Allen J Johnston

Author of The Divine Series

The official website of Allen J Johnston, the author of The Divine Series.

Submit to a publisher, get an agent or self publish

You want to hear more of my story?  You want to know what I did to get to where I am now selling over 1500 books a month?  First, let me address the title of my post and then I will get back to that.

So, you may be struggling with what to do with your cherished manuscript that you have poured your heart and soul into.  Yes, we all hold our manuscripts dear.  You have done all the hard work and now you are ready to let your beautiful little bird fly out into the world for all to read and see.  But, how do you do that?  It's there in your hand, ready to go, and yet...it sits.  So you automatically think that you need to get one of the big publishers.  No problem, right?  Okay, I am going to be brutally honest.  You NEED honesty right now, even if it stings.  I would estimate that publishers take on less than 1% of books sent to them and an even ridiculously dismally smaller amount than that for authors who send a publisher an unsolicited manuscript.  Even after reading my blog, many will still feel the urge to throw their manuscript at a publisher, hoping the publisher will hug the new found gem to their chest and pronounce to the world that they have found the next big thing to hit this world.  For those of you that just can't be swayed from this option, for the love of god, please, please, please follow the publishers guidelines of how to submit.  Get on their website and follow their submissions TO THE LETTER!  Do not be clever and send them your picture or your facebook page believing that when they see you, they won't be able to resist.  Don't get on photoshop and create a clever cover.  For them, it's all about the bottom line.  The bottom line is your writing.  If you stray outside their guidelines, you can expect your beautiful work of art to be filed in the circular file. Even if they don't toss your story aside right away, it will go into what they call the "Slush pile."  They will have a low level intern read it in about four months when the room fills up.  So, do I suggest sending to a publisher?  NO!

So, what should you do?  Well, let me ask, as I have in previous posts, what is the most important thing for an author?  I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again.  It should be one of two things:  Seeing your book on the shelves of the most popular book stores in the world, or getting your writing on those neat little electronic devices that everyone is carrying around these days.  So, since you are still reading, you are clearly getting that you should look for a more calculated approach to getting your book published; an approach that has proven to be more successful, yes?  Good!  So for those of you that have decided not to waster your time going right for a publisher, you may be looking to hook up with an agent.  NOW you are thinking.  Keep in mind that this is still a traditional way of getting your book published.  So, onto talking about finding an agent.  There are several GREAT sites.  I will list my favorite for you.  I cannot say strongly enough that becoming a member on these sites is a huge benefit.  Let me make this clear.  I have no affiliation with these websites nor do they even know who I am.  However, I have used them and I want YOU to find the best path in life to get that beautiful work of art out in the world and read.  This is a site I highly recommend.  http://www.querytracker.net/  It has a lot of tools to help you.  Make sure you find an agent who reads your genre, or once again, you are just wasting everyone's times.  Okay, I think I have given you enough for the time being.  Check in next week to my new post about vanity presses and places that promise to get your book published for a price.  I know you want to hear about it now but, I can't put everything there is to know about publishing all in one post.  Now, onto my personal story.

Continued from last post...

So, I am all excited to get my book out into the world and on all those nifty little electronic devices.  By the way, did I mention that I threw my book at several publishers previously, hoping that they would proclaim to the world that they had found the next greatest thing in the world?  NO?  Hmmmm, well I did.  And it took six months for them to send me my manuscript back with not so much as a, "Thanks for submitting but this might be best used as kindling."  This is the truth of what it means to be an author.  Rejection is hard hitting and stings.  Are you still game?  Yes?  GOOD!  It is part of the process.  Let it go and move on.  Some of you reading this will have already tried this method and considered giving up.  DO NOT!  You only lose when you quit. It might be years but when that first book sale happens, it will all be worth it.  

Okay, so I decide to get a few well known doctors in my community, who I know, to read my first chapter and give me their brutal, honest opinion.  I don't think three days could have gone any slower.  Yes, that is how long it took for me to meet with them again.  My palms are clammy and I have to wipe them on my pants before I shake their hands the next time I see them.  I pretend to be casual, but inside, my stomach is in knots.  I am expecting hard core rejection.  Well, I want praise but I made it clear that I need them to be honest.  He is 70 and she is in her 50s.  They are not teenagers who might jump at the fantasy genre.  I was skeptical about them liking the fantasy genre, but as they sat down holding the first chapter to The Divine Apprentice, smiles lit up on both of their faces.  The first words out of their mouths were, "When do we get the next chapter."  OMG, did they really just say that? I think as my head spins.  Really?  Yup, they sure did.  Believe it or not, my future as a writer was hinging on their input.  But, they loved it and even called it brilliant.  This started a beautiful relationship that still exists today.  I officially cite them as my editors in my book.  

Now PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to what I am saying.  If you want to increase our chances of becoming a success, you must get other people to read your work and give you honest feedback.  They will help you see the strengths of your work and give you input on how to improve the weak areas.  We ALL have them.  Suck it up and take the honest feedback WITHOUT being defensive.  If you can't, give up right now.  Criticism is something we all get and when you make your self a public figure, as all authors are doing, you will get it.  If you find yourself explaining things too often to those that you are talking to about your manuscript, your writing needs tweaking.

So, I gave my editors one chapter at a time to read and encouraged them to write as much as they wanted while finding mistakes.  Then I would meet with them and we would discus the story.  It took me six months of doing this two or three times a week to finally get through my trilogy.  But, when it was done, I really felt like I had a winner.  They caught many mistakes that I did not see.  When you decide to start looking for an agent, you must have the most perfect copy of your writing possible.  Misspellings in the first few pages will bring up red flags.  Read critically and then read it again.  What you submit to an agent must be as flawless as possible and it must draw them in quickly.  Find a way to elicit an emotional response.  Find a way to make them care about your characters or the story.

Okay, check in to my blog next week to hear more of my story.  Thanks for reading and please contact me with any questions.  As I said previously, I will always make time to answer any questions.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed