How I got a publisher - An interview with author, Peter Rossfour
firstwriter.com – Thursday February 20, 2014
Peter Rossfour recently acquired a publisher using firstwriter.com's database of publishers. We asked him about his writing, and how he found success.
fw: Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Peter. Could you tell us a little about the book you've secured a publishing deal for?
PR: It is called Through A Mirror Darkly and it has just been published as an ebook, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Smashwords, iTunes, to mention a few online booksellers at ($2,99), etc. The printed version is due The first of March. It is the first volume of a trilogy called "The Three Mirrors".
It relates the tale of three young adults, two sisters, Leitha (19) and Hailjan (17) Windsor, and their nephew, Ethan (17) St. Clair, who had no idea they were under an enchantment, not an inkling their lives were predestined, rooted in the land of their ancestors in another dimension.
Moving into Amharoch Manor, the Windsor family’s centuries-old family estate, they discover a poem and a riddle in the huge library. Leitha intuitively knows what it means and solves the riddle. Astounded they learn that they are all three of royal descent and the girls’ father, Professor James Windsor, renowned Quantum Physicist, is by birth the heir apparent to the throne of Amharoch.
Following the instructions contained within a letter attached to the frame of a mirror they find in a cleverly hidden room within the manor they "translate" to Amharoch, the land of their ancestors, situated in another dimension with a different time-frame.
Unfortunately things go horribly wrong and Leitha is separated from the other two. Bitten by a swarm of deadly poisonous ants she is rescued, near dead, by Lord Nomis, the best friend of their great, great, great, ancestor.
The other two are not as fortunate and they find themselves in a continuous battle for survival, facing all kinds of strange and unfathomable dangers.
In the interim, unbeknown to the three kids, Professor Windsor and Ethan’s father, Charles St. Clair, are brought to Amharoch as well, where James is given the arduous task of wresting the country from the evil clutches of Malfeasint, the evil Black Queen illegally ruling the country.
In a tense, action-filled story, the three teenagers, as well as James and Charles, all come face to face with who they really are, discover their strengths and weaknesses, face their hidden fears, and learn, sometimes forcibly, to adapt to their new lives in the strange and fascinating country of their forebears.
The book ends on a cliffhanger, paving the way for the sequel, The Land in Jeopardy.
fw: Where did you get your idea from?
PR: I have always been fascinated by the "Parallel Reality" phenomenon and have researched it thoroughly. Physics has undergone dramatic changes in the last decade. Scientists now believe time travel is possible. Interestingly, the amazing discipline of "Remote Viewing" (another topic I have researched comprehensively) as promoted by the American and Russian governments, fits snugly into this picture. Time is a totally different entity to what the average person believes. There exists scientific proof that we exist in eleven different parallels. Fascinating stuff! The feelings of déjà vu we experience sometimes are an example of this: a brief visit into another parallel.
My three main heroes transcend permanently to a different parallel by means of the mirror provided. Incidentally, the three mirrors in the trilogy represent Past, Present, and Future.
fw: How long did it take to write? Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
PR: The actual writing process took about two years. I discarded about seven attempts before I found the correct approach. The research obviously took far longer. I have been researching Parallel Realities, Remote Viewing, Quantum Physics, Time travel, psychic phenomena, and related subjects for decades. In my dim and distant past I majored in psychology and have spent ever since trying to decipher the working of the human brain and psyche. And I must tell you I am still none the wiser when it comes to human behaviour.
My tips for aspiring writers? Probably the most important is to know your subject, know what you are writing about. To give a silly example – if you are writing about a car it is no good knowing only it is a vehicle with four wheels, you must have a thorough knowledge of what constitutes a car, what it is made of, how it is put together, how it operates, etc.
fw: Is it your first attempt at writing?
PR: No, it is not my first attempt. I have been writing for many years, mainly as a stress reliever. Up to the time I subscribed to firstwriter.com a few years back, I did not actively seek publication.
Thanks to your wonderful site, I entered and won a little competition run by Booktango. As a result they published my The Supreme Bloody Joker as an ebook (available on Amazon etc.). However the book is not selling well because no-one knows about it. They don’t actively market what they publish. fw: Do you think having a publishing credit helps when you're trying to secure a publisher?
PR: I personally don’t believe it makes any difference. The main publishing houses simply are not interested in new talent. Like most agents, they have established authors and are loathe stepping outside their known comfort zones, unless of course you are a serial killer penning your autobiography, a celebrity washing your dirty laundry in public, a corrupt politician, or a fraudster that got away with millions. People are suckers for sensation. Let me give you an example. If Prince Charles now had to pen a book on how he cheated on Diana, the publishing houses would trample each other trying to get to his door. I’m convinced some of the best authors have never been published.
I believe the publishing industry as we know it is in the grips of major change. The big players are nervous about the future, not quite knowing how to read it or what to expect. I think we are all very well aware that the reading public is a fickle mistress. Electronic publishing is rapidly advancing, changing the face of publishing completely. I don’t know if it is a good thing though. Somehow I still prefer the feel of a good book in my hands. But technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that it is surpassing even the extremes predicted by Alvin Toffler in his amazing books Future Shock and The Third Wave. I think the next few years will see major changes taking place in the publishing industry, and I don’t think they will all be beneficial.
fw: What was the first step you took towards trying to get published?
PR: A few years ago whilst travelling through the United States I purchased one of those "Guides to Literary Agents" types of books from Barnes and Noble. Once back home I tried a few agents and publishers but soon realised it was like trying to pitch a basketball through the net from the top of the grandstand. When I chanced upon firstwriter.com it was like manna from heaven. Your service is simply amazing. I don’t believe any author or aspiring author can afford to be without it. As a matter of fact I believe every agent and publisher should subscribe to it. For me it is as essential as breathing. As I said, The Supreme Bloody Joker was published as a result of the competition listed in firstwriter.com.
The publishing of Through a Mirror Darkly resulted from a direct approach to one of the publishers listed in your files.
I do believe though the engagement of an established agent is essential for any aspiring author to make meaningful headway in the quagmire of the present publishing world. I am at present approaching agents to represent me, but I must tell you I get the feeling I’m pitching from the top of the grandstand. Although I must add that your site makes it a far less formidable task than trying to do it by means of one of the printed guides.
fw: What do you find unhelpful about the traditional printed guides?
PR: Very much a hit and run experience. What I like about firstwriter.com is that it is like having a GPS gadget in your car on an unknown journey. Your service is simply remarkable.
fw: What did you find most helpful about the service?
PR: I like everything about firstwriter.com. The concept is wonderful, very user-friendly. Most of all though I like the background it gives of the agents and publishers listed. By going to the websites of those listed you get to know if they are what you are seeking. It removes the "hit and run" factor from the process. What I found particularly useful is the feature of good and bad comments on the institutions listed. Make no error; there are a lot of sharks out there in the publishing industry waters. A friend of mine, a reformed high roller, turned pastor, was quoted a fee of $10,000 to publish his little book (75 pages) of his journey to God. Fortunately he asked my advice before signing the "contract" they sent him. I am at present editing the book for him and have advised him to follow the self-publishing route. A local institution will prepare and print it for him for less than a tenth of what the "publishers" he approached wanted to bill him with.
fw: How do you structure your searches for publishers and agents?
PR: I download everything you send me and categorise it into agents, likely agents to approach, publishers, and likely publishers to approach, suitable to my work. I did not buy any books on the subject apart from the guides I purchased in the USA. firstwriter.com is all anybody will ever need. If you use it correctly it is a gold mine of information. I believe though simultaneous submissions to be a waste of time. Using the same letter is a no-no as far as I’m concerned. Remember in most cases you are dealing with professionals. They can sense a same-approach a mile off. Select the agent or publisher you think most suitable to your work and approach them one by one. Most importantly, do not become suicidal or don sackcloth and ashes after a rejection. Keep trying. Just be more selective, do your research on those you are approaching. For instance, do not send a Y/A manuscript to an agent or publisher stating they seek romance or adult fiction.
If you follow the submission guidelines most agents or publishers supply on their websites you can’t go wrong. Remember they are extremely busy people; they are not interested if your cat died recently or if you think you are the next JK Rowling. Keep your approach simple (remember the old KISS rule? Keep It Simple Stupid!), business-like, polite. Do not be familiar; it is an instant turn-off for any agent or publisher. One thing I have learnt, before you send your submission go over it again and again, you will be surprised how many mistakes you pick up. First impressions count. A bad approach will solicit a negative response.
fw: Did it take you a long time to find a publisher for your current book?
PR: I was lucky with Through A Mirror Darkly. The first publisher I approached liked my submission and by return mail requested the complete manuscript. Within two weeks I was sent a publishing contract. It was basically a first-off.
fw: What a result! Have you suffered with rejections on any of your other works?
PR: I have not really tried all that hard to get my work published. A few years ago when I was still polishing my writing I tried a few publishers with manuscripts I have since abandoned. The rejections were always polite. I’ve had more rejections from agents than publishers.
How do you deal with it? NEVER TAKE IT PERSONALLY! If one rejects it, it doesn’t mean the whole world does not like it. It is merely the opinion of one individual who might have had a bad hair day the day your submission landed on his/her desk. The next one may love it. Do ensure though that the material you send is your very best and error free.
fw: So which publisher will be publishing your book?
PR: Itoh Press from Bowling Green, Kentucky, signed me. I must tell you I found them to be absolutely wonderful people. At the time they accepted me and asked for the manuscript I was unable to forward it as promised. I had just lost my second-eldest son to Cancer and it was a very traumatic time for me. Carol Itoh, the CEO of the company, was wonderfully sincere in her response and gave me all the time I needed. Lisa Maine, the lady who edited my manuscript is simply marvelous. I feel incredibly fortunate to be published by them.
fw: Why do you think you managed to secure a publisher so quickly?
PR: I think the reason why I succeeded in securing a publisher was mainly because I screen and categorise the ones you so kindly send me. The one I approached, Itoh Press, was actively seeking new material and what I offered was fortunately what they were looking for.
fw: How are things developing now you've placed your book? Is it difficult letting other people tamper with your "baby"?
PR: It is a slow process. You need lots of patience. Don’t think once you have signed a contract your book is magically going to appear on bookshelves all over the world and people are going to queue up to buy it. Signing the contract is merely the first step. You yourself, once the book is available, have to assist to actively market it. Publishers today, unless you are royalty or notorious, or famous, simply don’t have the budget to spend millions on promoting your book. Do remember, yours is not the only book they are publishing.
I am at present setting up a Facebook page as well as a website. I am also going to promote my work on Twitter. Books only sell once a few people have read it, liked it, and told their friends about it.
As to "tampering with your baby", it really doesn’t faze me. If someone can improve my work I’m happy for them to do so. I don’t think one can ever learn enough about good writing. Like martial arts, it is a skill you have to practice daily without fail.
fw: Do you have any tips for other writers trying to get published?
PR: The only advice I can offer is – HONE YOUR SKILLS, PRESENT YOUR BEST, AND NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!
fw: What are your goals for the future? Where are you taking your writing now?
PR: My main aim is to land an experienced, well-connected agent. I have several other manuscripts ready for publication like for instance The Jesus Parallel, Gulliver, and Half-Breed – Three Weeks. The Jesus Parallel, although fiction, gives an alternate view as to who Jesus really was and what he stood for. This book stems from when I was eight years old. My first little girlfriend, a beautiful little Jewish girl, had just died from a mysterious illness. When, the Sunday after her funeral, I asked my Sunday school teacher if she is in heaven, and this good woman said, "No. How could she be? She never accepted Jesus as her saviour." I was totally flabbergasted. I had a stand-up argument with the teacher, resulting in her asking my mother to please not send me back as I was a disruptive influence. To crown it all, my Granny, a staunch old German woman of noble descent, gave me a solid spanking for being disrespectful to an adult. This little episode set me on a life-long quest to find out who Jesus truly was and what he believed. I have delved into most major religions, read the Bible, front page to last, several times, and researched countless books on religion. Decades long research resulted in The Jesus Parallel.
To get back to your question, The Jesus Parallel, of all my books, must be the closest to my heart. My "baby" so to speak. This is where I need an agent to find the right publisher and set the correct wheels in motion to utilise the book to its maximum potential. You may ask why I haven’t submitted it to Itoh Press. Simply because I don’t think it is the kind of book they publish. It does not mean though that I won’t ask Carol if she’s interested.
Where am I taking my writing now? Good question. With the publishing industry what it is today it is extremely difficult for any writer to land a contract, never mind an agent. I suspect some of the best authors out there will never see their books on the shelves of bookstores. Basically I think it is a matter of luck if you manage to hit it off. Obviously there is a load of inferior material being sent to agents and publishers, and I think it is because of this, the sheer magnitude of submissions they receive, that worthwhile authors are seldom given a chance. Writing is a lonely job, make no error.
fw: Thank you for your time, Peter, and best of luck with all your books!
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