Special Guest – Sherry Thompson

Arx and I weren’t entirely through. At one of the next cons I attended, I saw them at their table in the vendor’s hall. I spoke with one of them briefly. He mentioned something about a Lewis book he had always meant to read but that he thought was out of print. Funny thing was, I had just seen the book minutes before at a used book dealer’s table. I went back to the table, bought the book and returned to Arx. Standing facing the partners was a woman who reminded me of my self not that many months ago. I thought at first she was pitching a book she had written but, as I listened, I realized that she was a literary agent.

As soon as she was finished speaking, I handed the book to the Arx partner, and then turned to the woman before she could get away. I told her I was an author and gave her the Two Minute Elevator Pitch. Holly McClure bought it, and gave me a business card for the address to send the manuscript, saying that she would read the book and consider representing me.

Eventually, I heard back from her—on an old piece of cardboard-like paper, which should have warned me. The brief note said that her agency, Sullivan-Maxx, would represent me but that she was giving the account to her subordinate, Ms – . I sent her a couple of copies of the Seabird manuscript as requested, and tried to keep in touch. However, the agency’s email always seemed to be down and long distance calls to Florida were, well, long-distance. I did get to know one of the other authors that SM represented. (Even bought one of her books.) Knowing her ultimately made a huge difference. About a year after being picked up by SM, I heard from this new writer friend that McClure’s “subordinate” had never done any work for us! She had in fact recently been fired, and evidently no one was picking up her accounts. We only thought we were being represented. I never heard back directly from Sullivan-Maxx or Mrs. McClure.

In the meantime, I had lost one excellent chance to land a mainstream publisher. A few months earlier, I emailed the agency and asked that a copy of my manuscript be sent to a particular acquisitions editor—name long since forgotten. No one, of course, ever did anything about my email so I lost an opportunity with a major publishing house.

(A warning to all: check your prospective agent’s reputation on Preditors and Editors and keep in close contact with any agency or publisher with whom you have signed.)

It was now late spring of 2005.

Back-tracking through another adventure from 2003 to 2005, I had already entered the twilight zone of publishing.

As I mentioned previously, I rarely write short stories. One of the very few that I’ve written, I also happen to like. It’s a fantasy story with touches of pagan religion in it. In June of 2003, I received an email from David Bain (editor of the anthology) that my short story had been accepted for publication by Cyber-Pulp for their new anthology, F/SF (Fantasy/Science Fiction) Volume 1. I was excited since this would be my first published work after twenty-five years of admittedly very sporadic attempts at publication.

Time passed. No anthology. Given the Sullivan-Maxx debacle, I had become wary. What was holding everything up?

There’s not a lot I really should say here. David Bain was our editor for the anthology but Bob Gunner was the co-owner of Cyber-Pulp. They had already published several anthologies and, I believe, a couple of SF novels; however, Bob had suddenly dug in his heels about publishing our anthology. Anthologies don’t pay, he announced. (They don’t. Authors get a work-for-hire one time payment, or else a promise in the contract of some tiny fraction of the anthology’s profits if any. Getting a story into an anthology is largely for exposure. However, since our anthology still wasn’t published, we F/SF Vol.1 authors weren’t getting any exposure—or money.)

The whole thing imploded in 2005. Our private Cyber-Pulp Authors Forum disappeared. Bob did publish F/SF v.1 on Amazon in June 2005. For a nano-second. Then Bob disappeared.  Really. (He has since resurfaced.)

There’s still an entry on Amazon indicating that F/SF is “forthcoming” and that shoppers can be notified when it’s available. Take my word for it—don’t bother. F/SF and Cyber-Pulp’s time has passed. I have two author’s copies of the anthology or I wouldn’t believe it ever existed. The last time I checked for Cyber-Pulp on the web, it had become a porn site. In fact, to this day, I get 2 or 3 spam emails from Cyber-Pulp every year, inviting me to go look at the pictures. Eventually (2006) David Bain wrote that courtesy of the “public implosion of Cyber-Pulp” all of the authors in the anthology could take our stories elsewhere.

Back to Seabird, whose clock was still ticking.

In December of 2005, I heard about the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and their Genesis contest. I sent in the application on behalf of Seabird. There are a ton of steps authors must go through in order to be considered for a Genesis. (Genesis now has a new name—I forget what it is.) I spent most of 2006 complying with their various steps to the contest. To make a long story short, Seabird won 3rd Place in the Speculative Fiction division of the Genesis for 2006.

In the meantime, not yet knowing the results, I had been contemplating going to Texas for the yearly ACFW at which the awards would be given. ACFW’s website provided us with a list of agents and publishers who would be at the convention, and essentially said if we signed on early, we would have a chance to schedule a fifteen minute meeting with a couple of these. Ooh! Networking! I didn’t have the money to sign on early. As I watched the slots begin to fill up, I began checking out the publishers and agents ACFW listed, for myself.

Much to my chagrin, I soon discovered that the standards set by the associated publishing companies indicated that they would in no way accept Seabird as written. Example: Early on my heroine wakes up at the beach to discover that she’s sun-burned. She says, “Darn!” Several of the CBA-related publishers would not accept this word in their books, because “everyone knew what it really meant”. On the other hand, I wasn’t about to have my 21st century heroine say, “Golly!”

I started sending email queries to the agents who would be at the ACFW conference. All but one of them rejected me before the con, and the last one’s table was already filled. I saw no point in attending, given these findings.

Well, I won 3rd prize as I said but it was given by a group whose associates (i.e. publishers and editors) would refuse to publish or represent my work. The day after the conference ended, I learned through a fellow author of the third prize for Seabird.

By fall of 2006, I was fairly depressed about this whole writing and getting published thing. I had taken a year out of my life to try to win the Genesis, and even coming in third didn’t help—since the ACFW/CBA-related publishers and agents I had hoped to impress had already proven themselves unreceptive.

I was as close as I ever got to self-publishing. After all, I was running three years behind schedule.

Then in December 2006, an old writing friend wrote me yet another in a series of emails. Dave Wood, my old buddy from OWW writing critique days, said that he was about to start up an indie publishing company called Gryphonwood Press in his home state of Georgia. Would I be interested in throwing in with him, because he wanted Seabird to be amongst the first books he would publish.

Uh, yeah, I kinda said yes.   J

Seabird was supposed to be published in November 2007. In fact, I received some advance copies from Dave which I packed and took with me on my “two conference book tour: On my way to PhilCon, the first of the two, I began flipping through a copy of my book. Imagine the sickest feeling you’ve ever felt. Yeah, that one. They had used the –uncorrected- proof of the manuscript to create the books. Old errors were everywhere. I contacted Dave immediately, and he closed down the distribution, and then went searching for the corrected file. In the meantime, I gave out a couple of copies of the “proof books” at the two cons—but only to friends.

Seabird was finally (re)published by Dave’s Gryphonwood Press on Jan 4 2008. (You always remember your babies’ birthdays.) It has received great reviews from virtually everyone, but it has sold very slowly. This is largely thanks to the poor publicity done by most indie publishers—thanks to a lack of staff people who each has a lack of time—and by my own lack of ability to get around the country and really promote.

Still it’s out and Dave has no intention of ever pulling it off the market. That’s one thing that mid-list authors chew their nails over at big publishers. If the book doesn’t “sell through”, i.e. make back as much as the advance in a short period of time, mid-list books (and frequently their authors) are dropped by the big old-fashioned publishers. In the meantime, indie/pod publishers will usually stick with their authors and keep their whole line available.

I’ll move on to my recent books, but first I just realized that I have to backtrack again to 2003 when I joined a local writers group, named Written Remains, founded and run by Joanne Reinbold. A couple or three years later, Joanne and Ramona De Felice Long decided to shepherd all of the WR members into writing and submitting stories for an anthology of our own. I was a bit gun-shy about anthos at this point but naturally I submitted a story, Baffled by the Green Door. Stories from the Inkslingers was published in Jan 7 2008. See, networking pays off!

We at WR are starting to talk about a second anthology, written by the current members of our evolving group—now known as the Written Remains Writers Guild. Serious work on it won’t start until 2011 with a projected publication date of 2012-2013.

But back to books! As soon as Seabird was out, Dave was on my case about the sequel. Unlike many authors, I just happened to have a sequel in the works. In fact it had been in the works since 1983. Earthbow was published (in two volumes) earlier this year. (March 21/Sept 22 2010) Like Seabird, Earthbow is getting excellent reviews. In fact, it’s received more 5 star reviews than Seabird did. Again, I have to admit to impatience—I just wish more people were buying it.

Now I’m working on that old (and huge) manuscript from the mid-80’s currently titled, The Gryphon and the Basilisk, aka The Behemoth, aka The Book That Intends to Eat Delaware. This one will be 3 volumes long, arguably 4 volumes. At minimum, it will take me two years to get it ready to send to Dave. See, part of the problem is that certain sections are still in longhand (!) and certain sections were typed and then scanned in to computer files with less than great software. I’ve spent about six weeks already just trying to “translate/decipher” the stray marks and gobble-gook in the scanned-in files. The book also needs a great deal of editing to remove “As you know, Bob” scenes from the beginning. And it might be nice if it had an actual ending. Oops!

Once that is done—or parallel to that work—I need to work on Marooned and also Da Boid da Tree-Rat ‘n da Loser, both of which are also set in the Narentan universe. They lack endings too. Double Oopsie!

Through all of this, I’ve discovered that Networking and Persistence are extremely important in the publishing game. If you look back over this account, I think you may agree with me. Oddly enough, I never thought I could network. What I hadn’t realized is that I was already networking. And I still am, via the Lost Genre Guild and the Written Remains Writers Guild. And of course, there’s still conferences and those pesky panels.

Congratulations to all of you who are networking via this blog!

–Sherry Thompson


About Keven Newsome

Keven Newsome is a child of God, husband, father, and friend, in that order. He’s also a novelist, musician, and sometimes artist. He has an MA in Theology, specializing in supernatural theology, from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His debut novel Winter was a finalist for the Compton Crook Awards and the Grace Awards. His other works include Prophetess, the sequel to Winter; three contributing stories in the Aquasynthesis anthology; and a contributing micro-story in the Avenir Eclectia anthology. Keven is the founder of The New Authors’ Fellowship and produces music and video through Newsome Creative.

20 comments on “Special Guest – Sherry Thompson

  1. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Sherry! I hope that you get some more sales just by being on this blog here. We seem to have an active group of readers that respond to the links we put up from time to time on here. 😀

    • I’m very glad to do it, David. I think it’s extremely important to share our writing experiences.
      Glad to hear there’s a bunch of readers here! I’d be a little concerned about aspiring authors who don’t read. 😉 Sherry Thompson

  2. Wow! This is the most honest publishing story I’ve ever read. Persistence is right! You seem to have experienced every pitfall a writer could – except “giving up.”
    Good for you!
    The next time I go through a setback, I’m going to remember your journey, brush myself off and keep pushing against that wall.
    Thank you, Sherry.

    • Hi, Robynn!
      Yeah, I’ve gotten a few bruises pushing against that wall but if I hadn’t, then Seabird would still be in manuscript. Re the “honesty”, when Keven first asked me to write a NAF entry, I strongly considered leaving out bits and pieces of my story. I figured people would be bored if they had to read through every last detail. I admit I wasn’t given NAF authors enough credit about wanting to learn about the publishing industry. My mistake, and my apologies! I’m very glad now that I “let it all hang out”.
      UtM, Sherry Thompson

  3. I have yet to read your work, Sherry. Although a few of my friends have recommended it on several occasions. Guess I know what will be in my reading for 2011. Thank you for sharing your story with us. God bless you, sweet one.

    • Diane, that’ very kind of you. I appreciate all of the blessings I can get.
      I’ll be curious to hear what you think about Seabird. Curious and a little freaked. Confession: I get anxious any time someone new starts reading my work.
      UtM, Sherry Thompson

  4. Hi, Sherry!!!

    I’ve read Sherry’s books, and I am here to attest that the girl. Can. Write. I read Seabird and it immediately went into my list of top favorite fantasy novels. Thank you, NAF people, for featuring her! She deserves this recognition–not just for her perseverance and dedication, but because her books ROCK.

    • Kat, I’m plain flabbergasted by your words. You have become one of my top “cheerleaders’ over the last year. I really appreciate it!
      (We must have a little chat about The Behemoth over the next two years. I’ll email you.)
      UtM, Sherry Thompson

  5. Sherry is an inspiration. And having written three of those 5 star reviews on all three of her current books, I encourage anyone who hasn’t read them, to spend some of your Christmas money and get them. They are very much worth reading, and deserve a wider audience.

    • Thanks, Rick! I’m looking forward to spending a little of my Christmas money on your new Ethereal Worlds antho, once it’s in paperback. May it do better than the average antho!
      And thanks for all those stars–they looked so pretty on the tree this year. 🙂
      UtM, Sherry Thompson

  6. Sherry is the Eveready Bunny of writers!

    • Oh, pshaw! And here I thought I was the Timex Author–“takes a lick’n and keeps on tick’n”. (I just dated myself, didn’t I?)
      Seriously, Frank, thanks for the help with early Earthbow passages!
      UtM, Sherry Thompson

  7. I mentioned earliesh in this account that I had a variety of reasons for starting to write fantasy back in 1979. Not all of my reasons were given here, since I’ve written an account of them elsewhere. If you’re curious and can stand to read more of my writ’n, please seek out “The Hound, the Lamp Post, and the Seabird” which may be found at the Lost Genre Guild site:


    UtM, Sherry Thompson

  8. I think this is the most informative piece I’ve yet to read about writing and getting published, no bells and whistles, purely realistic! Sherry, you do write long, but that makes me feel better and encouraged. I want to write but that has always been my problem, I thought, but I see there is success for long-writers and I see it takes time. Encourages me to be patient with myself. Will be looking for writer’s workshops, any suggestions? I look forward to reading more of your post.

    • Hi, Melanie, to a fellow long-writer! There’s a market for us–keep that in mind.

      The writers workshops I wrote about in the blog entry were those held as part of SF/Fantasy conventions. Each convention is different, and I’m afraid I only know about ones in a limited area around where I live. All I can suggest is that if you intend to go to a convention, check their website early and see if they offer a writers workshop.

      Very big stand-alone workshops include Clarion, Odyssey and Viable Paradise. These require a considerable commitment of time and are not for the faint of heart. Try the web for details.

  9. Hi Sherry!
    This really is an encouraging piece. Realistic. Drives home the fact that, even when the writing is very, very good, publishing is not automatic, and hard work and more than a little providence are needed. Thanks for the insights into the world of publishing!
    I’ll add my name to the list of those who have read Sherry’s work and have loved it! Seabird is a fantastic book, highly recommended, and I am currently reading – and enjoying – Earthbow Vol. 1!

    • Thanks, Brandon!
      I’m glad that some people are finding my input “encouraging”. I think the entry can be taken both ways, depending on the mindset of the reader. Frankly, I don’t think I could have handled all of this information at one time back in 1979. I was so naive!

      Definitely, hard work, patience and providence are all needed in order to get a book published. Even more essential is the need to write and the will to keep writing on those days when it seems the hardest. I still have to remind myself of all of this every day. I’m grateful to be published, but I can’t just sit back and enjoy. I have more to do.

      Thanks for your praise of Seabird. I hope that you continue to enjoy Earthbow as you read on.

  10. Hi, Sherry! This is an excellent, insightful and honest post. The information you give your readers, in particular to writers working toward publication, is realistic AND inspirational. It’s funny you thinking you can’t or couldn’t network. Seems to me you’ve been doing quite a good job of networking recently. Congratulations and thanks for the plug for the Written Remains Writers Guild! — Joanne Reinbold

  11. Hi, Joann!
    I’m always glad to plug the Written Remains Writers Guild. You guys and the Lost Genre Guild are my main buddies!
    Thanks for the compliments but really all I did was tell it like it was.
    Re networking, frankly I’m not that good at it, when out of my regular social circles. I try very hard when I’m at conferences but I can’t hold a candle to most authors.

  12. A lot of times i feel that some will take my enthusiasm, my zeal, my “overwhelming” positivity for ignorance.
    No, I am all those things first, because God said to believe but also because I’m putting in the work.
    Thank you for writing.

    No pomp just realness. Love it. I look forward to reading your fantasy. I am a fantasy writer as well and I can definitely read MORE. :}

    Be blessed.

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