I began working with small independent and academic presses when I began seeking book publication myself in 1999. As is the case for so many of us, I also spent a number of years struggling to find an agent, even traveling to New York to give pitches face-to-face at a big, fancy New York conference, so I am quite familiar with the pitching and proposal process as well.
I didn’t have the kind of luck I wanted in New York with the corporate houses, so I turned to the small presses, a decision I have never regretted. I was lucky enough to have a tiny academic press at a small state college bring out my first poetry chapbook and a collection of poetry, plus my first collection of short stories. They were published by students in an undergraduate publishing class and edited by the well-regarded poet Mark Sanders and his wife Kimberley Verhines, who now runs Stephen F. Austin State University Press. They were sweet editions, if a little primitive, but I learned much about working with tiny presses, and I appreciated the exposure. Plus those little books opened up the path just a sliver. Primitive as they were, they were books, and somebody else published them. Finally, in 2006, after seven years of shopping those and one other manuscript, I became a published author.
What I learned along the path is that I don’t actually want fame and fortune, where originally I thought that this was exactly what I wanted. What I wanted, it turns out, was a nice little writing career where I get to write and travel around meeting people at book signings, conferences, and workshops. Getting published is nice, but in the end, that’s not what writing is about. The writing life for me is about meeting the people who attend book signings, conferences, and workshops, and to do that you have to have a book in hand. Finding someone who wants to publish you is difficult, and I’ve been very lucky in this regard.
In 2015 and 2016, having left the world of the university, I worked as Author Support Coordinator for Booktrope, an innovative publisher in Seattle, WA, where I successfully referred such works as Rachel Clark’s Blackfish Prophecy and Elizabeth Sloan’s When Songbirds Return to Paris. I was able to help dozens of authors, many of them experiencing book publication for the first time, and in the process had the opportunity to learn about and explore the inside of the publishing world.
Directing an author to the right publisher is an instinctual ability, and as with all things instinctual, nothing is ever guaranteed, but I do enjoy assisting authors in this way. I’m very, very selective and prefer only books of literary or historical value, either fiction or non-fiction. Most of the authors I represent are my coaching clients, so I’m deeply aware of the quality of the work, which means I believe in the work, otherwise I wouldn’t agree to represent it.
Here is one catch: this is something I do for a fee. Once I have connected you with a publisher, I am no longer part of the scene. You handle your own paperwork, and I do not receive royalties. Almost anyone will tell you not to do this, and I would tell you not to do this: Never pay anyone to represent you as an agent, which is why I’m careful to say, I am not an agent. But I am responding to a need I’ve seen time and again: writers with absolutely deserving books who need help maneuvering the world of publishing and can find no one to turn to. I feel like I’m experienced enough with the back door to at least have the guts to knock, in other words, and if I believe in your book, I’m willing to help.
If this interests you, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chances are I will have to say no, because I rarely accept a manuscript cold. But–that one in a million chance does exist.