Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Accidental Way to Becoming a Published Author

Please welcome Lauri Kubuitsile back to The Blood-Red Pencil on her blog book tour for her Kate Gomolemo Mysteries series.

My first published book was The Fatal Payout, the first book in my Kate Gomolemo Mysteries series. The entire process, from writing to getting published, was a textbook case of “How-not-to-be-a-Writer”.

In my thirties, I found myself owning a small printing company that published our local newspaper. I never really thought about being a writer although I wrote articles and an editorial each fortnight for the paper. But then we were changing formats and were afraid we’d get lost in the crowd and I had the idea that I would write a serialised novel, a thousand words each issue, to try and hook our readership to pick up the free paper. I’d never written a novel before, I hadn’t even written a short story, but I was undeterred. I didn’t know enough to know I didn’t know enough.

There was no plot plan, no character sketches. In most instances, the Thursday night before the Friday deadline, I’d quickly sit down at the computer and bash out my thousand words and hope I’d have something again the next time the deadline came around. Where the story was going, I didn’t know. All I knew was that it had to go. Every other Friday without fail.

Eventually I finished it. Readers were now used to the characters so I continued book number two (Murder for Profit), then book three (Anything for Money) and finally book four (Claws of a Killer). When The Fatal Payout finished in the paper, we had people calling the office asking for the parts they missed. My manager suggested I send the story off to one of our local publishers to see if they might consider printing a few books for our readers.

I did no research. I followed no submission guidelines. I just found the email for Macmillan in the yellow pages and sent the manuscript off.

A few months later I had a publishing contract. Another few months and I was at a book launch at one of the big chain bookstores in Gaborone with all the big-wigs, including the vice chancellor of our university, the MD of the bookstore chain, and the former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education. The guest speaker was the head of the national library services. To say it was surreal would be an understatement. Most of the night I hid in the nonfiction section of the bookstore in the hope that no one would find me. When I undressed to go to bed that night, I realised I’d worn my shirt backwards the entire evening.

That was 2005. It seems like yesterday. Since then the book has gone on to be prescribed for all junior secondary students in Botswana. It has sold almost 50,000 copies; the royalties recently paid for my new swimming pool.

But I remember that night, after the launch, we (my husband and kids and I) were back in the hotel room. They were asleep and I got up and took out my book. There it was: my name on the cover. Me. An author. Since then I’ve had seventeen paper and ink books published, and it’s always exciting, but nothing like that first one. I did every single thing wrong. I wasn’t meant to be a published author, but somehow, against all logic, I am.


Lauri Kubuitsile blogs at Thoughts from Botswana
And her most recent books are:

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  1. I love this story of your first publication, Lauri. Especially the part about wearing your shirt backwards to your book launch!

  2. Because of nerves, I had drunk a significant amount of wine which could have been the cause of the backwards shirt. :( Thanks Elle!

  3. What a great story and congrats on your success. I knew I could like you a lot when I read about the shirt. I once wore one black and one blue sock to a signing event. Spent the entire evening hoping nobody looked at my feet. LOL

  4. Love it! Love it! Love it! "In spite of" stories instead of "because of" stories always inspire me. Just goes to show there's no really wrong way to do it.

    Fantastic post, Lauri. And congratulations on your numerous titles. Obviously, an author was lurking inside you, just waiting to come out and and enthrall your readers-to-be.

  5. More work than sitting at the candy counter, waiting to be discovered, but definitely more entertaining!

  6. I love this - and somehow, knowing you had your shirt on back to front makes me want to give you a huge hug! xx

  7. What a great story,Lauri! I wonder how many fiction writers have that journalism foundation - certainly a few of the BRP crowd could be counted in that mix.

  8. Yikes! Backwards shirt sounds right up my alley! Ha! Great post, Lauri. Congrads on your success! Thanks for making me smile. *waves*

  9. Hahaha... Good for you! It's nice to know that good writing still matters more than being adept at jumping through industry hoops. And hey it could have been worse: your shirt could have been inside-out. :0

  10. Good for you. It just shows that the best way to get published is the way that works.

    Here's hoping you have many more successes.

  11. I would guess that you are more talented than you think you are!

    Morgan Mandel

  12. Lovely story and congratulations. Next, we will wait for your movies!

  13. What a fascinating story, Lauri, thanks for sharing it! The whole "I was too dumb to know any different" motif winds through the stories of many people who haven't feared performing their learning curve in public, and have ultimately created their own success. It's not for me—I always like to show up at the party with my clothes on right-side-out, and color-coordinated to boot—but it's fun to think about!

  14. Amazing! As a journalist for many years, I can relate to the process of publishing a chapter a week (or every other week) to hook your readers. Congratulations on your success.

    Mary Montague Sikes

  15. Can't believe i missed the chance to download your books on kindle FREE!Lauri, i'm that girl who won the christmas story competition your newspaper ran. Got recognised by random people for a whole month in Mahalapye!

  16. That's a coll story, and very encouraging for a wannabe writer >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  17. Hi Phenyo- lovely to see you here!

    Thanks everyone.

    Kathryn, I've tended to do all of my learning in public, which may not be the best thing but it's been my path. I'm always so impressed by people who suddenly pop out of no where with this fabulous book. I'm learning on the job, as it were. The hope is that with each book I get at least fractionally better.


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