Meanwhile, I received an email this week from a friend of a friend, and a fellow writer. A year or two ago, my friend had asked me to read his friend's first novel. I told him I would be willing to do so, but only with the understanding that in doing so, I would be free to be honest in my assessment of the writing. I told him, I would not be cruel but if his friend wasn't interested in my true opinion, good or bad, then let's not even go there. A few days later, I received an email that included the full novel. I'm sorry to say I no longer remember the name of the work. I was impressed with the fact that the author was quite knowledgeable about computers and espionage or at least, he was very good at convincing someone like me, who knows very little factual information about either subject, that he knew what he was talking about. Still, while the book was interesting, it wasn't a real page turner but since I had promised my friend, I kept reading.
And then suddenly on page 150, everything changed. The main character was on his way to see his best friend in Kuwait, whom he expected to meet him at the airport. Instead, he was met by a unknown colleague of his friend who promised to take him to meet his friend. His next stop, however, was not the hotel room he expected but a dark dank cell with no explanation of any kind. He found himself locked away in a foreign country, with his cries for help met only with silence. Now I was turning pages. I finished the rest of the book which turned out well and of course, I wrote back to my friend to say, this story really starts on page 150!
Ironically, I'd actually been given the same advice years before, regarding my novel, Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice. My friend and mentor, the late Ellen Gray Massey, told me after reading it, "well, you know your book really starts at the beginning of the third chapter." She immediately followed it with one of her favorite editorial phrases, "but of course, it is your book." I wanted so badly to be done. I didn't want to re-write the first several chapters. I wanted to be done. But then I thought about the fact that I had asked her to read it and there certainly wasn't any point, if I didn't take her best advice. And so of course, I re-wrote it and she was right. It made for a much better book.
The author of this book wrote back this week to say he had never finished his book due to his age of 85 and his wife was now having health problems. He said he would really like to find a co-author and then perhaps self-publish. I encouraged him to look for a co-author through local writers groups but to be very careful when looking into self-publishing. While I have independently published all of my books (except the first one, The Fifteen Most Asked Questions About Adoption in 1985 which I was fortunate to have picked up by a traditional publisher), I've met up with several other authors over the years, who have told me, "It only cost me $3000 to get my book published and I'm so happy with it!" And while I'm trying not to go weak in the knees or let my eyes pop out of my head, all I've ever been able to think to say at a moment like that is, 'I'm so glad you are pleased." Because what I'm really thinking is, my husband would kill me if I spent that kind of money on publishing a book as well as, how do they ever plan to make that money back?
The truth is I tell anyone who is considering self-publishing to research that as carefully as you would anything else. (Isn't that what the Internet is really there for?) I've never spent more than $500 for the initial cost of publishing one of my books and as a result, it doesn't take long to make that money back. For anyone who is looking into publishing, be careful. Do your homework. Make certain you have a good product to offer, re-write even when you don't want to and then find a reliable professional publisher so that one day you can truly enjoy holding your very own book in your hands. And best of all, you'll not have to worry that someone wants to slip it into their paper recycling box!
Laura L. Valenti, author
The Heart of the Spring,
The Heart of the Spring Lives On,
The Heart of the Spring Comes Home, and
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting
Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice and
Between the Star and the Cross: The Election
Ozark Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance with co-author Dick DixonPITFA