How I got published - An interview with author, Kent Richardson
firstwriter.com – Tuesday December 23, 2008
Kent Richardson recently acquired a publisher using firstwriter.com's database of over 1,000 publishers. We asked him about his writing, and how he found success.
fw: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Kent. What is your book called, and what is it about?
KR: The Second Season follows the story of Sonny "Clubber" Wilson, a young man from troubled home in Maysville, Kentucky, his emergence as a 1960s Major League Baseball All-Star, to homeless man lacking any previous memories. The Second Seasonis told through the eyes of Sonny's best friend, Russell Henning. Henning shares the life and times of a young man from a severely dysfunctional Maysville, Kentucky home. A mixture of actual people and historic venues, coupled with literary suspense, spinsThe Second Season into an irresistible, intense drama of a man against himself as Sonny tries to find his place in life.
fw: Did the idea come to you all at once, or was it something you developed over a longer period?
KR: The Second Season didn’t just happen, but I’ve always said that either you grab a story and go with it, or it grabs you. TSS carried both of those elements. I had a good idea how the story would go from beginning to end, but as always, the "inner guts" of the book really tried my patience.
fw: How long did it take to get it into a state you were satisfied with?
KR: The Second Season was a long time in coming. The initial writing took approximately seven months, but at the time I was laid off, so I was able to write every day. When I began writing TSS, I originally planned to make St. Louis the hometown of Sonny Wilson. St. Louis, Missouri, is known as a great all-American town steeped in baseball tradition. I planned to travel to the town on the mighty Mississippi to get a feel for the city, neighbourhoods, and people. However, many times the best laid plans often go by the wayside as problems crop up. Just as I got ready to take pen in hand, I was laid off from a long-time position with my company. Money and resources were scarce, so I decided to stick closer to home. Living in Ohio, I searched the area map and located the town of Maysville, Kentucky and knew immediately that's where Clubber Wilson was going to grow up, and then later flee.
It turned out that the town of Maysville was much better suited for what I was trying to present with the book. I made several trips to that fine city stationed along the Ohio River, met some of the townsfolk, and took in the neighbourhood where I planned to establish the Wilson’s residence. Sonny would be a small town boy from a troubled, semi-rural family who desperately wanted to escape the domestic conflict and seek his fortune in the big city. He was like many of the young people of that post WWII and Korean War era in that he believed that the world was expanding at a record pace and the grass had to be greener elsewhere.
I finished the manuscript in mid 2001 and submitted the pages to an editor. He thought the script flowed quite nicely…until the final twenty or so pages. Then it really dragged. He was right, but I had no remedy for the problem. I set TSS aside for a bit while readying another manuscript,Reflections of Pearl Harbor, for publication. A couple of years later, I finally came up with a suitable ending, and I once again submitted the manuscript for editing.
fw: Did you find any success with your other manuscript?
KR: Reflections of Pearl Harbor was published by Praeger in 2005. I also have another fiction that’s in the printing process titled Journey Across Time.
fw: How important do you think that previous publishing credit was when you were trying to place The Second Season?
KR: In my case it was very important. With my first book, it was difficult to get anyone to look at the script because I was considered "untested". Reflections has since received some fine reviews. With TSS, I think being a sports writer/photographer with a small newspaper helped my cause quite a bit. Non-fiction publishers like history professors who write history books, and sports publishers like sports writers who write of sports. They think that it helps an author’s credibility to have some inside knowledge of one’s subject matter. They’re usually right, but I hope they give the work a chance to stand on its own.
fw: So did your approach to trying to get published differ between the books?
KR: I utilised agents (and agencies) with Reflections and Journey, but they proved to be quite inefficient. It seemed to me that if you didn’t have a potential 10,000 seller, you were shuffled to the bottom of the pile. I read up on what it takes to market your own manuscript, then set out to do just that. What did I have to lose? I began submitting query letters to prospective publishers around the country, and that process went on for the better part of a year. Finally, I stumbled upon firstwriter.com and found a publisher named Caged Heart Publishing. They read my synopsis and thought the book would be a good fit for their fledgling Vanilla Heart imprint. They requested the entire manuscript, and within several weeks informed me that they wanted to offer me a contract. They liked the manuscript, and it didn’t hurt that I already had a photograph that was perfect for the cover.
fw: Had you tried any other methods of finding a publisher before you joined firstwriter.com?
KR: I tried the ads in the back of writing magazines as well as the internet (late 1990s and very early 2000s) with poor results.
fw: So what made firstwriter.com more effective than searching the rest of the internet?
KR: It helped me that firstwriter.com included the publisher’s website to make sure they were still looking for that genre. Many publishers switch in main stream and you’ll never know unless you look. It also helped that you could be specific in what you were looking for in a publisher (fiction, non, US, foreign, etc.).
fw: What approach did you take to contacting publishers?
KR: Through our local writing group, The Hamilton Writer’s Guild, I was able to perfect my query letter. Many of those I sent out as hard copy, but through firstwriter.com, I was able to cut and paste many of those out via the net.
fw: How many publishers did you approach before you were successful?
KR: How many? I’m embarrassed to say, but let’s just say, too many to count. Probably every eligible publisher in the US is familiar with my name. Too bad they missed out on a great book! TSS took about six months while Journey took several years. Reflections took a couple of years as well.
fw: Were the rejections always courteous and polite?
KR: Some were polite saying that I had a good piece of work there, but it wasn’t currently their genre, but some were a bit rude. The worst was a publisher that stuck a frowny face sticker on my original query and said, “No thanks”. The worst for a writer are those publishers who say, “If you don’t hear from us, consider yourself rejected”.
fw: And why do you think you and your publisher are a good match?
KR: I think we’re a good match because I’m still a fledgling author, and Vanilla Heart is/was willing to work with me and wanted to hear my input. They used my ideas, so it wasn’t just lip service, as they say. VH likes me because I’m willing to do book signings and have other ideas to market the book.
fw: Do you have any tips or advice for other writers trying to get published or find an agent?
KR: Agents? Never pay them a penny. They work strictly on commission. If you’re footing the bill, what incentive is there for them to work harder to get your book into print? Also, check them out on firstwriter.com, which includes independent reports from up to three separate sources, including Predators and Editors. I saw the two I used on there with unfavourable ratings. Surprise.
fw: And what have you got lined up next?
KR: I plan to do several more signings when the weather warms, seeing how TSS uses baseball as a backdrop, it seems appropriate. I’m writing another book now, and I have the first three chapters complete as well as the last two. Yes, the "guts" thing still has me dragging.
fw: Thank you for your time, Kent, and best of luck with all your writing endeavours!
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