Elaine Marie Cooper
by Jennifer Slattery
Last week we met Elaine Marie Cooper, author of The Road To Deer Run. As the publishing industry, technology and our economy continue to change, more and more authors are opting for self-publishing. For some, self-publishing is akin to swimming endlessly against the current. For others, it has enabled them to launch their dreams. Today, Elaine shares her experiences with self-publishing.
The downward spiraling economy, and a personal tragedy, motivated her to try a non-traditional approach to publishing. “When my manuscript was complete in 2009, the publishing industry was in the throes of distress,” Elaine says. “I had spent over two years of my life researching, writing, submitting my work to editors and readers, and getting enthused about a project that was near and dear to my heart. But when I inquired of a friend who was an executive at a large Christian publisher about suggested avenues to pursue, he was bluntly honest: For an unknown author to be published at this time was pretty much akin to parting the Red Sea (my words not his). Since then, numerous of his colleagues have been laid off–confirmation of his astute observations.”
The death of her daughter also had a huge impact on her decision. “Seeing my own daughter pass away from cancer at the age of 24 [made me realize that] life was far too short and uncertain to put off dreams indefinitely,” she says.” So I chose to publish independently without ever sending out a query or submitting my manuscript to a traditional publisher.”
However, this has not always been the easiest route to take. “One of the biggest challenges is getting word of my book out to the public,” Elaine says. “With a traditional publisher, you (sometimes) have a great backing of publicity as well as an “in” with Christian bookstores. While my local bookstore has been very supportive, I have to supply my own copies of books for their shelves. They are limited in the publishers that they can order from directly.
“The other challenge has been the attitude of many towards independently published books. Many assume that anything that is published by an author without the blessing of an agent or traditional publishing house is not worthy of the time of day. While I know that there are self-pubb’ed books that have not been through good editing, I have seen bad editing from regular publishers as well. It would be beneficial for all readers (and other authors) to judge a book by the pages in between the cover, and not by the logo of the publisher.”
Clash of the Titles has determined to do just that. Recently we have expanded our submission guidelines to include self-published books. At first, we were leery to do this for fear of inappropriate content we know CBA editors weed out, but Senior Editor, April Gardner, found a way to alleviate this concern. (This is explained in our on our site.) By removing that barrier, we have allowed the reader to determine which stories they prefer, based on the content and not shelf placement, cover design or amount of money spent on advertising. Elaine’s novel was the first self-published book to compete under our new guidelines. At the end of her clash, our readers crowned her the next Clash of the Titles’ conqueror.
Elaine offers a few words of advice for those of you who would like to follow in her footsteps.” I would first encourage any aspiring author to pray,” Elaine says. “Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Then find a writer’s group in your area to give you feedback on your ideas. Attend regional writer’s
conferences. If your words are well received and you feel encouraged, complete your manuscript. Get in touch with an editor... If you see a company that looks interesting, try to obtain an actual example of one of their publications.”
Learn your options, stay in community with other writers, and seek God’s guidance. Who knows, maybe God will lead you to follow in Elaine’s footsteps.
Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of fifteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, the Christian Pulse and Reflections in Hindsight and is the marketing representative for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. Visit http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com to find out more about her and her writing, visit http://www.clashofthetitles.com to find out more about this fun literary website where authors compete and readers judge and visithttp://www.deerrunbooks.com to find out more about Elaine and her COTT winning novel.