by Lisa Lickel
I first started writing professionally in 2003 with newspaper stories, short stories, and magazine articles. When a certain small publisher bought my novel Healing Grace in 2007, I was ecstatic. It was my second contract for the third novel I wrote. I loved the story and my agent went through a lot trying to sell it.
I knew it would be 2009 before the book released, but I’d been told patience was a virtue. I knew nothing about the publishing process and assumed a publisher took a project a ran. Oops. The first version of Healing Grace came out with so many typos I was too embarrassed to market it. I eventually got the rights back and submitted it to another publisher, one who'd published two other novels. The acquiring editorial team said it lacked depth and strength of character. I was crushed. That emotion should have gone on the page.
In the same death sentence, however, the publisher overrode them: she believed in me and the book. I got off my pity pot and took this challenge. I knew there were things that could have been better, and I believed in the editing team that had done such great things with my other books. I was glad for this Do-Over chance with Healing Grace, a favorite and personal story.
Here’s what I learned.
1. Never assume.
Just because Healing Grace had been published once, I shouldn’t have simply thought another publisher would jump at it. There were plenty of reasons why it should never have been published in the first place.
2. Be better.
I’ve learned a lot in over the years in the business. I needed to apply that knowledge, but also to accept guidance. Take every opportunity to challenge yourself.
3. Find trust.
The second publisher used four layers of editing before a book went to publication. I loved my team and trusted them, but I still had to know what the acquisitions team didn’t like about the story. I asked my editor to touch bases and ask them. Only then was I able to work on those issues and make that book a stronger story.
4. Early and prepared.
I learned that just because I wrote it, readers do not know about my book unless I tell them. I called several reviewers ahead of time to get some reviews ready and start talking it up to a new audience, set up tours and did some interviews, placed some judicial ads and kept talking about it.
5. Slow and steady.
Showing up around the time of publication for a few interviews and a blog blast, and having dozens of reviews post the first week of release is never enough. Keep fanning the flames. Line up promotion spots for six months out and longer. Schedule immediate press releases then more interviews and spots and signings. Use the opportunities to mention other work.
Treat the Do-Over as a blessing in disguise. We authors don’t always get the chance.