Friday, December 20, 2013

My Path to Publishing

Katie French is a former English teacher and current High School Counselor. She's been writing since second grade and penned her first attempt at a novel at the age of thirteen. Besides writing and her job, her family comes first. Her young adult dystopian adventure series, The Breeders, is now available on Amazon.com. Learn more about Katie at www.katiefrenchbooks.com.


Life is a funny thing. Just when you think you are on one path, something unexpected comes along and WHAMO you are spun 180 and heading in the opposite direction. I feel like this is what my writing career has been like so far. But, let’s rewind, shall we?

I’ve been seriously writing for six and a half years. I've always wanted to write, but didn't get really serious until my daughter was born, because, you know, what's better for the writing muse than no sleep and a screaming infant? But I digress. In the first three years I wrote two books (one dreadful, one passably awful) and queried agents like a good girl should. Of course I was rejected. I didn't know my craft back then. But, I kept on keeping on. Then I started my third manuscript. This one felt different from the get-go. I was faster, more skilled and more dedicated. I knew the premise was worthwhile and the characters were working. I got great feedback from my critique partners (who were actually writers this time and not my friends and family). Then I took a huge step and signed up for a pitch contest with some top-name editors in New York City. I flew to NYC and pitched my heart out to editors from Penguin, St. Martin's, and Harper Collins. I got two full requests and quietly did a mini SQWEE!! It was a very exciting time and I thought for sure that this was it. I had made it. Insert Rocky- themed music and arms held above my head.

Then... the doors started slamming in my face. Ouch. 

Now, I’m not one to take no for an answer. It just isn't in my nature. I KNEW this book was good. I KNEW people would want to read it. And, to be honest, I'm pretty stubborn and pig-headed. I knew I couldn't just quit and let my dream die. It was at that point I started to do some major research on self-publishing. I was a fan of J.A. Konrath's blog where he eviscerates traditional publishers on a weekly basis. While I held no animosity toward traditional publishers, they weren't interested, so I had to look elsewhere. I read several books on digital publishing including Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran. I realized I would have to learn to be an author, publisher, and entrepreneur so I read APE by Guy Kawaski and Shawn Welch. I signed up for newsletters on websites like The Passive Voice that talked about all things indie publishing. When my brain was over-brimmed like a steaming cup of joe, I thought I might be ready for this monumental step.   

I took a big leap, despite all my fears, and self-published through Amazon and Lulu (for print editions). It was the only way my words would see the light of day and I took it, jumping in feet first, eyes closed. This time the mini SQWEE! was accompanied by a lot of heart palpitations and some bladder issues

For those of you who self-publish, you know it isn't for the faint of heart. For me, self-publishing was like querying on steroids (the nasty kind that make you grow hair in weird places). I had to send my brand new book baby out into the world without the clout of an agent or publishing house behind me. It was as scary as the time I watched The Ring alone at night in my apartment.

So what was the result you ask, other than some mildly peed pants and a lot of mini-breakdowns? Well, a year and a half in I can honestly say it's been amazing. And scary. And wonderful. And liberating. And ha-ard! The books are doing great (ranked right now in the 7000s on Amazon) and the fans have been fantastic. I love that people are reading and liking my books. I love reading the reviews. And I'm getting paid (modestly) to do something I would have done for free. Amazing.

Then came the WHAMO.

In December of 2012, I was contacted by an agent to which I had sent a full manuscript back in May of that same year. (Eight months, people. Yes, it can sometimes take that long.) Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary emailed to say she was finally reading it and was it still available? Imagine my surprise. I said yes and then disclosed that I had self-published. I thought this would be a deal-breaker and we would go along our merry way. Little did I know that Amanda would not let that sway her. She pursued me further with more emails and a phone call. A year prior I would’ve been peeing my pants and dancing in the puddle, but now I was self-published. What could an agent possibly offer me?

The bottom line is I liked Amanda, really, really liked her. She was young, energetic and in love with my book.  She had a marketing background. The thing that sold me was that she was fine with me saying I didn’t want a tiny book deal that took all my rights and control and gave me nothing in return.

So, I took another deep breath and signed. So, now I am agented. Not a lot has changed for me yet. I’m still doing my thing, blogging, writing and marketing my books, but now I have a cheerleader and adviser to help me through sticky spots. Amanda is currently in talks to secure for my series an audio book deal. (Someone reading MY books. Out loud. Freaking awesome.) We shall see what awaits. Until then, I’m still happily self-publishing and glad I did it. Right now, I’ve got the best of both worlds and everything’s coming up roses.

I'd love to hear from you with any questions you might have. Feel free to comment below. 

Jill here. To support Katie, we're doing a giveaway! Enter to win your choice of the paperback of book one, The Breeders, -OR- books one and two in ebook form. Here's a little bit about book one:

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world's last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches-- moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders' long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they're hunting Riley. 

When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender-- a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley's affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom? 

The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico-- escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is forced into the Breeder's hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother—a fate she'll share unless she can find a way out.

(FYI, this series is rated PG13 for mild swearing and moderate action violence. The content is dark the way that Hunger Games or Divergent is dark.)


And if you have questions or comments for Katie about her journey or self-publishing, please ask in the comments below.

40 comments:

  1. Wow. I've heard of published authors switching to self-publishing, but never an author getting a contract for a book she's self-published. That is so cool!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. All kinds of avenues opening up in publishing and lots of different paths to chose from. It's a great time to be a writer.

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  2. Katie's story is so encouraging since pretty soon I might be looking at publishers or self publishing(soon as in sometimes next summer or fall), and her books looks amazing because I have a weakness for dystopian AND I want to read as many(good) dystopians as possible in preparation for writing my own.

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  3. Very interesting story! It's great that she still wanted to be your agent even after you had been published! :-)

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    1. Amanda Luedeke is the best. Some agents won't do that, but there are those that are open minded.

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  4. Your story sounds really interesting! Thanks for coming today, Katie!

    -Ryebrynn

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    1. Thanks for having me on this amazing site. I love teen writers. Glad you guys have a community.

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    2. From Amo Libros:
      So are we!! Thank you so much for this post!

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  5. So cool how you're self-published and now have an agent! Thanks for sharing the story!

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  6. Very cool! This is merely curiosity, as of right now I have no plan to be self-published but, if you ARE self published, when people ask are you published, is the answer yes? Or is the answer "Well, I'm self published..."

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    1. If your book is available for sale, I'd say you are published. The stigma with self publishing is definitely fading. If you work your tail off on your book, you've vetted it, and you think it is good, I don't think there is any shame in being self published.

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    2. thank you, that answers my question!

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  7. Wow! Very interesting story. I think it's encouraging to see someone so happy and successful in their self-publishing that she doesn't want to "settle" for a minor contract. Very cool indeed.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us, Katie French, and thank you Jill for sharing through this giveaway! This looks like a really neat novel series. :)

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    1. Thanks, Georgina. Lots of paths to take in publishing these days. Thanks for reading.

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  8. Great to read Katie! I can imagine you were very surprised for an agent call after 8 months and having self-published in between, so cool!

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    1. Very surprised. Eight months is a long time between sending out a draft and hearing back, but it goes to show that you never know what's coming.

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  9. I find it interesting that she self-published, and then an agent finally replied after 8 months...wow...:) Also, cool how the agent didn't just say 'oh well', actually pursued her and her novel. Really want to read the books!

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    1. Imo, a good agent is always seeking a client who is talented (good writing) and is driven (which Katie showed in her self-publishing success) and who wants to write more books. So just because you self publish doesn't mean an agent will never be interested in working with you, as Katie is proof of! :-)

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  10. What an awesome example of someone with the will and drive to propel them into such great success. =)

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  12. This was so encouraging and inspiring! I can't wait to read the books. :)

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    1. I'm glad you liked it, Sierra. I hope you like the books.

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  13. I read an interview with someone who had gotten self-published. This is such an amazing example! I'd love to read your books, and congratulations! Your 'Path to Publishing' is really inspiring - it really sends a message; "If you want to, you can do anything." Thanks for the inspiration!

    Tabby (http://tabbys-corner.blogspot.com/)

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    1. I love that message. I am always a believer in hard work and perseverance. Thanks for responding.

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  14. Thanks Katie! Great post and amazing story!

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  15. That was awesome! I don't read many stories were the writer self-publishes and then gets an agent. (I can only think of one other author.) ^_^ That's really great for you! Congrats! And I love the sound of your book. It looks epic and creepy.

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  16. That was a great post! I've heard of self publishing, but not from someone who actually did it! The summary of your story sounds pretty awesome too!

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  17. Wow, that is so cool! I've never heard of a self-published author getting a contract with an agent before. That's great! :)

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  18. This has really inspired me as an aspirational teenager, I thought dreams of being an author were overly ambitious, now I see, that if I really want it, it's now possible!

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  19. This makes me feel really good! Except every time I read a really good storyline I think "Why didn't I think of that amazing idea?!". Haha

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  20. Sounds like an interesting story, the book and the story behind it. I'm thinking maybe I'll try to contact Amanda if I get my book to the point of being published. I've heard good things about her.

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  21. your blog is great. Having such a wonderful blog to read, I really get something special in the information.

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  22. This book sounds so interesting, I'd love to read it!

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  23. Wow, Katie you are an inspiration for many future writers. I'm glad you go your book published and I can't wait to read it! I just had one question for you, what was the hardest part on your journey to be published and how were you able to find an agent?

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  24. That was an amazing story. I have a question though: did you try to enter into any contests before you tried to publish your story?

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