Marja McGraw's Journey to Publication

Marja McGraw
Everyone takes a different path to publishing, and mine was rather bumpy, but it could have been a lot worse.

When I first started writing I lived in a small town in rural Nevada. I didn’t know any other authors, and I had no idea about finding information on the Internet. I was truly a babe in the woods. I sent out a few manuscripts to publishers and most of them didn’t even bother to reply. I have to admit, the book I was sending out was pretty bad. I kept it for many years because it had sentimental value, no matter how amateurish it was. Somewhere along the way it disappeared.

Anyway, a family member sent me a newspaper article about self-publishing. It sounded wonderful. I submitted a different book, and they just loved it. Oh, yes, they accepted it and told me I was every bit as good a writer as Sir Conan Doyle. I was going to be the new Agatha Christie, too. Looking back, I have to laugh at how gullible I was. I fell for it and submitted another book. And I waited for people to start buying my books. It was a long wait.

I have to admit that when I received the first batch of books, I was so excited I cried. I held that book in my hand like it was a new baby, and to me, it was. I’m excited every time a new book comes out, but that first time was different and special.

Okay, so I learned that it’s pretty difficult to market and promote a self-published book, especially when you have no idea how to market or promote.

So I moved on and submitted my third book to a traditional publisher. They asked for an “exclusive”. A year and a half and one rejection later, I learned that I would never again give anyone an exclusive look at my other stories. By the way, during that year and a half I kept writing. No grass was going to grow under these little tootsies. When I did find a publisher, I’d be ready with multiple books. And I was having fun creating the stories.

The next stop in the journey was an agent. Yippee!! I’d found someone who would make sure the right publishers saw my work. I never quite figured this woman out. She did nothing for me, except suggest I talk to someone she knew who would charge about $1,000 and tell me what I could do to make my writing better. The interesting thing was that this agent made comments about the book that had absolutely nothing to do with the story. Go figure. We had a year-long relationship before I said I’d had enough.

I cultivated a few friendships via groups on the Internet, including Sisters in Crime. Dorothy Bodoin, H. Susan Shaw and I became great friends. And Dorothy suggested I look into epublishing. Huh? I’d heard the term, but had no idea what it was. Dorothy was being published by Wings ePress and she seemed happy, so I looked into the idea of ebooks. I submitted a manuscript to Wings and not only did they accept it, but it was only a matter of a few months before the book was published. I was thrilled with them, and five books later, I’m still happy.

Ah, but then I started a second series. What to do with it? I began researching, having learned a lot over the past several years, and decided I’d prefer to go with a small publisher. Oak Tree Press crossed my line of vision and I was hooked. I asked a few people I knew, and who’d had experience with them, what they thought. Everything seemed good, so I submitted a query letter. They were interested, and they were going to be at a conference in Las Vegas, which is only an hour and a half from where I live. Would I come to the conference and meet them? Absolutely.

What a week that was. My husband and I lost a very dear friend to a horrendous accident. By the time I met Billie Johnson and Sunny Frazier at the conference, I wasn’t even sure what I was doing. Fortunately for me, they knew exactly what they were doing and offered me a contract right on the spot, at the conference. Talk about a week of extreme ups and downs. Whew! Don’t want to have anything like that happen again.

So here I am, writing two series: The Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries, and I have two publishers whom I’m delighted with, finally. It’s been a long journey, but it’s also been a fruitful trip.

For those of you writers who are just starting out, persist. Don’t give up, and use your common sense when dealing with anyone. I don’t care if it’s a publisher or an agent, use your head. Don’t waste time. Learn from others and maybe you can bypass a few of our mistakes.

Marilyn, thank you so much for allowing me to share today. It seemed like a shorter journey until I began writing about it.

Bogey’s Ace in the Hole – Release date February, 2012 from Oak Tree Press

Marja’s Mystery Blog:

Bogey's Ace in the Hole Blurb:

The only people who might strike terror in Chris and Pamela Cross’s hearts are the Church Ladies, who want them to find a missing friend. When the friend turns up on her own, Chris finds a new kind of terror—a Murder for Hire plot the woman has overheard.

Ride along in Chris’s 1950 vintage Chevy with the Church Ladies, his wife Pamela, their son Mikey, and two wild and crazy yellow Labrador retrievers while they try to find not only a potential killer, but the intended victim.

Marja’s Bio

Marja McGraw was born and raised in Southern California. She worked in both civil and criminal law for 15 years, state transportation for another 17 years, and most recently for a city building department.  She has lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Arizona.

McGraw also wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper in Northern Nevada, and conducted a Writers’ Support Group in Northern Arizona. A member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), she was also the Editor for the SinC-Internet Newsletter for a year and a half.

She has appeared on KOLO-TV in Reno, Nevada, and KLBC in Laughlin, Nevada, and various radio talk shows.

Marja says that each of her mysteries contains a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder! Books include Bogey Nights, the first in the Bogey Man Mysteries, and it’s soon to be joined by Bogey’s Ace in the Hole. A Well-Kept Family Secret, Bubba’s Ghost, Prudy’s Back!, The Bogey Man and Old Murders Never Die are all part of the Sandi Webster series.

She and her husband now live in Arizona, where life is good.


Patricia said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia said…
Thanks for sharing your story, Marja. It's always interesting to compare experiences and lovely to hear the happy ending to your quest! Your books sound like fun and I'm off to check them out.
marja said…
Thank you for stopping in, Patricia. It's been an interesting trip. And I hope you enjoy the books.
I love this because I've known Marja for a long time. Getting published sometimes just means having patience and hanging in there--and having a good book like Marja did--and is still producing.
Morgan Mandel said…
Good for you, Marja! I hope our paths cross again some day at another conference.

Morgan Mandel
M.M. Gornell said…
Good for you, Marja, not giving up! I think your story is inspirational and I applaud you. Looking forward to seeing you again at another conference. Continued success!

Anonymous said…
Marja, that is some story. When we begin something we love, it's all in the process or we don't succeed. You proceeded with relentless perseverance and I applaud you. The results are sweet.
marja said…
Marilyn, You can be my cheerleader anytime. And compliments coming from you aren't taken lightly by me.

Morgan, Thank you for stopping in. I hope to see you at another conference, too.

Madeline, Thank you, also, for stopping in. It's been an interesting trip to publication. I hope to see you at another conference, too.
marja said…
Velda, Thank you for your comments and for stopping in. Yes, I do love writing, probably more than anything I've ever done before. It was worth the trip.
Beverly Diehl said…
SheWrites sister here, Marja... Always interesting to hear how other writers traveled the path, and what they learned along the way.

Best wishes to you & Marilyn, both. :-)
marja said…
Hi Beverly, Nice to see you here. I think for every author there's a different story, but the end result is worth the trip and all the angst.
Palmaltas said…
Your journey rang a bell with me, especially when self-publishing that first book and then receiving copies of it and holding an actual book--pure joy. Looking forward to the next books in both series.
marja said…
Tricia, Thank you for commenting. You never know what's going to work and what's not, but for the moments I first held those books in my hands, nothing else mattered.

Marilyn, Thank you so much for including me on your blog today. I admire you and your writing, so I'm feeling pretty good about being here.
Monti said…
Great that you have two series going! Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks, Marilyn for having Marja as your guest.

Mary Montague Sikes
This was a great visit, Marja. Obviously people were interested in what you had to say. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll come again soon.

Jake said…
Always happy to learn more about my favorite writer. Looking forward to your new Bogey.
marja said…
Monti, So good to see you here. I would imagine you have a pretty interesting story yourself.

Jake, Thank you for dropping in, and for always being there. :)
Theresa Varela said…
Glad I stopped to read this today, Marja. What a great story. It shows the truth about the process- that life continues to happen as we plan and plot. Your encouragement is appreciated.
marja said…
Thank you for stopping in, Theresa. We ALL need encouragement from time to time. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about my "adventures" in being published.

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