Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Blogger - Tracy Seeley on Finding the Best Publisher for Your Book

I’m pleased to welcome Tracy Seeley to Donna’s Book Pub as my guest blogger today as part of the WOW! Women on Writing Author’s tour.

Tracy moved a lot when she was young, but she grew up mostly in Witchita, Kansas, before heading for Austin, Texas, where she was awarded a Ph.D in British Lit. She taught at Yale for five years before moving west for San Francisco. Since 1993 she has been teaching literature and creative nonfiction at the University of San Francisco. Click here to read Tracy's bio on her website.
You can also find Tracy here:
twitter: @tracy_seeley
Facebook at My Ruby Slippers: the Road Back to Kansas

One lucky visitor who posts a comment or a question for Tracy will win a copy of her memoir, My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas.

In her post today Tracy will discuss: finding the Best Press for Your Book: How My Ruby Slippers found a University Press By Tracy Seeley (@tracy_seeley)

Your Book is Done! Not Yet.

After years of staying glued to your desk chair, shaping sentences, crafting chapters, reorganizing, revising, editing and polishing, you finally have a tidy stack of 300 freshly-printed pages on your desk. Congratulations! Your book is done.

Wrong. Because it’s not a book yet. It lacks a great cover with your name on the front, blurbs and an ISBN on the back. It might be wonderful, a real page-turner. But until you have a publisher (or publish it yourself), it’s a caterpillar, not a butterfly.

When I finished the manuscript for My Ruby Slippers, I knew what I had to do to turn it into a butterfly. I’d read everything I could about how to find an agent and dreamed of signing a contract with a major publisher. I thought, “New York, here I come.”

But I couldn’t get an agent. I quickly learned that a literary memoir by a debut writer would have a hard time. Especially since my book-to-be didn’t tell a story that involved a controversial, sensational, or Oprah-worthy topic.

Without an agent, my New York dreams keeled over in a coma. Now what?

Landing at a University Press

Once I set my mind to something, I’m pretty relentless. So instead of shopping for an agent, I went shopping for a press. One that not only would accept unsolicited manuscripts, but would be a good fit for My Ruby Slippers.

This meant entering the world of small and university presses. It’s a world I highly recommend. There, writers often find a better home for the book they’ve written than they could ever find at a big house. Small and university presses work on tight budgets, but because they have smaller lists than the big guys do, they can give all of their writers more attention. And they’re committed to publishing high quality work.

Happily, I landed at the University of Nebraska Press. A University Press may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to shopping for a press. But in addition to scholarly works, many university presses publish fiction and literary nonfiction, including memoir.

By doing my homework, I knew Nebraska would be a good home for My Ruby Slippers. They publish literary nonfiction, including the series “American Lives,” edited by the great memoirist Tobias Wolff. And they publish a lot of books with connections to the Plains and Midwest. Because Kansas sits at the heart of my book (and of me), it seemed a perfect fit.

After My Ruby Slippers went through a series of reviews by outside readers and revisions by me, Nebraska said “yes.”

Since then, the press has been nothing but a pleasure to work with. My editor worked closely with me during the review and revision process, the copy editor was meticulous and respectful of my intentions, the cover designer was brilliant (I love my cover), and given its limited resources, the marketing department has done a great job promoting the book.

Getting published is a great dream. But getting published by the right press for your book is even better. My Ruby Slippers emerged from its chrysalis four months ago, and it’s been a thrill watching it take wing.


Thanks, Tracy, for letting us know how you found the right publisher for your book, which is a fascinating and intelligent memoir that chronicles your physical and emotional journey to your childhood homes.

Note to Visitors: Feel free to leave a comment or question.

As part of the WOW! Author's Book Tour, one lucky person who posts a question or a comment will win a copy of Tracy's thoughtful memoir, My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas published by the University of Nebraska Press as part of the American Lives Series, edited by Tobias Wolff.

Winner's name will be announced on Friday, July 15.


  1. Thanks Donna and Tracy. Great information and one that gives hope. Appreciate it. Can't wait to read your book!

  2. Tracy--You really opened my eyes to the pull a University Press has.

    If there is one bit of advice or one suggestion or one "stand-out" statement that your editor gave you, I'd love to learn what it was.

    I love the caterpillar-butterfly methaphor. It must be awesome to be able to see your butterfly flitting about all over the country!

    Donna--What a wonderful host you are. You--as expected--do everything professionally and with grace. (Please don't enter me in the drawing, as I already won a copy from WOW.)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Lynn,
    Thanks and good luck.

    Hi Sioux,
    You are so sweet. Thanks for your kind comments.


  5. Thanks Donna for sharing your guest Tracy with us. Tracy, what hope you bring to all of us. Congratulations on your book. Mary Nida

  6. Years ago, I worked at a university that had a press. They specialized in religious and regional books, and I think that's the key, as Tracy said, when dealing with university presses. Find the one that fits your book!

  7. Great post and interview, Donna. Very informative. Thanks to Tracy for sharing such valuable information! Please put my name in the drawing! Thanks!

  8. I lived in Dodge City, Kansas in the '70s and have a soft spot in my heart for the plains. I would love a chance to read about your experiences.

  9. Great post, Donna. Thanks for hosting.

  10. Sioux, I wish there were one magic bullet of advice or guidance I could pass along from my editor. But the process from submission to final contract is more about answering questions from readers, making small changes, additions and clarifications. So my advice from having gone through that is "persevere! Listen to expert readers who have suggestions for making the book better, and keep going."

    Sally, I love the plains, too. We were recently in Yellowstone, which is gorgeous, of course. But I felt ecstatic only after we descended from the mountains and drove across the Black Hills. I could see the whole sky again and the plains spread out before me. That really felt like home.

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I wish you could all win!

  11. Great info! I hope some day to get my manuscripts published, finding a publisher is a hard journey to travel. Good luck with your book, I love the title. I also did an author interview today, if you get the chance hop on over to the Blackberry Patch and check it out.

  12. Good points and thanks for reminding us about university presses. :)


  13. Thanks for sharing your story! It's always interesting to read about the publishing process, because there are so many roads that lead to success.

  14. I love the title and its connection to Kansas and the Wizard of OZ. After reading Tracy's post, I know this is a book I'd love to read! Congratulations, Tracy. You've inspired me with your upbeat perseverance.

    Thanks for sharing this author with us, Donna!

  15. Thanks to Tracy for sharing her wisdom regarding publishing. It's fascinating to hear about the different paths taken by authors.


  16. Hi Everyone,
    Thanks so much for visiting and posting comments or questions for Tracy.

  17. Thx Donna and Tracy for good advice. There are many university presses to look into. How nice to get to actually converse with the publisher! I really want to read this book, and will find it even if I don't win it. (I'm having trouble with my Google blog comments. This is Marcia Gaye, not Anonymous.)

  18. Finding the right publisher is key. Sounds like you really did your research. Congrats on your book!

  19. Sorry I'm late. I love your cover, too! If you don't have an agent, how do you know how to protect yourself when it comes to contracts, etc.? Do you have a lawyer go over it? Btw, I went to University of Nebraska. Great choice. ;)

  20. I'm beginning this search myself. Congrats on your book.

  21. Thanks for these additional comments--it's great to hear from all of you. Tammy, without an agent, I did worry about the contract I was offered. But I spoke with several far more experienced writers who assured me that the terms of that contract were well within the norm. Having an author attorney go over a contract is probably a good idea, and I think that the Writers Guild will also vet contracts for members.

    Thanks for all your comments.

  22. Great to hear a story about an author who didn't give up. Love the title.

  23. Thank you both for the information. Small presses and university presses will be the salvation of the book world and it behooves the author to carefully look into all the options . . . perhaps even before worrying about an agent.


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