The Journey to Publication by Phyllis Zimbler Miller and Contest!

Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel took 38 years to come to fruition from the time I first experienced being a new Mrs. Lieutenant in the spring of 1970 during the Vietnam War until the book was published.

About 18 years after that experience I told the story to two female film producers who optioned the story for a movie. Then a few weeks later they told me I had to write a book first. I wrote a fictional account of my experiences to protect the innocent, but by the time I finished the first draft, they had moved onto other projects.

There followed 20 years of writing and rewriting, reading books on writing, taking classes on writing, taking part in writers’ groups, and getting rejected by agents and book editors. One rejection said that there was no longer racial prejudice in the United States, so my book was no longer relevant. Another rejection said that the four women had to meet through their own jobs such as at a law firm and not through their husbands.

During this time, I believed this story preserved a slice of women’s social history – what did the wives of men in the military think about the Vietnam War. All the fictional movies and books about the Vietnam War I knew were from the point of view of men, and I was determined to tell this story from the women’s point of view

When I showed the book to other people, they liked it, but everyone said something was missing, though they could not pinpoint the problem. I hired a consultant to evaluate the novel, and he discovered issues with the timeline in the book and offered some suggestions for improvement.

I used an actual calendar to clarify the timeline during another major rewrite of the novel and adapted the standard three-act screenplay structure. The novel now has three parts.

This past December I got an email forwarded to me from a friend. The email was actually from an acquaintance of my friend who said she was tired of waiting for people to say yes to her about her book and that she was going to self-publish. I had an epiphany.

I realized I couldn’t wait any longer for some book editor to say yes to me. So I immediately arranged with Amazon’s print-on-demand unit BookSurge to publish my book. I knew this meant doing all the marketing myself for Mrs. Lieutenant.

But in 1992, I was the co-author with Rabbi Karen L. Fox of the Jewish holiday book Seasons for Celebration (Karen and I just re-released the book on Amazon). Despite being published by a major house, we did all the marketing ourselves. Thus, I wasn’t worried about having to do all the marketing myself for Mrs. Lieutenant.

My experiences with Seasons for Celebration taught me several things. First, book signings are not a productive use of time unless you’re a well-known author. Secondly, trying to get Mrs. Lieutenant in bookstores also would not be productive because even when our publisher got Seasons for Celebration in Borders and other locations, the one or two copies of the book were “lost” on the shelves, surrounded by other books given much more shelf space.

So I turned to the internet with zeal, learning as much as I could about how to market online. Then I got lucky because BookSurge’s marketing consultant recommended Pump Up Your Book Promotion as a possible virtual book tour organizer. I immediately contacted Dorothy Thompson and arranged for a virtual book tour.

What’s a virtual book tour? Virtual book tours take place during a certain period of time (in my case a month) beginning and ending on specific dates. During that time, by pre-arrangement, your book is reviewed on a specific date of the virtual book tour or on that specific date the blogger features an interview of you (you’ve previously answered questions sent to you by the blogger).

You can arrange all the stops by yourself (and then announce the stops yourself on your own blog or on social media), but this can take a lot of time to research and then query bloggers. While I worked hard to provide all the interviews and other information that was needed by Dorothy Thompson, I never could have found on my own all the blogs and people with whom she connected me and through which she arranged my tour dates.

Have I sold lots of copies of my book so far? No. But all the book marketing gurus I’ve learned from say you have to give your book promotion a full year before you judge the results. Anything less is apparently too little. So I have several more months before I’ll know the results.

And eventually I might have time to go back to work on the sequel – Mrs. Lieutenant in Europe.

For those interested in supporting today’s American troops, please check out the latest post on the Mrs. Lieutenant blog.

***To win a signed copy of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel, please answer the following question in the comments.*** Deadline is Sunday, Sept. 14 at Midnight EST

If you’re old enough to remember the Vietnam War as it was going on, what is your strongest memory of that war? If you’re too young to have a personal memory of the war, what is one thing that you learned about the war from someone you know, or in school, or from reading about the war or seeing a movie about the war?

If you blog about this contest or post this contest on Facebook, etc., and leave another comment with a link, I will gladly provide you with additional entries into this contest. Additionally, if you comment on my review you will get two more entries.