As regular readers of this blog are aware, Thriller Guy doers not review many novels, and in particular his friends' novels, on these pages. TG has stated the reason before, but if you missed it, he learned early on that when he recommended a book, friend or not, someone always wrote in a comment complaining that the book was crap and TG was a fool who had caused the commenter to waste whatever paltry money he/she had spent on the book. This was distressing to the friend, and even TG was discomfited. And as regular readers know, TG is a hard man to discomfit. (Yes, TG just looked the word discomfit up and learned that it originally referred to those who had been killed in battle. “The ground was strewn with the
discomfited.” Stephen Crane)
But, even knowing that out there is some dimwit who will probably write a crappy comment, TG is going to recommend a book by a friend: The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson, by Nancy Peacock. TG knows that this book is not a thriller, so please don’t write in pointing out that the novel is not a thriller. The author, who lives down the street from TG, has an interesting publishing history. TG is aware that many of his readers are writers. All writers are interested in how other writers get published, particularly, these days: Indie publishing? Legacy publishers? Self publishing? TG asked Nancy about her publishing experiences for the blog. We’ll get to that in a moment; first, the book.
A former slave named Persimmon Wilson is accused of the murder of his ex-master Joseph Wilson, and the kidnapping of Wilson’s wife. In the street below his cell, carpenters are building his gallows. In the town there is gathering excitement over the upcoming execution for Persimmon Wilson is notorious. Not only is he a black man who killed a white man, and “degraded” that man’s wife, but he is also the “black Indian” known as Twist Rope who rode, raided, and terrorized Texas settlements and farms with the Comanche Indians.
The book begins… “I have been to hangings before, but never my own.”
Nancy Peacock speaks to Thriller Guy on her publishing history…
"My first novel Life Without Water was very well received. I published with a small press without an agent. Lee Smith - another Hillsborough writer whom you may have met - was my mentor and she mentioned my book to John Yow, editor at Longstreet Press. She called me and told me to send him 3 chapters right away - which I did. He convinced the house to take it on. The whole experience could not have been better. Longstreet worked hard for that little book, sent me to various venues, and got it reviewed in NY Times, Washington Post, and other prominent places. The book was chosen as a NY Times Notable that year.
I sold my next book Home Across the Road- agented - to Longstreet, and the experience could not have been more different. Unbeknownst to me Cox Newspaper that owned Longstreet was selling the house, and had found an in house buyer. Knowing they had a buyer they did not care about the company, and the buyer had not protected himself or his authors by having a clause in the contract saying they needed to fulfill their current obligations. They didn't. At the time my book was published and being reviewed (NY Times again, Southern Living -- it was Christmas) it was not available on any shelves. The publisher had simply stopped printing it. This was heartbreaking to say the least, and at the time I did not know what was going on. It was later that I found out and pieced it all together.
This experience taught me that anything can happen in publishing.
Third book, A Broom of One's Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life was sold to Harper Collins. It is my only nonfiction book, and while it has received great reviews on Amazon (Cheryl Strayed loved it) it has still not earned out its advance yet.
So I was pretty discouraged about the whole thing - writing and publishing - by the time Persy strolled into my mind with that opening line. I knew I wanted to follow his thread - his story - but I was so heartbroken over my publishing history (it had basically gone downhill book by book) that it was difficult to want to write it. I felt like I needed more control over my writing life (maybe what I needed was lower expectations) so I told myself I was going to write this book and self-publish it. I wasn't going to go through the usual channels.
This actually turned out to be a good decision - for me, for the experience, for the indie version, and also for the traditionally published edition that just came out.
Good for me and the experience because I truly got to see how much work goes into producing a book. Of course it's easier if you're a publishing company with lots of departments than if you are an author doing everything. But, self-publishing is becoming more respected, and in my opinion more necessary. The publishing houses are interested in big bucks, which makes sense, but it also means a writer like me is competing (and receiving less of an advance) than a celebrity who isn't really a writer but is courted and given a book deal. So many authors who are good writers and deserve success are being left behind, and it's the publishing industry that's doing this. So self-publishing is, in my opinion, a fine thing to do and a fine statement to make. In my indie journey though I met a few snobs, people who assume an indie book is not a good book. And many are not, but many are. (As an aside I think it would be great to have a well-respected review newspaper that covers only indie titles) But I digress, apparently!
It was good for the indie edition because The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson won the
Writer's Digest Self Published Book Award in the mainstream novel category.
It also won Shelf Unbound's Award for best self published novel.
|Self published edition|
Good for the new edition because I gathered blurbs for it and one of my blurbers sent it to his agent, and that's how I landed a new agent. He liked the book a lot, but when we initially spoke he felt skeptical that he would be able to sell it. When it won the WD award he began sending it out, and within months had an offer from Atria. I think this surprised him.
As I promote the book, I never forget or hide my self publishing history. I'm proud of both editions. Both paths are really difficult, and I wouldn't say one is better than the other as a path to fame and fortune. The take away on traditional publishing though is that anything can happen, so to think it's the sun of glory and fortune is foolish. I was foolish when I first got published. I've found the key to be lowering my expectations while at the same time maintaining faith." Nancy Peacock
Next time TG will discuss the lessons to be learned from this account.