Coloring outside the lines


It seems that most of my life, I’ve always colored inside the lines. What I mean by this is I play by the rules, I follow the instructions, I rarely deviate from the norm. I know that may sound a bit odd to say given the current writing journey I am on, but I think for the most part, I’m a “color inside the lines” type of gal.

The reason I bring this up is because I’ve been following a well-trodden path for publishing my book. I’ve perused many websites, attended writing workshops and read various books on publishing. My take away from all of that was:

  1. You should only contact a publisher if they are a really good fit for your book.
  2. Initial contact for submitting your manuscript should follow strict submission guidelines.

Initial attempts at finding a publisher

Early in the year, I purchased the book “2015 Writer’s Market” which contains lots of tips on getting published. It provides lists of literary agents, book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals as well as contests and awards.

I really did find this book very informative and helpful. It helped me to craft a query letter to send to publishers. Unfortunately, after poring through the publishers section in the book, I came up with a list of about 10 publishers that might be a good fit. I considered a publisher a “good fit” if they published gift books or inspirational books. Once I found a publisher who was a good fit, I then went to that publisher’s website and scrutinized their book catalog to see if they have published books similar to mine. I narrowed down the list of 10 publishers to:

  • 4 publishers that were a really good fit.
  • 3 that were an okay fit.
  • 3 that I needed to wipe from the list.

I was left with only seven publishers to which I could send my book proposal. This did NOT bode well, given the fact that newbie authors are warned to brace themselves for hundreds of rejections.

Despite the dismal numbers, I did send my book proposal out, taking care to follow each publisher’s submission guidelines, and then I fell into a waiting state. It felt like an intangible black hole. Several of the publisher’s websites indicated “Given the volume of proposals we receive, we are not able to personally respond to unsolicited proposals unless we are interested in pursuing the project.” In other words, if you don’t hear from us, then it’s a no. Thus far, I have yet to hear from any of the publishers to whom I sent my proposal.

Falling into a funk

Having pored through the list of publishers from A-Z, I was at a loss as to which way to turn next. This put me in a funk. Because I was coloring inside the lines, I felt like I had exhausted all my options.

Fortunately, life will only allow me to wallow in self-pity for so long before someone or something kicks me in the butt. In this case, my friend Adele did the kicking. She made me finish the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck which made me realize that I had a fixed mindset with regards to publishing. Consequently, this hindered my actions. The steps I had followed were just one avenue towards publishing a book. Adele made me realize I need to take other steps towards what I want even if they are baby ones. Even the smallest step could open a door or lead to another path to try.

So, I decided to find a Meetup for authors trying to publish their book. What I found was a woman, Gini Graham Scott, who was offering to share her book publishing experience. The meetup was an hour from my house and cost $10. Well worth the time and money if I learned even one tidbit of information that would get me one step closer to publishing my book.

Where the baby step led

Gini Graham Scott has published 80+ books through both traditional publishers and self-publishing with Changemakers Publishing.

Most of the information Gini provided during the meetup was information I had discovered on my own. However, there was one big take away that I knew I would implement. Gini is affiliated with a company called Publishers, Agents & Films. They have an extensive database of:

  • publishers
  • agents
  • children’s publishers
  • children’s agents
  • foreign agents for other countries
  • book distributors and sales reps
  • bookstore buyers

Through them, email queries are sent out from your email to individual contacts based on your type of book, script, or film.

So, I tweaked my query letter to make it more generic and used their service to send it out. Email recipients are determined using query terms that match your book genre and topic. The query criteria in my case was: children, teens, family, education, work, illustrated, gift. This yielded over 300 emails sent on my behalf!

Coloring outside the lines

My narrowly focused search for the perfect publisher is an example of me coloring inside the lines. Likewise, only sending a query/book proposal if the publisher was a good fit was me coloring inside the lines.

It had never occurred to me to send out a massive amount of emails to try to open a crack in a door because I was playing within the rules established in my head by several books and websites, Yet, that is exactly what I did. Am I spamming? I don’t know. I prefer to think of it as broadening my search criteria and incorporating whatever tools available to expand my reach. 🙂

It’s been one week since 300+ emails were sent on my behalf. Since that time, I have had 25 people reject my book idea and 4 people who have requested my book proposal! I’m still playing the waiting game, but this time it feels more tangible.

You never know what can happen if you dare to stray outside defined boundaries. It’s important to remember that coloring outside the lines can lead to creative and innovative ideas and this in turn will open up unexpected opportunities.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Coloring outside the lines

  1. Thanks for the updates and sharing a piece of you every week. I wish you continued love and blessings on your journey. Take care and God Bless.


  2. Cheri-Ann thanks for sharing your very personal journey on the way to getting published. I love to color outside the lines too–always have. Now I have a great resource to turn to in your excellent column when I’m ready to publish my own memoir on raising happy, well adjusted gay twin sons. You rock sister!

    • Wow, Vicky! That sounds like a wonderful book! Your book has a unique perspective from the fact that both are gay. I would encourage you to put feelers out to publishers and or literary agents now. You don’t have to wait until your book is all done!