Thursday, October 29, 2009

Craig Lancaster Guests - Part 2

By Craig Lancaster

When I originally published my novel through CreateSpace, I did it in the crudest way possible. I used CreateSpace's pre-made templates to build a cover that, in retrospect, screamed “sloppy self-pub job.” I formatted the inside pages haphazardly in Word, with vast spaces between the lines. (True story: Later, when I reconfigured the interior, the book went from 342 pages to 256 just because I tightened up the leading.) I did a less-than-careful edit, resulting in my missing dropped words and backward quote marks and other such signs of an amateur at work. And I unleashed this book on the public! Oh, the retroactive shame.

Slowly, though, I found my footing. A professor at Montana State Billings, Sue Hart, let me talk with her creative-writing class and helped me make some contacts. Local writers were generous with their advice and direction. Eventually, as encouragement and response to my book built, I started trying to place it with an agent and then, I hoped, a publisher.

While querying agents -- a process that remains unfulfilled; I am, as yet, without representation -- I also set about recasting my book. It got two new covers. I edited the book block three or four times. In a few short months, the book became something indistinguishable from the offerings of major houses, at least in appearance. Meanwhile, I was reading everything I could about marketing and the business end of publishing. I began actively seeking out reviews. I resolved to speak to any civic group or arts festival that would have me. Slowly, more people started reading my little book and suggesting it to others.

The entire time, queries kept going out and rejections kept coming back. Some of them were really lovely -- handwritten notes praising the story but wondering where it fit -- and that soothed the sting as much as being told "no" can be soothed.

Just about the time I figured that the book now known as 600 Hours of Edward would remain forever self-published, and as I was nearing the finish line on my second novel and preparing it for its own round of queries, I got a note from Riverbend Publishing in Helena, Montana, expressing interest in my book. The president, Chris Cauble, said he wanted some other people to read it first.
“This will take some time,” he wrote to me.
I wrote back: “Take all the time you need.”

At this point, I really didn't think anything would come of it, and I had moved my hopes for being published to the new manuscript I was working on. I was wrong. More on that in the final installment.

To enter into a drawing for a copy of the book, go to Craig's website and sign-up for his mailing list.

Or simply buy 600 Hours of Edward on

You can also visit his blog by clicking here.

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  1. Craig, I enjoyed your post. I offered to speak to a High School creative writing class here in my home town in Tennessee and discovered they don't have one. That was depressing.

  2. I'm really enjoying the saga of your publishing experience, Craig. It just proves that perseverance pays off.

    Ginger, did you ask to speak to the English classes? The schools I have gone to don't have creative writing classes, but the English Departments were happy to have me speak.

  3. True enough.

    I'm traveling with the book to my hometown, Fort Worth, Texas, in November, and I've had great success in finding high school and middle school classes willing to host me. The one I'm looking forward to most: a seventh-grade class taught by the woman who was my third-grade teacher. A nice bit of circle completion there.

  4. Craig, you're hysterical! It's good to be able to chuckle about embarassing pasts, isn't it?


  5. Hey, if I don't laugh at myself, who will?

    Er ...

  6. Craig is offering a valuable parable here, but trust me ... the original book wasn't bad at all. I forgot all about the presentation once I sunk into the story. And you will too.

    OK, so it WAS an ugly cover. :)

  7. The misadventures of the self-published -- ah, yes, many of us have been there, done that. You journal your trip well, Craig, and with humble honesty. Great post!

    I take exception to only one small point: As a writer I have neither desire for an agent nor wish to be published by a house other than my own. Perhaps that makes me a bit contrary (or a control freak), but I personally know self-published writers who have sold over a million copies of their books (one a fiction writer and the other nonfiction). However, I must admit they are the exception rather than the rule.

    I wish you much success in reaching your goals, and I look forward to your next installment.


  8. Thanks, Linda.

    Believe me, I'd rather have no agent than an agent who's not right for me. The fact that I haven't found him/her tells me simply that the right fit hasn't come along. I lose no sleep over it.

    And I'm glad I went the indie route, if only because I now know how to do it. (And if I were to do it again, I know many of the pitfalls to avoid.) But I do think that in general, your acquaintance and other success stories aside, fiction doesn't lend itself as well to self-publishing as non-fiction does. But the world is changing, and rapidly. I'll keep a keen eye on things and adjust my thinking as necessary. Amid all the uncertainty, one thing is certain: Inflexibility is not a winning strategy.

  9. Your story is an interesting one, Craig. Thanks for mentioning one of the critical elements of self-publishing--top-notch editing. The quality of the editing can make or break a self-published work.

  10. I'm enjoying your posts and am heartened by your perseverance and willingness to learn from mistakes. Fear of failure has stunted more than one writing career, I'm sure. Yours seems to be successful and heading up.

  11. @ Patricia: I think haphazard editing is probably the No. 1 thing holding back most self-published books. A friend of mine, Carol Buchanan (author of the fantastic "God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana"), reviews self-pubbed work and laments this all the time.

    @ Shannon: The best piece of writing wisdom I ever received, hands down, was this, from a well-respected author friend: "I've never heard of a success story that didn't involve persistence."

  12. Hi Craig. I enjoyed your post and I visited your website. Fresh and welcoming. Persistence and patience gets the job done. Seee you sometime, Simon.

  13. Craig, you wrote a fine novel. Many excellent writers have to break in first by self-publishing their work for a variety of reasons, primarily because they don't have the Next Big Thing that publishers are looking for. Great novels can be overlooked; the publishing world is rife with stories of publishers who thought writers would never sell. (Agatha Christie, for one.) In the old days, "vanity" publishing was frowned on, but the world is so crowded now that we can publish our work ourselves and let readers sell it to publishers. Which they will do if it's a good book.

    I'm delighted that has happened to you. You and "Edward" both deserve all the success you achieve.

  14. Very interesting. I love the way you kept working to improve the book as you tried to find alternate ways of getting it published.

  15. That was fascinating. Nice to know that the self-publishing step turned out to be a valid first step. And it's nice to have the chance to learn from your lessons. Thank you.


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