Sep 9, 2008

The Journey to Publication by Phyllis Zimbler Miller and Contest!

Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel took 38 years to come to fruition from the time I first experienced being a new Mrs. Lieutenant in the spring of 1970 during the Vietnam War until the book was published.

About 18 years after that experience I told the story to two female film producers who optioned the story for a movie. Then a few weeks later they told me I had to write a book first. I wrote a fictional account of my experiences to protect the innocent, but by the time I finished the first draft, they had moved onto other projects.

There followed 20 years of writing and rewriting, reading books on writing, taking classes on writing, taking part in writers’ groups, and getting rejected by agents and book editors. One rejection said that there was no longer racial prejudice in the United States, so my book was no longer relevant. Another rejection said that the four women had to meet through their own jobs such as at a law firm and not through their husbands.

During this time, I believed this story preserved a slice of women’s social history – what did the wives of men in the military think about the Vietnam War. All the fictional movies and books about the Vietnam War I knew were from the point of view of men, and I was determined to tell this story from the women’s point of view

When I showed the book to other people, they liked it, but everyone said something was missing, though they could not pinpoint the problem. I hired a consultant to evaluate the novel, and he discovered issues with the timeline in the book and offered some suggestions for improvement.

I used an actual calendar to clarify the timeline during another major rewrite of the novel and adapted the standard three-act screenplay structure. The novel now has three parts.

This past December I got an email forwarded to me from a friend. The email was actually from an acquaintance of my friend who said she was tired of waiting for people to say yes to her about her book and that she was going to self-publish. I had an epiphany.

I realized I couldn’t wait any longer for some book editor to say yes to me. So I immediately arranged with Amazon’s print-on-demand unit BookSurge to publish my book. I knew this meant doing all the marketing myself for Mrs. Lieutenant.

But in 1992, I was the co-author with Rabbi Karen L. Fox of the Jewish holiday book Seasons for Celebration (Karen and I just re-released the book on Amazon). Despite being published by a major house, we did all the marketing ourselves. Thus, I wasn’t worried about having to do all the marketing myself for Mrs. Lieutenant.

My experiences with Seasons for Celebration taught me several things. First, book signings are not a productive use of time unless you’re a well-known author. Secondly, trying to get Mrs. Lieutenant in bookstores also would not be productive because even when our publisher got Seasons for Celebration in Borders and other locations, the one or two copies of the book were “lost” on the shelves, surrounded by other books given much more shelf space.

So I turned to the internet with zeal, learning as much as I could about how to market online. Then I got lucky because BookSurge’s marketing consultant recommended Pump Up Your Book Promotion as a possible virtual book tour organizer. I immediately contacted Dorothy Thompson and arranged for a virtual book tour.

What’s a virtual book tour? Virtual book tours take place during a certain period of time (in my case a month) beginning and ending on specific dates. During that time, by pre-arrangement, your book is reviewed on a specific date of the virtual book tour or on that specific date the blogger features an interview of you (you’ve previously answered questions sent to you by the blogger).

You can arrange all the stops by yourself (and then announce the stops yourself on your own blog or on social media), but this can take a lot of time to research and then query bloggers. While I worked hard to provide all the interviews and other information that was needed by Dorothy Thompson, I never could have found on my own all the blogs and people with whom she connected me and through which she arranged my tour dates.

Have I sold lots of copies of my book so far? No. But all the book marketing gurus I’ve learned from say you have to give your book promotion a full year before you judge the results. Anything less is apparently too little. So I have several more months before I’ll know the results.

And eventually I might have time to go back to work on the sequel – Mrs. Lieutenant in Europe.

For those interested in supporting today's American troops, please check out the latest post on the Mrs. Lieutenant blog.

***To win a signed copy of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel, please answer the following question in the comments.*** Deadline is Sunday, Sept. 14 at Midnight EST

If you're old enough to remember the Vietnam War as it was going on, what is your strongest memory of that war? If you're too young to have a personal memory of the war, what is one thing that you learned about the war from someone you know, or in school, or from reading about the war or seeing a movie about the war?

If you blog about this contest or post this contest on Facebook, etc., and leave another comment with a link, I will gladly provide you with additional entries into this contest. Additionally, if you comment on my review you will get two more entries.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting article!

No need to enter me obviously. But I will blog about it.

I'm not old enough to remember the Vietnam War, but my dad served as an Air Force MP during that time. So you can imagine that I heard a lot about the war growing up.

Serena said...

I heard a lot of stories about the aftermath of the war from my dad, who did not serve, and the impact it had on his brother, Louis, who serve two or three tours.

Nevermind all the friends my father lost who were drafted!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Fabulous discussion with Ms. Miller! Wow!

No need to enter me, Serena. I'm just letting you know I've posted this at Win a Book.

Unknown said...

Susan --
Thanks so much for the comment and for posting the book contest at Win a Book.

And, Anna, I so appreciate your continued support of MRS. LIEUTENANT.

Of course, I thank Serena for giving me this opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Phyllis, thank you so much for the mention. You are truly a gifted writer and all your hard work will pay off. Keep up the good work and I'll see you in my "google alerts"!

Unknown said...

I could use some ideas for a one-liner of the benefits of reading MRS. LIEUTENANT. Check out the post on my blog to see what I mean --

Chesh said...

Both my grandfather and my father served in Vietnam. IT was said to be one of the harsest on its soldiers. Sadly, it is still not really considered a war. :(

Alyce said...

I first learned about the Vietnam war from my dad (I was born after the war). My dad didn't get drafted because he was very low on the list because of being married and having kids. He did have a close friend who he shared a birthday with who fought in the war. I don't remember my dad saying anything specific about the war but I do remember he had a fascination with it. I think he had a lot of what if's (what if he had been drafted, what would it have been like?). So we watched a ton of Vietnam films and tv shows growing up.

Serena said...

Ruby: As I recall, the Vietnam War is still considered a military action given that Congress never officially declared war.

Alyce: I had a similar experience growing up. My dad had a medical exemption from the draft, but we did watch a lot of Vietnam movies as well.

Ramya said...

All my knowledge of the vietnam war comes from watching movies. Since my family is not from the US, i didnt have anyone i know actually fight in it.. but i have been reading a lot about it here and there..
i would love to read your book Phyllis!

Serena said...

Ramya: Thanks for entering the contest, remember you get additional entries for spreading the word and leaving me links here on the post as well as commenting on the review post.

Good luck to everyone!

Unknown said...

I'm enjoying reading these comments about the Vietnam War. Ramya's comment about her family not being from the U.S. caused a memory to flash through my mind:

In Munich I met someone from Australia who told me that Australians were fighting in Vietnam. I remember being so surprised. Why would Australians want to help the U.S.? Then I realized that Australia was actually rather close to Vietnam and therefore possibly susceptible to the spread of Communism.

windycindy said...

Hi, I remember the Kent State shootings of some of the Vietnam War protesters. My older sister lost a classmate in the war. I have seen his name on the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It was full scale under President Johnson. Thanks, Cindi

Anonymous said...

Serena, what a great contest for a Mrs. Lieutenant giveaway! It was interesting to me to read those comments! I’ve added you to my Google Reader as well. Thanks so much for the link to my review.

Unknown said...

Actually, only two of the four students killed at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard were actually at the protest. Two of the students were on their way to class. And there were other students wounded, some seriously.

Gwendolyn B. said...

In college, I knew a lot of guys who had been to Viet Nam. My strongest memory is of the psychological damage done to them. They had horrible stories to tell. Sure, they were in college and trying to lead normal lives, but so many were so traumatized, you could tell they were just going through the motions. Your book sounds really interesting -- I'm glad you were finally able to get it out there. If I don't win a copy, I will definitely seek it out!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Serena said...

Thanks for entering Gwendolyn. It was a very interesting book, and it provides a very different perspective from the ones I have seen in other books.

Unknown said...

My father-in-law returned from fighting in Europe in World War II so affected that for nine months didn't work even though those were the nine months my mother-in-law was pregnant with my husband. But World War II was considered a "just" war.

The Vietnam War polarized the country, which made it much harder on returning veterans.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I heard about this giveaway from anna and would love to be entered! My father is Canadian and wasn't affected quite the same way by the war, so I didn't know a whole lot about it growing up. I recently read A Rumor of War and last year The Things They Carried and I am so fascinated by the Vietnam war and how it was such a psychological war.

Serena said...

Thanks for entering Trish. I find that war in general has a psychological impact on soldiers and others closest to them. The Vietnam War was also during a turbulent time in American history, which probably exacerbated matters.

The Bookworm said...

hi serena, i've got so many books in my TBR, so no need to enter me, but it does sound like a good read.
great review!

Serena said...

Naida: Thanks for stopping by and checking out the books!

Anonymous said...

I don't remember the Vietnam War, but my step-father served in the army during the war and was there. I've heard some very interesting stories about soldier life, but not too many serious ones.

I've also talked to my mom about the war and her thoughts. She says she remembers being against the war. She was in college during all the protests, but they didn't seem to infiltrate her school.

I'd love to win this book and share it with my family.

nbbaker1102 (at) msn (dot) com


Serena said...

Good luck in the contest. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I was born after the war happened, but studying it in-depth in my poli-sci courses raised my awareness.

Unknown said...

To nbbaker1102 --
Thanks for sharing.

Darlene said...

I would love to read this book-any novels on wartime interest me. My Grandpa #2 was in the war but he never liked talking about it at all except to say that it was a very hard time-he was on a fighter plane. That's the only person I know who was actually in the war.

I blogged about the giveaway here:

Serena said...

Dar: Thanks for posting about the giveaway on your blog, you'll get an extra entry. You can also get two more entries for commenting on the book review I have up as well.

Jill said...

Serena: I posted about this giveaway on my blog. I also answered the Vietnam question on my blog because it was long-winded. I hope that counts! =)

Here is my post.

Take care,

Serena said...

I will count the answer to your question as one entry and the blog post as a second. No worries. Thanks for stopping by and entering the contest.

Suey said...

Did I not comment to be entered yet? Where have I been? Well, if not, enter me! I don't think I'll get it posted about on my blog this time... so don't count on me for that.

Serena said...

I have no idea where you have gotten off to?! But you are here now and entering. Good luck Suey!

Unknown said...

Jill --
I just read the comments on your blog. Very moving.

Anonymous said...

I was too young to remember the war but I am saddened to have learned that so many of the Vietnam veterans have suffered such emotional damage from it. It breaks my heart because they felt completely alone and shunned upon their return and likely may still feel that way now.

Serena said...

Thanks for stopping by and entering the contest. I appreciate it. I also feel bad that the nation would treat its troops so badly for the politics of the White House and Congress. They are only the arms of the political machine, they unfortunately must do what the mind tells them to do.