Red Card Roberts
January 17, 2017
I never really set out to be an author. Most weeks, all I can do is string together 700 words for this column — so typing out roughly 70,000 was overwhelming.
But a few years ago it seemed like the universe was sending me messages. In the course of a few weeks I had several people randomly tell me, "You should write a book." Then I'd open a magazine and land on a page reviewing the latest bestseller. I'd turn on the TV and someone would be interviewing an author who just got a movie deal. I went to a retreat and stumbled upon an empowering presentation by a lawyer-turned-author who encouraged us all to write a story. A week later I cracked open a fortune cookie that told me, "Your future is in print."
I don't typically make life decisions based on the contents of a bland, crunchy cookie. But it seemed like I was getting some determined messaging from somewhere. I'd had an idea for a book percolating for a while. Those I'd shared the idea with were excited about the plot and suggested it could be adapted for a movie. Some even picked out the actors.
So I sat down and pounded out words that became sentences that became paragraphs that eventually became about 300 pages. I developed characters and pulled from the far corners of my imagination. I read several other books to ensure my plot was reasonably accurate and interviewed people and researched locations. Then I sent it to my mother, who is a college English professor, for editing. It looked like a murder scene when she returned it. I started calling her "Red Ink Roberts" after that. I made her edits, most of them at least. And then made more changes.
So I sat down and pounded out words that became sentences that became paragraphs that eventually became about 300 pages.
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I went to conferences on publishing a novel. I spent roughly six months sending query letters and even longer reading rejection emails from literary agents. I got my hopes up each time I received a request for the full manuscript. Only to have an agent tell me "I loved your book, but it's not what I'm looking to represent right now." That's if they responded at all.
I had a few ask me to send my manuscript with a detailed marketing plan. When I asked for clarification I was told, "Every agent will expect you to market and sell your book. We want to know your plan for that before offering representation." They didn't find it amusing when I admitted my sales plan was to find an agent who would do the marketing.
It was disheartening when agents would tell me something like, "I really enjoyed your writing and the premise, but I don't think you have enough of a following to sell this."
This is why there are so many bad books written by celebrities I've concluded. The writing might be awful, but that seems to matter far less than the number of copies sold.
The more agents I spoke with, the more I questioned if I really needed one. It seemed like I did most of the heavy lifting — writing, researching, editing, revising — now the selling was on me too?
After months of back and forth and learning that, as a first-time author, I probably would not make more than a month's mortgage payment in royalties, I decided to self-publish.
Sure, there'd likely be fewer typos in my book if I'd had an agent and a big-name publisher, and maybe the cover design would have a bit more flair, but in the end, I got restless. It was going to be at least one year before I saw my book in print if I'd gone the traditional agented route. I was able to upload it to Amazon in 10 minutes.
I still don't have the following the NYC agents told me I needed. Nor do I have a sales or marketing plan. But if nothing else, I got my first media blip.
In the interest of shameless self-promotion, my book is called "Remorse," and you can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Remorse-Amy-Roberts-ebook/dp/B01N0TKI8M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484596499&sr=1-1&keywords=remorse+amy+roberts
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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