Friday, September 30, 2016

Roadblock Perspective

Catherine Dilts is our guest blogger today. She is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series. Her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine's stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running. Her third novel, Stone Cold Blooded, is scheduled for release October 10.

Roadblock Perspective

You’re on the way to work. Traffic stops. You’re angry that you’ll be late. If only you’d left a few minutes earlier. You vow to stop being so darn last minute about things. There are huge consequences at stake. As you inch along, you imagine your boss frowning. What’s the hold up? Get moving! Then you see the reason for the traffic jam. A fender bender? No. A vehicle crushed like a soda can. An ambulance speeds away. Yikes. Being late doesn’t seem so important now.

The publishing business presents roadblocks that can imitate the emotional rollercoaster of being held up in traffic. Here’s the process many of us have been through recently.
You finally get the darn thing written. You shop it around for months, delighted when you get a “send it” from an editor or agent. By the time you have a contract in your anxious little hands, it has been years from idea to sale. Another round of agonizing delay begins as your manuscript travels through the publishing house with the blazing swiftness of an undigested coconut in the intestines of a brontosaurus. Hint – that dinosaur has miles of innards.

You realize why your Indie published friends are smug about how fast their process goes. But you wanted this traditional route, and by golly, you’re sticking with it. You let everyone know your projected release date. Maybe have a celebration or two. Before your novel is released, you receive a somber email that the publishing house is closing up shop. You wonder if your book had anything to do with their demise - as if this situation hadn’t been fermenting for years. Businesses don’t extinct overnight.
I’ve heard this tale from way too many authors. You’ve read the stories on the blogs and loops. Some are multi-published, award-winning folks. It happens to the best of us.
I’ve given enough doom and gloom to choke that constipated brontosaurus. It’s time to find the rainbow in the storm.

1.     First, take a breath. Give yourself a brief period of mourning. What it is you really want out of this writing business? Fame and fortune? Do you write to maintain your sanity in a crazy world? To make a point or make a difference? What is your definition of success?

2.     If this roadblock hasn’t utterly crushed your artistic soul, the most important thing you can do is start your next project. Keep writing!

3.     You have a finished product. It was accepted for publication. That puts you at the head of the pack. Maybe one more rewrite will propel your work to a higher level.
4.     Consider independent publishing. Avoid vanity publishers like the plague, but you might try one of the new crop of publishing services that guide you through the Indie process. Or save your money and go it alone.

5.     Do your homework. Don’t jump into a bad deal with a mediocre outfit because you’re heartbroken and desperate. That never works in the romance department, and it doesn’t work in publishing, either. You have resources to use in vetting agents, publishers, and Indie businesses. Ask for references, ask around, check the usual Preditors and Editors type sites.

Going back to my original roadblock scenario, as you drive past the tragic scene, a thought occurs. If you had been five minutes earlier, you would have been in that wreck. In my twisted pessimistic-yet-optimistic worldview, I often see failure turn into a blessing.

The fact is, you broke through a hundred roadblocks to make that sale that eventually fell through. If you did it once, you can do it again. There is a home for your story. Maybe a better one.

I could write an entire blog on Indie versus Trad, but due mostly to my work schedule, I have taken the traditional route. I reluctantly headed down the independent trail when the third novel in my Rock Shop Mystery series was orphaned by the demise of the Five Star mystery line. A month away from my Indie publishing date, an unexpected opportunity arose to join a brand new small publishing company.

Maybe this roadblock will blossom into the best thing that could have happened to my writing career. Maybe I will exit stage right as a semi-digested coconut. I’m just thrilled traffic is moving again.

What’s your roadblock? What are you doing to get moving again?

Learn more about Catherine at Find her on Amazon at

Comments welcome!


Hywela Lyn said...

Good luck with the new publisher. Thanks for the encouraging, uplifting post. Like you,I spent several years trying to get 'the book of my heart' published.Self publishing then was in its infancy but I really wanted the validation of a 'traditional publisher'. Having tried several agents in the UK I took the plunge and submitted to a publisher across the pond. I haven't had that many lucky breaks in my life but this was one of them. The Wild Rose Press was a new small publisher at the time, but it went from strength to strength, and I've now had three novels published by them as a trilogy, and am working on another novel for them in a slightly different genre. So I guess getting past the 'roadblock' for me, was deciding to take the plunge and bypass agents by going with a small publisher in the U.S.

Linda Andrews said...

Nice article. I have several small presses and I indie publish some books. Everyone's journey is unique and sometimes those roadblocks lead us to something better for us. Good luck on the new publisher!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

"Don’t jump into a bad deal with a mediocre outfit because you’re heartbroken and desperate. That never works in the romance department, and it doesn’t work in publishing, either." ----- LOVE THIS!!!

Such wisdom and sage advice.
Thanks for sharing.

Good luck and God's blessings with your new publishing venture!

Catherine Dilts said...

Hywela, I have heard good things about Wild Rose Press. Congratulations on taking a huge step "across the pond"!

Catherine Dilts said...

Linda, it seems many authors are exploring all options, and trying both traditional routes and independent publishing for their work. It will be interesting seeing how this all works out a few more years down the road.

Catherine Dilts said...

Pam, I hope I can encourage new writers to keep trying. Multi-published authors like you have seen what it looks like on the other side of the roadblock. When you are just starting the journey, sometimes you feel like you're traveling down a dark tunnel with no flashlight. Success in writing is often due to persistence. Thanks for your kind words!

Susan Oleksiw said...

Excellent post, Catherine. As a Five Star author, I know the feeling of suddenly finding your books orphaned. I'm working with a terrific agent, trying a new series, so we'll see what happens. I write because I can't not write, so I'll keep going no matter what. Good luck with your work.

Catherine Dilts said...

Susan, I'm a Five Star orphan, too. Some of us are Indie publishing the next book in a series, while others have found small publishers willing to jump into a series midstream. Congratulations on working with an agent on a new series! I wish you great success!

Bonnie Tharp said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. We do often run into roadblocks and forget to see the good side of the situation, which often opens up something new and wonderful. It happened to me as well. Much good luck to you in your writing journey.

Ann Everett said...

Great post. My first two books were published with a small press, but then I went the indie route. Best decision I ever made. However, the small press experience was fantastic and I will always be thankful for it. Had it not been for someone believing in my work, I probably would have never had the nerve to strike out on my own!
Bottom line...I look at every roadblock as a learning experience...good or bad there is always something to take away.
Good luck with your publishing journey.

Allan J. Emerson said...

Your apt description of the publishing process as "an undigested coconut in the intestines of a brontosaurus" made me laugh, Catherine. I'm another Five Star orphan still hunting for a new publisher. Good luck with your new book!

Maris said...

Excellent overview of what it's like to be a writer, at least for most of us. There are good days and not so good days. Keep driving, but watch out for roadblocks.

Carole Price said...

Excellent post. After Five Star's mystery line died, I almost decided to self pub the third book in my series. And then I queried Black Opal Books, a small press on MWA's approved list. They offered me a contract which I signed. I'm hoping I made the right decision.

Catherine Dilts said...

I'm glad to hear your roadblock had a happy ending!

Catherine Dilts said...

Authors must be flexible and willing to experiment with different publishing options.

Catherine Dilts said...

Allen, I know you'll find that publisher, although it is a pain to have to query folks after enjoying success with Five Star. Best wishes in your hunt! May you find brontosaurus sized success.

Catherine Dilts said...

Just as in any career, there will be ups and downs! I'm still thrilled to be an author, no matter the obstacles.

Catherine Dilts said...

Most of us seem to be finding small press or self pub options. I'm interested to see how it all works out for everyone.

Catherine Dilts said...

Most of us seem to be finding small press or self pub options. I'm interested to see how it all works out for everyone.