Maintaining Control

My decision to self-publish my book evolved. As I mentioned earlier, it began as a very long letter to my children, but the volume of information I uncovered with the discovery of the diary and the documents at the National Archives transformed the letter into the book.

At that point I thought, “Of course I should attempt to find an agent who will see the merits of this story.” I researched the process, and then spent over a year sending out letters to agents but was either politely rejected or completely ignored.  I consoled myself with the stories of renowned writers who had similar experiences for years, but finally I decided to analyze my motivation for doing this.

I thought about the comments of a literary agent who read thirty pages of one of the earlier versions of my story.  I was able to receive feedback from her via a local book fair near my home, and it was after speaking with her that I conceived the idea of adding letters to my father throughout the book.

I recalled her suggestions to eliminate sections of the book which I believed were important, and that was the moment I decided to self-publish Do Svidanya Dad. This was a very personal story to me, so I did not want to relinquish control to a stranger, no matter how competent they may be.

While any writer dreams of seeing their book on the best-seller list, I know better. (Still, there is probably a greater chance of that happening than winning that Mega-Million Lottery, and I still buy those tickets.) My hope is that the residents of my father’s town of Rockaway and my town of Boonton, New Jersey will read it, whether they buy the paperback book, the kindle, or get it from the library. (Hooray, it’s in my old library!)

Anyone who knew the mad Russian on Cornelia Street will learn how much more there was to him. Hopefully, it will inspire people to speak to the elders of their family while they can, and it will make the complainers out there realize the meaning of legitimate hardship.

Next, I am waiting to hear from my local library here in South Carolina, and then I hope that a few of these readers will spread the word—maybe even give Oprah a call! Is that really asking for too much?


About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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2 Responses to Maintaining Control

  1. Ellie P. says:

    Thank you for pointing me here, Karen! I can relate to many things re publishing that you’ve written above, including, e.g., many famous authors who received tons of rejection letters before getting into print… and getting the polite rejections or being ignored altogether. How about: being asked for the full manuscript, and then hearing *nothing*?! Argh! But he seemed so interested! Sigh. Well, you make a great point re having control. I think, like you, I’ll give it 12 months. That’ll bring me to next August. (You can see I’m kind of impatient. 😉 ) How many publishers and agents did you try before going at it on your own? Just to have an idea…

    I understand that marketing is of *huge* importance. People have to know of the book’s existence. Did you try social media, e.g. Facebook groups of Russian emigres, Twitter, etc.? Having the time, energy, interest and determination… so hard, right? I think I’m going to have to face it at some point. Deadline next August!

    My book’s also non-fiction, but is much lighter than yours. It’s called “Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions From an Insider,” and is a memoir of my decade working in the film and TV biz in Montreal during the 90s. Any ideas, thoughts etc. welcome, thanks!

  2. kjw616 says:

    I sent queries to approximately sixty agents. It was a slow process–first finding agents interested in my particular genre, and then tailoring letters based upon an individual agent’s requirements. There is no “one-size fits all” letter. Most of the time, you hear nothing, while occasionally you will get a letter thanking you, wishing you good luck, and then saying that your book is not a good fit for them. is one place to start looking for agents; another is

    I have been trying social media such as Facebook, Twitter (I have no idea what I am doing here but I am trying!), goodreads, and an author page separate from this blog. (just so you can see how I did it)

    There are many author groups on Facebook and Goodreads which I am exploring. However, it seems like there is a plethora of books which are science fiction and horror, so I need to find groups which are more biography/history.

    It’s a learning process. Now I am trying to figure out another book. I have a few ideas, but I am not sure which way to go yet. Feel free to pump me for questions. If you want lighter reading, go to my other blog, which is more like yours. There’s a link to it on this one.

    Lots of luck.–Karen

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