Thursday, September 2, 2010

HOW I GOT PUBLISHED by Jackie Lee Miles



HOW I GOT PUBLISHED



I'm often asked how I got published. It's a long story.

I went to this book conference. At the reception I literally bumped into Ron Pitkin, the president of Cumberland House Publishing. He was kind enough not to notice I spilled his drink and asked what I was working on. When I told him fiction, he promptly replied, "That's a crap shoot." Definitely not what I wanted to hear. I mean, I'd paid good money to come to this conference and he's raining on my party, big time. "Well," I said, "that's too bad, because I have a dynamite opening line." I was prepared to walk away, when he gently took hold of my elbow and said, "So what's your opening line?"



"The morning I died, it rained." Keep in mind this was long before The Lovely Bones.



"God! I want to see that book," he said, doing an about face.



"Ah, I don't have a book," I said. "I have a great opening line and a hundred pages."



He asked if I had it with me. "Of course. I'm getting it evaluated in the morning. It costs forty-five dollars."



He told me to give it to him, he wouldn't charge a thing. I immediately went to my room and brought back the pages. I had a prologue, and the last chapter and the epilogue along with the rest of it. It wasn't finished, but I knew where it was going.



Mr. Pitkin thanked me and went on his way. Come Sunday morning with the conference over, everyone was checking out. I spotted Mr. Pitkin making his way toward me and thought, oh-oh, this is where he's going to pull the rug out from under me and tell me to get a real job. To my surprise he handed me the manuscript and said, "I want this and I want it yesterday. Go home and finish it!"





I figured if I took forever to finish it he'd never even remember that he liked it. I stayed up and wrote around the clock for the next five days, took the weekend off, stayed up again and wrote around the clock for the next five days and sent it off to Mr. Pitkin. I marked my calendar for three months, thinking it might take that long for him to get back to me. I started in on my second book. Just like all the books on writing said to do. The following Friday evening my phone rang. I answered. A voice said, "This is Ron Pitkin at Cumberland House and we're going to bring your book out in hardback." I said, "Ya? And I'm the tooth fairy." And I hung up on him. The reason I did this is that the only person other than my husband who knew I'd sent off the manuscript was a good friend of mine who can mimic any voice he's ever heard. He'd been going to this conference where I'd met Mr. Pitkin for years and has heard him speak many times. It had to be this friend playing a joke on me. Not a very funny one either. I wasn't amused.



I went upstairs to comb my hair and put some lipstick on. My husband was starving and wanted to go and get something to eat. Poor thing, he probably was starving. I stopped cooking when the kids left home and I took up writing. No sooner did I get to the bedroom when the phone rang. This one has caller ID, the others don't. I leaned over and saw CUMBERLAND HOUSE flashing on the screen. I'd hung up on Mr. Pitkin for real!

I picked up the handset, leaned into it and barely whispered "Hello?"



"What'd you hang up on me for?" he said. "Ah, it's a long story, a very boring story," I said.



"Well, we're bringing out your book in hard back and bumping back our memoir piece on Dale Earnhardt (he'd been tragically killed), to make Roseflower Creek the lead book. What do you think of that?"



I was hyperventilating and finding it impossible to speak. I did my best. "Didn't you say fiction was a crap shoot?" I asked



"Yes-and it is," he said.



"Then I think you're crazy or my protagonist got herself a miracle. What do you think of that?"



Mr. Pitkin laughed and said he'd be seeing me. This is a true story and a pretty amazing way to get published. I still have a hard time believing it ever happened. Then I see my books on the shelf and realize it really did! And I'm ever so grateful. Thank you Ron Pitkin!!



Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River and All That's True (January 2011) Visit the website at http://www.jlmiles.com/. Write to Jackie at https://www.sourcebooks.com/Jackie@jlmiles.com

3 comments:

Laura Marcella said...

What an awesome story!!! I love the part when you hung up on him, hahaha. Good thing he has a sense of humor!

Susan Cushman said...

This is so encouraging, Jackie. I've been to quite a few conferences, but I've only pitched a nonfiction book-in-progress. Now that I'm working on a novel, I wondered if I should bother to pitch it at the conference I'm attending in November, since I've only written a couple of chapters. Now I see I need to work on my pitch, and a killer opening line! Thanks for a great story!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
Yes, pitch! And have a great opening line. It never fails to get them. Good luck and God bless.
Jackie Lee Miles