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Advice: How I Published All of My Books

Updated on May 8, 2015

It was natural

Writing has always come very naturally to me. So when I heard that a Honesdale Pennsylvania company was beginning a poetry imprint, I jumped at the chance to submit a manuscript. It was 1991, and Wordsong, the poetry imprint of Boyds Mills Press, was just getting off of the ground. I met with some editors, and we decided that for my first book an anthology would be best. That meant that I would put together a collection of various poems on a theme.

I had always spent a lot of time in libraries, so collecting literature was right up my alley. We determined that the book would be for adolescents, which in publishing terms means middle school and some high school. The book would have 55 poems.


My latest book.
My latest book. | Source

Poetry came first

I started out by simply reading lots of poems. Then I noticed a theme that spoke to my heart: music. The next phase was to narrow it down. I needed poems about music, but I was really enjoying ones that were musical in their language. That ended up being the theme of my first book: Poems That Sing to You.

Once you have one book in print, it is a lot easier to get editors to talk to you about publishing more. Boyds Mills worked with me on three other projects, and later I was able to use my new basket of material to work my way into Random House, who published my A to Z of African American History. A literary river started flowing and several other books followed.

Thank God for Librarians and Teachers

I spend a lot of time talking to librarians and teachers. Simply put, since they spend all day with book consumers, from parents to children and others of all ages, they know what consumers are looking for. Then I run my ideas by marketing specialists from publishers. Sales and marketing reps know which books, themes and topics are "moving," being sold and widely distributed. With this info in hand, I then create and pitch formal proposals to editors.

Using this approach, my odds of getting a proposal or manuscript accepted are much greater. At times, I even meet with an editor during the drafting process (of the proposal or book) and we work on it together. Then she takes the work, now tailored for a specific publisher's needs and market, to her company. In such cases, I've ended up with a book contract in hand within weeks.

I'm a book reviewer and consultant too

Publishing books is a wonderful journey that I would suggest for anyone. We all have a story to tell. Here is my Web resource for anyone who needs more support: Get Published: Free Tips and Resources. I also do lots of book reviews. Hopefully I will write about your book next!

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