Monday, February 3, 2014


            Although it seems like another lifetime ago, I remember vividly the moment I decided that  I was going to write a book.    I had just finished reading another romance novel and I thought I can do this   I mean, I had been editor-in-chief of my school paper, won a writing award from the Courier News, and was infamous among by friends and family for writing short, entertaining stories about people I imagined were real.  How hard could it be to turn all that talent into a 300 page book?

            Over the course of the next few months, I sat down at the word-processor and banged out a story that spanned about 320 pages.  With absolutely no idea of what I was doing, I opened up the front cover of one of my favorite books, copied the address of the publisher from the inside pages onto a manila envelope, stuffed in the manuscript  and sent it off to wait for fortune and glory.
            Well that was on a Thursday.  By Monday it was back in my mailbox.   I figured someone at the publisher’s had made a mistake, so I put it in another manila envelope and sent it back out.  That was Tuesday.  By Friday it was back.

            Now it was a mystery.

            That Saturday I was attending my first professional writers meeting with Barbara Brenton, now a NY Times Best-selling author, back then a Harlequin author.  I had met Barbara in a bank in Hillsborough a week or two earlier and, while standing in the teller line, we got to talking and she spoke about this wonderful writers’ group and thought I should join..

            For some reason, a little voice inside my head advised me not to say anything about my “submission..”  so in a rare moment of sanity, I listened to it.

            After the meeting I knew why my manuscript had come back in record time.

            It was not formatted correctly, had no page numbers, no chapters,  no synopsis, no query letter, everyone but the kitchen sink had a role in the story and both the hero and heroine ended up dead.  Some romance, huh?

            I NEVER told anyone what I did – until now.

            While we all have heard the story about a manuscript written on lined yellow legal paper, in pencil, with coffee stains on the bottom with an editor liking it so much that she just had to publish it, and then it sold a hundred cajillion copies, the reality is that it doesn’t happen very often.   Maybe once in a hundred cajillion submissions.

In today’s tight market and with the advent of independent publishing, the competition for the available publishing slots, especially for first books, is incredible.  To give your manuscript the best chance for one of them, even before your great story gets read, you need to know the submission guide lines.  Or at the very least – have page numbers and chapters!
Seriously, though, sometimes there is a question niggling in the back of your mind but you think it is not relevant enough to ask.  Not true.  Here’s you chance.  Ask away.

I’ll answer the one you probably want to ask of me.  Yes, I did eventually get the manuscript in proper format and submit it correctly.  While it did come back with a rejection  letter, not in a few days  but rather in a more respectable few months, I was told that my greatest strengths were plotting and pacing.  So I went to every writer’s meeting I could attend and soaked up the information like a sponge.  And although that particular manuscript occupies a place of honor in the bottom drawer of my desk, I did get fifteen others published and am working on a new venture called The Sons of Lost Civilizations, a romantic fantasy trilogy that I hope to submit to the very same publisher who sent my first manuscript back on the first UPS truck out of New York

It was other writers who helped me get my stories out of my head and into print.   Now I’d like to help the published and hopefully unpublished in any way I can.



  1. :) I think we all have stories like that! Hilarious, (and all too reminiscent.) I have found this community - writers - to be one of the most cooperative businesses I've ever experienced.

  2. Okay I have a question that probably isn't related to this as it should be. I have published four self published books. I have not published with an electronic publisher or regular publisher large or small so would I be considered a first time author if I submitted a manuscript to a mystery line?

    Pamela James

    1. I think you would be considered a first-time author. Most publishing houses whether print or electronic want you to have a book out via the traditional process before you can submit with a synopsis and partial as opposed to a full manuscript. Hope I helped

  3. Yep. Been there. Done that. I've also gone to the opposite extreme and given up on a manuscript too soon, then came back later and realized that one rejection isn't the end of the world.

  4. Ditto and not in the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore good kind of ditto. LOL

  5. Boy-o-boy does your article bring back memories. I still have the very first manuscript I sent off. I pull it out every now and again to remind me how much I've learned, and still learning in this crazy business of writing.

  6. Thanks for sharing. It's nice that we can look back and laugh at those experiences. I remember when my first pitch resulted in a request for a "partial" I think my response was "a partial what?"

  7. Ah, yes. My first book was more than 800 pages long, and I was *stunned* when I got my rejection post card within three days. Stunned, I tell ya. I mean, how could these fools not understand the pure genius of my work?
    Yeah...I've grown a little since then.

  8. Thanks for this great and honest story. Sigh. Always so much to learn. And the miracle is.. we learn it as long as we don't give up. And end up so grateful for all the kind and creative minds who walk the path with us as we grow.

  9. Since I tend to be spare with words, I never thought I could write a 60,000 word novel. Thinking up ideas and following through with them was a challenge so I just did not try until I joined a critique group. Everyone wrote novels. I wanted to stay with the group for their excellent advice and so I jumped in and went to work. The critiques I received were on the mark and I learned as I wrote. Believe it or not, I sold the novel, ECHO OF LOVE, with my head held high. Since then, I've had published by Desert Breeze SECRET TO HOLD, and have sold THE CHASE which is to come out in the summer. Two books are finished but I haven't sent them out to a publisher as yet. Unbelievable, but I've done it. Thanks for sharing your experience.