A Better Way to Publish – maybe?

Authors are not limited in their choices; we can choose the process that works best for us.

Authors are not limited in their choices; we can choose the process that works best for us.


Last time I wrote about the downfalls of traditional publishing. This time I want to begin to look at some alternatives to the traditional model.

Anyone who is serious about their writing most likely has had some experience in attempting to gain a publishing contract. If not, then the author probably most likely, has had other relevant experience in entering writing contests, or attending writing conferences and even networking with others to find an agent or publisher who might be interested in their work.

I followed this same path of frustration. Oh, not that I didn’t learn a lot along the way. I made some good contacts, garnered various tips and tricks to try, but possibly more importantly, I learned how to approach and adapt other methods to gain publication.

When I first started writing and had a completed product to sell, I was told absolutely to go the traditional route. And I did. Eventually, it seemed the best I could do was to go with a small, start-up, independent publisher. They were a royalty-paying group, but were small, with no resources to help promote the books they listed and the authors were pressured to devise their own marketing and promotional campaigns.

You may or may not be a marketing guru, but I am not. This was all strange to me and I struggled with the entire process. But hey, I could say I was published. And, I did sell a few books and get some royalty checks. I knew, however, that this was not my ultimate goal and that to get to the place I wanted my work to be, I had to step out and be responsible for my own destiny and not wait for a publisher to make it for me.

As I researched the topic, speaking with other writers, looking at different types of publishers, and reading the latest articles on how the industry was moving forward, I saw the changes moving forward in the publishing world. The independent model, the self-publishing programs and other similar types of opportunities for authors were beginning to grow, and not just grow, but take off astronomically. What great news for authors!

With opened eyes, I realized that my first experience with a publisher had prepared me to accept the new norm, that I would have to do things on my own initiative. I began to hear the success stories of unknown authors doing some creative things and coming up winners in the market.

Currently, I am out in this new book-selling world. The verdict is still out, but at this point, I can encourage every writer to look past his or her boundaries of what you are willing or able to do to get your work out there. If you can do that, you can succeed in publishing and selling your work. Don’t doubt yourself or what you have produced. If you feel uncertain about your work and its value, then get some professional help with critiquing, editing, or even a content edit. There are well-qualified people out there who can assist in this process, and if you get the right person, it is well worth any money spent.

So many things to think about, I know. Next time I’ll discuss more on this topic of where to find the right people to assist you in the process, some things you can do to garner the support and enthusiasm of others, and even what to look for when looking to publish independently or self-publish. Meanwhile, dig deep into your writing heart and ask yourself, is my work worth it? Even if it is not as complete as you or a reader would like, it can be determined if it is worthy of pursuit. If you want it bad enough, it is worth whatever it takes short of robbing a bank, to get your work in the reading public’s hands. So pat your back and start typing!

How maybe to possibly, hopefully, sometime soon, get published!

Nancy Livingstone discusses her book, Against Their Will with host Sue Lucey

Nancy Livingstone discusses her book, Against Their Will with host Sue Lucey

Last week I was the featured speaker at a writer’s festival in our town. While the questions the moderator asked me were about my recently published book, when it came time for audience questions, they seemed much more interested in how I got my book published.

Now, I’m fairly certain there’s not a one of you writers out there that hasn’t given some (okay maybe a lot) of thought to the part about getting your work published. And you’ve probably figured out by now that the traditional way of publishing is pretty much gone, unless you have connections, are a star or have done some outrageous thing that put your name in the headlines and therefore created enough name recognition to carry a book. Unfortunately that leaves the other 98 percent of us out there struggling, trying to determine what to do to get someone to read our number one bestseller. After all, we wouldn’t be writing if we weren’t certain that our story is the best, the most unusual, the most gripping, terrifying, funny and tear-jerking story ever written. Why can’t those publishers see that right away?!

The traditional query to the agent or publisher can still be sent out, however the rate of return on that investment is rarely more than zero. Yes, there are those few who get past the censors and land their manuscript on a decision maker’s desk. That is absolutely the exception and not the rule. The first line of defense in a publishing house are the readers, those who screen through the stacks (physical, but more and more electronic) of queries.  In this case the writer must come up with a good hook, something short, sweet and sums up the story in an appealing way in just two to three sentences. Sadly, even with the best hook ever, some manuscripts are never seen. There are just too many of them for assistants and others assigned the task to determine the fate of those poor souls whose work is siting in front of them. It becomes easier for them to just stick a pre-made little note in your SASE and toss your work in the trash. Some queries land in good hands and may genuinely strike the reader as great material, but the timing is wrong. You’ve written a detective novel, but they’re looking for true detective works. Do your research and send your query to the right house and person. Even though the odds are most often against you, if you believe in yourself and your work, then don’t stop!

If you want to pursue the traditional route to getting your work published, go for it. The key is persistence. Keep at it, even when the rejection slips exceed the storage limit of your email account. It is not impossible to get published going this route, but it is frustrating and sometimes, downright depressing.

Today, most writers are getting creative in their efforts to draw attention to their work. And creative they are. But hey, aren’t writers supposed to be creative? Whatever route you use to get published, you need to generate interest in your work. Your goal is to make readers run to grab a copy of your latest. Next time, I will discuss some ways authors have succeeded in getting their work recognized.

Audience questions

Audience questions

Until then, keep those ideas flowing!

Family – How Important is it?

To my characters in Against Their Will, family is important in different ways. Not only are the relationships that are typically formed between family members an important part of what the characters do and experience, but the genetic map they carry also has implications that not many people take time to consider. But genetic composition as well as relationships are two foundations on which families are built.

I attended a family reunion today. I really enjoy getting together with this group of people from my mother’s father’s family. We have much in common; we laugh, we catch up and we joke about the changes in our lives, mostly on how we’re getting old way too fast! It occurred to me, however, that family really does influence our lives and having one is not something to take for granted. While we are all born of biological parents, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we automatically have a family. Deaths occur, marriages never happen or are dissolved, children are abandoned or adopted. Many things happen in life that disrupt the flow of life via the biological family. Even non-biological families can suffer from dysfunction, or can thrive through good relationships. It is a sense of belonging to another, however, that drives so many on a quest for family in one way or another.

Lack of family is what drives Lynn McCaine in Against Their Will. As we meet her in the opening of the story, she is distraught over things she has learned about her family. She is frantic to return to the only family she knows at the time, her cat. Her search for family is a driving force motivating her to set out on a quest for knowledge. That quest costs more than her life.

Matt Grayson has a loving family. And, he is blessed to be able to appreciate them in the present. Like most of us, he takes them for granted from time to time. But, when it’s crunch time, they are there for him and him for them.

While family is an underlying theme in Against Their Will, a parallel theme is that of being there for and supporting others in our lives. When Matt and Lynn’s ill fated flight ends in flames in East Texas, Matt Grayson doesn’t stop to think about any danger he may be in, or the non-existence of a relationship with the woman in the seat beside him with violet eyes and independent hair. He is focused on one thing, making sure he gets her out alive. Why would a stranger do something like that?

How many of us would do the same? Why would we? What’s in it for us? What drives Matt to do what he does?

Why do I write about medicine?

Why do I write about medicine in my novels? A good question. It’s been said that there are two things most important to people, their money and their health. How many headlines do you see each day that have to do with one or the other? ‘Nuff said, right? Well, maybe not.

Medicine affects us all, regardless of our health status. While some may only care about their personal outcome in a medical situation, others, like myself, are fascinated with the workings of the field. Okay, I have to admit that I have more than a little personal involvement in the field. I come from a family of physicians, radiologists, and lab technicians. I grew up hearing about all the issues concerning the field. I considered med school myself, for a while, until I realized it was going to be next to impossible to get over my fear of needles. So, I settled for an undergraduate degree in biology. And, when it was time to inject mice in a microbiology lab, I made my lab partner handle the needle!

After finishing my Master’s degree, I worked in a major Houston hospital (a location used in Against Their Will) as well as managed a group of physicians’ offices. It was there I learned what it is really like behind the scenes. My empathy for practitioners began growing at this point.

In recent years, I’ve been a patient more times than I can count. A hip replacement, back fusion, knee replacement, two rotator cuff surgeries and numerous other less invasive procedures have brought me face to face with some of the finest practitioners in the field. All of these life experiences have provided me with a wealth of material to draw upon in writing.

World-wide symbol of first aid; one of the first of the first responders

World-wide symbol of first aid; one of the original first responders.

Medical themes are popular; in books, tv shows and movies. We seem to be fascinated with what it is like to be a miracle worker, helping to heal people of a myriad of diseases and injuries. But, how do these miracles come about? Are those who create them always altruistic in their motives?

Against Their Will shows some of the other side of this scenario. As humans, we’re all imperfect and we all have that tendency to look out for ourselves first. When presented a scenario in which one can make wads of money while rationalizing that it is for the good of the people, who can say no? I’m not sure I could and I wonder how many others would as well. The characters in my book face that dilemma. Can any of us truly rise about the human condition to put the good of others above ourselves? Please share your comments as there are many sides to this subject, all worthy of hearing.