Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
In February 2021, I had the great pleasure of signing a contract to publish my narrative non-fiction debut, My Name Is King Ying, with a small press publisher. I had two offers, and the publisher I signed with wasn’t my first choice. Or so I thought until I met them over Zoom. They were a group of millennials with youthful enthusiasm and sincerity that appealed to me, and they answered my every concern.
They committed to getting physical books into my local book store chain, so I could have the pleasure of seeing them on the shelf in my hometown. They were willing to consider allowing my daughter, an art student, to design the cover under their guidance, which was unbelievable and a dream come true. Their marketing manager said she wanted to submit the book for award consideration because she believed in it that much.
For several months, everything went swimmingly. I truly enjoyed working with their developmental editor. Her thoughtful, insightful edits prompted fascinating new conversations with my aunts and sister and further research on my part, all of which strengthened the manuscript. We reviewed, selected, and edited photographs to illustrate the text. The marketing manager scored an interview for me with Authority Magazine, which was a great experience.
It was all a dream come true…until it wasn’t. In June, I received a letter letting me know that the publisher had succumbed to the financial pressures of the pandemic. They wanted to give me the option to back out of the contract. They said they could commit to publishing the Advanced Review Copy of the book, which would go out to their subscribers over the summer, but they couldn’t commit to publishing and supporting the commercial copy of the book, which was due out in early 2022.
After a few days of consideration, I agreed to back out of the contract. It took that long for reality to sink in. Part of me would enjoy seeing the printed book and sharing it with my family in any format. But when I realized that allowing them to print even a non-commercial version of my book might cause me to lose my rights to it, I knew it wasn’t worth it.
I truly appreciate their honesty and willingness to do the right thing. We parted amicably. They wrote a glowing letter of recommendation, and the marketing manager gave me a list of new publishers and agents to consider pursuing. I couldn’t ask for more.
So now it’s time to put my hero boots back on. I’m taking a couple of weeks’ break to finish submitting some articles to magazines I’d love to get published in. After that, I’ll get back in the saddle of querying agents and publishers.
In the meantime, I’ve had some encouragement. I love using a time-management/goal-setting system called The Hero’s Journal. Its use of the classic Hero’s Journey story-telling format appeals to me. I can honestly say it has been life-changing in my approach to work.
Literally five minutes before I learned of my publisher’s financial woes, I had applied to be a featured “Hero,” i.e., a featured journal user, based on my publishing story. Your reward, if you get selected, is having a cute caricature made of you. Also, they post a blurb about your story on their social media. Mostly, I cared about the caricature because the artist does a great job.
When I learned I wasn’t getting published, I wrote off to the Hero’s Journal folks, explaining what happened and asking to withdraw my application. And you know what? They featured me anyway, with the idea that heroes aren’t just those who win the prize but those who undertake the journey. That cheered me.
Secondly, I learned that Authority Magazine selected my “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Was An Author” video as one of their favorites. You can see their article with the video here.
Finally, I just received notice of winning a NewsBreak editor’s prize for my story about the effect of the economy reopening on the Asian American Donor Program’s ability to save lives. You can see it here.
All of this makes me feel like maybe I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. And it turns out that it’s what I thought wanted to be when I was 20 — a writer.
I may be out in the dunes of my journey at the moment, but I’m trying to feel dauntless. I’m feeling cautiously hopeful as well as grateful for the help and encouragement I’ve had along the way. After I signed the agreement rescinding my contract, I turned the page of my Hero’s Journal, and the day’s quote read, “If I look back, I am lost.”