Success kept raising the bar for me. First, it was finishing a book. Then, it was getting a publisher. After that, it was getting the book into the bookstores, and keeping the book there for more than a year. Finally, it was about making even a few cents. Success did not come easily.
I’m a film and theater director and I teach/coach actors in L.A. I wrote a non-fiction book for actors called How to Make Your Audience Fall in Love with You. It even had a chapter by a famous acting teacher named Michael Shurtleff who wrote Audition. You don’t need an agent for a book like this, I learned, so I sent it to many, many publishing houses. They liked it but…no, thanks.
Finally, I had a strong nibble from a great place, Heinemann. Editors said they were “talking about it” in their next meeting and it “looked good.” One morning, I got an email from them titled “Your manuscript.” I was so disappointed that I sagged in my chair. If they were going to publish it, they would have called me. Who wouldn’t want to hear an author’s thrilled acceptance? I was used to rejection so I opened it and the first words were, “Congratulations. We would like to publish your book.” I cried with happiness all by myself at home before calling my kids and friends and family – and a few strangers.
I got blurbs from Harvard and UCLA professors, and the head of casting at HBO. I had a reading at my local Barnes and Noble where I learned that they do advertised readings, but only your friends show up. Fortunately, I had standing room only, and sold a lot of books. I publicized the book by sending it out, writing about it in acting journals and Linked In and FB, and making a website. It was selling all over the country, but I didn’t see a penny. Then it was re-printed. Great news, but no pennies. Not even one. Two thousand books later I still had no money – at all. I got 8% but I still had to pay for all the permissions for the scenes I’d used.
So then I got my rights back, and published it myself along with my new, funny novel, Chick Flick. There was a steep learning curve about self-publishing and e-books and covers and ISBN numbers and copy editing and rights and, and, and. Self-publishing is surprisingly expensive if you do it well. Finally both books were published. I had a successful reading at Barnes and Noble for Chick Flick. Both books are selling and – the first check’s in the mail. Several hundred dollars – at last. Success!
Deryn Warren is a film director and teaches professional actors in Los Angeles. Her website is DerynWarren.com.