Today’s Path to Publication post is by fellow Clean Reads author, Jennifer Froelich. Without further ado, here’s Jennifer…
My mom bought me a blue typewriter for my tenth birthday, not too long after I had hand-written a story about a group of kids who solved a mystery involving a rich old lady, a spooky manor, and a priceless diamond. With my new typewriter, I went on to write another story about a little girl who found a magical rainbow bridge outside her bedroom window, which she crossed to a secret island in the sky.
You might think I knew then that I wanted to be a novelist. I didn’t. I wanted to be a nurse, then a doctor, then, briefly, an NFL cheerleader. As I grew, my career goals constantly changed. I wanted to teach, I wanted to be an interior designer, then an architect. When I joined choir in high school I was good enough to imagine a career on the stage, but not good enough for those aspirations to last. After that, my love of sewing inspired an interest in fashion design, and I dreamed of an exclusive boutique with rich clients who wore my one-of-a-kind designs.
But when I graduated from high school, none of those fantastic ideas stuck. Instead, I decided I would be practical and chose a major that would lead to good money: accounting. It took me a couple of years to admit (out loud) that balancing spreadsheets was not for me. The idea of writing novels was starting to break free from my subconscious at that point, but I was still too practical to pursue it head on. Instead, I changed my major to journalism, reasoning that I could find solid work by writing, even if I wasn’t writing fiction.
I’m happy with the degree I earned. Because of my degree in journalism, I have been able to take on editorial jobs to augment my creative writing through the years. I also learned a lot of valuable research and interview skills, along with the rules of newsworthiness, which are great to consider, even when writing a novel.
After graduating from college, I immediately became a mother, which prompted me to take on those freelance writing jobs while I raised my kids. For years, I subcontracted for a Writer’s Digest book doctor: editing, proofreading, critiquing and ghostwriting for other aspiring writers. Seeing what worked (and what didn’t) for those writers was a great learning experience for me while I worked on my own fiction.
My debut novel, Dream of Me, is about two strangers who meet in shared dreams, which motivates them to try and find each other in the real world. The concept came to me after I had an odd dream myself and wondered if the person I dreamed about was somewhere else in the world, sharing that same dream. When I finished writing it, I shared it with my book doctor client and he loved it, so I started sending query letters to literary agents. I gave up somewhere after 100. Some of the agents were encouraging (great concept, keep trying, etc.) others just sent a form rejection letter without so much as a private address. (A letter beginning with “Dear author” is never something you want to pull out of your mailbox). So I put Dream of Me in a box and began to write another book.
I can’t remember why I decided to set my second novel in Mexico. But when I started researching the Copper Canyon and the legends of the Aztec people, I knew that’s where my story should take place. Eventually, I wrote Sacrifices, a story about two former lovers who are reunited as FBI and Mexican Federal agents, working together to find a serial killer who believes he is a reincarnated Aztec god. Ultimately, I changed my title to A Place Between Breaths, based on a marksmanship term that echoed themes in the story.
Right about that time, I was approached by a small publishing house looking for new titles. I was excited about the prospect, but wary of their inexperience. I decided to show them Dream of Me and see what they thought. They offered me a contract. Unfortunately, my wariness ended up being justified. I spent several months rewriting and editing my manuscript, only to have the owners close shop just as I was finished. I was devastated, but after crying and moping for a while, I thought: The book is done and edited. Why don’t I just self-publish it? So that’s what I did. I remember getting my first review, in which the reader wrote: “I was completely mesmerized by this book!” That’s still one of my favorite memories – reading a perfect stranger’s words, praising mine. I had readers! My book had fans!
After that, I tried to find an agent for A Place Between Breaths, but found that the publishing world had only gotten more difficult to navigate. Most respected agents had full client lists, and those who were seeking new talent were not interested in my suspense novel. After a few almost-but-not-quite-perfect connections, I decided to self-publish again. I had learned a lot from my experience with Dream of Me and the process went much more smoothly. Once again, I was getting great reviews and building a small, but loyal readership.
Marketing books while trying to write another one has always been the most difficult thing about this business, and that was no exception as I continued to try and sell Dream of Me and A Place Between Breaths while writing my third novel, Stealing Liberty. It didn’t help that this novel, in multiple ways, was going to be more challenging than the other two.
In the first place, I was breaking the rule of sticking with one genre: Stealing Liberty was going to be a young adult novel. It was also a dystopian story, which had already peaked in popularity with The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. Stealing Liberty needed to be a series as well, so what were the chances readers would care about three books, let alone one, if dystopian fiction was already on the way out? Add to that the fact that Stealing Liberty would feature a Christian character (which never, ever happens in popular mainstream fiction) and once again, I faced the possibility of writing a book that no one was interested in publishing.
But I had to write it. I loved the story, I thought it was important and relevant, and ultimately decided that even if I was faced with only self-publication again, it was something I had to see through. As I feared, when I finished writing it and began to query literary agents, I received multiple rejections.
Then one day, I got a call from Cyle Young at Hartline Literary. He was interested in the story, but wanted to make sure I was as serious about the work in front of me as I had been about writing the novel in the first place. We went through several rounds of edits together, focused entirely on the first three chapters (some of which I am almost convinced were designed to see how thick-skinned I was.) Keeping my cool and working hard paid off, though, and Hartline offered me a contract. After I signed, Cyle and his intern, Tessa Hall, worked with me to create a solid book proposal, which they sent out to every young adult publisher in the business.
Then came another round of rejections. Again, I learned how fluid the publishing world can be. Contracts are often offered because a story hits some specific niche that is hot right at that moment, be it pirates or princesses, androids, or shepherds (I made that last one up – the last book I read about shepherds was Far from the Madding Crowd – not exactly recent.) But regardless, the writing has to be impeccable and the subject, plot and characters exactly what those publishers are looking for at exactly the right time. As it turned out, I was right to be concerned about how my Christian character would be received. She was the only sticking point for every major publisher we approached – even the “Christian” ones, curiously, who are more and more pushing away from any mention of Jesus in favor of a simple clean-reading model.
But then Cyle received an offer from a small press called Clean Reads. The publisher said her intake reader called Stealing Liberty one of the best she had read. And since they were not scared away by my Christian character, we negotiated a publishing contract.
Stealing Liberty was released in June and the response has been fantastic. Readers love it, it’s getting great reviews, and I am in the process of writing the sequel. Along the way I’ve learned these truths about the publishing industry: First, writing is paramount. It has to be good in every way, just to get your foot in the door. Second, everything takes more work than you imagine it will: writing, editing, marketing, social media management – all of it. Third, there are millions of books out there to read – too many for any one person to read in one lifetime, which means yours – as amazing as it may be – will get buried under a pile of distraction. There’s no magic way to gain readers. You do it day by day, word by word, reader by reader.
But the payoff? Having readers respond so positively to your characters and story. Readersfavorite.com recently gave Stealing Liberty a five-star review. The reviewer wrote: “When I finished the novel, I wanted to give it a round of applause…”
That’s why I do what I do.
When Reed Paine is sent to a secret detention school for teens whose parents are branded enemies of the state, he doesn’t expect to find friendship – especially after coming face to face with Riley Paca, a girl who has every reason to hate him.
But when Reed, Riley and a few others start reading the old books they find in tunnels under the school, they begin to question what they are taught about the last days of America and the gov-ernment that has risen in its place.
Then the government decides to sell the Liberty Bell and Reed and his friends risk everything to steal it – to take back their history and the liberty that has been stolen from them.
About the Author
Jennifer Froelich’s new novel, STEALING LIBERTY, is now available from Clean Reads books. Readers praised her debut novel, Dream of Me, as well-orchestrated with outstanding imagery. Her second novel, A Place Between Breaths, was called a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested and awarded an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 23rd Annual Self Published Book competition. Jennifer worked for many years as a freelance editor and ghost writer before publishing her own work. She lives in Idaho with her husband, two children and a cat named Katniss.
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