It's been a long journey.
Writing "When Stars Go Out" wasn't easy, and it was only half of the struggle. The publishing process is long, complicated, and, as I learned, very painful. Some of you may wonder at the name change. The title wasn't always "When Stars Go Out," but it had to be changed within the last few months. Why? It's all part of the story. Let me tell it to you.
It all began in 2010. I was 15, a sophomore in high school, when I began to write the story that would become "When Stars Go Out." I was a full-time student, worked several jobs, and didn't believe that the Word Doc I kept on the family computer would ever be more than a short story that I never finished; and so I took my time. But as the story grew, I began to invest more time and effort into the manuscript, sometimes spending 8-10 hours a day writing. I finished in the fall of 2011. After some basic self-editing, I let a few of my friends and family read my work. They liked it. They liked it so much, in fact, that they talked me into pursuing publishing options. That was an ordeal. I didn't even know where to start and knew nothing about the industry.
In the end, through a reputable third-party service, my story was exposed to publishers of all sizes throughout the world. I was contacted by several, who expressed interest and even made offers. I settled upon one company due to their reputable status, appealing offers, and excellent salesmanship. They advertised as a "half-way" publisher: the ideal cross between self-publishing and traditional publishers that was a perfect fit for new authors. WinePress Publishing, they called themselves, a name I'd never heard but would eventually come to hate.
I signed the formal contract with WinePress in the fall of 2012 for the full publishing of my novel, titled "Days of Elijah." We were off to a great start. They were professional, friendly, and seemed to do a thriving business. Of course, there were costs to the beginning of our professional relationship, costs that I had to cover. Such is the nature of all half-way or self-publishers. But their services seemed to be excellent; we went through editing, copy-editing, proofreading, and cover design without a hitch and with what seemed to me to be highly satisfactory results.
By this time, word of my endeavors began to get out in my hometown. By the summer of 2013, there were interviews with the newspaper, a TV story, and even speaking invitations to a public library event and to a public school. Things seemed to be going very well from a marketing and sales aspect. Publishing, however, began to slow. Simple tasks seemed to take longer, and I heard less and less from my representative. I was assured that things were still moving along but was given no explanation and very little feedback about the progroess. WinePress was dragging their feet, and I couldn't understand why.
They strung me along for over a year and a half. By now, I was a freshman in college, studying at Liberty University. I kept in touch with my publishing representative, and I finally got a rough estimate for a release date in the spring of 2014. Obviously, I was excited. But a week or two before my manuscript was scheduled to go to print, I received an unannounced package in the mail from WinePress, containing nothing but a single CD labeled "Author Files." I'll never forget the morning I went to my online author portal to try to learn what it meant and found that the entire WinePress website and online presence had vanished.
Panicked, I searched the internet, trying to find out what had happened. That's where I learned about it all: the strange accusations, the lawsuit, the investigations, the scandal, the cult behind the company that had been using it as an income generator. Ultimately, I learned the truth. WinePress Publishing no longer existed. Phone lines were disconnected; accounts were deleted. They had vanished and taken with them my money, my hopes and dreams, and my chance of publishing a book.
I shut it all down after that, put away my manuscripts, and did my best to forget about publishing. My parents encouraged me to keep trying, but I was not interested. I had been burned and swore I would never be used like that again.
Fast-forward three years. I'm a senior in college, about to graduate with my bachelor's degree in graphic design. Over the last winter break before my final semester, my uncle approaches me, reminding me that he has a friend in the publishing industry...good man, great company. Would I be willing to let him read over my manuscript? He's mentioned this before, but I've been wary of publishers in general and never pursued it further. This time, I shrug. Why not? It can't hurt anything to let him read it. He probably won't like it anyway.
As it turned out, I was wrong. He did like it. He liked it so much, in fact, that he asked to meet with me to discuss a publishing relationship. Incredulous, I agreed, and to cut an already-long story a little shorter, I liked him, too. We began negotiations for a traditional publishing agreement, and in the fall of 2017, I contracted as an author for Defiance Press with my first novel to be published under the title "When Stars Go Out." The name had to be changed because, in the years since my initial attempt with WinePress, another book had been published under my former title.
And that's how it happened. It only took 8 years, a scarring experience, and my uncle's incredible persistence to get me where I am right now, but I am at last going to have my first book published. And so I thank you, not only for making it through such a lengthy explanation, but to those of you who walked with me through the entire ordeal, for your patience, your persistence, and your unwavering support. It truly means the world, and I hope it will all be worth your while.