already with my editor for us to work on shortly, and I am writing the first draft of my third novel.

7. How long did it take you to write it?

The whole process of writing, re-writing and editing took about a year.

8. Did you keep a writing schedule? When did you do most of your book writing?

I try and write everyday so I remain in the 'zone', and also because I love writing and it makes me feel content. However, life does sometimes get in the way, but I don't feel racked with guilt if I can't write, I just accept it and hope to write the next day.

9. Do you have a writing or a critique group that helped you in your book writing process?

I don't belong to a writing group, although I'm aware that it would be a good thing to do. Perhaps I'm too anti-social to join such a group? 

10. What was the editing process of this book like for you? Did you have to do a lot of revisions with the publisher, or did they accept most of the manuscript as it was?

I did four edits before I sent it to the publisher. I was nervous about working with an editor, but there was no need as he was fantastic to work with. It was a liberating experience and I only lost 3,000 words of the novel, although by the 5th and final edit, I was beginning to type in my sleep!

11. Did you receive a contract for both books at the same time and/or were both manuscripts completed when you first approached Winter Goose Publishing?

I approached the publishers with The Divine Pumpkin first as they were looking for contemporary women's fiction at that time, even though I had written Attic of the Mind two years previously. I sent 'Attic' to them just before 'Pumpkin' was due to be published, and was delighted when they wanted to publish it. 

12. Do you have any advice for first time authors who are trying to get a book published?

Never, ever give up. They say that a published author is a persistent author. I know I was fed up of reading this when I was trying to get published, and all I can say is, I'm sorry to repeat the message, but it's true. Keep the faith and keep strong. Even when rejections pile up, keep writing new stories, learn about the craft and read, read, read. And don't take the rejection personally.

13. What other advice to you have for writers?

You'll need some self-belief, as some days you will feel that you'll never get published and that your writing is inadequate. I feel that my writing is never as good as another author when I read someone else's novel, but I understand that many of us feel  that way, having spoken to other authors. Personally, when I got 3 or 4 rejections for one novel, I began writing another one. I write books that I would like to read, I don't write for the current trend as that would change by the time of my book's publication. However, I had such a belief in 'Attic' that I persisted to work on it until it was fit for publication. I am constantly learning about the craft and I never feel I have all the knowledge I need. It's an evolving process.

Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France, and currently lives in Essex with her husband, two teenage daughters, one house rabbit and two guinea pigs.

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