The Serendipitous Path to a Publisher (Part 2)

booktrope-logoThis is Part 2…If you’re reading this blog post and haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here:

I was standing outside the Women’s Building at the Pitch-o-Rama, armed with my manuscript, business cards, and a look of grim determination. Okay, maybe not that grim, but determined, nonetheless. I’d done my research; I knew which agents and publishers I wanted to pitch my book to.  I thought this event would be good practice—I could learn to talk about my book in a clear, concise, and exciting way—even if I didn’t find an agent or publisher. I’d self-published “High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery” in 2014. It had sold well and had received many 5-star reviews. I didn’t need to find a publisher today, I could continue to self-publish. But still, did I want a “real” publisher? Yes, I did.

One of the leaders for the day explained the rules to a few dozen authors in the room: You may enter a queue to speak with an agent or publisher when the bell rings. Once it is your turn, you have seven (short!) minutes to speak with the person on the other side of the table. Once the bell rings you must leave the table and move to another line. No pushing, no shoving. (I might have made that last part up.)

When the first bell rang all the authors queued up to meet their first agent/publisher.  The line for the person I wanted to pitch to was long. The longer I stood there, the more nervous I got.

I can do this.

When it was finally my turn, I gave my best pitch to the publisher across from me.  As soon as I told her that my book had been self-published she stopped me and said she was not interested. I left the table before my time was up, realizing there was no need to continue if the answer was a definite NO. The second and third publisher representatives said they loved the story idea, but immediately told me that they were not interested in my book when they heard that I’d published it myself. Rejection. Big time rejection.

During a break I stood talking with another author and told her that pitching had not gone well for me.  She pointed to a woman across the room. “You should go see with Julia —she was previously self-published and now she’s being published by Booktrope.”

I talked with Booktrope author Julia Park Tracey and she told me about the positive experiences she had working with Booktrope. She encouraged me to submit my manuscript to her publisher. That night I sat at my computer on the Booktrope web site filling out forms and uploading my manuscript.  Then I closed my eyes, and clicked the Submit button. I didn’t expect to hear anything from Booktrope, feeling dejected after my failed pitching session.

A month later I received an exciting email from Booktrope. My book had been accepted for publication! What amazing news to find in my inbox squeezed between all the junk mail that arrives each day. I was thrilled, and I must admit, nervous to sign on with a publisher— a “real” publisher, and me, a “real” author. The serendipitous path to a publisher started when my friend told me to just “breath the air,” and in the end, through a series of twists and turns, I found my way.

Booktrope will be re-publishing my first book “High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery” with a release planned for September. And, they’ll be publishing future books in the Glass Bead Mystery series.

These days, I’m not going it alone. I’ve got a Booktrope team, and we’re working to make great books together.

We can do this.

The Serendipitous Path to a Publisher (Part 1)

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I now have a publisher! Booktrope will be re-issuing “High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery” and publishing new books in the Glass Bead Mystery series. And while this is exciting news, at least for me, the story behind how I ended up with a publisher is the stuff that good tales are made of: fear, dumb luck, bravery, and ultimately, a happy ending.

In January I sat in a cafe drinking coffee with my friend Kim. The San Francisco Writers Conference was coming up in a month and I told Kim I was thinking about going, but that I was nervous about it.  I was worried that I was not a real writer, even though I had self-published a book the previous year, and that I wasn’t professional enough to attend a conference for authors.  I hadn’t been writing for long and was worried that someone would find out that I was an impostor or that I’d embarrass myself by being such a newbie.

Kim told me to go and just “breathe the air” at the conference. She encouraged me by saying that I didn’t need to do anything but be there and absorb what information I could.  The next day I sat at my computer, shut my eyes, and I clicked the Submit button on the registration form for the conference. I was going.  And I was nervous.

A month later I stood outside the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, ready to dive in.

I can do this.

I had arrived ridiculously early, so I sat in the lobby chatting with a couple from out of town, giving them sightseeing advice. When it was time for the first session, I filed into a large conference room with the rest of the attendees. The first thing that the moderator did was ask anyone who had brought a book with them that they had written to hold it above their head. I held up my empty hand and told to the moderator in my strongest voice that I had sold the book I brought to the tourists in the lobby.  Maybe the weekend was going to be okay after all.

I hadn’t signed up to do the the Pitch-a-Thon, that was over-the-top intimidating to me. For the uninitiated, a pitch-o-thon is like speed-dating with agents and publishers, instead of potential mates. Authors move from table to table pitching their story in 4 minute segments with the hope that an agent or publisher will be interested in seeing a full manuscript. The prospect of pitching my book scared the hell out of me, so instead I went and sat on a bench in the park across from the hotel, soaking in the sun during the pitching session. I had breathed enough conference air for the day.

Janice with High Strung manuscript

Here I am at the San Francisco Writers Conference with my manuscript. Note the nervous smile.

In the final hours of the conference, I sat at a round table in a ballroom with many other attendees. I’d learned a lot about book marketing and I’d found other new authors like me who were there to learn and to meet people who had a love of words, books, and stories. I was feeling good. Maybe I wasn’t an impostor after all.

There was a raffle and I won a prize—a free pass to go to a Pitch-o-Rama hosted by the Women’s National Book Association in San Francisco. Ugh! Of all the prizes, this was the one that I didn’t want. I was going to have to pitch my book to publishers and agents.  And I was scared as hell all over again.

Emboldened by my success at the writers conference, I decided I would go and pitch.

I can do this.

Here’s Part 2:


Lessons Learned in Napa


I had a mini-vacation in Napa last weekend. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about how to live well on that trip, and not just which cabernet sauvignon I like best (I like most of them.)

Here’s my list of lessons learned in Napa:

Reading a book from cover-to-cover is awesome.

I read Colin Cotterill’s “Six and a Half Deadly Sins” all the way through, with only brief pauses to eat and sleep. I don’t take time to sit and read like that at home, in long stretches. Instead I’m always rushing off to the next thing, filling the hours with email, writing and editing, the occasional quilt square, the gym, working in my studio making glass beads, and sculpting clay. Sitting and reading a really good page-turner of a book with no distractions was bliss. I will remember to spend more time indulging in the pure joy of reading.

Sitting in hot mud is better than it sounds.

I wish I could come up with a good metaphor about taking a mud bath—like: once you’re up to your eyeballs in mud, you need to pick yourself up, scrape yourself off, and get back to work. Or, when you’ve landed in the mud, you have hit rock bottom, and the only place to go is up. But really, all I can say is that spending a little time in a giant pit of volcanic mud is relaxing. Then, after the attendants haul you out of it, you can soak in a mineral bath until all the black grit is gone from the various unmentionable areas of your body.  Lesson learned:  Doing weird things can be fun and relaxing, and may even help get rid of some extra toxins in your body. Or maybe not, I don’t know if I even have toxins.

Drinking a glass of wine at 5 o’clock is therapeutic.

Okay, I already know this, but I was reminded as I sat on the front porch of our little bungalow at Indian Springs in Calistoga. Chatting with my husband while drinking wine is a fantastic way to relax after a long day.  Even if our long day was full of soaking in the 98 degree pool, having a massage, reading, and eating at my favorite restaurant—it was still long and full of activity.  I’ll remember this too, next time we need to slow down and talk about our day. We’ll sit on our back deck while the sun goes down and clink glasses. Or, maybe we’ll just sit and talk with no wine glasses, relaxing a little every day, and not just when we’re on vacation.

Being spontaneous can lead to drinking champagne.

As we drove through Napa and on to Calistoga, I saw a sign for Chandon.  “Hey!  Let’s go wine tasting!” I said to my husband. I swung a quick U-turn and within minutes we were standing at the tasting bar with glasses of pink champagne. And we were chatting with our new friend Lisa behind the counter who had decided we needed to taste every kind of sparkling wine Chandon made.  Lisa used words like “gorgeous” to describe wine.  I liked her for that, and for her generosity in pouring wine samples.

Sometimes that best thing to do is swim instead of sleep.

I don’t have a pool, nor access to one late at night, so the chance to swim in the middle of the night was special.  Often I’d be asleep at 11:30, but while on this mini-vacation I took a couple of midnight swims with my daughter. It was a lovely, relaxing way to get ready for bed, and to hear about what my daughter did each day at the music festival she attended.

But the main lesson, really, is to not forget the lessons—to remember how it was when I could read a book straight through, when I wasn’t a slave to email, when it was okay to stay up late to do something unusual. To fully embrace this world and its possibilities.  To relax, to live, to be in Napa…in my mind.