Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting Published- Follow the Minotaur

A lot of people ask me how I got my novel, The Middle of the Air, published. It
happened like this:

When I was finished with a draft of the book I did a couple of editing passes and
probably should have done some more. With line editing, spelling and punctuation and the like I’m lucky in that my mother-in-law used to be a newspaper editor. She was able to plow through the draft quickly and mark up its many mistakes. I felt I was going with the natural flow of the universe actually asking my mother-in-law to criticize me.

I knew nothing about the publishing business but I had heard the usual horror stories of rejection. Also, I thought I would need a literary agent. I checked them out on the internet, selected ten or so and sent of selections of the book. Most of these folks ask for the first few pages or first chapter. If they like what they see they ask to see the whole thing.

Some of them passed, but some asked to see the rest of the book, which gave me
encouragement. While I was waiting for the agents to respond I thought about going
against the prevailing advice and sending the book to some publishers directly.

Now, The Middle of the Air is a pretty quirky book or at least it has some pretty quirky
characters. It has an old man who paints pictures of historical figures displaced in time
and location. It has an Ecuadorian biophysicist who can translate animal thought patterns into human speech. It has a little girl who draws picture of angels.

I anticipated that this sort of thing might get me in trouble with most publishers who would not quite know how to fit it into their established marketing matrix. Thinking along these lines I remembered a book I had read a few years ago called The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill. The basic idea is that the Minotaur has survived down through the ages and is now living in a trailer park in the South and working as a line cook in a steak restaurant. This is a really good book which I would highly recommend. More to the point, it’s very quirky. I figured any publisher who would print this book would not be put off by mine.

I pulled out my copy and found that the publisher was John F Blair. I visited their web site, blairpub.com, and found that they focus on books connected with the Southeast. Perfect, my book is set mostly in North Carolina. As directed on their web site I sent them the first few pages and in a few weeks they asked for the full manuscript. Shortly after that they offered me a contract.

Everyone at Blair has been great to work with and I could not be happier. So, the short answer the question of how I got published was that I followed the Minotaur.