Don’t Say You Can’t Publish

By:  Nina Romano

If you’re writing short stories, poems, essays, or stand-alone novel excerpts, you should be submitting these in order to publish in small magazines, or literary journals. Once you have accrued some solid publications, this gives you a bit of clout when writing to agents, editors and publishers on behalf of a larger body of work. You can then query for a novel, a collection of short stories or poems. Always include an Author Bio, where you can mention the publications.

When I was writing and submitting poetry, I’d send out poems to many different venues: literary magazines, newspapers, journals in print and online magazines. I circulated twelve to twenty (12-20) pieces each week, submitting usually on a Friday. I found sticking to one day, made it mandatory and easy to remember. If any of these submissions got rejected, I’d look them over, perhaps change a thing or two, or maybe nothing, but I made sure those poems went out to a new and different place the following week.

In days of yore, before it was so easy to email and attach a file, I was mailing out envelopes popping at the seams with my poems. If they came back to me rejected, I’d simply put them in a new envelope to send out if the papers weren’t shopworn, or if they were, I’d retype a fresh copy and mail again. These always included a SASE inside (stamped, self-addressed envelope for return), and always with a brief cover letter.

The selection of whom or what to publish is very subjective—you may come across an editor who simply falls in love with your writing, or others who’ll say, Nice try, don’t quit your day job. This kind of editor is not for you, so keep sending out until you find the right one (s).

When I had a good number of accepted poems, I’d put them by category into a folder or a computer file. Next, I added new poems to these already published ones to complete a theme.  I would then take these themed poems and make them into a small chapbook of twenty-four to forty (24-40) pages or a complete collection of sixty to eighty (60-80) pages or more. I would then include what I called the book’s beginning pages: title page, contents page, acknowledgments page, dedication page and an “About the Author” page—basically the bio.  This last page contained any pertinent information concerning publications, appearances, seminars, workshops, or conferences I’d either taught at or attended.

I love dedicating books! The same goes for writing an “Acknowledgements” page.  It gives you a chance to thank or acknowledge many people—not just family and friends, but editors, professors, etc. Then, I’d send out to a few poetry contests—not many because they’re expensive.  Even if the entry fee is basically cheap, they still add up! I didn’t win any contests for my poetry, mostly because I rarely sent out to many contests. Instead I used my money to buy more poetry collections to study and examine. I did win one contest which had no fee—Graduate Poetry one year at FIU while on the road to completing my MFA in Creative Writing. The award was for one of my best poems: “The Crucifixion of Garlic,” which is in my first poetry collection, Cooking Lessons, and still available on Amazon!

I preferred sending to small, independent publishers. I was fortunate to finish five complete collections and two poetry chapbooks and have all of them published with small, independent publishers.  When I knew the collection was going to be published, I’d begin asking poets and writers for blurbs. Networking at Writing Conferences, in Workshops, and at Readings, always paid off.  Talk to other authors. I met the incredible poet Jim Daniels at a writing conference, and had the chutzpah to ask him if he’d read my current collection to blurb it. Generous and accessible as he is, he agreed. He has blurbed two of my poetry books! Marketing these published collections was a completely different matter and subject for another blog altogether.

However, poetry is not fiction. I wrote a great many short stories on the way to writing my novels. Some of these stories were published, and some still languish in drawers, or on in computer files and beckon me from time to time! I had my collection of short stories, always difficult to place, accepted by Kitsune Books, but sadly the wonderful owner/editor Anne Petty passed away. I subsequently published The Other Side of the Gates with Bridle Path Press.

I had an agent for my first novel but without success of placing it with a publisher. I decided to take back the novel and write another one—the prequel. After receiving dozens of beautiful rejection letters, despite the fact that I was often told my query letter was great, I realized I was batting my head against a proverbial stone wall trying to “hook” an agent, so I decided on a different approach. I now could teach a course in writing query letters.

When it came to my novels, I wanted to pursue the traditional route and not self-publish. I skipped the agonizing, grueling querying to agents and started submitting to small, independent publishers. I found three in the category where my novels would fit best—historical romance. I selected these publishers in a list of one hundred of the best for novels, and sent to them.  Luckily, I hit with the first one I’d sent to, Turner Publishing.  If I hadn’t been accepted, it was my intention to query every single solitary one that I’d marked on that list.

Determination and persistence is the name of the game. I published the Wayfarer Trilogy with Turner—three novels: The Secret Language of Women, Lemon Blossoms, and In America.  All of these novels finished as Finalists in various Book Contests, and the first one won an Independent Publishers IPPY gold medal.

One would think this would open doors, but accolades and bling on your past published books, doesn’t give you a free pass to place a new novel with the same publishing company.  Keep submitting. If the novel isn’t accepted, try someplace else. I did it, and you can, too!  Send your novels to book contests—because if you’re meant to be a winner, you have to submit! Send queries to agents and publishing houses. The important thing is to write numerous queries and submit your work! It took me eighty-four query letters to secure that literary agent!

Or else you can decide to self-publish like these famous authors did: E.L James, Beatrix Potter, E.E.Commings, Stephen King, Mark Twain, Virginia Wolf, Rudyard Kipling, Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, Stephen crane, Walt Whitman, Alexander Dumas, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Henry David Thoreau, to name but a few.

I queried several small, independent traditional publishers for my latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. I received several acceptances for an E-book only, but I wanted a print copy as well. You can’t sell an E-book at a Workshop or to a Book Club, or at a Reading or a Signing! I signed with Prairie Rose Publications because they gave me the deal I wanted.

You can publish on blogs—yours and other people’s as a guest blogger. Writers have turned their blogs into books! There’s a blog on your author page of Goodreads, and there’s an “About the Author” page on Amazon. If you look hard enough, you’ll find many other places to market yourself and your titles, or at least write about yourself and what you love doing: writing. The point is if you want to see your words in print remember: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and “Seek until you find!”

Here’s a quote from James W. Hall, “Master of Suspense” and the Thorn Mystery Series. On the last day of a writing workshop at FIU, he said, “There are dozens of better writers than me, I just stuck with it.” Thanks, Jim, your words have served me well!

Here it is short and bittersweet: perseverance and tenacity are key and almost as important as the writing itself.



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Author’s Bio

Nina Romano earned a BS from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a BA and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history.  She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks with independent publishers. She co-authored Writing in a Changing World.  Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.

Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley has recently been released from Prairie Rose Publications

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