Becky Saleeby: On the Verge of Seeing my First Novel in Print

Becky Saleeby
After six drafts, two professional rounds of editing, and a
moderate investment in publishing, I’m on the verge of seeing my first novel, Searching for Isaiah John, in print. It
has taken shape, changed course, and arrived in final form over the course of a
decade. Yes, one decade. But that’s a conservative estimate. Maybe I’m like
most writers with a vague idea that sits dormant for a long while until
something happens to jar it loose. For me it was jury duty— two weeks of repetitive,
mind-numbing arguments in a stuffy Anchorage courtroom. My fellow jurors seemed
amazed at my assiduous note taking on the pad of paper given to us when the
trial began. By the end, I had filled it with furious scribbling about plot
ideas instead of legal evidence. Better yet, I discovered one of my main
characters — a charming police officer with wiry salt-and-pepper hair — on the
witness stand.
For each draft, I took advice from anyone who offered it. The
first draft had a cool title, but revealed a plot twist toward the end of the
book. A friend in my writing group fortunately pointed out it would never work.
The second draft benefited from reviewers at the Kachemak Bay Writers
Conference who suggested I ramp up the conflicts. My characters were apparently
just too nice (it seems my reviewers were just too polite to use the word
boring). One editor insisted that I add a romantic scene to help with character
development, and Lisa Cron, speaker at the Alaska Writers Guild conference last
fall, urged us to nail that first page so that readers would at least turn to
the second.
The final round of advice, and the best, was given by
Andromeda Romano-Lax, one of my writing instructors at 49 Writers and my book
coach. I sent her the fifth draft, which was lacking in something I couldn’t
quite put a finger on. I was so unsure of the novel at that point that I asked
if anything was worth salvaging. I was pleased with her response. She liked it!
It wasn’t an unqualified thumbs-up, however, and that’s when the real revision
started for me.
Andromeda pointed out that my main character and narrator,
Jacob Tao, had a serious personality flaw. He came across as weak and passive, never
initiating any action in the story, just reacting to what other characters said
and did. What a surprise! To me he was a typical, laid-back, sixties kind of
guy. Another problem was the story within a story, both of them narrated from
Jacob’s point of view. It was tedious to read about him sitting at a kitchen
table, drinking endless cups of tea, and listening to his neighbor’s escape to
Alaska in the 1920s. And then Andromeda said my two underlying themes were a bit
too subtle, which I interpreted as meaning “undeveloped.” Once the book’s
shortcomings had been gently spelled out for me, my vision cleared. I remember
the feeling of great relief when I could honestly say I knew where I was going
with the story. Draft six took one intense month of work, but it turned out to
be the most fun, creative part of the whole journey.  
Since my initial attempt at sending the manuscript off to a
publisher fell flat (she never provided a word of feedback or a reply to emails
or a phone call), I decided to try independent publishing. CreateSpace at appealed to me because the process seemed streamlined and straight-forward.
It turned out to be exactly what I’d hoped for. The important thing is that it
fit my ultimate goal, which was to simply get the book out for others to read
(fame and fortune never entered my equation). After my online inquiry, I
received a welcome email and was instructed to set up a time for a phone call.
I was hooked on CreateSpace after that first personal contact. One of the
questions I asked the marketing specialist who called me was whether an author
ever recoups her investment after the book has been published. He answered that
50% actually do, but it is all dependent on the quality of the writing and the
effort each author puts toward marketing her own book. 
The final proof of my book arrived in the mail today
(several days ahead of schedule, I should add). 
I love the cover. They asked for my design ideas and ran with them, even
allowing me to make a couple changes along the way. They also gave me the
option of a printed proof after each of my four rounds of editing and
proof-reading. Their service has been personal, professional, and punctual.
Now, I’m just waiting for the Kirkus reviews. Oh did I mention that submitting
to Kirkus is included in their package deal?  Until then, I want to let other aspiring
novelists know about CreateSpace. I end here by giving them an unqualified
Becky Saleeby is a
thirty-year resident of Alaska. She signed up for her first 49 Writers class in
2010 to make the transition from her professional writing of books and papers about
archaeology to another genre: fiction. The switch has been good for her health
and her sense of humor.  

4 thoughts on “Becky Saleeby: On the Verge of Seeing my First Novel in Print”

  1. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    I was honored to be named as one of your many sources of encouragement and editorial advice, Becky. Your book was truly a pleasure to read and I'm glad you posted here. I hope others will continue to share their self-publishing experiences. I didn't realize CreateSpace actually speaks to authors by phone. It sounds like they are more responsive than I assumed. Congratulations again!

  2. Congratulations, Becky! I'm so honored to be credited with your other acknowledgements! I hope this book does well, it's a story that should be out there in the world.

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