Dot Ryan, author of the historical novel, Corrigans’ Pool, lives in Corpus Christi, Texas with her husband, Sam. She is busy writing her second and third works of historical fiction, one of which is the upcoming sequel to Corrigans’ Pool. To learn more about Dot and where to buy Corrigans’ Pool, and also to read Part One of the upcoming sequel, please visit her website at http:www.dotryanbooks.com.
We interviewed Dot to find out more about her writing life and publishing journey.
Thank you for this interview, Dot. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
Thank you very much for inviting me. Corrigans’ Pool is the first book I have written so far. Presently, I am working on the sequel to Corrigans’ Pool and have outlined two additional historical novels.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
Upon finishing Corrigans’ Pool, I queried about twenty agents and, when one out of that twenty requested the manuscript, I was deeply flattered and encouraged. I was perplexed a few months later when she suggested I rewrite Corrigans’ Pool in a way that would spice up the romance. Ultimately, I decided against turning my story into something I had not intended. There is romance in the book that has a lasting impact on the characters, but it is told with subtlety and, as I intended, is not the single aspect of Corrigans’ Pool that makes the story appealing throughout.
I was fully aware of the stigma against self-published books but, with faith that I had written a very good novel, I quickly decided to go that route. There was another important reason I chose to self-publish: I had not pursued my dream to write until I had furthered my education and then retired from the workplace, therefore I wanted to spend the rest of my years writing, not pursuing agents and publishers who, perhaps because of the economy, are publishing fewer and fewer new writers, especially untested writers past middle age! One cannot blame them for making business decisions.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
I had read many articles about the dreaded “Rejection Slip” before I sent out a single query letter, so I thought I was prepared for rejection … until I got that first slip. The agent had scribbled across the top “Think I’ll pass.” None of the agents I queried requested any part of the manuscript except the one I spoke about earlier, so I suppose I should be comforted that their decisions were based solely on my inadequate query letter and not my story. Most of the other slips said “Not for Us” or something to that effect. In retrospect, I realized that I had actually queried several agents who did not handle my type of novel. That’s a mistake many new writers make—not doing their homework on agents’ requirements.
I was saddened for a short while, then I rewrote the first three chapters, which, who knows, might have tempted one or two of those nineteen uninterested agents to request the manuscript if I had just been able to write a decent query letter! A bit of advice: Never send form letter queries; only agents are allowed to be so insensitive to the impressions they leave!
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
iUniverse published Corrigans’ Pool. An editor friend suggested them when I told her I was thinking of self-publishing.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
When I received my first copy of Corrigans’ Pool in the mail, I probably stared at it the same way I stared at the Grand Canyon the first time I laid eyes on it. Writing a book, any book, is a great accomplishment, and as I held it in my hands, I thought back over all that had happened in my life over the years as I wrote Corrigans’ Pool; it was a bittersweet moment that ended with tears of joy. That night, my husband and I went out to dinner, came home and danced to slow, romantic tunes on our patio.
What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I notified everyone I knew, newspapers, etc., and donated books to a library in which a friend was affiliated. My publisher offered various promotion packages, including my own website. I bought several of their promotion deals. As far as promoting Corrigans’ Pool is concerned, I am still in the learning process. One must be very careful about how one picks and chooses her promotions. Talk to other writers first, if you can, especially if you are as green as I was. Please know that it takes time and perseverance to get one’s book out there. Be patient as well as savvy.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
I am told that there are a few publishers left who will read manuscripts presented by authors without agents: If I could go back, I think I would have sent query letters to those Publishers rather than agents. Then, if all I received in return were rejection slips, I would certainly self-publish. If you have faith in your book and have made certain that it is completely without error and is of a standard as good as anything on the bookshelves today, then go ahead and be brave enough to self-publish. It may take longer to get noticed, but eventually the quality of your book will speak for itself.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
I do not have a second work ready to publish, but will complete the sequel to Corrigans’ Pool by mid 2010, if my scheduling goes as planned.
There are several ways to grow as an author: Write constantly, read voraciously, and listen more than you speak. I try hard to do those things. But the very best way to grow as an author is to dispel all bias and prejudices, respect others as much as you respect yourself, and see all creatures of the world through their own eyes.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
If I had considered no other option other than first getting an agent, I would have taking a course on how to write the perfect query letter! But I don’t think I could have done anything to speed up the process of getting published. More often than not, these things aren’t up to the writer; they are up to the powers that be, which are the publishers.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
Learning to be patient. I’ve also learned to write a better query letter, just in case I want to test those waters with my next novels.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I never seriously wanted to be anything other than a writer. I wore many hats in the work world before I retired and finally had the time to dedicate myself to writing, but writing was always my goal.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
My husband and I owned a business for about ten years before we finally retired. I combined the best of both worlds for a while. But no, I would never give up being an author for anything, not even for a business that guaranteed a nice income.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
Still joyously happy writing novels, after having earned the reputation as the most prolific granny in the business.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Yes, I do, and thank you for asking. First off, do not let anyone or anything spoil your dream, not rejection slips or any other of life’s surprises and disappointments. Most importantly, forget about the time limit you may have set on your dream of being published. Time limits do not apply to dreams, unless it is the worthwhile hours, days, and years spent actually writing; such time spent is never wasted and is a sure way to make your dream come true. And remember, you don’t have to be young and able to run in a marathon to write. You just have to keep moving toward the finish line, even if you have to crawl.