This second part of an interview with Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos focuses on her experiences as an author, and her views on traditional verses self-publishing.
Kathy’s first book Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is being shopped by NYC literary agent at Scovil, Galen & Ghosh. Kathy is currently finishing the second in her trilogy SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND.
As a two-time cancer survivor Kathy saw the need for books designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. She clearly has struck a nerve. In only 8 months on the Internet Kathy has gathered a huge.
Q. Prior to Surviving Cancerland, what was your experience as a writer?
A. Other than writing papers for high school and college classes, none. I never wanted to be a writer, but sometimes life’s occupations are like kittens, they choose you! Writing chose me.
Q. What motivated you to write the book?
A. There is almost always a point in the process of illness where logic, reason, and medical expertise fails. It’s at this point a patient slips through the cracks, sometimes never recovering.
I survived cancer—twice…I survived by using something many in the medical field do not even acknowledge as being real. My innate intuition.
Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is my account of how I used my intuition to self-advocate a course of treatment, often against the vehement advice of my doctors, in my healing process. Always work with your doctors, but never forget you make the final decisions. I wrote my story to help others faced with this ordeal make better decisions. I don’t tell others how to survive I show them how I survived.
Q. Did you self-publish or did you choose a more conventional route? How did you decide which route to take? How long ago did this publication journey begin?
A. I went the conventional route and sought representation by a literary agent who had contacts with the large publishing houses. My publishing journey started with my second diagnosis with breast cancer. I was quite sure that my story of having the medical industry miss my cancer twice was not that unique. This was confirmed when I became a phone counselor for the Bloch Cancer Foundation and heard similar stories to mine. However, the outcome was less favorable because the patient had followed the doctor’s orders to, “Go home and come back for more tests in six months.” I wanted to teach others what tests they needed to find cancer and how to self advocate to get those tests. I also wanted to share the importance of the dream world during crisis. I searched bookstores far and wide for a book that could give me information on the day-to-day needs of patients undergoing treatment that included the dream world of crisis. I could not find any that were from a patient’s point of view. There were plenty of books written by doctors that were full of interesting scientific information, but I found them difficult to read and frankly, scary! So, I wrote one.
Q. How would you advise other writers who are considering self- vs traditional publishing?
A. Although I have not self-published I’ve been active in my husband’s self-published book Pope Annalisa. So I do have a comparison to my conventional route. Here’s the main difference, as I see it. With self-publishing, the author puts money up front to publish the book and then is responsible for the book’s distribution and the PR, and often signs away many of their rights. Most chain bookstores such as Borders, will not put self-published books on their shelves because they sell space by the inches to publishing houses. That is why most publishing houses will not publish a large book that is not written by a big money making author. They would rather place two smaller books on a shelf. Despite the fact that the self-publishing industry is growing, it still has a stigma attached to it. Most newspapers and magazines will not write reviews for it and many traditional publishing awards are closed to them. A positive note is an author planning to self-publish does not need to write query letters, book proposals, or deal with the rejections that often accompany them.
Conventional publishing requires time and money also, but in a different way. My book, Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing went through seven revisions by me and another two by a freelance editor and copy editor I hired. Most publishing houses have cut back on employees, and one of the first cuts was editors. Very few editors are kept in-house. Manuscripts sent to publishing houses must be nearly perfect. After I got my manuscript back from my content editor, I sent it and the Book Proposal and the first three chapters of my proposal to a copy-editor who works in a children’s publishing house in New York. She made sure every sentence was perfect, and every t was crossed.. This all takes time and money. But the biggest difference is that big publishing houses pay the author money up-front in the form of an advance an advance. They also take care of the printing and distribution to the bookstores. If you are a first time author, they are minimally helpful with PR. That is where a good platform comes into play. If you do not make back the advanced money in sales and begin collecting royalties, chances are very good that your other books will not get picked up by the publisher. Your sales record is your report card.
My advice to anyone considering self-publishing over conventional is to save self-publishing as a plan B. You can always go that route. Prepare to go the conventional route and do the hard work. Write the best manuscript you possibly can. Keep it between 70,000 and 120,000 words. Anything larger than that takes up too much space on the bookshelves. Edit it yourself many times and then hire a professional content editor to do it again twice. (This will not cost as much as self-publishing.) Most agents will not accept a manuscript that has not been edited twice. Then work on identifying your platform. Who would be interested in my book? How can I contact them? Then look for your competition on bookshelves and see how you can make your book better. Study books on query letters and proposals. Make yours stand out. Then send the proposal and the first three chapters to the editors again to perfect them before sending them to agents. Research your agents. Be sure you submit what they want and the way they want it. As the old saying goes, “Cut wood, carry water.” Do the work.
Getting a book published is not easy no matter what road you take. But if you try the conventional route first and it just doesn’t work, it is easier to switch to plan B than to have already published and try to go with Plan A. That will be swimming upstream while doing all the work required for conventional publishing.
To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.
Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.
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