Monday, August 4, 2008

The Fall ... Not Much Later

Once the editor at Brown Paper Publishing expressed an interest in publishing my novel, my initial skepticism grew. I started to reach out to other authors who'd been published at this house (there were only two at the time). I did as much research as time (and the Web) would allow. All I could parse was that this was a very, very new company and they were hungry for titles. What I could not ascertain was whether or not Brown Paper Publishing was a vanity press. To my knowledge, they were not. But I had to be sure.

So I wrote the publisher and chief editor, Juan DeCarlo (not his real name) directly. After some back and forth, I asked him point blank: Are you a vanity press? Indeed, my very words were, "Just to put it bluntly -- is there going to be any cost to me for publishing my book?"

Here was the acquisitions editor's response: "Brown Paper Publishing is not a vanity press, we are a literary publisher. In this day and age, as a matter of fact, we feel that the existence of Vanity Presses is something of an outrage, as there is, in our opinion, no legitimate reason to ever charge an artist any sort of fee (whatever language these presses may use to mask that this what they are doing) for the publication of their work. Further, any cost of promoting your work (the brief description of what Brown Paper Publishing does can be found on our website and we will give more Title Specific information later in the production process) falls to us and we work very closely with our authors to maximize exposure to the furthest extent our means allow."

I was soothed for the moment.

The Fall

In October of 2007, I was wandering around one of my usual haunts, a coffee shop, and noticed a book for sale. I picked it up and started scanning it. The young woman at the counter told me it was free and to take it. Perusing it on my way home, I noted the name of he publisher: Brown Paper Publishing. I read a few more pages and looked up the publisher on the Web. Then I sent them the first third of my novel, The Dog at the Signpost. Within days, Brown Paper Publishing contacted me, interested in reading the rest of the book. I sent it off and within another few weeks, they contacted me telling me that they wanted to publish my novel.

Well. Things like this are unheard of. I wrote this book and put it on a shelf never thinking I would submit it to a publishing house. I had sent it off to a few literary agencies, but got nothing but rejection slips. I simply chalked it up to first novel blues and immersed myself in work that could actually earn me money.

But Brown Paper was adamant. They wanted to publish The Dog at the Signpost. I decided to let them. But I was skeptical. I always followed the Woody Allen maxim (and Woody credits Groucho Marx ... or Freud with saying it first): "I would never belong to a club that would have someone like me as a member."

But sure enough, I was about to become a member of the "published novelists club." For better or worse.