I'm still having difficulty considering myself a writer for the simple reason that I don't have an agent and simply won a contest. Nevertheless, I thought that I might chronicle the process of being published so others can see some of the process and so that I can figure it out myself. To that end, I should start at the beginning.The beginning is, of course, the book. I had self-published a book a few years back, but I never learned how to do the publicity side of things, so I didn't have a lot of luck with it. Despite that, I wanted to give it another go because I do enjoy writing. I brainstormed on several ideas, and by the time I had thought everything through I had a rough outline for a story. The story can sometimes be the easiest part. It is the characters that can be a pain. I spent a lot of time thinking about that main character. Should he be lovable, comical, grumpy? Should he stand out in a crowd for a good reason or a bad reason? What does he want out of life? Can he achieve that? I answered a lot of questions that would never make it into the story, but they made the character seem more real to me. I wrote in my spare time during the Spring Semester and over the summer. There isn't much spare time in the life of a teacher, husband, and father, but I scratched some out and my wife was always very generous at making sure that I could find some time. It took a few months, but I finally completed my rough draft. Then I read through it myself. If there is one thing that I have discovered it is that I forget half of what I write and can actually surprise myself with my own writing. I know, it's weird. I'm considering getting help. My wife and a friend beta read it for me. I highly recommend finding beta readers for your stories. A good beta reader can be an invaluable resource. Once they were finish, I contemplated what to do with my new novel.
I was seriously considering self-publishing again. It can be a great tool and some writers have had tremendous success with it. While I was contemplating it I stumbled across mention of a writing contest. I've never bothered entering one because they either have a steep cost or an ridiculous set of requirements, but I decided to check it out anyways. The contest was on the website www.authorsfirst.com (a great resource for writers. Everyone should check it out!) and as soon as I arrived I found the contest rules. I read through me multiple times before deciding that the generous requirements and lack of entry fee made for a good fit. I had a friend proofread the book (thanks Mrs. G!) and sent it end a little before the deadline. the next thing that came was the part that I understand every author has to go through: waiting. The contest entry deadline was September I believe, but the winners wouldn't be announced until December. I understand that this kind of waiting is typical for many authors when trying to get an agent or submitting manuscripts to publishers. It is agonizing. I haven't always been known for my patience. As the time for the announcement of winners approached, I started making preparations to self-publish my novel. My wife and I spent some time trying to put together some cover art (thanks for working with me on that sweetie! I know it wasn't easy) and I started thinking of what I could do differently to promote my book that I didn't do last time. The email from Lou Aronica at The Story Plant didn't come as a complete surprise. I figured it was a polite form email thanking me for entering the contest but that they had chosen someone else, etc. When I read the words "Congratulations, you are the inaugural winner of..." My brain kind of froze. Mrs. G asked what was wrong and I handed her my phone with the email on it. She shouted and gave me a hug and handed it to Mrs. Edwards who did the same thing. It took a long while to set in. I contacted Mr. Aronica to make certain that the email was genuine. He assured me that it was and tolerated my nervous joking as I asked him what I needed to do. He explained to me what would be happening over the next few days and what would be happening in the longer term. I don't know if he has a lot of experience dealing with nervous, naive amateur writers but he does it quite well. The obligatory call to my wife, mother, and friends out of the way, I started down the path of becoming a published writer. So what were the things that Mr. Aronica described to me as part of the process? That will be described later. This is still an ongoing process, and I am still overwhelmed. Maybe some of you wonder why I am bothering to write about is when so many people have been published, but if you are an amateur writer like me, you have no idea how this works. I know that I haven't gone through the process of getting an agent or writing submissions. I'm an accidental author, and I know that I will be going through those difficulties eventually, but for now I'd like to share the light at the end of the tunnel.