Third time’s the charm?

Sometimes, it feels like I’ve been trying to get my book published for decades. But, in reality, it’s been less than eight months since we fired off my manuscript to sixteen publishing houses in Canada and the United States, hoping against hope that one of them would take a chance on Dad@Home.  Well… that didn’t happen. Despite some really great feedback from a few publishers, the answer was always the same: thanks, but no thanks.

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This was supposed to be my ticket to fame and fortune. This was my chance to escape the never-ending laundry, the dishpan hands, the grocery shopping. Best-selling authors usually have a team of housekeepers that do all of that stuff… right? I was counting on it.

As the rejection letters slowly trickled in, weeks turned into months and in early April we felt we had exhausted all of the opportunities from the sixteen targets on our initial list. But, the news wasn’t all bad. My agent felt we had enough positive reactions to my passion project to warrant another kick at the can, so we recharged, reloaded and fired off my book to another fourteen publishers. Any and all fingers, toes, legs and eyes were all crossed, hoping that this was our time to snag a book deal and promptly take the world by storm! Well… that didn’t happen. But, just days after our second round of submissions we got some news that wasn’t exactly good, but it wasn’t exactly bad either. We had a nibble? We had a little peck? Hell, maybe we had a publisher thinking about taking a big ol’ bite?

The email from my agent made me jump out of my chair!

“I have a publisher who’s tentatively interested in your manuscript. But, there’s a big but here, he wants to how you’d be able to promote the book. Do you have plans to develop a platform—social media, connections in traditional media you can exploit, etc? Have you started blogging?” 

I knew that I shouldn’t get over-excited about “tentative interest”, but this was the first non-NO we had received! So, I dove head first into developing my PLATFORM, a term I had perviously associated with “a raised, wooden structure on which people can stand”. I was adding people to my meagre Facebook page like mad, I was joining LinkedIn and Google+, I was starting a BLOG! Now, if I was smarter and slightly less lazy, I would have started the blog and increased my social media presence long before shopping my book, but lets not dwell on the past. I was looking to the future and was sure to take the blogging world by storm! Well… that didn’t happen. But, what did happen was an initial surge of interest that took me by surprise. When I officially launched this blog, I was very happy to see many friends and family share the link and really get the word out. And because this website keeps detailed statistics about where my blog traffic is coming from, I was flabbergasted to see the list of countries my readers were logging in from: Greece, Honduras, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Philippines, India, Australia, U.K., Mexico, and Netherlands! If this smattering of international people who clicked on my blog would just keep sharing, could this thing go viral… worldwide? For a brief moment in time, I was actually entertaining the idea.

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And just how the hell did I get six views from the Netherlands? I just figured with all of their bulb fields, windmills, cheese markets, wooden shoes, canals of Amsterdam, masterpieces of Old Masters, Delft Blue earthenware, innovative water-management and millions of bicycles, they would have very little time to read a blog about a stay-at-home Dad. I guess I was wrong.

Not only were the list of countries who tuned into my little blog impressive, so were the initial numbers. The first couple of weeks saw over 700 views. In fact, the first month saw very good traffic as I excitedly updated the blog each week with a new entry. And then… I got lazy. I skipped a week. I figured, “I’m sure taking a week off won’t affect my numbers that much? Things are going great… I have a base of readers who seem to be logging in faithfully. What’s the worse thing that could happen?”

This is what could happen:

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Witness the life and slow death of a blog. I was averaging close to 300 views a week until the week of May 9th, when I decided not to post a new entry. Who cares? So what! The PEOPLE care, that’s what! Was it simply a coincidence? Was it fate? Was it a weak blog entry after my one week hiatus? I don’t know, but my traffic never recovered. The question remained… could I recover?

Meanwhile, during all of the buzz and excitement of my modest blogging success, the publisher that was “tentatively interested” was still out there… still pondering… still deciding my fate. Surely my efforts to increase my social media platform would be enough to secure that elusive book deal? Right?  Well… that didn’t happen. Just as my blog traffic took a serious nosedive, I got another kick in the pants. My agent broke the news:

I just heard back from the publisher yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, they refused the manuscript with the following note:  “Thank you for submitting your proposal. We found the material to be quite interesting but, unfortunately, it doesn’t fit into our current publishing plans.”

And with that very non-descript note from a once semi-interested publisher, I was back to square one. So, I kept fighting the good fight, reading rejection letters and pondering my next move. We had targeted thirty publishers since we started back in early December, and while most of them had responded, over a quarter of them never even bothered to get back to us. How rude! My agent assured me that this was simply the way the business works, noting that the dynamics are lopsided, especially for new authors. The publishers have all the power, until an author can prove they can sell books.

Personally, I find this makes the publishers, generally speaking, rather inconsiderate. So, feeling a little down and out about lagging interest in my blog and my fruitless efforts trying to break into an industry that is notoriously tough on first time authors, I had a decision to make. Should I pull the pin on my dream of getting a book deal? Self-publishing has never been easier, and there’s certainly no shame in striking out on my own!

I asked my trusted agent for guidance, and she convinced me to give it the old college try:

“I’d like to try one more round of publishers. I know there’s a market for this book, and you’ve done a great job building your platform. You’re right, your numbers aren’t huge, but the visitors you’ve had will give you a solid customer base—whether those are customers for a publisher or for your self-publishing efforts.” 

So, we are off and running yet again, with another list of publishers, my first blog entry in nearly a month and renewed optimism. I’m really hoping the old saying rings true, and that the third time is indeed the charm! Well… that just might happen.

Stay tuned.

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