Tuesday, 4 December 2012

All's Well That Ends Well - A Cautionary Author's Tale by Vonnie Winslow Crist

All's Well That Ends Well - A Cautionary Author's Tale
by Vonnie Winslow Crist

In March 2006, I'd completed 3 chapters of The Enchanted Skean, a young adult fantasy novel, when I read about an opportunity to meet with Agent F (name withheld) at a regional writers' conference. As directed, I quickly sent in my 1st chapter and the fee. I attended the conference 2 weeks later, eager for feedback from New York City's Agent F as to the appeal of the book's beginning, and what direction she thought the novel should take.

When I walked into the meeting with Agent F, she stood, shook my hand, and said, “Great beginning, I want to represent the book. When can I have the full manuscript?”

As I sat down, I realized I'd misread the manuscript review specs – I now knew only completed books were eligible. But I didn't want to admit to Agent F what I'd done, so I responded, “How about I send you the first 6 chapters of The Enchanted Skean, so you can be sure you're interested in reading the rest of the book?”

“Fine,” she said. “I'll watch for them in my email on Monday.” Then, she discussed all the things she liked about Chapter I, and asked questions about the rest of the book.

I returned home that Saturday, and stayed up late trying to pull together six well-written chapters. Sunday was spent polishing Chapters I Through VI. After emailing Agent F the 6 chapters, I worked on The Enchanted Skean every spare moment. I was teaching part time and taking classes at a local university in my last semester of a Masters in Professional Writing Program, so when Agent F got back to me in 10 days wanting the full book, I told her I needed to focus on my Masters classes till mid-May, and promised her the novel by June.

Needless to say, I wrote, revised, and re-wrote like crazy. By June, I had a 95,000-word novel sent off to Agent F. Then, I waited. In late August 2006, Agent F's rewrite suggestions arrived. I worked on those, then sent The  Enchanted Skean back to her. More revision suggestions, 2 assistants and their revision suggestions, and apparent troubles at the agency drew the process out until July 2009 when the agency folded.

Sigh. Back to no agent. I couldn't find another interested agent, and most publishers weren't allowing unagented manuscript submissions.

So, I set aside the YA novel, and focused on writing and submitting short stories to speculative magazines and anthologies. After several were published, I began putting together a fantasy short story collection. I completed The Greener Forest in late 2010, and found a new small press publisher, Cold Moon Press, looking for a fantasy manuscript. In Spring 2011, The Greener Forest was published to good reviews, but little visibility.

I started looking for guest blogging, interview, and review opportunities. It took lots of time, and kept me from my writing. Therefore, I cut back on promotion, and again wrote and submitted science fiction and fantasy tales to various publications. Cold Moon Press then published 2 of those tales as ebooks, and expressed interest in a 2nd short story collection. I began work on Owl Light in the hopes it would be published in late 2012 by CMP.

Meanwhile, I dug out and dusted off The Enchanted Skean. I researched some Indie publishers who were interested in YA fantasy, and sent the manuscript off. After several “Close, but not quite right for us” responses, I finally got a “Yes” from Mockingbird Lane Press. By June 2012, I found myself commited to 2 publishers. The editor at Mockingbird Lane Press was insightful and demanding, and I had to do 3 revisions to meet her standards, but I knew The Enchanted Skean would be a better book because of her editing.

Owl Light was also progessing nicely. In addition to revising the stories to meet the expectations of the editor at CMP, I painted the cover art and drew over 2 dozen illustrations for inside the book. But it became evident as the editing process at both publishing houses proceded, neither book would be ready before January 1, 2013. But an author should never complain when a publishing delay will result in a higher quality book!

And so, my author's tale is a cautionary one. I've learned: 1- Finish a manuscript before submitting it. 2- Even a respected agent can retire, and a credible agency can close. 3- Just because it was easy to find an agent the 1st time, doesn't mean it will be easy again. 4- Keep working on your writing rather than tie all your hopes to one book. 5- Indie press is more accessible and often friendlier to new writers than the big houses. 6- Don't over commit yourself. 7- Set reasonable deadlines for your projects. 8- Promotion is important, but you're a writer – make sure and work on your creative writing, too. 9- Blogs are a good way to reach out to readers and meet fellow writers, so be thankful for those opportunities. And lastly, all's well that ends well.

Here's to January 2013 when The Enchanted Skean and Owl Light will join The Greener Forest on my Amazon author's page. Plus, I'm already roughing out 3 new books. One of them will suddenly demand to be written next, and I'll put my nose to the grindstone again. Thank you to David Lowbridge & Indie Ebook Review for hosting me, and thanks to each of you for reading my author's tale..

Born in the Year of the Dragon, Vonnie Winslow Crist has had a life-long interest in reading, writing, art, myth, fairytales, folklore, and legends. Having been a night person since infancy, she is quite fond of stars, moonlight, forests, owls, and other creatures of the darkness.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education from Towson University, she married, then raised three children, did freelance illustrating and writing, and taught poetry for the Maryland State Arts Council’s Artists in Education Program. Thirty years after graduating from Towson, she returned to her alma mater and earned a Masters in Professional Writing.

A firm believer that the world around us is filled with miracles, mystery, and magic, Vonnie still sees fairies amidst the trees, mermaids on jetties, and ghosts and goblins of all sorts in the shadows. Her garden overflows with herbs and statues of animals. Toadstool rings sprout regularly on her lawn. And she's found so many four-leafed clovers, that she keeps them in a jar.


  1. Another thing to consider is a literary agent.

    Not that >I< have one, hell...I haven't even been able to land a publisher, let alone an agent. :3

    We'll see though - got some good advice recently, and I do believe I'm gonna start slammin' it that way. Honestly, all I NEED is good marketing at this point in time...XD

  2. Most publishers wont accept authors without an agent. It is best to look for one before submitting to publishers if you wish to published traditionally.

  3. Thanks, David, for inviting me to guest post. Thomas, in an ideal world, we'd all get agents 1st. (As I did, though it didn't work out). But many small press publishers and a few of the bigger companies still look at slush piles submissions. Check marketing guides to see who is open. www.ralan.com is a good beginning place.


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