This week we have a special Getting the Call from someone who knows all sides of the publishing business. Danielle Ackley-McPhail is an accomplished writer who also happens to be the project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books. (I do believe I had a partial with them before my novel got placed elsewhere. That makes us family, just like a visit to Olive Garden.) Thanks so much for sharing your story and your colorful cover art, Danielle. Perhaps if readers have some questions for you in the comments, you might shed some light from the publisher's perspective. Tips for promoting new books being high in my own thoughts.
Getting Making the Call: Danielle Ackley-McPhail
Sheer. Dumb. Luck.
Yes, those three words say it all. Way back in my misspent
youth I volunteered on the AOL message board The Amazing Instant Novelist. The
board was as a support group for aspiring writers. They held two weekly
contests and had many discussion boards where people could post their writing for
feedback from the site’s dedicated staff, as well as fellow posters.
Eventually I showed up—and commented—often enough I was
asked to become official. NOVL tGift was born. This meant that in addition to
doing what I was already doing, I also “hung” out with the staff in private
chat rooms. The primary topic, of course, was writing.
I can’t tell you how many ideas came from my participating
in this site.
No, really…if you asked, I couldn’t do it.
What I can tell you is that without those private chat
sessions my first novel never would have been published. Yesterday’s Dreams
started out as a story. Just a basic idea of a pawnshop specializing in items
linked to a person’s soul. One story turned into a couple of chapters, and so
on. The feedback was great, the story fun, but I didn’t realize for a long time
that I was writing a novel. Initially I was posting the chapters on line as I
wrote them with hokey little animated gifs and everything. See, at that time
AOL was just starting to offer free home pages to their members. I wasn’t very
good at it, but I had fun playing with their set-up software.
Let me tell you, though…You can put as many links as you
want to email the author, but it virtually never happens. I think for the three
years it was posted I received maybe
five emails commenting on the story and site. But you know…that was all it
See, one of those emails…It was someone claiming to be an
agent. They wanted to see the story when I was done because “they knew a couple
of publishers who might be interested”.
All of a sudden I was writing a novel.
Now you might think that would be motivation for me to get
You would be wrong. Oh, not because I didn’t want to. No.
Because I had no friggin’ idea what I was doing! It took me another two years
to finish that novel. When I was done it was, as they say, a hot mess. But you
know, that guy was still around, so I figured what the heck. I emailed him and
very quickly got a response. “Great! Email it to me and I’ll take a look.”
Oh! No no no! (That was what went through my head.) See,
email submissions were less formal and less common then. I had all kinds of
nightmares of having finished this thing and having it stolen out from under
me. Of course, I wasn’t going to turn away from the opportunity either. The
first thing I did was print out a copyright registration form and fill it out,
print the manuscript, and package it up for UPS. Then I went hunting. I checked
out the guy’s member profile and found a link to a publishing website. I
visited that site and did some digging. Eventually I found a phone number and I
Most of the time you hear dead silence it’s a bad thing,
Nope. Not this time the receptionist answers and I ask if
the person emailing me is connected with the company. She goes quiet for all of
about a minute and then says. “He’s the publisher.”
I immediately hit send (and mailed my package) and then
proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually I received a very apologetic
email and an offer.
Now before you start to hate me for having it too easy this
was the smallest of small presses and about all they officially did for me was
get my foot in the door and give me a rather shaky credibility that I had to
build up considerably over the years. Unofficially? They showed me the
possibilities…and I ran with them.
You want to know how? Please do visit my official website,
www.sidhenadaire.com, and take a look at what I have accomplished over the last
ten years based on recognizing possibilities.
author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry
for over seventeen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s
Promise, and The Halfling’s Court,
and the writers guide, The Literary
Handyman. She edits the Bad-Ass
Faeries anthologies and Dragon’s Lure,
and has contributed to numerous other anthologies.