This week I have author Dianne K. Salerni here to tell us about her journey as a writer, from her small beginnings as a self-published author to being picked up by one of the big six for a three book deal - every writer’s dream.
First off, tell us what you were doing before We Hear the Dead –
Before I published We Hear the Dead as an un-agented author with Sourcebooks in 2010, I self-published that same book under the title High Spirits with iUniverse. This was back in 2007 – before the explosion of e-books … before iUniverse was bought out by Author Solutions … and back when self-publishing was still a dirty word.
High Spirits wasn’t the first book I’d written. I’d previously written two MG novels and attempted a couple more, as well as a non-fiction book on the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania. I made several half-hearted attempts to seek publication, but I was prone to giving up quickly. My husband was the one who suggested self-publishing as a way to get a book to readers and find out how it was received. We engaged iUniverse without seeking any other route to publication for that particular novel.
How did you get from there to see the book in print under its new name We Hear the Dead?
As I said, self-publishing was still a dirty word in 2007, and marketing self-published books was really hard. But I made a pretty good attempt at it, and even helped establish a cooperative of like-minded authors for the purposes of cross-promotion and emotional support. High Spirits received a number of really good reviews, but sales were slow.
Then, in 2009, the book caught the attention of an editor at Sourcebooks – and a producer in Hollywood. (Amazon Recommends gets the credit in both cases.) Within a few weeks, I signed a book contract to publish a revised version of High Spirits under the title We Hear the Dead and, almost simultaneously, a film option with One Eye Open Studios.
We Hear the Dead released in 2010, but fruition on the film option took longer. A 10-minute short film titled The Spirit Game premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and the producer is now pitching the premise as a possible television series. There is still hope!
A trailer for the short film can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/64738099
Did you make any mistakes along the way?
My biggest mistake was that I had no idea how to negotiate a contract, and I made several mistakes related to option clauses. I had no professional advice and no advocate. I did ask one of my self-published author buddies who’d also scored a contract with a small publisher if I needed an agent, and she said no. I believed her. She was wrong.
However, if I had gone seeking an agent with a contract in hand, I might have ended up with someone who wanted an easy sale – not someone who was really good for me. Things looked dark for a while, but months later, I ended up with the right agent.
What was the highlight of that experience?
The highlight of my publishing experience with Sourcebooks was participating in the launch event for their new YA imprint at Books of Wonder in NYC – followed by a memorable dinner at a nearby Cuban restaurant, where I (accidentally) sent the son of the company owner looking for olives to put in my martini. (He asked if I was enjoying my drink. I said it would be better with olives. When he ran off to talk to the bartender, the editors and authors at my table were quick to clue me in to who I’d just sent on an olive run. Ooops! Well, he asked!)