Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Post by Debra Erfert---From First Page Friday to Publishing Contract

I’m totally honored to be writing a post on Julie’s blog this morning. I’ve followed Julie Coulter Bellon’s career since she was part of Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog seven years ago. That was my first exposure to any blog. The whole concept of reading posts written by other writers, and then having a chance to leave a comment just blew my mind. It took me a while to work up the courage to actually leave a one-sentence comment. Even then, my hands sweated and my stomach churned with nausea as I wavered with my decision about hitting the enter button. And then I worried myself into a headache that it would be met with ridicule because it sounded stupid. I worried needlessly. All the people over at the Frog Blog were especially sweet people, and made me feel intelligent and talented. It broke my heart when, two years ago, they said goodbye to their faithful followers. Fortunately, Julie created her own writers blog and has posted every flippin’ Monday through Friday (and some Saturdays) since then. Awesome dedication.

Up until a few months ago, part of Julie’s routine on Fridays had been a fun interactive post called First Page Friday. I had several submissions. One in particular, RELATIVE EVIL, got a great critique from the national editor, Ms. Shreditor (yes, we never knew her real identity). I had dreaded ever getting her as a critiquer. Her brutally honest style scared the heck out of me, although anyone who could read could tell she knew her stuff. I prepared myself for a beating that morning. What I never expected was the uplifting glow I felt after she praised my first entry. Ms. Shreditor went as far as calling me “an evil genius!” A what? Oh! My! Heck! It was at that point I knew she liked it. I actually got up out of my chair and danced around saying, “She liked it! She liked it!”

I signed a contract for RELATIVE EVIL with Hamilton Springs Press/Xchyler Publishing in March. They love that first page, and I love my new publisher and the good people who work there. Thank you, Julie, and Ms. Shreditor, for helping me get my book published.

I can tell you, my journey thus far hasn’t been easy. It’s been plagued with self-doubt and bad decisions. I wrote my first novella eleven years ago. It’s a good story, but written very poorly. What did I expect? I didn’t even know what a dialogue tag was, or what protagonist meant. It’s taken me years of writing dozens of short stories, thirteen full-length novels, as well as taking classes at writer’s conferences to develop my technique and to fully understand the structure of a story.

But that didn’t stop rejection notices from filling my inbox, until two years ago when I had two offers from two different publishers for two books within a day of each other. I was elated—and foolish. I’d never signed a contract before, and I didn’t know what to expect.

No, that isn’t exactly true. At the very least, I expected the person who made the decision of making the offer of actually reading my manuscript. I came to find out that she never did. Through the horrific editing process, one that nearly broke my spirit, as well as my sanity, her lack of essential knowledge about the characters, plot, and delicate subplots, showed through in the (nearly) finished draft, a story that, at that point, I was embarrassed to have my name attached to. The continuity in several subplots had been severely damaged, and the romance had been deeply cut back. I was in tears. When I questioned my editor about that, I was told (essentially) to keep working or they’d cancel the contract.

I accepted the cancelation(s), and had both books’ rights returned to me the next morning. (Okay it wasn’t exactly that easy! I had to fight for those cancelations.) I felt so relieved even knowing my writing career had been set back by at least two years. And it has been almost exactly two years since then that I signed with Hamilton Springs Press/Xchyler Publishing.  I also have had an offer of publication for Changes of the Heart, but the contract isn’t what I’d like, and I’m probably not going to sign with them (Again, I’m not going to divulge the name, but don’t worry, it’s not a “big 5, but a smaller, independent publisher). This time around, I may become a self-publisher, because I can. I know people who are successfully indie-publishers. Hello, Julie! 

If you are just starting out on your writing journey, go to writer’s conferences and take classes. Never stop learning! The many talented authors giving their time to teach is more than worth your time of attending. There are many conferences in which to choose. And take it from me; don’t stop writing after that first story. Write a second one, and a third, for every book you get under your belt, you learn important key parts that make a story great.

Good luck! Never stop writing!


Debra Erfert said...

And even now I need an editor, as you can see. The author's brain fills in the holes when the words are missing.

Thank you, Julie, for letting me guest post. This has truly been a dream of mine for several years!

Melanie Valderrama said...

What a great story! I laughed at your description of making your first comment. I did the same thing! I'll be interested in reading your book when it comes out. (I liked you on FB so I can keep up with your updates.)

Marsha Ward said...

Debra, what a nice guest post! I'm glad you are still pressing forward, and finally getting the success you deserve.

Jon Spell said...

It's phrases like this "thirteen full-length novels..." that make me despair. Brandon Sanderson said something similar about what he'd written before getting published. (I can't even get one finished!)

Congratulations, again, Debra! Make sure you let us know when they get released so I can scoop up a copy or two. Maybe even get an autographed copy?