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 took.
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 it done.
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 called.
Most of the time you hear dead silence it’s a bad thing, right?
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.
Bio: Award-winning 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.
She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). Learn more at www.sidhenadaire.com.