My second novel proved schizophrenic in several ways. I wanted to write something in the vein of the Tony Hillman mysteries and, in fact, in researching for it I drove many of the roads mentioned in the soon-to-be novel, which was originally named The Good Road. I signed it, via my agent, with the Canadian publisher who launched my first novel. When the Canadian firm went under and before the book could go through the editing process, I also lost my agent, whose husband had created some unpublicized malfeasance that killed the agent’s career.
So back to square one.
I shopped the manuscript around myself and eventually signed with a second agent for a six month period. She did nothing with it, and I moved on. At this point I began being interested in small indie publishers. I signed with one in Texas, and a year or so later they wrote me that they were folding; they would no longer be in business. Then I was fortunate, or so I thought, to sign with another small indie in Florida. Another year, another fold.
I scratched my head. Was I jinxing these publishers, or was it the other way around? Three years passed during which I began to doubt my ability to write a salable novel. I began to grow desperate; I panicked. I wanted to get the manuscript in print, and I agreed to have iUniverse publish it. Not quite vanity press, not quite “legitimate” publishing. To give the company its due, they did assign an editor to my work and made some substantive editorial comments, which I accommodated. The print setup, with a good font, good leading and margins and paper quality, produced the best production quality I’ve seen yet for my works.
Then there was the cover. I described my idea for a cover; they took my suggestion and ran with it. But the art quality was about what you’d find in a sixth grade art class. And the title: my editor really didn’t like The Good Road, said it represented too little of the storyline and theme. Better, he wrote me, something like A Place of Belonging, and I had to admit – although bland, that did a better job of representing the novel. The book launched under that name and drew comments mostly on how terrible the cover was. Okay, a cover helps sell a book. The text had a number of typos,and I realized it needed some serious editing.
Back to square one again.
I was learning a lot at this point about how to write, so I cut some, added some, made it a better manuscript. I decided to design a new cover, too. With such fundamental changes, I had to pay iUniverse to re-issue. This time the cover (below) drew much better comments.
So, a learning experience. I still like the story and characters, though. In fact, the novel has drawn positive comments from readers, like this comment posted on Barnes & Noble:
“Bob Mustin crafts an intriguing novel of adventure, mystery, temptation and passion with a bit of intuition and historical perspective that keeps you involved in the suspense.”
But I realized I knew abysmally little about book design and marketing. Meanwhile I was taking a writing course or two and discovering that some things I was writing were good but only by gut feel, and other things could use shoring up technique-wise. My learning curve needed to elevate.
In a sense, back to square one again.
But the greatest leap forward in my ability to write fiction was soon to come.
Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information and a book trailer for A PLACE OF BELONGING. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.