Author Scott Keen is currently on a WOW! blog tour with his older Middle Grade/Young Adult novel, Scar of the Downers. And if you read my post yesterday at The Muffin, then you know I asked Scott to share something about his publishing journey and the company, WiDo. Scott very happily obliged and I appreciated his honest and informative post. I think you will, too.
Several years ago, when I first started pursuing the route to publication for my book Scar of the Downers, I did the usual thing that most aspiring authors do. I researched agents and sent them query letters and manuscript portions and synopses, all in the hopes of being able to one day get signed by one of the “Big Five” publishers.
This is a hard route, though, for someone who is unknown and has zero contacts in the industry, like myself. Also, self-publishing was not a possibility for me, mostly because I had no money to invest in it. Then, my laptop died and I lost the document where I was keeping track of all my agent submissions (and rejections). Fortuitously, I came across the QueryTracker website, which, for a small annual fee, will do the work of keeping track of all this stuff for you, with the added bonus of you being able to see reviews and ratings of agents and publishing houses from other budding authors like yourself. (And no, I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by QueryTracker. These are just my honest feelings).
On QueryTracker, I found WiDo Publishing, a small traditional press. When I scoped out their website, I thought it looked professional. I also looked at the books they had published and I was impressed with them as well, both for their covers and their content. Another plus was that I didn’t need an agent to submit to them. I thought that WiDo might be a good match for me, so I sent them my query letter and synopsis and hoped for the best.
A few months later, I was signing the book contract and was mentally prepping myself for the editing process, which was foreign to me at this point. I was unsure of what to expect. It took several weeks for the editor to go through my manuscript. Her feedback wasn’t just a cursory glance kind of feedback – I could tell that she really thought about my book and the ways to improve it. It wasn’t an easy edit for me that first time around. I had to make some pretty ruthless cuts and changes, especially in the first few chapters. It was hard work, and it wasn’t fun. But, I can honestly say that these changes made the book better.
After several rounds of editing, there was just the cover that I was mostly stressed about. I know many people do judge a book by its cover, as I am one of them. So this was very important to me. I sent in a synopsis and an excerpt of the manuscript that I thought best fit the tone of the novel. With that, the designer went to work. In the end, I was very pleased, and I’ve had a lot of compliments on it as well.
Since I’m a first-time author, I’m sure I was slightly annoying to them with all the questions I had, but WiDo was good about emailing me and keeping me up-to-date about how things were coming along. All in all, I’m very pleased with my experience working with WiDo to publish Scar of the Downers. And, I am thankful that they gave me, an unknown author, a chance to break into the harrowing world of publishing!
And now, a few more particulars about Scott Keen and his debut book, Scar of the Downers:
Scott Keen grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing–he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools. He blogs at www.scottkeenbooks.com.
Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.
Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.
Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings while scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.
To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before–escape from the city of Ungstah.
Sounds like an interesting book, right? And I bet if you have questions, about his book or WiDo Publishing, Scott would be interested in answering them!
QueryTracker sounds like a great tool. Thanks for sharing that little tidbit with us, Scott, and your story of how you joined forces with WiDo. I’ve written two contemporary YA novels myself and might someday work up the courage to query WiDo–I’ve loved every single one of their YA novels that I’ve read so far.
QueryTracker was definitely worth it, Renee. It was a great starting point when researching agents and publishers. WiDo is definitely a great publisher with which to work.
I’ve used QueryTracker as well, Renee. You can use the free or professional version. (And pssst. I’ll bet your novels are good!)
QueryTracker is definitely worth it, Renee. It’s a great tool to start with when researching agents and publishers. You should definitely think of WiDo when you decide to query. They’re a great publisher with which to work.
Thanks so much, Scott, for sharing your experience with WiDo. I’m looking forward to reading Scar of the Downers!
Cathy–Thanks for posting this. And Scott–your experience with this publisher \will probably nudge at least a few writers to consider WiDo. (And don’t let Renee fool you. I don’t think she lacks courage. 😉
Yes, Sioux, I always like to get the inside scoop, don’t you? (And I’m with you re: Renee!)
Scott’s information and experience shared here was helpful. Thanks, Cathy.
Alright ladies, I know peer pressure when I see it! Thank you for the encouragement, though. Authors like Scott show that the dream is possible!
Congratulations, Scott! Yes, Query Tracker is a writer’s very good friend. WiDo sounds like a great fit for you. And the cover? It’s fabulous!
Congratulations to Scott! I feel your pain on those edits, and love your cover. This looks like a great debut.