My publishing journey took the right turn when I signed with She Writes Press in December 2018. But I didn’t do so blindly. I talked with people who had worked with the organization. I wanted assurances it wasn’t a vanity press in disguise. After getting feedback that the company was well regarded, I signed the contract. Salvation Station would, at last, get exposure with audiences of crime, mystery and suspense that I had always hoped for.
The process started with a She Writes webinar to review important details. Then, the first big task, which was early in the process, was choosing my book cover. She Writes has a design team and provided eight options for the cover. All were great, so the final decision wasn’t easy. I checked in with my PR team and others to get feedback. I was very satisfied with my choice.
Next, it was time for proofreading of my manuscript. She Writes offers three tracks for writers. I was told I had been placed on track one, which means the manuscript is good-to-go. I felt confident my manuscript was indeed ready for proofreading because I’d had it reviewed by two different editors before submitting it. However, once proofreading began, I heard from She Writes that the manuscript was in need of much deeper edits. They also noted it was not written in the Chicago Manual of Style format they preferred, which was a big problem. It’s a crucial point that wasn’t communicated in the webinar. After re-reading the SWP handbook, I found it there. While missing this detail in the manual was my fault, it’s an important detail that I believe should have been elevated before the proofreading stage.
Presses such as She Writes are hybrids. They have the editorial standards of a traditional publisher, but the author pays money up front for their standard publishing package. Additional editing costs the author a lot more money. When I was told my manuscript had been placed on track one by mistake, it was completely deflating. I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake. Communication wasn’t what I expected with She Writes and I often felt like we were speaking two completely different languages.
Suffice it to say, getting Salvation Station into an error-free book (or as near as humanly possible) took months. After I was moved out of track one, two different She Writes editors/proofreaders reviewed the book. Even so, when the Advance Reader Copies arrived, there were numerous misspellings, improper word usage, missing words, etc. Some of the errors were mine, (I was responsible for implementing all recommended editorial and proofreading changes to the manuscript), but the majority were not.
Proofreading is a difficult task for an author. You see what you want to see, especially having read through your manuscript several times. A lot of authors recommend reading your manuscript aloud. If you can afford it, find a trusted editor/proofreader of your own to go through your manuscript again, before the advance reader copies (ARCs) are printed, or definitely prior to the final edits. My PR team has an editor on staff who read the ARC and discovered over 60 errors. Thankfully, we were able to have everything corrected before the final printing of the book.
I also believe the She Writes’ editors were overly concerned about offending readers. Both took great pains to point out words or passages that might be perceived as having racial overtones and insisted they be removed – one of them even noted there were “racial issues.” Four of the characters (including one with a very important role) were meant to be Black. The editors said I couldn’t describe them as Black, so I removed it. After Salvation Station was published, I started reading James Patterson’s series, The Women’s Murder Club. One of the women is Black and that’s exactly how he described her. I started noticing other prominent authors describing characters that way as well. I’m still grappling how best to describe people of color as all I intended was to create a realistic, diverse universe.
The publishing process was arduous and I came very close to giving up. But things started looking up when the reviews started coming in. In my next blog, I’ll share more about book publicity.